Liam Fay: It’s Time to Clear out All of Ireland’s Delinquent Bishops

By Liam Fay
The Sunday Times

December 28, 2008

The season of goodwill won't cover up Reverend Magee's shame

One can tell a great deal about an organisation by the calibre of its top guns. With power comes responsibility, and the head that wears the crown should always be attached to a sturdy backbone. A true leader must place his followers’ welfare above his own.

Unfortunately for its faithful footsoldiers, however, the Catholic church is run by bishops rather than leaders, and few of these empurpled princes seem eager to stand up for anything other than the ritual kissing of their rings.

As if the church didn’t have enough trouble selling its message, its once-a-year best shot at securing a receptive audience was all but destroyed this Christmas by the dogged refusal of the Most Reverend John Magee, Bishop of Cloyne, to face the inevitable and resign.

Since the publication on December 12 of a damning report by the church’s own child-protection watchdog, chronicling his diabolical mishandling of two cases of alleged child sexual abuse linked to priests in his diocese, Magee’s position has been untenable. But, rather than do the decent thing swiftly and contritely, he opted to brazen it out, apparently seeking cover amid the bustle and sentimentality of the season of goodwill.

His obduracy undoubtedly cast a shadow over the religious celebrations of many devout Catholics. Even for the rest of us, there was something distasteful about hearing Christmas Eve mass-goers in Cloyne being quizzed by journalists about their reaction to the church’s latest heaping of insult upon injury to abuse complainants. Yet this is inevitably what happens when a discredited bigwig such as Magee acts as though he has divine authority to stay in office. Civil society is entitled to ask whether those from whom he claims allegiance endorse his position.

For the record, the majority of the worshippers interviewed by RTE Radio were incensed both by Magee’s conduct and refusal to stand down. Amid the anger, there was obvious hurt in the voices of many who had believed bishops were now operating to higher standards.

After a decade-and-a-half of sickening revelations about the violation and torture of children by paedophile clerics, the church had almost succeeded in convincing its followers that it had belatedly grasped the gravity of child abuse. Catholics have been told a thousand times the lessons have been learnt.

The catalogue of failures chronicled by the Cloyne report demonstrates that, in that diocese at least, nothing has changed: Magee’s evident priority throughout was the protection of errant priests. In one case he did not notify gardai of multiple allegations of sexual abuse by a priest until eight years after receiving the first allegation. Meantime, the priest still wore his clerical garb, an access-all-areas pass to homes and schools.

It should go without saying that the primary culprits in clerical-abuse outrages are the clerics who’ve raped or molested children. However, these degenerates are run a close second by the delinquent bishops who averted their eyes or concentrated more on the needs of the abuser than the abused. They too should be rooted out of the church alongside the rapists and paedophiles.

Diarmuid Martin, the archbishop of Dublin and one of the few senior churchmen to confront clerical abuse with anything approaching seriousness, hinted at exasperation with many of his fellow bishops last week when he said he was “extremely concerned” about the viability of a unified church approach to child protection given the wide diversity that exists in the interpretation and application of agreed procedures. As usual, he’s putting it mildly.

The imperious disregard for rank-and-file Catholics displayed by Magee is not simply a sideshow to this whole sorry saga but rather a symptom of its deep-seated cause. While posing as defenders of the faith and the faithful, some of the church’s top guns are actually a danger to public safety.

Michael O’Leary may not yet own Aer Lingus but he’s already in the pilot seat. Aer Lingus’s move to reinstate flights from Shannon to Heathrow would clearly not have happened but for Ryanair’s attempt to buy the national flag carrier. O’Leary’s airline had pledged to reopen the route if its bid was successful.

Meanwhile, politicians let it be known that they’d be much more likely to support Aer Lingus’s position if it restored the Shannon link.

Naturally, ministers and mid-west TDs are taking the credit for forcing Aer Lingus into a U-turn. Even the dimmest among them, however, must realise that their influence here can only be limited. Shannon is being used by Aer Lingus and Ryanair as a bargaining chip. When the takeover game is over, the winner will cash it in.

MacGowan is a cash king

Beware predictions and those who make them. For at least 20 years, would-be Mystic Megs have forecast the demise of Shane MacGowan, songwriter, bliss artist and frontman with the Pogues, who turned 51 on Christmas Day. But unlike the nation in which he lives, MacGowan boasts a booming economy.

According to latest reports, the shambling performer earns an annual ˆ20,000 from his authorship of Fairytale of New York, the only Christmas song that doesn’t incite immediate longing for August. Long before the rest of us discovered the hazards of banking, MacGowan was “sceptical” of financial institutions, and carries out all his transactions in cash.

In economic terms, nobody really knows what is going to happen next. The only people who can be relied on to be wrong are those who claim to know otherwise. Next time you read an authoritative prediction of our impending collapse, remember that MacGowan is still walking around.

Finneran builds a band of brothers

Michael Finneran is happy to be his brother’s keeper, not to mention his wife’s, his son’s and his daughter’s. The junior housing minister was outraged by opposition charges that his employment of these family members at taxpayers’ expense was “inappropriate”.

While his wife serves as his personal secretary (annual salary: ˆ30,215), his brother and two of his children worked as his civilian driver (salary: ˆ615 per week). He said they were simply “helping out”.

Finneran’s passion for familial co-operation probably explains his denial that the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) had lobbied him for the introduction of a government equity-loan scheme. But documents indicate the CIF did lobby him on a loan scheme described as “a sop to developers”.

Finneran may have overlooked the lobbying because it was by builders’ representatives, members of the Fianna Fail family. Was he helping out a brother in need?

Was Pope waxing lyrical about grooming?

Does Pope Benedict advocate male waxing? During last week’s outburst, in which he seemed to argue that saving humanity from homosexuality is as important as saving the rainforests, he also appeared to champion metrosexuality.

“The tropical forests do deserve our protection,” he declared. “But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less.” He sounds like he’s on about male grooming but, even then, the rainforest analogy doesn’t work.

Most gay men are actually keen on deforestation. Hence the popularity of back, sack and crack waxes.


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