Irish Monsignor: Bishops had no obligation to report priests’ abuses

Monsignor Maurice Dooley had the nerve to publish this disgusting exercise in equivocation in the Irish Independent:

THE media have been very successful in the past year or so in forcing resignations of politicians for perceived transgressions of political correctness. But there is something unseemly in their applying the same techniques to force episcopal resignations, playing a kind of game of skittles with the bishops to see how many of them they can knock down and crow over their downfall.

This begs the question: why should anyone resign his office? I would assume that it is because he is guilty of doing something wrong for such an office-holder. The usual charge is that of being guilty of a ‘cover-up’. But what is a cover-up?

It is surely the fact of denying information to someone (the gardai, the Health Service Executive, the media, or the public) who are entitled to get this information. This begs the further question: did the office-holder (in this case the bishop or other clergy) have any obligation to reveal this information to the gardai?

The answer to this is simply ‘no’, they had no obligation under Irish law to tell the gardai anything — there is no statute or common law requiring them to do so. The Dublin Archdiocese Commission of Investigation, under Judge Yvonne Murphy, admits to this in section 1.16 of her report: “There is no legal requirement for such reporting . . . it is clear that the commission would prefer the law to be otherwise.”

But the law of the land in 1975 did not provide for “mandatory reporting” by anyone and still does not in 2010. So there is no bishop ‘guilty’ of a ‘cover-up’, and still less of a ‘criminal cover-up’.

This is an obtusely legalistic argument one would have to be either stupid or callous or both to accept. Dooley’s arguement is that the Church isn’t “covering up” abuse because they (supposedly) did not break the law in the process of covering up abuse.Because the bishops technically had no legal obligation to report child rape by their underlings, they had no moral obligation to report it. Parishoners, he argues, have no reason to object to being instructed to respect the authority of someone who forced abused children to swear to silence about the assaults committed against them–all because the bishops fit snuggly through a legal loophole of Ireland’s criminal statutes. This is brazen from a man in an institution which positions itself against “moral relativism.” 

Unfortunately, Dooley is only echoing and elaborating upon the lame line of Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, who has hence so far refused to step down despite admitting to participating in a  secret 1975 church tribunal in of Rev. Brendan Smyth. At the trial’s conclusion, two abuse victims, one 10-year-old and a 14-year-old, were made to sign vows of silence. (Smyth would eventually admit to raping over 100 children in Ireland and the United States.)

But by his own standard, at least Dooley is consistant. In an interview with the BBC, the retired priest said if he were in a position of magesterial power, he would not report abuses committed under him:

“I would not tell anyone,” he said. “That is his responsibility. I am considering only my responsibility. My responsibility is to maintain the confidentiality of information which I had been given under the contract of confidentiality.

“There must be somebody else aware of what he is up to, and he could be stopped. It is not my function.

“I would tell (the priest) to stop abusing children,” he added.

So he would have written a strongly worded letter telling a rapist to stop, but washed his hands of any respnonsibility afterwards. (“What more could be asked? He told him to stop.“) It’s “not his function” to make one phonecall to the police after someone under your supervision breaks the dictates of your moral philosophy, the rules of your institution, and the laws of the state. Dooley sees his confidentiality agreement as more important than stopping the rape of children.

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