I find it barely possible to think about this week’s This World without anger muddying my mind once more, as the extent of the Catholic Church’s evil is exposed even further. In a staggering investigative documentary for the BBC and a towering episode of speaking truth to power, Darragh MacIntyre has weaved together the Irish strands of sickness in the sex abuse saga and shown how, once more, the scandal stretches right to the top.
It’s hard to rival recent revelations that the Dutch Church castrated child victims in an attempt to silence them, and the Wisconsin tale of a priest who fucked deaf children for decades only to die never defrocked by Joseph Ratzinger surely constitutes the peak of the depravity. But with the revelation that the senior Cardinal in Ireland, Sean Brady, played chief investigator into the reports of abuse by Priest Eugene Greene only to then see him shifted around Ireland whilst the permanently traumatised children were told to never tell their parents, Wisconsin has a real rival.
It’s a harrowing reflection of reality that stories like these no longer come as a shock. But where the documentary is original is in how MacIntyre manages to render the Church’s apathy towards its sins so nauseatingly explicit. He presents the evidence regarding Brady to the Vatican’s leading legal figure, only for him to refuse to pass comment on Brady’s character and the appropriateness of his continued role in the Church. You can see why he wishes to avoid that slope, given a concession would leave him one step away from condemning his own boss. And Brady himself is similarly content to sit unaccountable. After stressing in an interview 2 years ago that if he discovered he was unintentionally complicit in any cover-up, his sense of guilt would compel his resignation, the evidence suggests he actively furthered a cover-up, and when confronted about it he would rather walk away in silence than say he has sinned. Hence the pathetic, blasé nature of the Church’s recent report on the history of the Irish scandal, which was so keen to get to grips with the past and provide safeguards for the future that it didn’t even bother to ask the victims to participate.
And so we have grown men, numbering in the hundreds, mentally dented by memories of sharing hotel rooms with Brendan Smyth on weekend ‘excursions’, only to be forced to have sex with their spiritual leader at the age of thirteen. This is what happened in 1970s theocratic Ireland, where the citizenry was so enthralled by the Church that in a very real sense there were two governments. Kids grew up to fear their local priest far more than the police. And as these intense relations with pent-up ‘celibate’ bastions of morality went utterly unchecked, they turned sexual. Watch, seethe, and don’t revere this cult of pedophiles and their facilitators ever again.