Insufferable preaching from cabals of cowards

If the bishops, after all that has happened, have the bottle to engage in public debate on a moral issue, bring them on. By Vincent Browne.

There is insolence abroad. A malign insolence from a once-powerful quarter, and insolence from a currently powerful quarter that is becoming even more powerful - and probably even more insolent.

We have been given advance notice by an elite cabal - which, notoriously, is in urgent need of moral guidance, having thought that the protection of children from buggery, rape and sexual abuse did not require the urgent intervention of police forces and other protection agencies - that they are about to engage in moral guidance of the populace in general, and of public representatives in particular, on what they perceive is a moral issue.

The cabal I am referring to is the clutch of Roman Catholic bishops, led by a person who had knowledge of the imminent abuse of children and thought it was sufficient merely to pass a report along to his religious superior, thereby consigning an unknown number of children to buggery, rape and abuse.

This is the person who has announced this new programme of moral guidance, primarily for the benefit of our legislators.

I am referring, of course, to Seán Brady, the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh who, on investigating allegations of the abuse of children by the Norbertine priest, Father Brendan Smyth, interviewed two children about the alleged abuse.

In the course of those interviews, the abused children said Brady inquired whether they had enjoyed the experience, and whether they had had erections (thereby conveying to them that they may have had culpability in what had occurred, thus deepening the abuse).

He then subjected them to yet further abuse: the administration of an oath of secrecy, which itself must have been scarring for them.

Worse than that, on hearing from these children, and apparently believing what he was told, that other children were in danger of abuse by the same priest, he did not go immediately to the parents of the children in imminent danger; nor to the police; nor to any of the other agencies that might have protected these children. He merely passed a report along to his bishop.

Brady thought, and still thinks, that this was the full extent of his duty to the children in danger; children who were subsequently raped, buggered and abused by Father Brendan Smyth.

It is a matter for the Catholic Church authorities whether this person should remain in his position as head of the Irish Catholic Church. It is a matter for the rest of us to point out that such people, who even to this day think they did nothing wrong, are not credible advocates for any moral cause. Furthermore, the cabal of bishops who surround Brady, and who have defended his actions, are equally unfit for moral combat.

Of course abortion is a moral issue, and right at the heart of whether a woman should opt to bear a child or not for up to nine months, is a critical moral decision.

The only issue in the debate on abortion is whether it should be left to the woman to take this moral decision for herself, or whether the state should intervene and criminalise her were she, for whatever reason, to decide that she should not bear the child, depending on her sustenance.

There is no comparable moral choice that humans have to take and, because of the unique demands made on a woman in such a situation, to carry the child inside her for many months and then, almost certainly, to give years of her life to the nurture and care of that child after birth.

Because of the dysfunctional misogynistic character of our society - which, incidentally, the Catholic Church has done so much to foster - it can only be the woman herself who can make that moral decision. The intervention of the state or any other agency or person in that decision is an abuse of the woman's autonomy and personhood.

So if the bishops have the bottle to engage in public debate on a moral issue, bring them on. But, one suspects, their sense of self-importance, allied to a traditional and well-nurtured cowardice, will caution them to be selective in the battles they join.

Now on to the second locus of insolence, this one more robust, more resolute, more powerful, although also selective in the battles joined: our friends in the Troika.

We are told that the Troika, the cabal of the EU Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, has "warned" our government of the need to reform the welfare system and broaden the tax base.

They tell us: "More needs to be done to alleviate or eliminate work disincentives and unemployment traps caused by some features of Ireland's benefits system (e.g., the broadly flat and open-ended unemployment benefits that do not diminish with the duration of the unemployment spell)."

In other words, the Troika wants to compel us to drive unemployed people - and, by definition, vulnerable people - into low paid and maybe oppressive employment, by paring back unemployment benefit as the length of their unemployment extends, irrespective of the actual availability of appropriate jobs.

So the vicious blade of an economic system that has shattered the lives of so many people, imposed huge burdens on society as a whole via the bank guarantee and caused massive social dislocation, is now to be sharpened to inflict even more misery, precisely on the most blameless for what has occurred.

They are even more insolent than the bishops, and they too will hide from accountability.