Tuesday, 1 December 2009


Another damning report on the scale of child sexual abuse by the Roman Catholic clergy in this country has been published this week. In the report of the commission on child abuse within the Dublin diocese several Bishops are named as having not acted honourably when alerted to the activities of their clergy, most of them did nothing and many just moved the offending cleric on to another parish where the abuse continued on more children. I have been listening through this week to many ‘good’ Catholics venting their frustration at the lack of response of their church to these atrocities in any meaningful way. All the Church officials can muster to date are verbal apologies (they have never been at a loss for words, both inside and outside the pulpit ! ) and paltry sums of compensation offered to some of the victims. It is heart rending to hear fair minded members of that Church tearfully baffled as to the stony response of their spiritual leaders in the light of these awful happenings, as many have asked over the last few days, where has basic Christianity gone ?

A Bishop lies, a Cardinal lies, even a child preparing for Communion knows from their Catechism that it is a ‘sin’ to tell an untruth. But there seems to be one code of morality for the man or woman in the pew and an entirely opposite code for the Church hierarchy. Of course I am looking at these events from the outside having long ago substituted dead religious practise for a living faith in Jesus Christ. I could never understand how anyone with even a basic knowledge of the Gospels could confuse that heartless monolith which is the Roman Catholic Church with the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. While much good has been done by individual clergy and laity within the Church the structure of it, headed or lorded over by a Pope who lives in palatial grandeur, runs so counter to the way Jesus admonished His disciples to behave that it beggars belief. Jesus model of church leadership was that of a servant in fact He said that the greatest in His Kingdom would be the servant of all. ( Matthew 18: 1-4). As the Roman church strengthened its power base over the centuries it lost its spiritual clout and diluted the early teachings of Jesus with clever sounding theologies and doctrines that owed more to human ingenuity than to a revelation from God.

When I first opened the pages of the New Testament to read it for myself I was so surprised that much of what I had been taught to believe as a Catholic was no where to be found within its covers. Staples of my childhood like Confession, Mass, Praying for the Dead, worship of Mary and the reverential place of the Priest were all absent from the Four Gospels and did not appear in the early written works of the first Christian communities. Sadly, to people of my parent’s generation, reading the Bible had been deliberately discouraged by the Church , her ministers alone would explain and interpret the Book in line with its own peculiar belief system. The result of this rigorous authoritarianism was to allow generations of Irish people to have a dread of the Scriptures and thereby deny them the possibility of nurturing a vibrant personal faith in the Jesus of the New Testament. Compounded to this spiritual theft as we now know, was the scandalous behaviour of large numbers of the Churches clergy in the sexual abuse of thousands of children. Over the last few years as details of the awfulness of those crimes have been exposed, the once intimate relationship between the Irish and the Catholic Church has been altered beyond recognition. To the religiously sceptic these revelations of clerical wrongdoing have confirmed their disdain of any type of a faith based approach to life, to those who refused to live under any personal moral code it has shown how hollow that code was in the first place and to the majority of ordinary church going Catholics it has been a massive act of betrayal inflicted on them by the Church they loved.

Those of us looking on from outside the Roman fold do not have reason for any smugness or quiet satisfaction ,as the Catholic Church crumbles before our eyes. For most people here the terms Catholic and Christian are interchangeable, however misguided that opinion might be. So as the R. C Church looses ground, so too in common perception does the message of the Gospel. The opportunity must now be grasped to present the plain teachings of Jesus without the ecclesiastical razzmatazz or clerical sleight of hand. As Paul recalled his first encounter with the people at Corinth, “ My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.” ( 1 Corinthians 2: 4,5 ) All religious life is littered with the dead ash of human wisdom and persuasive oratory, what the disillusioned ‘faithful’ of the Catholic Church in Ireland now deserve to hear is a message of power and purity that emanates from the very heart of God. My hope is that the baby wont be tossed out with the bathwater as the distinction between the glorious message of Jesus and the moribund works of failed religion are muddled in the public mind. The challenge is for those of us who have tasted the goodness and mercy of God to pass it on as urgently and gently as we can, our fellow citizens deserve nothing less in the present trying circumstances.

