Fr. Blake on a fundamental problem in the Church in Ireland

My friend the great Fr. Blake, P.P. of Brighton’s St. Mary Magdalen posted this good piece:

Ten years ago the great discussion was should the emphasis in the Church be on the local Church pushed by Kaspar or on the Universal Church pushed by Ratzinger.

It strikes me that so much of the Irish problem stems from its emphasis on the local Church. Willie Walsh, possibly the most pastoral bishop in Ireland, infamously said he threw everything from Rome into the wastebin. One of the criticism of the bishops in the Pope’s letter is that they didn’t follow canonical procedures, the accusations against the young Cardinal Brady imposing oaths of silence on children seems to suggest law being made up on the hoof by local bishops.

In order to solve the problems of the local Church there is the necessary intervention of the Bishop of Rome, Patriarch of the Universal Church.

Having re-read the Pope’s Letter, what he is actually saying is: without this National Mission, I don’t have confidence in you, not only do I think you are incompetent, unlearned, the fruit of a hermeneutic of rupture, separated from the mainstream Church but also, faithless. He is sending them to boot camp!

I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious. It is my hope that, by drawing on the expertise of experienced preachers and retreat-givers from Ireland and from elsewhere, and by exploring anew the conciliar documents, the liturgical rites of ordination and profession, and recent pontifical teaching, you will come to a more profound appreciation of your respective vocations, so as to rediscover the roots of your faith in Jesus Christ and to drink deeply from the springs of living water that he offers you through his Church.

In the light of this, the Apostolic Administration seems not just about correcting error but presumably about finding replacements outside of the Irish "magic circle".
The trouble is I don’t think the Irish “magic circle” is the only one.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. TNCath says:

    I am so happy to hear that Father Blake mentioned Bishop Willie Walsh, who is thankfully on his way out as the Bishop of Killaloe, which emcompasses literally the “heart” of Ireland–central Ireland–which comprises parts of Counties Limerick, Galway, Clare, Tipperary, Offaly, and Laois. I have first hand knowledge of the horrendous neglect that has plagued this diocese for many, many years. Once one of the most devoted and dynamic of dioceses in Ireland that produced many priests for the United States and elsewhere, this diocese is literally falling apart at the seams. When I went there three years ago to bury my parish priest, the pastor of the local parish suggested that I (a layman) give the homily at his funeral Mass. This is only one of many bizarre liturgical incidences I have experienced there in the many trips I have made to Ireland over the years. In short, Ireland is a mess, arguably proportionately worse than anything going on here in the U.S. I certainly hope and pray for the success of the National Mission.

  2. becket1 says:

    Now the big question will be how to bring the angered Catholics back to the Church. “Save the Liturgy Save the Church”.

  3. becket1 says:

    Maybe we should start getting some younger Bishops and Archbishops, like the Eastern Orthodox have. These Bishops will be more in tune with what the younger generation are striving for and could help bring people back to the Church. An example would be like Archbishop Hillarion of the Russian Orthodox Church. I think he is in his forties. But he has a strong following and is very traditional and conservative. The kind of Hierarchy we need today. Get rid of the old post Vatican 2 happy clappy type, who are to blame for most of this.

  4. Tradster says:

    He had me up to “and by exploring anew the conciliar documents”. It should read PRE-conciliar (and hence, pre-Spirit of VCII) documents if HH wants to be truly effective.

  5. Mike says:


    In all due respect, if all of us had followed the letter of VII, not the “spirit”, much of this problem would not have happened.

    Even if one favors the old Mass, the clown-mass stuff, with the modernist, empty homilies, would not so easily happened.

    But I do get your point–after all, the Church existed pre-VII, as B16 well knows.

