A friend of mine says never pass by a church with an open door. He takes a view that God always leaves a door open. With that in mind and my head reeling from the inappropriately named BBC programme – ‘The shame of the catholic church’ I nipped into St Mary’s in Chapel Lane. For those that don’t know the place it’s sandwiched on a small street leading to the side entrance of Castlecourt. Like the shopping centre it does a fair trade. I wonder if in these recessionary times if hard pressed people pray more. Maybe as one well-known supermarket likes to claim ‘every little helps’.
The BBC programme was certainly well publicised and re-run in case you may have missed it. Follow up commentary provided BBC news producers with easy programming content. Nothing in the BBC seems to beat a bit of anti-catholic bishop bashing. The ‘new’ information concerning Cardinal Brady was quite damning but there was little enough other new information to draw out this programme. The victim as with all victims of child abuse told a harrowing story. One can’t even imagine the agony that child abuse victims feel and in particular those who fell victim at the hands of clerics or religious. That there was little religion in those who carried out these crimes is neither here nor there. Back then, children who came forward to tell their stories were often not believed. Many were demonised, by the State, Church and sometimes, by parents. Those that did come forward were brave, very brave. They came forward not only to stop their own abuse but also to help other victims. The most poignant moment in the BBC programme was the moment; Mr Boland said to another victim –‘I thought I had saved you’.
Brendan Smyth was perhaps the most notorious Irish paedophile. What makes his crimes so much more heinous was the fact that no one in possession of that knowledge did anything to prevent his actions or have him arrested. When I say no one, I mean no one, no bishop, religious, fellow priest, policeman, teacher, or social worker did anything. Of course it’s fair to say that our society was very different back then. It was not the norm to question people in authority whether in the State or Church. As a catholic –albeit a struggling a one-I ask: was it really possible to learn of such things and not act?
Surely for the Christians primary source of guidance is the Bible?Psalm 82 tell us clearly ‘Let the weak and the orphan have justice. Rescue the meek and the needy, save them from the clutches of the wicked’. Moreover Proverbs 24 directs believers to ‘Rescue those being led away to death and hold back those who are being dragged to the slaughter. Will you object, ‘But look, we did not know? Has he who weighs the heart no understanding he who scans your soul no knowledge? ‘In another part of Scripture we are told ‘You must not pervert justice in dealing with the stranger or the orphan’. Most people have an inner moral compass. Sometimes we don’t follow it and end up in uncharted territory. Even Pinocchio had Jiminy Cricket to remind him to ‘always let your conscience to be your guide.’
Anyone who knows Cardinal Sean Brady will know he is a man of much compassion and humility. As a Bishop/Cardinal he has given leadership. Unfortunately, as priest he has Brendan Smyth as part of his narrative. Can anyone doubt that he is haunted by his role in the Smyth saga? How many times must he have agonised over this personal Gethsemane? He is certainly wounded. The rebuttal statement issued for Cardinal Brady was a retreat into minutiae and technicalities, which used clever language that a living church should not need to hide behind.The Cardinal is now bunkered and ordinary Catholics are bewildered. Some of the politicking reveals poorly masked sectarianism and secularism.
But sitting in St Marys I pondered on my favourite, prophet- Job. Returning to the office I looked up Job 11: ‘Is wordiness in a man proof of right? These were your words, my way of life is faultless, and in your eyes I am free from blame. But if God had a mind to speak, were he to show you the secrets of wisdom, which put all cleverness to shame- you would know it is for sin, he calls you to account’.Maybe it time for some Divine wisdom.