(Editor's note: This column by our own Jesuit blogger, Father Tim, was written July 4 as the Irish Catholic Church scandal began mushrooming. We are running it again, unedited.)

My friends,

For the Catholic Church In Ireland, the game is over.

The Irish people, and I am convinced it is the majority, no longer wish to have the Catholic Church in their country, or in their lives, and possibly not in their faith.

I cannot blame them.

The Church is solely to blame for this, from front to back, start to finish. It is reaping what it sewed. Although running away from a fire rather than toward it is not the example many of us in the Church believe should be our service to God and His Children, it may be best for all that we settle up our debts, hand over our criminals, and catch the next plane out of Dublin. I am sure that, after a transition period, many of the services the Church provides in Ireland can be contracted to others, and I would hope whatever damage settlements we must and should pay will smooth that changeover.

Ireland is strong, and it will live on, and heal. Yes, it can and will do this without us. And, assuming it has learned anything, the threads that were once the garment of the Irish Church will heal too, and not repeat the horrible mistakes and misdeeds that have doomed its work in "the land of scholars and saints." Perhaps, in some tomorrow, the Church and Ireland will again be together. That is a prayer worth saying and a dream worth having -- but not a reality worth expecting, not now or anytime soon.

There is simply no way that an institution so horriby tainted and so utterly mistrusted can or should speak in the name of Jesus Christ in Ireland, nor attempt to project spiritual and moral leadership. So many of my dear online friends have written me with the same question, which I cannot answer: "How can we ever trust the Church again?" While the Church can and must surrender its criminals and the highly placed conspirators who made the crimes possible and policy, it will never be enough in Ireland. The rage is too strong, a dam has burst. No matter what it does or says, the Church cannot and will not be believed anymore. Without that, its ministry is finished, at least for now.

There never was much reason to expect that Benedict XVI or his legion of Roman red hats would rise to this or any occasion requiring Divinely-inspired leadership. They are better examples of the problem than the solution. Of course, the sorrow from Rome IS genuine, the contrition IS real. But it doesn't really matter. Many readers have rightly said that, if the Church was a corporation (and it is), all those responsible would have been locked up in prisons or hospitals by now, and the company would have been driven out of Ireland on a rail. The best the Irish Church can do now is to buy its one-way tickets. All the Faithful, or what's left of them, can only pray that Our Loving Father will find a way to restore a pure Church to Ireland, and that Ireland will want it back.

In a way, the dramatic scenario I have described is already well under way, albeit in a quieter way. In an ominous aticle titled "Irish priests will disappear," a prominent clergyman in the West of Ireland revealed that Irish priests are literally dying off, and that the Catholic faith in Ireland will soon be ministered by a small bunch of old men. Irish priests are becoming an endangered species, and very few men are joining the seminary in Ireland these days. "There is little interest among Irish men to ... be part of an institution that is responsible for some of the most-sickening abuse the country has ever seen."

And so, the end of the game. Perhaps quickly, perhaps slowly — but certainly.

As they take one last look at their parishes, I know many Irish priests — many of good heart and who abhor what has happened — will wonder why, after all the sincere apologies, all the jail sentences that no doubt will soon be served, all the millions of dollars in damages that will soon be paid, and all the shakeups at the upper echelons, why the Irish still cannot forgive them?

Unfortunately, the answer is a boomerang that will come right back to strike.

History shows us that few churches ever exerted such domineering social power as the Irish Catholic Church. It specialized almost exclusively in sin, shame, Satan and hell; or why God should be feared(?!), and what terrible vengeance and judgment awaited us all. We were not worthy of His Love, or so they taught for centuries — an arrogant slap in the face to the very God they "quoted," who spoke ONLY of His Love for His Children Whom He made in His Own Image of Perfection and Purity. Like guards at a prison camp, they separated God's Children into the clean and the unclean, the good and the bad — their sole judgment, or whim, was all that was necessary. They looked down on other religions and taught their parishioners to do the same — even if this meant decades of civil war that civilians and soldiers, not men of God, brought to a close. Although many "held the center" and managed to both support the victims and preach for peace, others (and on both sides) presided over funerals for the war's fallen that were little more than pep rallies for death squads.

Small wonder that so many of those who could never teach love, never understand forgiveness, never accept the Unity of All God's Children, and embraced judgment like a blunt instrument of punishment, would wind up lost at sea themselves — degenerating into abusers of innocent children, and even worse, into protectors and guardians of the abusers.

They helped teach Ireland to hate, to never forgive, to fear, to be suspicious.

Now, they are the hated, and the ones who can never be forgiven, not even by their own people and not even in spite of many, many, many good and Godly works they have done for them.

It is the life they made for Ireland, and ultimately, for themselves.

God bless you all.

— Father Tim

Father Tim is a Jesuit missionary, trained in New York and Boston, who writes about the spiritual side of life. An Irish-American, he loves hearing from readers – not about theological arguments, but real-life issues that matter to you. He’s a friend you can trust, and you will always be in his prayers.