  6. avecrux says:

    I have never once heard anyone claim that this abuse problem was an “invention” of the media. The media has played a vital role, however, in targeting Catholic clergy in particular as opposed to the population at large… if you doubt this, see the Catholic League’s recent treatment of the sex abuse case against a prominent Rabbi, largely ignored by the media OR see the widespread exoneration of Roman Polanski among the media elite… The grievous failings of a tiny minority of Catholic Priests in proportion to the total population of Priests have been used as a bat to assault our current courageous Bishops who have spoken out against federal funding of the murder of children in the womb, as if to BE a Priest or Bishop is to somehow be a guilty person. This is grossly unfair and inappropriate.
    Think about this: the percentage of Catholic Priests involved in this scandal is less than HALF of the typical condom failure rate… yet the media is anti-Priest and pro condom. Pope Benedict insisted condoms are not the answer to the AIDS problem and he was accused of “hurting people in the name of Jesus” by a member of the Obama administration – but my Pastor got spat on walking down the street for… nothing… other than being a Priest. The public has been whipped up into a frenzy vs. Priests.
    Frankly, the sex abuse crisis does stem from sexual decadence in our culture – including widespread acceptance of homosexuality and use of pornography. Look up the percentage of abusers found with porn. The stats are pretty much the same across the board, clergy or not. What is somewhat different in the Church vs. the population at large is that the vast majority of the abusing Priests targeted males.
    Pope Benedict is right on target to encourage spiritual revival among his Priests and Bishops. Being faithful to Christ is not compatible with immoral and abusive sexual practices. But that spiritual renewal needs to hit families, too. More sexual abuse occurs in families than at the hands of Priests – and there is a lot of turning a blind eye to abuse in families.

  7. edwardo3 says:

    I agree with Fr. Blake. The Irish Church, which must include the Church in the US as the main influence for the past 170 years has been Irish, has always had a rather adversarial relationship with Rome and the authority of the Pope in spite of this ecclesiastic nationalism being condemned for at least 150 years. The crisis of Catholic identity didn’t just start with Vatican II, it has been festering for decdes, if not centures. This odd provincialism that exaulted the local church to the exclusion of the universal church was one of the main components of my seminary education: Rome = Evil Local Church = Good.

  8. Athelstan says:

    Fr. Blake raises a great, great point, and the irony runs so deep I’m not sure you can see the bottom. Many of the same people faulting Pope Benedict for failure to act decisively enough are the same ones who have been critical of Roman centralization.

    But part of the problem is also just, well, bad bishops. Credit to the Pope for actually giving us lots of these the last several years. But I do wish he would ask for some more resignations.

  9. catholicmidwest says:

    TJerome, correct.

    And it’s also in the interest of the media, and the local culture as well, to localize Catholicism and trivialize it. Therefore it becomes a destination down the road once a week instead of a way of life.

  10. mpm says:

    One of the criticism of the bishops in the Pope’s letter is that they didn’t follow canonical procedures, the accusations against the young Cardinal Brady imposing oaths of silence on children seems to suggest law being made up on the hoof by local bishops.

    This is really the crux of the matter, and one of the things the anti-Catholic bigots like Hitchens and Johann Hari use against the Catholic Church (whether they realize it or not).

    The Catholic Church has had public Canon Law going back to the Council of Nicaea (AD 325) at least. So, it is easy for a bigot to quote Church law out of context against Her. I don’t think there is another religion in the world that has any true law, much less a code of laws as well-documented as that of the Catholic Church. (Maybe Muslim shariah law is similar, but I don’t know shariah law, and I doubt it anyway.)

    When you hate the Catholic Church from outside, you cherry-pick quotes from canon law to incite ignorant hatred against Her; when you hate Her from inside, you just ignore everything important about her, even the administration of justice.

    IMO, the main reason why these sex offenders have proliferated over the decades is not because Canon Law has been followed, but because, for one reason or another, it has been unknown, or ignored. If you are unhappy that all sins against the sixth commandment are mortally sinful — now we are talking about offenses against God — why should you be bothered by the fact that some are also defined by Canon Law to be canonical crimes?

  11. catholicmidwest says:

    Shariah law is, as a matter of form if not much else, like midrash. It’s the consensus opinion of many scholars through time, not a code of law like canon law.

    Shariah law is quoted and may or may not be interpreted strictly depending on what is invoked, who is involved and when it’s invoked. Very different from canon law.

  12. shane says:

    “The Irish Church, which must include the Church in the US as the main influence for the past 170 years has been Irish, has always had a rather adversarial relationship with Rome”

    What ignorant rubbish. The Irish Church from the Cullenite Reforms to the Second Vatican Council was one of the most ultramontane local churches in the world.

