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June 2019
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2010-01 Time for a shake-up

a column by James written for the Sligo Weekender

As we are bombarded by the media with unremitting talk of recession, unemployment and further reports into clerical child abuse, surely this is the time the Church ought to be offering us solace and succour?

Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11, vse 28). Our little country has rarely been more weary and heavy-laden. Driving past St Mels Cathedral in Longford on St Stephens Day, I was deeply saddened to see this magnificent church still smouldering and hollowed out by fire. No doubt St Mels will rise, like the Phoenix, from its ashes, but can the  Catholic Church itself do the same? Or has it gone beyond the point of no return?
In the wake of the Ryan and Murphy reports, the country remains revolted by the innumerable instances of psychological, physical and sexual torment and torture inflicted by so many. The main message we ought to draw from this is that, of course, this must never happen again. We hope and pray that this will be an end, not only to the heinous crimes on the most vulnerable in society, but also an end to the denial of those crimes.

Suffer the little children to come unto me& (Luke 18, vse 16).  Little children have been suffering for decades in convents, schools, churches, orphanages and Magdalene Laundries&and when they called to The Church for help their cries vanished into a void, and these victims were labelled liars.
Most of these little children have grown up; some have passed on. Bishops have resigned. But isnt it time for a grand gesture from the very top? Cardinal Connell said he had great regret when he learned about the mistakes made by the Church. Is that it Cardinal Connell? Hand back your biretta, or galero, or whatever your hat is called. As the saying goes, Actions speak louder than words.

And isnt it time there was a grand gesture made from Rome?

The Pope is the Vicar of Christ, the Bishop of Rome - Christs  representative here on earth. Papa/Pope means father. And yet, the Pope seems to more or less frostily ignore this heavy-laden Catholic nation when its at its most weary.  I have had the humbling privilege of meeting several clerical abuse victims face-to-face, and if the Church wants to move forward with any relevance, surely the Pope needs to visit Ireland and all of the abuse victims as a matter of urgency and explain, as best he can, why these things were allowed to happen, and why they have been brushed under those expensive church carpets for decades. He needs to apologise, in person, on behalf of those generations of priests, nuns and others, who are hiding, have been relocated or have passed on.

There was no mention of Irelands victims in Urbi et Orbi.

And what has he done since he has been elected? He has re-asserted the universal primacy of the Catholic church, declaring that other denominations are not true and other Orthodox Churches are defective, thus potentially alienating the Catholic Church from other Christian Churches. He has declared that the Church ought to protect man from the destruction of itself and that homosexual acts are sinful, thus alienating his Church from a huge section of society, and some of his own priests. Will this be his legacy?

This was the Churchs big chance to clear the slate, and start afresh. But now its people are more disillusioned than ever. Still the celibacy argument goes on, still womens role in the Church is divisive.

In our scientific and post-modern culture, when Darwinism, Agnosticism and Atheism are pooh-poohing Creationism,  surely the Church ought to be trying to bridge the gap between the congregation and the theologians. In these times of distress, we ought to be turning to our faith, but yet again, we are failing to distinguish between our faith in God and this tired ecclesiastical Dinosaur. And who can blame us for our disillusionment and confusion?

We know only too well that there are many of Gods servants continuing to fulfil Gods work out there, sacrificing their lives doing good deeds. There are living saints in our midst. We know that the Christian ethic is, basically, a good one. But have there been too many lies, too much deceit, too many cover-ups, too much hypocrisy?

Unless there is a big shake-up from the top, and soon, it may be too late.
Wake up Benedict!