Monday, November 30, 2009

The lies that Connell claims he never told

The lies are the most striking aspect of the report on the Dublin Archdiocese - after, of course, the disclosures of the terrible abuse of probably thousands of young people over the years, and the coverup of those abuses.

Desmond Connell, an archbishop, a professor of philosophy, later a cardinal of the Church, a finger-wagging moralist; the man who spoke of his counterpart in the Church of Ireland as being intellectually inferior; the man who had a moral qualm about attending a reception hosted by Bertie Ahern and his then partner, Celia Larkin; the man who, as head of the philosophy department at UCD for years, was the Church’s man in a key post.

Connell, the moralist, told the investigation commission that it was okay to lie, provided that one had a ‘‘mental reservation’’.

All right, he may not have said outright that it was okay to lie, but he did say it wa
s okay to convey an untruth and do so deliberately.

This was his explanation: ‘‘Well, the general teaching about mental reservation is that you are not permitted to tell a lie. On the other hand, you may be put in a position where you have to answer, and there may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression, realising that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may be - permitting that to happen, not willing that it happened, that would be lying.

‘‘It really is a matter of trying to deal with extraordinarily difficult matters that may arise in social relations where people may ask questions that you simply cannot answer. Everybody knows that this kind of thing is liable to happen. So mental reservation is, in a sense, away of answering without lying."

In the early 1990s, Connell lent a priest in the Dublin diocese, Ivan Payne, money to compensate Andrew Madden, whom Payne had sexually abused. Madden had instituted legal proceedings against Payne.

Joe Little of RTE asked Connell whether he had compensated victims of clerical abuse. Connell replied: ‘‘I have compensated nobody. I have paid nobody."

He went on to say that the finances of the diocese were ‘‘not used in any way’’ (to make settlements in civil actions concerning clerical child abuse).

In 2003, almost a decade later, Desmond Connell had a meeting with Madden, who, of course, was fully aware that what Connell had said to Little was a lie.

The investigation commission report says: ‘‘In the course of an informal chat, Cardinal Connell did apologise for the whole handling of the Fr Ivan Payne case. He was, however, at pains to point out to Mr Madden that he did not lie about the use of diocesan funds in meeting Fr Payne’s settlement with Mr Madden.

‘‘He explained that, when he was asked by journalists about the use of diocesan funds for the compensation of complainants of child sexual abuse, he had responded that diocesan funds are not used for such a purpose; that he had not said that diocesan funds were not used for such a purpose. By using the present tense, he had not excluded the possibility that diocesan funds had been used for such purpose in the past. According to Mr Madden, Cardinal Connell considered that there was an enormous difference between the two."

Apart from Madden, the other person of heroic stature who emerges from this scandal, Marie Collins, also had exposure to Connell’s understanding of truth.

The commission report says of this: ‘‘In anticipation of the publication of the framework document, a meeting was arranged at the request of Archbishop Connell with a representative of An Garda Siochana. A detective inspector and a detective garda met a representative of the archdiocese at Archbishop’s House on November 17,1995.

‘‘The representative delivered details of all persons who had made allegations of sexual abuse against members of the clergy that were in his possession.

‘‘These details comprised the names of 17 alleged clerical abusers, together with the names of each complainant and brief details of the allegations.

‘‘The Commission does not consider that the reporting carried out in this instance by the archdiocese was, in fact, in compliance with the standards of the framework document. Within the collective knowledge of priests and officials of the archdiocese, there was an awareness of complaints concerning a total of at least 28 priests or former priests [at least 12more than were named on the list].

‘‘When Cardinal Connell was asked by the Commission about the absence of any reference on this list to a particular named priest, his reply was that this priest’s name was possibly not on the list because he had been laicised at the time the list was produced and, consequently, was not a member of the clergy.

‘‘In further evidence before the Commission, the Cardinal responded that the disclosure ‘was a beginning and it was a very big beginning, because nothing of the kind had ever happened before’."

After the conviction of the priest who had abused Marie Collins and others in the criminal courts in 1997, the Dublin Archdiocese issued a press statement claiming that it had co-operated with the gardai in relation to her complaint.

The Commission says: ‘‘Mrs Collins was upset by that statement as she had good reason to believe that the archdiocese’s level of co-operation was, to say the least, questionable.

‘‘Her support priest, Fr James Norman, subsequently told the gardai that he asked the archdiocese about that statement, and that the explanation he received was that ‘we never said we cooperated ‘‘fully’’ ‘, placing emphasis on the word ‘fully’."

And these guys presume to lecture the rest of us on morality. . .

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