Cardinal Connell is Dead

Des Connell is dead, the emeritus Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin, and Primate of Ireland. A very distinguished title he had, but he paid a big price for it. The old saying, “Be careful what you wish for” might be applicable here. Not that I think Des particularly wanted titles and honours, but he was so much a servant of the institution that, when the call came, he was incable of standing back enough, or hadn’t any friends to advise him, and tell him that he was totally unsuited, by training, experience, personality, for the job the Church asked him to do. He was an academic, an intellectual, who didn’t mix easily with people, and who had little or no pastoral experience. He was, most of all, a man totally wedded to the Institutional Church. Of course the person, or people, who chose him were more to blame. But his appointment was a typical example of the the policy pursued in the appointment of bishops for over thirty years in the Catholic Church, — someone who was a faithful servant of the institution, who was theologically and pastorally conservative, and would on no account rock the boat.
If he had mounted the See of Dublin at an earlier time he would have managed well, when the Church was in the ascendant and the Archbishop of Dublin was a revered figure. But it was his misfortunate destiny to be in position when the clerical sex abuse scandal broke. It was a time when there was an urgent need for someone who could think outside of the institution, who would be capable of recognising that there were more important things at stake here than the ‘good name’ of the Church, and not causing ‘scandal’. But Des was incapable of that type of thinking.
(Although there was an indication that eventually he became angry with the failure of the Vatican to respond properly, and if he had got the lead from them he would surely have handled things better.) Not all the blame lies with Des Connell.
The last years of his life must have been sad and lonely. May he be at peace.

Addendum: When I was reported to Rome five years ago, the Superior General of the Redemptorists told me that, because Rome took my case so seriously and three Dicasteries came together to discuss it, I must have been reported by some person in a very senior position in the Irish Church. Since then it has been suggested to me that person was Des Connell. In the secret world of Vatican policy there is no way of knowing for certain.
But it does not matter at all. If it was Des, I know he would have done it out of conscientious duty, and I hold no grudge or bitterness towards him at all. Each of us follows our own lights and our own conscience, and I know that Des Connell, with his background and devotion to the Church, would not be able to understand the position someone like myself would take.
And that is all well. Maybe eternity will provide us with the perspective to see the bigger picture, and, like Uncle Vanya, we will smile!