The following is a short opinion piece I wrote for the Irish Daily Star newspaper in response to the report of the Vatican’s Apostolic Visitation to Ireland. It appeared in the paper on March 21st, 2012.
I read a newspaper report yesterday that sickened me to my stomach. It told of how at least ten teenage boys or young men were surgically castrated while in the care of the Dutch Roman Catholic Church in the 1950’s. It focused on one case, the story of a man who, after reporting in 1956 that he had been sexually abused by Catholic clergy in a care home, was sent by the police to a Catholic psychiatric hospital. A year later he was surgically castrated to cure him of his homosexuality. Sources told the journalist that cutting off a young mans testicles was regarded as a treatment for homosexuality and a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse. This was happening at the same time as countless children were being raped, tortured and exploited in institutions here in Ireland.
Yesterday the Vatican published a seven page summary of the findings of a high level investigation into clerical child abuse in Ireland. The report is the latest document to refer to the “pain and shame” felt within the church following the abuse scandals. The Pope has previously spoken of how he is “truly sorry” that victims of abuse suffered so terribly. But what he has not done, and what this latest report certainly does not do, is acknowledge that the Vatican itself must bear responsibility for cover up of the abuse suffered by tens of thousands of children here in Ireland and countless hundreds of thousands of children around the world.
The report talks about the progressive steps taken “beginning in the 1990’s towards an awareness of how serious is the problem of abuse”. It ignores the fact that from the 1990’s on, both Bishops here in Ireland and the Vatican itself were denying that child abuse by clergy was even a real problem. Every report into abuse in Ireland found that Bishops had covered up abuse, moved known rapist priests to unsuspecting parishes ignoring complaint after complaint with little concern for children. Not that you’d think that if you read the Vatican’s seven page report.
Most disgraceful though is the suggestion in the report that all of this abuse is down to a failure to respect the rigid rule of Rome. Its something the Pope has said many times. In his letter to Irish Catholics in 2010, Benedict XVI, said that secularisation was in part responsible for the child abuse issue. Yesterdays report suggests a move back to the approach of the 1950’s, where student priests will be kept separate from other students and we are all expected to believe everything Rome tells us. Back to the 1950’s, when children were tortured and abused with impunity and Bishops ignored their plight and when young men who spoke of their suffering were castrated for daring to report rapist priests.