Can we genuinely expect the culpable Vatican to deal with child abuse?
It’s a bit much now to believe the Vatican is genuinely shocked by the revelations of abuse and cover-up.
The expectation that the Vatican will sort out the disarray in the Irish Catholic Church misses the point: the Vatican contributed substantially to the disarray and is itself hugely culpable for what happened.
(Pictured: Father Thomas Naughton who appeared today at Wicklow Circuit Court on charges of sexual assault. He was previously sentenced in 1998 to three years for abusing four young altar boys. Photo: Irish Times)
How possibly can the Vatican issue any sanction against Desmond Connell, given its promotion of Desmond Connell to the status of cardinal after it had known fully that Desmond Connell had covered up the abuse of a young person by a priest in the Dublin diocese and then had lied about using diocesan money to compensate the victim?
And if the Vatican is in no position to sanction Desmond Connell, how can it sanction any of Desmond Connell’s helper-bishops for doing the same, and it should be noted there is no suggestion that the helper-bishops told lies, as Desmond Connell did.
Desmond Connell became aware in 1993 of a legal action against Ivan Payne that Andrew Madden had instigated for compensation for sexual abuse by Payne from 1976 to 1981. In April 1993 Andrew Madden wrote to Desmond Connell and subsequent to that Desmond Connell instructed the diocesan solicitors, who were acting for Payne, to offer Payne financial assistance in disposing of the case. A settlement was reached in the case in May 1993.
At the time Payne had acknowledged the abuse involved “going as far as was necessary to get satisfied without unnecessary violation”. He was not removed from parish work until late 1995, by which time he had abused more young people. He was removed after Andrew Madden had gone public about the abuse.
In March 1997 Payne was charged with 13 counts of indecent assault on nine complainants. Later he was charged with 29 counts of indecent assault on Andrew Madden. In January 1998 Payne pleaded guilty to charges of indecent assault on 10 victims. He was sentenced to six years in jail. At least 31 people have alleged he abused them as children, 16 while Payne was chaplain in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children. The Dublin archdiocese paid compensation to 12 victims.
In May 1995 Desmond Connell said on RTÉ television in relation to the compensation of victims of clerical child abuse: “I have compensated nobody. I have paid nothing whatsoever in compensation. It is my policy that if a priest is guilty and he wishes to make an out-of-court settlement, that is his responsibility. The diocese does not pay for that.”
He went on to say that the finances of the diocese “are not used in any way” to make settlements in civil actions concerning clerical child abuse.
Through Andrew Madden it quickly emerged that what Desmond Connell had said was a lie. Diocesan funds were used to make a settlement in a clerical child abuse case.
This was all known in 1995 and, as evidence of this, I wrote a column on this issue in this newspaper on October 4th, 1995. I pointed out then that Desmond Connell, clearly, had known a crime had been committed and yet had not informed gardaí of this. I referred to Desmond Connell’s response when asked where the finances in the diocesan administration fund (out of which the loan was made) came from, he replied: “The money . . . err . . . is . . . err . . . err . . . it’s . . . it’s . . . there are many investments out of which that money comes. I myself frequently made contributions to the diocese and that . . . those contributions themselves would enter into that particular fund.”
My point is that we all knew in 1995 that Desmond Connell had made funds available to compensate a victim of abuse by a priest in the diocese, that Desmond Connell had lied about it, that Desmond Connell had failed to tell gardaí about the crime of abuse, that he failed to move the priest in question away from where he would have contact with children, that he made no effort to inquire into whether the priest had abused others in the course of his ministry.
And if we all knew about it, you can be assured the Vatican knew about it. And what did the Vatican do about it? Did they institute inquiries of their own into how the Payne case had been handled? Did they summon Desmond Connell to Rome to explain why he had told lies about the compensation? Did they demand to know why Desmond Connell had not removed the priest from ministry, immediately he knew of the crime?
It is blindingly obvious the Vatican did nothing of the sort. Blindingly obvious because instead of dismissing Desmond Connell they promoted him to the position of cardinal.
So it is a bit much now to believe that the Vatican is genuinely shocked by the revelations of abuse in the Dublin diocese and the cover-up of that abuse by the clerical authorities since.
So what possible response could the gentlemen in the Vatican, including the pope, make to a report on a cover-up of which they were a part that isn’t itself another piece of wicked deception?
We must deal with this matter ourselves. Remove all the bishops from control of schools and hospitals funded by the State. Institute Garda inquiries into those who covered up clerical sex abuse, notably those named but unashamed.