October 30, 2005

Comment: Brenda Power: Church is guilty of institutional criminality

The Sunday Times

Nobody who worked in the old Irish Press will forget Brendan Comiskey for one particularly pious and arrogant piece of grandstanding. The newspaper’s television reviewer had made a light-hearted comment about the then-imminent birth of the singer Madonna’s first baby, and expressed the hope that this infant didn’t cause as much trouble as the son born to a previous Madonna. Bishop Comiskey considered this remark to be blasphemous, and used the might and prominence of his role to demand a boycott by all God-fearing Catholics of the Irish Press group newspapers. At that time the group was in serious difficulties and, indeed, closed not long afterwards with the loss of hundreds of jobs and hardship to many families. Had Comiskey enjoyed quite as much clout as he hoped at that time, this may even have been precipitated by his intervention.

Now we know that, at this time, the same bishop who considered that hundreds of people deserved to lose their livelihoods because of one hack’s throwaway quip did not feel that paedophiles and rapists should suffer any such fate as a result of their activities. Perhaps this is an insight into the value system of the man who hid himself away from the media he had once courted, in the wake of the Ferns Report last week, and issued a bland statement defending himself and describing his complicity in criminal activity for many years as “human failings”. But it is also possible that Comiskey saw his attack on the Irish Press’s blasphemous leanings to be entirely congruent with the effort to cover up and deny incidents of clerical sex abuse. In both instances, he may well have reasoned, the institution was under attack, and the institution had to be protected at all costs, even by the sacrifice of collateral civilian casualties.

Posted by kshaw at October 30, 2005 07:22 AM