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The Ferns Report

By Diogenes (articles ) | Oct 21, 2005

A long-awaited report on sexual abuse by priests of the Ferns Diocese in Ireland has been completed, to be released sometime next week. The Irish Independent says the report, written by Judge Frank Murphy, discusses twenty priest-abusers and "contains stinging criticisms of two bishops, the late Donal Herlihy and Brendan Comiskey," and faults the police and the South Eastern Health Board as well. Even though the scale of wrongdoing is small compared to that reported for the more infamous U.S. archdioceses, the repercussions will certainly be painful. So how are the clergy preparing themselves?

At a meeting earlier this week at Ballyvalloo Retreat Centre, Blackwater, Co Wexford, around 60 priests were told how the Church would respond to victims, clergy and parishioners.

Priests were addressed by clinical sports psychologist Tom Moriarty. He helped prepare them for likely fallout from the report. Mr Moriarty worked with the 1995 All-Ireland winning Dublin football team.

How long, O Lord?

The impact of the report is going to be tough on the local priests. There's nothing amiss in trying to fortify them against the hardships to come. Yet the palliative they reach for goes a long way toward explaining how the disease came to be in the first place. Given the sacramental character of the priest, given his training in prayer and penance, given his own pastoral engagement with souls in grief, given the Church's treasury of spiritual consolation on which to draw -- why does his diocese, in his moment of need, offer him the services of a clinical sports psychologist?

The irony runs deeper still. A large part of the reason clerical abuse reached the level it did was the tendency of ecclesiastical superiors to see the problem and its remedy in psychological terms. Concluding their report on the U.S.scandals, the National Review Board made this perspicuous judgment: "By viewing sexual abuse with minors primarily as an issue of 'sexual identity' and not primarily as a crime and a grave sin, bishops failed to fulfill their responsibilities to members of the public and members of the Church." We might have expected, by way of reparation, greater attention paid to the spiritual duties and eternal destiny of priests -- matters largely unrelated to the success of the 1995 All-Ireland winning Dublin football team. We were wrong.

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  • Posted by: MM - Oct. 24, 2005 7:13 AM ET USA

    Priests turning to sports psychologists for advice....the humiliation of the priesthood in Ireland continues. This kind of thing plays into the hands of those radical secularists who say that the priesthoods own confidence in God is a facade, just another aspect of the hypocrisy that the scandal has exposed. It won't offer anything meaningful to the orthodox minority of priests, and only further undermine the confidence of weak priests.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Oct. 22, 2005 8:48 PM ET USA

    The Irish priests of old that I have met would have punched these abusers lights out before the authorities ever had to get involved. Say what you will about their theology, but shrinking violets they were not.

  • Posted by: Ignacio177 - Oct. 22, 2005 7:00 AM ET USA

    What about following the guidlines of canon law? Oh if only our bishops were legalistic and had followed the law of the Church to the letter, there would be no such stories.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 21, 2005 6:01 PM ET USA

    It's hard to imagine how a sports psychologist could adapt his methods to fit this situation and impossible to think that encouraging the retreatnts to "Visualize, visualize, vizualize the outcome you want" could be any different than what the abusers themselves were doing before ...well, you knoiw.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 21, 2005 5:31 PM ET USA

    Psychology As Religion: The Cult of Self Worship by Paul C. Vitz speaks exactly to the point that continually misleads men and women in the modern world and especially the Bishops and priests who have bought into this false religion. The therapist as the substitute priest, psychological theories as substitutes for theology and prayer. In every scandal of the church one will find a psychologist not far behind with a stupid comment or a devlish smile on his Freudian face.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 21, 2005 2:56 PM ET USA

    So is the Diocese of Ferns planning to field a sacerdotal football team...? Nah. They're all probably too old for that.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 21, 2005 1:38 PM ET USA

    Further irony can be found in statistic which show that the highest rates for incidence of sexual abuse comes from high school sports coaches. What advice might this sports psychologist offer?

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Oct. 21, 2005 1:11 PM ET USA

    "We were wrong." Most important words in the whole article, Diogenes. Could be the most important words in human existence, particularly in the context of the confessional... When I hear those words FROM ROME in regard to their oversight (or lack thereof) with regard to the bishops in America with particlar emphasis on the supervision of seminaries... I suppose if I die from shock I would at least die happy... JP

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