God Bless the Irish

Following on my post of yesterday, about the likelihood of an assault-from-within in the Catholic church, it seems Ireland may lead the charge. Irish clergy have been among the most heinous of the church’s manifold serial rapists of children and (not coincidentally) the Irish, historically among the most devout of Catholics, have been leaving the church in droves.

Recently, Bishop John Buckley indicated that church positions against contraception, abortion and premarital sex are not rules that must be followed but “ideals.” This is a virtual shot across the bow. The Vatican sees the church as a strict hierarchy, with the pope and cardinals at the top issuing orders, which Catholics are obliged to follow.

An Irish priest named Tony Flannery today puts himself in direct opposition to the hierarchy. In 2010 he directly challenged the basis of the church’s top-down power system, when he wrote:

I no longer believe that the priesthood, as we currently have it in the Church, originated with Jesus. More likely that sometime after Jesus, a select and privileged group within the community who had abrogated power and authority to themselves, interpreted the occasion of the Last Supper in a manner that suited their own agenda.

This is, historically speaking, accurate. And the select and privileged group today, who have abrogated power and authority to themselves, are outraged. The Vatican suspended Flannery from the priesthood for this, and forbade him from speaking out. Today, Flannery holds a news conference, in open defiance of the pope.

Closer to God

A new report details another wave of Catholic priests sexually abusing children. This time it’s Germany, and the report covers 1,165 victims. The new wave of information comes via a hotline that was set up, which victims could call. Many recounted their years of systematic abuse at the hands of their religious leaders. One pattern: children were told that performing oral sex on priests or submitting to other depredations brought them “closer to God.”

These waves keep coming. In fact, they have been washing over us for centuries. Erasmus, the great Church reformer of the 16th century, who as the illegitimate child of a priest was raised in a monastery, wrote in his memoir graphic descriptions of what children endured in monasteries: monks “whipping boys to death every day” and creating an atmosphere in comparison to which there was “more innocence in a brothel.” Erasmus paved the way for the first great exodus from the Catholic Church, the Reformation. We’re due for another.