Tuesday, January 20, 2009

'The Cloyne debacle is a dirty story and Cardinal Brady's intervention only muddies the waters more'

Accountability, what's that about?

Ireland's Financial Regulator resigns, a senior executive or three also leave.

But not in Ireland's biggest global corporation, whose national CEO found motes in everyone's eye except his own, this week.

Cardinal Sean Brady condemned greed, corruption, the slaughter in Gaza and recommended "an economy of peace which confronts the unjust distribution of the goods of the earth and progresses a culture of global solidarity". He prayed for an economy that supports "authentic human development".

Then he said that John Magee, Roman Catholic Bishop of Cloyne, shouldn't resign but should stay in his post to oversee new child protection procedures in his diocese. Magee's stewardship had been found seriously flawed, including his management of cases involving two particular priests.

How authentic is that?

Put it this way. If Magee was a senior banker, he'd have to resign. The shareholders wouldn't tolerate him. The Cloyne debacle is a dirty story, involving threats of legal action lest a shocking report on the diocese be released, a pattern of co-operation that can only be described as lacklustre and a conclusion that judged Magee and his team's actions inadequate and potentially dangerous.

The danger wasn't about money. It was about assaults on children and young people who are citizens of this State. The State had bailed out the Church when the child sex abuse scandal was raging in the late 1990s, before it bailed out the banks.

Rather more slowly than you'd expect, the Irish bishops introduced child protection guidelines and a so-called independent inquiry system. Magee didn't follow suit until he was virtually compelled to do so.

Now, Cardinal Brady sees no problem having Magee oversee, in Cloyne, the guidelines and measures he'd resisted for over 10 years.

Brady made another remark in Killarney that grows ever more uncomfortable when you reflect on the Cloyne debacle. He thanked clergy for their "quiet fidelity" during a decade of scandal, presumably meaning that they kept the show on the road, behaved professionally and worked well.

However, the notion of fidelity also raised questions about whistleblowing and fundamental loyalties after what didn't happen in Cloyne. Fidelity to whom? It reveals a Chur-ch/State divide that might have had some rationale before 1973 when the electorate removed the special constitutional position of the Catholic Church. Now it has none. Ow.

Yet the special position continues. The Church maintains huge control in areas such as education and healthcare, which directly affect hundreds of thousands of citizens.

Magee's behaviour is important in that context.

Look at it laterally. Imagine a scenario where a Big Brother EU has a controlling interest in Irish schools. It appoints the patrons, chairpeople and must approve school principals. Before you can work there, you must be EU-proofed, meaning you must conform to a code it lays down and enforces. Beg to differ and your job will be at risk.

A scandal erupts. Children aren't being protected adequately and some are sexually abused.

Their parents, Irish citizens, expect the schools to reform procedures and safeguard pupils. The EU agrees, but yet still lets local managers do as they see fit. Pot luck.

Such a scenario would realise the most paranoid fantasies of the No to Lisbon campaign. Sovereignty would be yielded across vast areas of Irish society -- and no one would tolerate that. But at least they would get a chance to vote.

The question is whether the State can continue to support the special position if the Catholic cardinal sees no inconsistency in having the manager, who was found lacking, be the one to manage the repairs that must be done.

Is Magee competent to appoint school managers and principals after this? Is he credible? Would an independent interview board give him the job?

If lessons about what wasn't done after the money deal with the Catholic Church are applied to the banking and building sectors, the State may be able to limit problems with them in the future.

The State treated local bishops as though they were a breed apart and didn't insist on basic codes and accountability for every aspect involving its citizens. Smart churchmen such as Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin may realise that the historic favouritism his organisation enjoys must be managed carefully if it's to keep its power in this century.

He made a point of embracing Fr Michael Mernagh, the gentle Augustinian priest who took an eight-day walk of atonement from Cobh cathedral to Dublin, despite being in his early 70s and the weather winter's worst.

I can't imagine a banker or tax-exiled former builder taking a walk of atonement to apologise for the greed and lack of foresight his colleagues showed. And I can't imagine why the cardinal shows 'solidarity' with the present Bishop of Cloyne rather than with the citizens.
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Sotto Voce

(Source: II)

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