Memories, memories………

Memories, memories ………

Reeling in the Years two evening ago featured 2011. It brought back to me the fact that it proved to be a more significant year in my life than I thought at the time.

The programme mentioned the Cloyne Report on clerical abuse of minors in the Diocese of Cloyne in the south of Ireland. It was big news at the time, and led, later on in the year to the speech in the Dail by then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, attacking the Vatican in a very forthright way. I was then a regular columnist in the Redemptorist magazine, Reality, and since that report was the major issue around Church affairs at that time, I wrote about it. The main allegation used against me by the people in the Vatican was a sentence from that article. The sentence was ‘The priesthood as we have it now was certainly not what Jesus intended’. In the context – widespread clerical abuse and cover-up – it seemed to me to be the most obvious and incontrovertible thing to say. Taking it out of context, and standing on its own, as they did, they concluded it was heresy. I also discovered later that the belief in the Vatican was that I had a hand in Kenny’s speech.

The other issue mentioned in the programme was the RTE Investigates programme that made a false allegation against a priest in Co. Galway. We in the ACP, with the help of a legal team, notably solicitor Robert Dore, and the late Senior Counsel Frank Callanan, took and won the case. It was significant in itself for the priest involved, and it also had a major impetus to the recently formed ACP. But it did something even more important, I believe. While there were a great number of people who had been abused by priests and religious, and a fair number of abusers among the clergy, there were also instances of false allegation against individuals. That reality was very hard even to mention, without drawing down significant opprobrium on oneself. But this case being so public was a great help. RTE Investigates showed themselves up to be arrogant, and believing that no one could dispute what they were asserting. A simple matter of a DNA test, which the priest had called for, was ignored. They paid the price.

In the meantime I have gone ten years of an indeterminate sentence, for what at this stage, and in view of the finding of the Synodal process, is frivolous at most. What I, and indeed others, was saying and writing ten years ago, is now commonly held by people right around the Church.

I recently read the life of a United States Maryknoll priest, Roy Bourgeois, whose story of his dealings with the Vatican is remarkably similar to my own. He too got into trouble with the Vatican at the same time as myself, 2012. Roy had been an extraordinarily courageous man in the stands he had taken in his life on behalf of the oppressed. In particular he was appalled by some US policies in South America, and his protests led to him spending two terms of over a year in jail in the States. But none of this meant anything to the Vatican. For him to make a stand in favour of women’s equality in the Church was just one more instance of what he saw as unjust oppression. But the same man who dealt with me, William Levada, the head of the CDF at the time, had him dismissed from the priesthood. He was also dismissed from his missionary society, the Maryknolls who, according to the account he gives in his book, gave him little or no support.

Reading that, I realised that maybe I should appreciate my own Redemptorist colleagues more than I sometimes do. I never was in any doubt that there was a great deal of support for me, and is to this day, among my Irish confreres. I would not say the same about the General government.

I have met Roy Bourgeois in my travels in the States. He is a few years older than myself, but he retains his enthusiasm and energy in fighting for the oppressed, and against the oppressor. In my view it is a major stain on the Catholic Church that they could not find a place for someone like him. He should be seen as someone who follows the example of Jesus with extraordinary courage and commitment, rather than being seen as a threat to the institution. The Church is certainly not following the example of Jesus in the way they have treated him.

Male Supremacy in the Catholic Church; An Insider’ View. Roy Bourgeois.