Today’s release of the report by Justice Sean Ryan into abuse of children in “care homes” run by the Catholic Church in Ireland doesn’t reveal anything new.
However it is a story that refuses to go away for the simple reason is that the thousands of victims have yet to receive any justice and ipso facto any closure.
The Catholic Church in Ireland in the early decades of the Irish state was, effectively, above the law.
Over the years as a social worker and a journalist in Ireland I have met many former ex-prisoners of the Catholic Church.
Only recently I was being taken home from the bus station to my home by a very personable taxi-driver. He was in his mid-sixties. He confessed-and it was a confession-that he had been an inmate of Artane boys school in Dublin.
He had told me this when he had learned-in the process of a conversation-that I had been a Team Leader in the north Dublin for the Health Board.
As soon as this man said “I was in Artane for years.” I knew immediately what that meant for him.
He had been sent there as a twelve year old for playing truant from school.
Power is only accountable when power is on the wane.
The Catholic Church was the unelected power in the Free State. It provided an educated free army of teachers, nurses and social care workers to as bankrupt state just emerging from a civil war.
It was an offer that the Free Stat’s new rulers couldn’t and dare not have refused.
Today the past is, indeed, another country.
The power of the Catholic Church has been so diminished that it is difficult to communicate this to anyone who has no experience of the country.
This is especially true of people who think they know, who think they are in touch with the modern Irish zeitgeist.
It has been fascinating to observe the decline of the Catholic Church in Ireland over the last 15 years at close range.
I can recall the Catholic Church triumphant from my childhood summers spent in Mayo when the local clergy were feted like royalty in respectable households.
My cousins in Mayo-the boys at any rate- “benefited” from an expensive boarding school education at the hands of priests in County Galway.
My matriarchal grandmother wanted the boarding school experience for me, but my mother would have none of it.
I have that, and much more, to thank her for.
Instead I went to a boring comprehensive school that let me home after four and I sat in class with girls and boys together.
The educational experience that my Mayo cousins endured was so appallingly dysfunctional as to be criminal.
Of course my grandmother would have probably collapsed in shock had she known what was going on behind those high walls in County Galway.
People in government clearly did know enough to take action, but they didn’t.
Justice Ryan’s report today paints a picture of a submissive and deferential civil service who let the Catholic Church act with impunity.
Most great crimes in history are acts of mass complicity.
In Ireland in the days of the Free State Mass itself was a key component of people being compliant.
The alpha male of Catholic nationalism Eamonn De Valera himself bent the knee to John Charles McQuaid.
This, truly, was Rome rule.
The government of this republic still has to totally face down the Catholic hierarchy in this state.
Like with so much today the people are miles ahead of the political class.
The Irish government has previously agreed to pick up the tab for any litigation against the Catholic Church for abuse that they are surely liable for.
The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland Archbishop Sean Brady today apologised.
Not good enough.
As I watch him on the RTE news he doesn’t look contrite he just looks creepy.
The Catholic Church is not, in Ireland, financially liable for generations of abuse.
If the Catholic Church were in any way truly contrite then they would shut up shop on this island.
Of course they wont because they detect a need for their unique brand of snake oil that they purvey to old, the frightened and the dying.
Today’s report will not result in any prosecutions nor will any of the abusers be named.
Consider this scenario.
A commercial provider of childcare, say, with twenty nurseries employed known paedophiles and then moved those child abusers to other crèches and day care centres within the company if a parent complained and the abuser was free –within the organisation –to abuse again.
Had that happened then the CEO of that day-care provider would be in prison.
The Catholic Church, in Ireland and across the planet, ran a gulag of child abuse facilities.
The CEO wears a funny hat he is called the “Pope” and he was once in the Hitlerjugend.
It would appear if one wants to practice child abuse with impunity then you need volume and god in the boardroom.
Today is a small step forward for the victims of Ireland Catholic gulag, but their final day of justice remains a distant objective.
Meanwhile our legislators, clearly equipped with a full irony by-pass, can bring in a blasphemy law to protect those poor souls who have an imaginary friends called Jesus yet they deny justice to those who were violated and destroyed by priests and nuns.
We are still a long way from cherishing all the children of this republic equally.