THE TABLET THE I NTERNATIONAL CATHOLIC WEEKLY
Founded in 1840
A RELATIONSHIP IN NEED OF REPAIR
It is only three months since an international symposium on clerical child abuse was held in Rome, causing many observers to believe that the Church was beginning to understand the full scale of the scandal. There were wise words from Mgr Charles Scicluna, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), who deals with abuse cases, urging church leaders to put the protection of children above all else.
Omertà – a Mafia-style culture of silence – had prevailed in the Church on abuse; protecting the good name of the institution was the enemy of truth, he said. The CDF prefect, Cardinal William Levada, even acknowledged the role that the media played in exposing abuse. Now an historic case in Ireland is putting this recognition of the Church’s failings, and its need to do better, to the test. A BBC documentary described the involvement of Cardinal Seán Brady in a cover-up of abuse back in the Seventies. It accused the then Fr Brady of failing to act when a teenage boy, abused by a notorious paedophile, told him about other victims during an internal church investigation.
Cardinal Brady says he was only the note-taker, and though he did not alert the police or the children’s parents, he reported what he heard to senior clergy.
Although Cardinal Brady has now made a public apology over the case, he has refused to stand down. His supporters say that he is not personally guilty of a crime, but that is not the issue for many in Ireland. The point is the upholding of a system of authority that allowed abuse to flourish. The oncedevoutly Catholic country now appears to be locked in permanent combat with the Church, sickened by not only revelations of clerical child abuse but clerical cover-up.
Rome, meanwhile, despite its praise for media enquiry, denunciation of omertà and insistence on the need to put children first, appears to be in no mood to let Brady fall on his sword. The Vatican is not in the habit of caving in to public demands.
There is no doubt a fear that if one cardinal quits under pressure over abuse, there could be a domino effect. The media may even be encouraged to go on a scalp hunt. Instead, Cardinal Brady is likely to get a coadjutor to help him run his Armagh Diocese, enabling him to fade away from the limelight.
That will do little to heal Ireland. During the abuse symposium in Rome in February, Baroness (Sheila) Hollins, who had participated in the recent apostolic visitation to Ireland, said that “recovery is a slow process and some people will never fully recover from such a profound abuse of power and trust”. Lady Hollins was talking about individuals but her words might well have been describing Catholic Ireland.
This week, the country’s Association of Catholic Priests gathered with lay people to discuss the Church’s future. More and more of them are openly discussing clerical celibacy and the ordination of women. Something has gone badly wrong in the relationship between the church hierarchy and Irish Catholics.
It is now but a few weeks to the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. There is still time, just, for the Church to start repairing its damaged relationship with the Irish – if it uses the Congress to show that it is willing to listen, and with profound humility.
SO CLOSE, YET SO DIFFERENT
In Britain, the anniversary of the day 67 years ago that hostilities ceased in Europe slipped by this week with scarcely a mention in the media. Across the English Channel, by contrast, it was marked in France by a public holiday, as it is every year. In the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, liberation from the yoke of Nazi militarism is also marked by a public holiday. It is even commemorated on 8 May in the north German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where Chancellor Angela Merkel has her constituency.
It is curious that in a country like Britain, where the Second World War still looms so large in popular culture, so little is made of its passing, but it is perhaps revealing of the semidetached relationship she has with Europe. After all, when fighting in Europe was over, Britain traditionally brought home its troops and pulled up the drawbridge behind them.
It is therefore not so surprising that when Britain looks at Europe, more often than not it sees only part of the picture. Trade still dominates the British mindset as it has for four centuries and trade is what it thinks of when it thinks of Europe. But for the broken countries of the post-war Continent, trade was only ever going to be a part of the main agenda. Theirs was a larger vision of cooperation rather than conflict, of politics and philosophy as well as economics; an overarching commitment never to be ground under the jackboot of the Right and, post-1989, of the Left is the motivator of modern Europe. Much has been made by many of the different approach to the eurozone’s current financial crisis of the incoming leader of France. On Tuesday, François Hollande officially becomes the seventh elected president of the French Fifth Republic. Only the second socialist in half a century to hold France’s highest office, Mr Hollande says he favours growth rather than German-backed austerity as a way out of the crisis.
