The editor of the Irish Catholic, Garry O’Sullivan, offers an encouarging and balanced perspective for priests on the upcoming Dublin report.

Garry O'Sullivan, editor of the Irish Catholic

Perspective for Priests

This editorial appeared in the Irish Catholic 20th October 2009

The Dublin Report will hit like a Tsunami but we mustnt allow ourselves to be washed away in the flood of anger, revulsion and inevitable anti-church sentiment. Im not worried for the laity; weve been shocked by Ferns and by the Ryan report, Dublin is more of the same, perhaps to greater degrees but nothing that we havent seen and heard in the other reports. Im worried for priests and would urge them all to keep their feet firmly planted when the flood hits and the only way to do this is to keep perspective on this.

I suggest thinking about the following.

  1. The release of the Dublin report is a good thing for the Dublin Diocese and for priests and laity alike. Clerical sexual abuse and its cover up is being acknowledged and with this acknowledgement comes an assurance for victims that their suffering has been heard and believed and that blame is being apportioned to those who wronged them and where the most vulnerable are concerned, they are the priority in the diocese and this cant happen again.
  2. The Dublin report comes in the wake of a week when the day to day life of the church has been exposed in a very different way – the sensitivity, the warmth, the caring – shown by “the local priest” at the funerals of a famous singer and the Air Corp pilots, the heartfelt words of thanks to the churchgoers of Ireland from Sharon Commins after her release from captivity, and the genuine anxiety of so many people, including Sharon Commins and her family, for captured priest Fr. Michael Sinnott – a man with decades of service to the developing world. Priests need to keep perspective on the “corporate shame” which will come with the Dublin Report- the local priest, the local parish, God himself is not in question! We as Christians have nothing to be ashamed of; in fact we have so much to be proud of. And yes we can abhor those who did terrible things and those who mismanaged them. That is perspective.
  3. The Dublin Report comes at a time when change has occurred and clear leadership has been given by the Church. This is not the 1990’s there are clear child protection policies it took a while for the Bishops to get it right but they have, there are codes of conduct in dealing with children, there is training for priests and parishioners, there is Garda vetting of those working with priests and co-operation with the state – all of these are much more progressed now that they were in the past. If anything, the pioneering work in this sphere the Inter Agency meetings, the appointment of independent voices to assess and monitor and challenge from within the church – has made great strides.
  4. There are new Church leaders such as the Archbishop of Dublin who has grappled with this issue with a huge amount of care and openness in the same way that Bishop Walsh grappled with Ferns. It hasnt been easy for him or his priests but the issue has been handled decisively and authoritively and this is widely recognised and praised. Priests can stand with their Archbishop when the Dublin Report is released and hold their heads up in acknowledgement that the right thing has been done and whatever further steps need to be taken, they will support his leadership and he will in turn listen attentively to their suggestions and concerns.
  5. It is worth reminding ourselves what the Ferns Inquiry said about the majority of priests – The majority of priests who attended the Ferns Inquiry stated that they had no awareness or understanding of child sexual abuse until they read about it in the media in the 1990s. This would appear to point to a failure of church authorities in Rome to educate bishops and priests about the growing awareness of child sexual abuse within the Roman Catholic priesthood which had developed throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Such a failure left individual priests unable to deal with this situation when they confronted it and has left many good priests feeling guilty and inadequate. The Inquiry believes that such priests need understanding and support from their community and from their Church in helping them come to terms with what was occurring in their diocese.

I have no doubt that if priests keep a clear perspective on the Dublin Report they will realise very quickly that they have the understanding and support of their parishes and communities, and that we, as priests and laity, we as Church are all in this together, but cannot allow ourselves be overwhelmed or burdened down by the blame and shame that rightly belongs to the perpetrators.

“The night is nearly over; the day is almost here” Be not afraid.

Irish Catholic

The Irish Catholic is Irelands biggest and best-selling religious newspaper. It was founded in 1888 by T.D. Sullivan, a former Lord Mayor of Dublin.

The Irish Catholic, published weekly, provides a lively mix of news, analysis and informed commentary about the Church and social issues as they affect Ireland and the wider-world.

The Irish Catholic became part of The Agricultural Trust stable of newspapers in June 2006.

The current Editor, Garry OSullivan, was appointed in January 2005.

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About Us

The Irish Catholic is Irelands biggest and best-selling religious newspaper. It was founded in 1888 by T.D. Sullivan, a former Lord Mayor of Dublin.

The Irish Catholic, published weekly, provides a lively mix of news, analysis and informed commentary about the Church and social issues as they affect Ireland and the wider-world.

The Irish Catholic is considered to be Irelands most-influential independent Catholic newspaper, having always been owned and managed by lay people. The Irish Catholic has established itself as an authoritative voice of matters of religious and social importance.

The Irish Catholic became part of The Agricultural Trust stable of newspapers in June 2006. The current Editor, Garry OSullivan, was appointed in January 2005.