Friday, 22 July 2011

After the Cloyne Report

Last week the report on the handling of allegations of clerical sexual abuse within the Cloyne Diocese was published. Since then there has been a great outcry over  the mishandling of some cases, and especially about what was seen as interference by the Vatican.

Some politicians have demanded that the Papal Nuncio be expelled, and the Minister of Justice has spoken of bringing in legislation that would require priests to break the seal of confession if they learn of any sexual abuse.  The hard-hitting speech given by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Dail has received almost universal praise, including from many clergy.

Much of this anger is justifiable and very understandable.

But, writing in The Irish Independent, David Quinn asks some questions:

"How many people in Ireland know that the clerical abuse scandals peaked in the 1970s and 1980s? How many know that of the several hundred allegations received by the church in the last two years, almost none relate to incidents that happened in the last 10 years?

How many know that a large section of public opinion grossly overestimates the number of child abusers in the priesthood, as a Royal College of Surgeons survey ascertained?

How many know that Catholic priests are no more likely to abuse children than comparable groups, which is what 'Newsweek' magazine discovered when it contacted US insurance companies to determine whether they charged a higher risk premium for Catholic priests than for other clergy?

How many know that the Cloyne Report itself acknowledges that the church's child-protection guidelines are better than the State's guidelines? It says that compared with the church's guidelines, the State's are 'less precise and more difficult to implement'."

Quinn continues: "It would be safe to bet that only a small proportion of the public could correctly answer the above questions. The reason for this is that our media have no interest in making the answers known so instead we have a public that believes the phenomenon of child abuse is a particularly and peculiarly Catholic one."

In an atmosphere of hurt and outrage it is very difficult for the full truth of an issue to be held. This is especially the case when different agendas are at work.