Classifieds Advertise Archive Subscriptions Family Announcements Photos Digital Editions/Apps
Connect with us

Archive News

The scandal of clerical abuse is not just a local issue



Date Published: {J}

They do protest too much methinks, people taking offence on behalf of the Catholic Church at recent criticism from the Anglicans. That was like throwing them a lifeline: Never mind what’s wrong with us, we’re not taking that from the Church of England! No wonder they call patriotism the last refuge of the scoundrel.

But though you may call the Archbishop of Canterbury’s remark ill-conceived, undiplomatic, even simply offensive, you cannot seriously call it wrong. The Catholic Church in Ireland is teeming with people who are kind and good as individuals, but how can it be said to retain any credibility as an institution? If a sports club covered up child sexual abuse we would say it was morally bankrupt. When an organisation that claims to be society’s moral authority does it then yes, it has no credibility. How could it possibly?

But it is wrong to single out the Irish Catholic Church for this. Though some cases in the US and UK had Irish perpetrators, priests have been convicted for sexual abuse of minors in Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Slovenia and Sweden. There have been allegations made too in Austria, the Netherlands, Peru, the Philippines, Poland and Mexico. It would be hard to blame all that on Irish priests.

Is it a Catholic problem then? It’s tempting to guess that the celibacy of priesthood causes sexual desire to become twisted and misdirected – or conversely, that it attracts men whose sexuality is already confused – but I doubt if this is really a significant element. You hear it claimed sometimes that paedophiles are known to be less common in the priesthood than they are in the general population. It would not surprise me, most sexual abuse occurs within families.

There is an image of the paedophile as a shady figure who hangs around school playgrounds – remember how our parents taught us not to talk to strangers – but in the vast majority of cases the abuser is a known adult in a position of trust and responsibility. In all probability paedophilia as an inclination occurs about equally as often in people of all religions and walks of life.

The reason why acts of child abuse are carried out by some kinds of people more than others – leaving aside such complicating (but important) factors as alcoholism – is down almost entirely to one thing: Opportunity. Priests, carers and scout leaders are left alone with children a hell of a lot more than say coalminers, electricians and airline pilots. It must be remembered that the failure of the Church here was not to have child abusers within its ranks – that was virtually inevitable – but that it attempted to hide the fact, and by so doing provided abusers with new opportunities.

Above I named other countries in which clerical abuse is known to have occurred. The key word is obviously ‘known’. You’ll notice that almost all of them are well-developed countries with free press and reasonably functional democracy.

How is it that most of South and all Central America are absent? Where is Asia? Where is Africa?

This is far from a local problem. They extent of it may be almost too terrible to contemplate.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

Continue Reading

Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


Continue Reading

Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

Continue Reading

Local Ads

Local Ads