This is widely seen as putting him in conflict with Chancellor Merkel and destabilising the European project, but this would be to misread the runes. There may be some disagreement about practicalities, but both leaders are closer in policies, and even in personality, than might at first be apparent. And both are as committed to the project of the European Union as ever, and to the Franco-German partnership that underpins it.
Throughout Europe, voters have been sending clear messages that those responsible for causing so much hardship for so many of the EU’s 500 million people should be held to account. At the very least, they should not be allowed to continue to profit through perks, bonuses and tax breaks from their positions. Understandable as this may be, particularly in the case of Greece’s political class, it is equally clear, though perhaps harder to accept, that ordinary people themselves have to accept some responsibility. After all, no one forced them to accept credit they could ill afford. If the me-first, buy-now, pay-later (or not at all) society is to be tackled, the warp and weft of its fabric must change. All people, not just politicians, should be open to ideas such as that of solidarity, central to Catholic Social Teaching. There is so much more to society than trade, as any good European would say.
2 | THE TABLET | 12 May 2012 COLUMN
5 DAVID B LA I R
‘All the pent-up emotion of a generational struggle lies behind this crisis’
1 3 SARA MAITLAND
‘Neil’s crook sits in an ingenious tube glued on to the quad bike’
1 6 PARISH PRACTICE 1 7 NOTEBOOK 1 8 L ETTERS 1 9 THE L I V I NG S P I R I T 2 0 PUZZLES
2 1 CHRISTOPHER ALLMAND
In the Shadow of the Sword: the battle for global empire and the end of the ancient world Tom Holland
CATHERINE P E P I NSTER The Beginner’s Goodbye Anne Tyler
CLARE WATKINS Take the Plunge: living baptism and confirmation Timothy Radcliffe OP
2 5 F EATURE
Laura Gascoigne John Piper
C I NEMA Francine Stock Faust
T E L EV I S I ON John Morrish The Town Taking on China
THEATRE Mark Lawson Making Noise Quietly
RADIO D.J. Taylor Move Over Wodehouse
1 2 MAY 2 0 1 2
4 An ever-widening divide Paddy Agnew
The Vatican’s reaction to revelations about Cardinal Seán Brady shows the depth of the chasm between Ireland and Rome
6 Hope that grows under a tamarind tree Jonathan Tulloch
Sylvia Wright, for 30 years a pioneer in medical care in Tamil Nadu, tells The Tablet about her efforts to bring health to the poorest
8 Reining in Caritas Duncan MacLaren
The Vatican’s move to take tighter control over the humanitarian organisation could jeopardise its work, says a former secretary general
1 0 A plague on all your houses Julia Langdon
Voters may be punishing politicians for the economic turmoil, but there are messages in the backlash, particularly for the Lib Dems
1 0 ‘Gay marriage and Lords reform aren’t relevant’
Peter Bingle The Prime Minister has allowed secondary issues to take over the agenda, says one observer, when people are struggling to get by
1 2 Right turn for the Catholic vote Birthe Pedersen
France’s elections may offer gains for the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, whose appeal to the young faithful could be key to her success
1 4 Voice of America Michael Sean Winters
The Catholic point of view is becoming central to public debate in the US, a change in a nation where Church and State are separate
2 8 THE CHURCH I N THE WORLD
Cor Unum chief suggests further local Caritas reforms 3 1 L ETTER FROM ROME 3 2 NEWS FROM BRITAIN AND I RELAND
Irish Catholics issue appeal for democracy in the Church
COVER ILLUSTRATION: MARIA CORTE
12 May 2012 | THE TABLET | 3