  13. mpm says:

    FWIW, my comments were not aimed at the Church in Ireland. I’ve never been to Ireland. I think Fr. Blake’s observations hold for more than any one country, and I’m a US citizen (though I do have Irish — and English– blood).

  14. The Egyptian says:

    “I also propose that a nationwide Mission be held for all bishops, priests and religious.”

    And when done there, start here, PLEASE

  15. Willie Walsh, possibly the most pastoral bishop in Ireland, infamously said he threw everything from Rome into the wastebin.

    No wonder, whenever I hear a bishop or priest described as “pastoral,” I shudder.

    Maybe we should start getting some younger Bishops and Archbishops, like the Eastern Orthodox have. These Bishops will be more in tune with what the younger generation are striving for and could help bring people back to the Church.

    How about just bishops who are in tune with the Catholic Church?

  16. Jordanes says:

    Stephen Hand said: 100% of the priests involved forced themselves on their victims;

    And you know that because you are omniscient?

    there is no link with homosexuality and sexual abuse

    Keep telling yourself that, Mr. Hand, but it won’t be any less false. Just keep the blinders on the fact that 80% of the reported cases in the U.S. involve men preying on male victims, and in most of those cases the victims were teenage boys and young men. No, I’m sure you’re right that bishops and their seminaries choosing to accept and ordain men they knew were sexual perverts and choosing to drive out normal men — with some bishops and those heading their seminaries being sexual perverts themselves — has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that sexually perverted priests acted out their perversions and weren’t defrocked by their bishops. I mean, that’s just absurd! What could homosexual priests have to do with teenage boys and young men being seduced by homosexual priests? No, that’s not the problem: it’s the Catholic doctrine of Holy Orders that is the problem.


  17. Athelstan says:

    Shariah law is, as a matter of form if not much else, like midrash. It’s the consensus opinion of many scholars through time, not a code of law like canon law.

    Actually, canon law wasn’t a code either until 1917.

  18. Athelstan says:

    100% of the priests involved forced themselves on their victims; there is no link with homosexuality and sexual abuse any more than there is a link between celibacy and sexual abuse.

    If indeed 60% of the cases forwarded to Rome have been priests abusing post-pubescent (read: teen) boys as Msgr. Scicluna has said this week, and if the number of total cases in the U.S. is well over 80% as the Jay Report suggests, I don’t know how you couldn’t say it has something to do with homosexuality.

    I do agree with you that there is more than one level to this scandal, and the level of episcopal malfeasance is especially egregious to me.

    Now I grant you that these may not be typical homosexuals, that they may be unusually psychologically immature or damaged homosexuals (just as abusing heterosexuals may be similarly immature or damaged), but to say that it has nothing at all to do with homosexuality is hard to justify. I will have to differ on singling out the (heavily diseased) secular culture, which inescapably plays a role in these kinds of developments in the Church. Certainly sexual abuse existed long before the Sexual Revolution; but it seems to have been put into hyperdrive since then, especially given how some seminaries were turned into something not far removed from gay brothels in the worst days of the 70’s and 80’s.

  19. Athanasius says:

    there is no link with homosexuality and sexual abuse

    That is patently absurd. It is legitimate to make a demarcation of the disorders of homosexuality and pedophilia, but let’s be real, it is simply a step down of the same disorder. There is this illusion that pedophilia directed at young boys and directed at young girls are the same thing, and that is simply not the case. You see men who are heterosexual abusing young girls, and it is not because of this anomalous “pedophilia” that might afflict anyone, it is because of his specific sex disorders which normally start with porn and self abuse, and might even realize themselves in forcing sodomia impropria on their spouse. As St. Paul says, God gives them up to their passions, and the disorder gets worse and worse, until they start looking for younger victims. But they are female.
    Homosexuals are already disordered, all you need to do is look at the complementarity of men and women to see that. Moreover, you see in homosexual relationships one takes on the persona of the “female” and behaves more effeminately than the other. Usually in those latter the disorder extends to young boys, while for the former it tends not to.
    Now let’s look at the priesthood. The men who abuse young girls are few and far between, and they are not homosexual. The priests who have abused young men are homosexual. They often have messed up interior lives, they have been abused in the homosexual lifestyle, and in finding victims in young males they see a way to almost heal themselves, they will “take care” of the boys. They don’t at a certain level, even see the acts for what they are, because they see it through how it affects them (otherwise they would beg for death rather than engage in them if they saw it objectively).

