The bishops are falling like dominoes in Ireland these days, two more to follow the two already gone — and more on the way.
If the investigation is expanded nationwide, then there will be many more resignations. What we are witnessing is an unprecedented upheaval in the Irish Catholic Church.
It is clear that Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin returned from Rome with a very clear brief — to purge the Church of any bishop who in any way contributed to the pedophile scandals of the past thirty years.
Martin has gone about his job in a very focused way. He has become the Lord High Executioner, and has not spared the bishops. Rome will be pleased with him because clearly, they had become very tired of the same old scandals popping up year after year.
They are hoping for a clean sweep and a new start, but they may get neither. In the one-size-fits-all probe, almost every Irish bishop must feel incredibly vulnerable.
There are gradations of blame. Bishop Murray of Limerick was a bad offender, a point made clear by the Murphy Commission. Bishop Field and Bishop Moriarty, on the other hand, had what can only be described as fleeting encounters with the pedophile problem. They too, however, have been removed.
Perhaps a gradation of punishments might have worked better — a period of suspension perhaps, where the lines were not so black and white, or a Papal reprimand. By all accounts, Field and Moriarty did great work on many issues of concern to the faithful, and were very compassionate men. It seems wrong that all that counts for nothing.
But it looks like resignation is the order from the Vatican, and soon we may not have a bishop standing from Cork to Donegal if this continues.
The Church has rightly encountered fierce criticism for its actions, but at a time of great travail in Ireland the role of the Church has never been more needed. The nation is dealing with an economic crisis that is eating at the very heart of the country.
The Church should be one of the bulwarks of protecting the most-vulnerable at times like this — fighting against the savage budget cuts for instance, which have just occurred.
But the Church is now too preoccupied to handle any kind of crisis, save its own. At a time when good priests are desperately needed, there are few to be found. The witch hunt will continue, but in the end, the Church desperately needs to change its focus to the people they are serve.
More heads on silver platters will not help the Irish people.
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