Gerard O'Shea


M O'S said...

I have been following blog for the last while I have been able to put together a profile of what you might be like. First you are a blogger, which means you are opinionated, most bloggers are and want to let steam off in one way or another. Some Blogs are shared by people with common interests and therefore have some purpose. There is also a good chance that no body listens to you in the real world and therefore you have to vent your opinions and judgements in cyberspace in the vain hope that there is someone out there. And the few replies you get (from people you don’t know) provide you with what little encouragement you need to pontificate.

What is more disconcerting is I sense that you are probably a legalist, a modern day Pharisee. You more than anyone else take great heed in what you think and say. I also suspect that as a Christian this is even more pronounced, you being a blood covered born again variety.

Observing this cast, you will notice several things, they do very very little except pontificate and judge (they feel they are quite entitled to). They feel that they are entitled because thro’ some twisted belief system they are above everyone else, the chosen, the washed, the enlightened. They are Biblically brilliant, like the Pharisees, they know the words, they are the tools of their judgement. But like the Pharisees their hearts are frozen. And the real fervourant type hang around on their own or in very small groups (which continually keep falling out with each other). Criticism of the RC church is essential, even mandatory.

You don’t have to stay there, Jesus can help you to break free and his Holy Spirit can thaw your frozen heart. Jesus wants your heart, all of it. Unless you wake up each day with a passion and a deep love for Him you are standing on sand. He can teach you to Love even the sinners (even Bishops and Priests), in fact He commands this of His followers. Take down the walls of stone and replace them with heart of flesh, you will be the better for it and so will all those you come in contact. Change the world don’t waste your time commenting on it. Live in the joyful Kingdom.

I am praying for you.

Dew of Hermon said...

What a pity you choose not to identify yourself, in the light of your 'opinionated' criticism of me I would like to be able to reply eyeball to eyeball as it were. While I am a 'born again Christian', I am not of the 'cliched' variety that you refer to and I have an acute sense of my own wretchedness (hence the neccessity for a Saviour).
I find it interesting that in your comment on a piece about child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, you make no reference to the substantial point.The recently published Murphy Report did the judging not me, I simply pointed out my own journey from legalistic religion to the grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
I agree I regularly need the Holy Spirit to thaw this frozen heart and I welcome your prayers for me in this regard. Indeed it's so hard even to get people I know well to remember me in prayer, it is touching that a stranger is taking such a proactive interest in my spiritual well-being.
I am glad that you drop in to the Dew from time to time and I hope you will continue to do so. Your comments are always welcome, let's continue the dialogue.

Derek said...

As a regular reader of the Dew I seem to recall a piece you printed about two years ago of a transcript of remarks made by Dave Fanning on radio. I think he made the comments while reviewing a documentary on the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy. At the time he was censured by the Broadcasting Commission for his scathing attack on the Catholic Church.Can you reprint that blog ? I wonder does Fanning feel vindicated now ?

spancelhill said...

Hello M. O'S!

Thank you for providing the typical example of a coward's response to criticism - attack the messenger instead of the message! Don't bother with arguments, just make sure whosoever dares to criticize the RCC will get your full broadside of blame, name-calling and abuse (again!). Basically by doing this, you are showing that you are unable to (or more likely: afraid of) engaging in a decent dispute. Let me just point out a few of your misjudgments:

1. "first you are a blogger, which means you are opinionated" - Wow! What a groundbreaking discovery! And of course, you yourself, remaining anonymous, are totally objective! And no, you don't "want to let steam off in one way or another"! If it wasn't so sad, it would be funny! Well, being anonymous, haven't you given a perfect description of yourself: "There is also a good chance that no body (sic!) listens to you in the real world and therefore you have to vent your opinions and judgements in cyberspace". The rest of your first paragraph - is the same - a description of an anonymous commenter...

2. That you are dishonest shows this sentence: "the few replies you get (from people you don’t know" - It is obvious that you can't possibly know that. Unless you (secretly) know Gerry in person, but then your anonymous attack is even viler.