    Then you have other cases, such as the real duke rape case, where a homosexual man working for Duke university adopted a boy, and sodomized him from 6 months old, offering him to fellow homosexuals on the internet. But no, I suppose it has nothing to do with homosexuality.

    The fact that there are homosexual men that do not rape children has nothing to do with whether disorder of homosexuality leads men to the further disorder by targeting young boys.

  20. Athanasius says:

    Actually, canon law wasn’t a code either until 1917

    That is only partially correct. Canon law was a code, it simply was not collected into one volume until 1917. Canon law functioned prior to that just as it does now, it was contained in decisions from Rome, Ecumenical Councils, or other Councils which were given authority by the Magisterium such as the council of Orange.

    The 1917 code was the result of a commission began by St. Pius X and finished by Benedict XV to simplify canon law, weed out those laws which had been superseded and address further matters that needed clarification in the 20th century which might not have been addressed before. It was still fundamentally different from Shari’a which from its inception was the legal interpretation of Imams from the Qur’an and the Sunnah.

  21. avecrux says:

    As a woman, I would like to add that women who intentionally dress immodestly do have culpability in matters of rape. The police still need to arrest the rapist – but pretending the woman is totally innocent is false. Legally, a bartender can be held liable if he continues to serve drinks to someone who is becoming intoxicated. If the person drinking goes out and kills someone while driving under the influence, it was the bartender who helped provide that occasion of sin/crime. The same is true in the explosion of “date rape” these days. It is not unusual for women today to believe that they can dress provocatively, drink to excess, dance suggestively and “make out” with a man and yet claim no culpability for the outcome if he doesn’t “stop in time”. She is deceiving herself and needs to understand her participation in providing an occasion of sin/crime. I would say the same regarding toleration of active homosexuality (as opposed to chaste people with same sex attraction) and “the culture” when it comes to sexual perversion. You do need to arrest the one committing perverted acts/crimes, but you can’t ignore underlying issues if you want to solve anything.

  22. Athanasius says:

    I do have to agree with Mr. Hand on one thing, the magnitude of the case is a result of the hierarchy specifically attempting to minimize their damage and save their “image” by covering the whole thing up.

    Look at for instance, Bishop Weakland, a disgraced homosexual, who in 1984 said the problem was not the priests, it is the children who squealed because according to Weakland, it is perfectly natural. That is the hallmark of Kinseyian sexology which predicates modern thinking on homosexuality, that children are sexual from birth, and that orientation is determined from birth and is totally natural. (This is also why the “facts” from UC Davis are completely invalid, they are based on these frankly satanic premises that homosexuality is natural). Bishops such as he, or those who acted in accord even if they did not agree (such as Cardinal Law) in rejecting a Thomistic approach to the problem sealed the fate for thousands of children worldwide.

    The correct solution is to realize that the body adjusts itself to the operations of the soul, so the more disordered you become in your will (the more evil you will) the more the body habituates itself to that activity, ergo the road to healing for these priests is not a 6-month treatment center, it is a long course of fasting, prayer, true and perfect contrition, and prayer for them because only by changing the soul and suffering the long course of getting the body to conform to it. Moreover that should have followed returning these men to the lay state and handing them over to the civil authority. Frankly they should get the death penalty, because these acts destroy the victim, sometimes they become like the walking dead and open them up to massive amounts of demonic influence and even possession. Either way they should have been handed over to the authorities for trial.

    That aside, we must take this a step further. After 1984 and the Rudy Koss scandal, there is not a single Bishop who could with a straight face claim that they had no idea people who did these acts did not normally recover and would seek new victims. Indeed, there is no way no one in the Vatican knew nothing about it. I can believe that the late Pope was scarcely aware of it or dismissed it as a communist smear, I can believe the current Holy Father, given the disarray and confusion in his curial offices, had not been fully briefed.

