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The Irish Catholic Church's fund-raising is not the business of politicians

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Fine Gael TD Tom Barry
Taking pot shots at the Catholic Church is probably the easiest way for an Irish elected official to garner a few positive headlines for himself, but I'm way past fed up with it.

Today's headline comes thanks to Fine Gael TD (MP) Tom Barry, who I'd never heard of until this morning. I don't know what his angle is, but Barry is quoted in the Irish Examiner as urging Irish Catholics not to contribute to any fund intended to bail out dioceses struggling with debts due to compensation payments to abuse victims.

Barry says that families should not have to pay for the hierarchy's failures. Well you know what? They don't "have to." Membership in the Catholic Church is optional. The amount any Catholic gives is at his own discretion. Nobody "has to" give anything.

You want me to say that there were a lot of bad things done by priests, brothers and nuns? Well there were. You want me to say that some of those at the top of the Church failed miserably to deal properly with those who abused children? They did. In fact, I've often recoiled at what has been either a failure to comprehend or indifference to the impact such abuse has on a child and how a parent would feel about it.

These matters were grossly mishandled and the Church must pay substantial sums to those who were abused as compensation. That has placed a significant burden on the finances of every diocese, which combined with the falling contributions due to the decline in church attendance/membership and the near collapse in the Irish economy has pushed some dioceses to the brink of financial disaster. The Archdiocese of Dublin is reportedly one of those dioceses and may consider seeking extra donations from church-goers to meet its financial obligations.

These are tough times. Some Irish Catholics will dig deep to help out and others may find they cannot or will not, possibly for the reasons given by Barry. Again, no one "has to" give if they don't want to.

The same is not true when it comes to the failures by those in Barry's line of work. No, when it comes to the failings of our politicians, we all "have to" give.

The state and all of its branches has failed almost immeasurably over the past 20 years and for that we all must pay:
  • Mismanagement in the national blood transfusion board? Thousands of lives ruined, hundreds of millions in compensation and no one held accountable. The state owes and we all "have to pay."

  • Scandals involving the gardaí, the planning process, mobile phone licenses, etc. were all cases of mismanagement by the state, which resulted in lengthy, costly tribunals at the end of which no one was held accountable, but for which the state now owes and we all "have to pay."

  • Failure to regulate the banks? The costs are still undetermined, but that the state now teeters on the edge of bankruptcy is thanks to this scandal. Still, no politician, no member of the permanent governing class for which our elected officials are responsible has been held accountable. The costs are immense and we all "HAVE TO PAY."
So, if Barry wants to get on his high horse about bills due to mismanagement that families should not "have to pay," let him keep his eye on his own profession. I'd imagine there should be enough there to keep him busy for some time so that he doesn't feel the need to opine on matters that do not involve the state, but are fully internal to the Church.

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