They say that all publicity is good publicity, but you have to question that maxim given the recent news stories regarding the Catholic Church.  The most recent is, of course, news of endemic child abuse in Ireland by Catholic institutions.  The acts themselves are deplorable, but the endemic nature of the problem suggests, once again, that there’s a systemic issue in the Catholic Church.  Let’s not forget that this is not the first time child abuse has raised its ugly head in the Catholic Church.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O Connor

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O Connor

So how should the Catholic Church, and the Irish government (which funded many of the accused institutions) deal with the situation?  They almost certainly should not sweep it under the carpet.  They also shouldn’t bury their heads in the sand.  Unfortunately, religion and “doing the right thing” has rarely gone hand-in-hand.  Bearing that in mind, it would take a Catholic of immense arrogance, ignorance and insensitivity to go on the offensive at this time.  Yet here we are.  The outgoing Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, decided to decry atheism as “the greatest of all evils” at the ceremony installing Archbishop Vincent Nichols as his replacement.  I’m sure those who were victims of the child abuse systemic in Catholic institutions would disagree.  I can’t decide whether this is the last act of a dying institution or whether Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is delusional.

There’s a write-up over at Free Thinker that covers this topic that starts:

TAKE a deep breathe … you are about to be annoyed. Very annoyed indeed.

Digging Deeper

The issue of child abuse amongst Catholics is a thorny subject. To say that the religion promotes child abuse, or to accuse all Catholics of being child abusers would be unfair and incorrect. However, there does appear to be an issue with those in positions of authority within Catholic institutions abusing their position.  The remarkable thing is that this truly does appear to be a systemic problem.  The abusers only had two things on common.  They were in positions of authority within Catholic institutions and they abused children.  This isn’t some underground network of child abusers, they appeared to be acting in isolation of each other.  In fact, it’s not even geographically isolated to the Emerald Isle.  This week we had a retired US Archbishop claim that he “did not comprehend the potential harm to victims or understand that what the priests had done constituted a crime“.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Ignorance IS NOT a defence, despite theist’s attempts to convince us otherwise.

A problem of this magnitude, persistence and distribution may lead us to one of two conclusions regarding those involved.

The Opportunists

It’s possible that people join Catholicism with the intention of gaining access to minors.  We must assume that the perpetrators of these acts do not believe in God, otherwise they would fear the repercussions.  If this is the case, one may criticise the Catholic Church for a lack of vigilance and negligence in carrying out reasonable checks.  Clearly it’s not quite that straight forward but where the welfare of children is concerned, only the best is acceptable.

The Repressed

It’s a trait of the Catholic religion that it’s followers are necessarily tightly controlled.  Nowhere is control more enthusiastically exerted than over the sex lives of followers.  Suppressing one’s sexuality is a dangerous game to play as it teaches us to ignore one of our most basic drives, the drive to procreate.  Psychologically, it’s unhealthy.

This, in itself, raises two issues. If someone can suppress one primal urge (the urge to reproduce) you might logically conclude that they would have no problem suppressing another (the urge to protect minors). Alternatively, one might question whether such a strong, primal urge can truly be suppressed and whether these cases of abuse are just outbursts of this urge.  Either way, it’s a tough sell and is completely unforgivable – we also have to consider that not all the abuse detailed in these latest examples is sexual in nature (although I’m sure many Freudian psychiatrists would disagree).


There is clearly a deep rooted problem in the Catholic Church.  Whether they are attracting the wrong type of follower, or whether the perpetrators of these acts are of their own creation is unknown, but it needs to clean its act up.  The comments by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor clearly illustrate how out of touch the Church is.  I, personally, find it incredulous that he could make those claims at all, let alone just a few days after this systemic abuse in his own institution has come to light.  It’s the equivalent of Adolf Hitler branding Egyptians evil (I chose Egyptians because I have no evidence nor reason to believe that they are inherently evil, much like the Cardinal has no reason nor evidence to suggest Atheists are evil) mid way through the Holocaust.  He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself and his Church. What’s more, this attempt at misdirection suggests that those who are senior within the Church are simply not ready to truly face up to the problems within. And that should be a concern for all those in their care.