  23. smcollinsus says:

    Chronological food for thought:

    I am aware that various protestant denominations have accepted practicing homosexuals to their ministries since the 1970’s. The “gay” movement did not have any noticable success in changing the views of the Holy Roman Catholic Church on homosexuality. Meanwhile, the government was being populated by homosexuals of both sexes.

    The USCCB’s “Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers” was copyrighted in 1997. It’s basic thrust was to neither condemn the sinner nor condone the sinful act. I hold that the gay community was not satisfied with that, and started to become militant quietly.

    In early 2002, Boston Globe coverage of a series of criminal prosecutions of five Roman Catholic priests thrust the issue of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests into the national limelight. What then followed, and made even more news were the civil law suits. With much different standards of evidential proof, and with statutes of limitations all of a sudden removed, there really wasn’t much else to do but settle out of court. Please understand that these CIVIL cases were only aimed getting money, and lots of it. That’s one reason why one of the richest archdiocese in the country was targeted. Cardinal Law resigned in December that year.

    I grew up in the 1960’s. I like to say (and would similarly like to think) that I SURVIVED the 1960’s. Anyone who thinks that teenaged sexual experimentation is new to this current generation is just so wrong! “Stuff” was going on back then also, and most parents had no idea either. The removal of the statute of limitations opened the floodgates for people, who could argualbly prove that they had had sexual things happen to them, to take their revenge – not on the priests who had done them wrong, but on the Church in its entirety through the courts and the media.

  24. jaykay says:

    I think Fr. Blake’s analysis is spot-on, speaking as a 49-year-old living (and practising) in the Cardinal’s Archdiocese. It hurts me to say it, but TNCath’s comment on Bishop Walsh’s diocese is probably on the nail also in regard to most other dioceses here. In a broader sense there is a spirit of “informality” (to put it charitably) in Ireland that very often – too often – borders on the anarchic. It can be seen in such small, but highly visible, things as the national attitude to litter e.g I can chuck my stuff anywhere, it’s someone else’s problem. I won’t even go into the whole thing about alcohol abuse and atrocious behaviour in public. Suffice it to say that the scenes after dark in my own town on St. Patrick’s day, or most weekends, were far from edifying. And I am not exactly a puritan.

    There seems to be some national psychic disconnect about standards of behaviour. The whole financial scandal of the last 2 years (so-called Celtic Tiger – in reality an outpouring of vulgarity that would not be seen in the more civilised bits of Eurpope – now well and truly dead) has brought a lot of nasty national problems home to roost. Do we have the maturity to deal with that in a constructive way? I personally am dubious. I think the problems of the Church are in many ways a reflection of national lack of maturity and a buck-passing culture.

    I don’t know what’s going to come out on the other end in about, say, 5-10 years. Maybe it’ll take longer. It is not going to be a pretty time. I know what will get us through. That solution has been around for, oh, 2000 years now. Unfortunately its institutional expression is now, it seems, well and truly in the tomb.

    Then again it IS Passiontide, isn’t it?

  25. robtbrown says:

    1. It is not proven those who molest children of the same sex as themselves are in fact gay.

    It is itself the proof.

    You are basing your comments on a false assumption, that the abuse cases have been cases of pedophilia. They were not. These were cases of ephebophilia (victims in mid adolescence) or hebephilia (victims in early adolescence), both of which involve those who are entering the years of sexuality. A heterosexual ephebophile or hebephile seeks contact with someone from the opposite sex, a homosexual with someone of the same sex.

    2. Supposing that the abusers were gay, we still don’t know what overall percentage of priests are gay.


    If, for example, 100% of priests are gay, then we can no more blame the problem on gay priests misbehaving than on priests in general, as only a small percentage of priests are child molesters.

    Incorrect. You are falsely assuming that the number of homosexuals in the clergy is high. My own experience says that is not so.

    Those who committed homosexual acts are considered homosexuals. If you find a priest who was having contact with a 14 year old girl, then he is a heterosexual.