3. "They are Biblically brilliant, like the Pharisees, they know the words" - If someone, on the other hand, doesn't know the Bible (which is, btw. God's chosen means of His revelation to mankind) and didn't accept Jesus' redemptive work on the cross, he has nothing to produce at the throne of judgement ... Works? Words? They all don't balance out our principal shortcoming before God. (1.Cor 3:11-15)

4. I'm a member of a Christian Church here in the West of Ireland since more than 10 years (I never was in the RCC) - and I've never found this to be true: "Criticism of the RC church is essential, even mandatory". On the other side, there is nothing wrong with "criticism" - unless you are unable to question yourself, unless you (think you) are above criticism. The way the RC Church has handled and still handles the whole issue at hand (widespread Child sexual abuse within the RC Church) and has tried to cover it up, just shows her inability to repent and reform and the whole corruptness from inside.

Now my post certainly isn't devoid of issues - maybe I just need to calm down a little. So any comments and corrections are more than welcome! Forgive me, if I was too harsch.


Dew of Hermon said...

The Dave Fanning blog was back in June of 2007, you can find it here...cahttp://dewofhermon.blogspot.com/2007/06/dave-fanning-on-catholic-church.htmln
Or simply type 'Dave Fanning' into the blog search box

Dew of Hermon said...

Thanks Spancelhill for your support and I'm delighted to hear that the West is awake to the power of the Gospel.

Brian Mc said...

Holy Moly! What they were doing in the Church was/is appalling but hey everyone was at it. The amount of people I know and have heard of that have been abused by relatives is also appalling. It seems to have been the national pastime. I also had a few close calls myself growing up but got tipped off by the lads on the street as to who was safe and who wasn't (actually safe was not the word used). The funny thing was at the time I hadn't a clue what they were talking about but I took their advice.
Tis one mad country if we're not molesting children, we are watching somebody else doing it on the internet, Judges and Boxers Swimmers and all.
The recession, the floods, the abuse, the church, the government, our little country don't look to good at the moment does it?
But the big question at the moment is can Santa fix it?

Anne said...

I did not get the whiff of bigotry in your blog, I think you clearly differenciated between the 'official' clerical institution and the ordinary members. There is very little in your report that I as an 'ordinary' Catholic could disagree with. God bless you and your knowledge of the Bible, I think we all should return to what Jesus said and not rely on any human interperatation. If this had been practised before we would not now be in this sorry mess.

John said...

There certainly is a huge spiritual vacuum in society at the moment and there are many options and roads to choose from. The sad thing is I believe there is only one way and this scandal has done serious damage to this. I agree that we who follow Jesus must display His love in a real and compassionate way. This will be quite difficult but we must show that God is Love and that this is real. There are many believers in the Catholic Church who feel isolated, hurt and alone. We must bless them and not be judgmental.

Tony said...

Ger as someone who listens to you in the 'real world', I thought this was a fine article in which you took great efforts to distinguish between the laity and clergy.More importantly you pointed the reader in the direction of our Lord Jesus. For only the Lord can save us from our wretchedness.

Joe Mc said...

Just warching a TV debate on the future of the Catholic church in Ireland in light of the abuse scandals, your piece was very measured compared to the real anger out there against this clerical imperialism. We have suffered long enough under htpocritical religious leaders who told us to do one thing while doing the opposite themselves.

joseph said...

We now blame the church for everything (last week it was the politicians and before that the bankers). But we forget that we are the church (as we are the state). We let what happened happen and share the responsibility for this. Our Mothers (in particular) and our fathers thought us to revere the church with unquestioning trust. If anything was out of kilter it was us, never the church or the priests or the nuns (and I witnessed great cruelty at their hands). If I came home from school with a complaint about a priest I would be pasted, and I instinctively knew this as did all my generation.
We are a nation that does not deal with things very well. Under the carpet with everything until things jump up and bite us. We saw this particularly during the celtic tiger, there were a few prophets crying in the wilderness that the bankers had gone mad, but we laughed at them as we flicked through catalogs of materialism wondering what we would have next.
What has happened in the church is downright appalling and will undoubtedly do great damage to the church going forward. But let us remember we share the blame, our hands are stained.

Anonymous said...

It will pass, it will pass.

Anonymous said...

you know, that this catholic roman church you talk about.... was created by jesuschrist himself??, not man.