Thursday, March 04, 2010

Vatican’s wealth should be used to pay for claims

IT seems the clergy, for all the fantastic work they have done for education in this country, are incapable of learning.

After belatedly taking up the path of contrition, reconciliation and repentance, they have chosen to gallop en masse into the wilds again in the weeks since they returned from their much-publicised trip to Rome.

The Pope didn’t see fit to apologise to victims and ordinary Catholics; indeed there was no reference whatsoever in his statement to his Church’s role in covering up the brutal and depraved regime which ruined thousands of children’s lives.

A united Church, it appears, is more important than facing up to evils of the past.

And then this.

In the words of the shocked Goldenbridge survivor Christine Buckley, the "priests are now asking the congregations to pay for the rapes of boys and girls?"

Chairman of the Ferns Diocesan Finance Committee, Eugene Doyle, clearly had no idea what he was getting into when he was asked by the bishop to do media interviews yesterday.

By lunchtime, the accountant sounded like a one-legged leper forced to run a marathon – he was drained.

"It is just an idea that we are putting out there. We wanted to judge the response. Ordinary parishioners and priests have come to us offering to help us out as they knew we were in financial trouble," he said.

Just how could the diocese send a layman out to bat for the Church, to go cap and hand to the friends and family of abuse victims in Ferns who they stonewalled for years?

How could he ever think that ordinary people of the Church, who they sinned against, will bail them out? Did they think for a minute of how this attempt to pass on responsibility could make victims feel?

The statement from the Diocese of Ferns to the congregations made me feel queasy.

Quoting Jesus Christ, the bishop urged us to "be not afraid" of "economic difficulties as much as everything else" and to "openly prioritise our needs, not our wants" before reminding us of the huge amount of work being done by the Church in primary schools, at mass, funerals and weddings and of their work overseas, parish work and inclusion of lay people.

And then the big question.

How would the people of Ferns feel about shouldering a €60,000 mortgage for the next 20 years?

A bill, made up of legal fees and settlements to abuse victims – the vast majority cases that could have been settled in months instead of six and seven years but that the diocese fought tooth and nail?

Victims will tell you that the money was of little consequence but it was the importance of having their story heard and believed that kept them going.

This Church wanted them silenced.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Irish people take trips to Rome and wonder upon the opulence of the Vatican.

Even in the most remote parishes of Ireland, the Church has valuable land and assets.

In Rome, their property and land are priceless.

The least Pope Benedict could do is sort out the financial mess that the culture of clerical abuse had foisted upon parishioners worldwide. It is little more than paying reparations due.

It would, however, be a great act of moral courage if this Pope could seek forgiveness for past sins by acknowledging the Murphy Commission report, the unrelenting pain of survivors and the irreversible damage done to the Catholic Church in Ireland.

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