    Celibacy is a very difficult enterprise, simply because it denies any sexual expression at all–and those emotions that are involved in that expression. There can be feelings of loneliness and frustration, meaning the celibate wants to touch or be touched. But there is a huge difference between normal touching and sexual contact.

    3. It equates having a same-sex attraction with being tempted to force oneself upon a minor. Which again, there is no evidence for.

    I already answered that–see above.

    4. The sex abuse crisis is not limited solely to the concrete acts of abuse, but also consists in many other misdeeds committed by hierarchs;

    Of course, the hierarchy was negligent. But they were negligent about the concrete acts–and about letting people be ordained whose aptitude for celibacy had not yet been tested.

    talking about gay priests shifts attention away from those elements of the scandal.
    Comment by Stephen Hand

    And you are trying to shift the attention away from homosexual acts committed by priest.

  26. shane says:

    jaykay, I think your analysis is too hibernocentric. There’s nothing uniquely Catholic nor uniquely Irish about such attitudes. Go to most British towns after dark on a Friday and you’ll see the same thing. I currently live in Dublin, and I am always out on the town. While there is a problem with alcohol and litter, it’s no worse (indeed probably better) than most large cities in Britain. I wouldn’t read into it.

    As I commented on Fr Blake’s blog, the most *pastoral* bishop in Ireland is Diarmuid Martin. Bishop Walsh has friends in the media, but he’s a nobody to most Catholics outside his diocese (which he has indeed wrecked). He retires in a few weeks anyway. As in all countries, there are bad dioceses (Killaloe is the worst) and good ones (Derry and Raphoe)

  27. catholicmidwest says:

    Stephen Hand,
    It seems to me that you protest too much.

  28. Sixupman says:

    My parish priest, Clifton Diocese – UK, regularly preaches criticisms of The Pope and The Magisterium and he was not trained in an Irish seminary. But he is a child of VAT II thinking and training.

  29. Homosexual activity clearly has a major role (60-80% with adolescent males). It is part of the punishment for apostasy. Isaias 3:4 “And I will give children to be their princes, and the effeminate shall rule over them.” Then of course trying to hide said sins compounds the problem, until it explodes in their face. God will ultimately expose all darkness to His Light. This expose is a time for a major spiritual cleaning.

  30. Scott W. says:

    Of the 3000 preist sex abuse cases, 10% were true paedophile cases. Does anyone happen to know the breakdown of male-male abuse to male-female abues? I ask becuase the homosexuality-has-nothing-to-do-with-it crowd insists that the disorder is based on age, not sex. But if that is the case, shouldn’t the breakdown be close to 50/50 male-female? Somehow I don’t think that is the case.

  31. TJerome says:

    Well Scott W, if the priesthood had the same sexual orientation as the general public, I would think the abuse cases would involve 90-95% girls instead of the other way around. Although some posters here are clearly in denial that it’s not a gay problem.

  32. shane says:

    The Catholic Communications Office has issued a press release correcting media lies about the nature and substance of the oath administered:

    19 March 2010

    Correction note from the Catholic Communications Office concerning Irish Independent published article of 18 March 2010
    The following is a correction note from the Catholic Communications Office regarding the Irish Indepedent article “Revealed: Oath taken by Smyth, children, and Brady” by Breda Heffernan published yesterday, 18 March 2010.

    In relation to the wording of the oath involved in the 1975 enquiry involving the then Fr Seán Brady and concerning Fr Brendan Smyth, the published words used in yesterday’s Irish Independent (18 March 2010) were incorrect. The wording of the oath is as follows:

    “I [name] hereby swear that I have told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and that I will talk to no-one about this interview except authorised priests.”

    In addition, the following sentence was included in the second oath:

    “So help me God and these holy Gospels which I touch.”

    Authorised priests in this case refers to the personnel who were taking evidence. The intention of the oaths was to avoid potential collusion in the gathering of the enquiry’s evidence and to ensure that the process was robust enough to withstand challenge by the perpetrator, Fr Brendan Smyth. It was understood by canonical personnel in Ireland that the oaths were no longer binding when the taking of evidence from all witnesses was complete.

    Further information:
    Martin Long, Director of Communications 086 172 7678

Comments are closed.