Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The sins of the father

David Simon's magnificent series 'The Wire' is many things to many people. But to Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who had seen the rotten underbelly of urban America, it was about institutions.

Institutions take good men and bad men and destroy them both in turn. Humans are honest and decent, but there is nothing human in the institutions they build.

Simon's wisdom resonates stronger than ever this week, as Bishop of Limerick Donal Murray faces into an abyss.

Everything he has achieved as a man - his entire life's work as a priest - is now lost forever. He will always be the man who failed to defend the defenceless; the auxiliary bishop in the Dublin archdiocese who listened to but did not act upon allegations of child abuse by members of his clergy. In a way, it is almost unfair.

In the wake of the Murphy report, the Bishop has become a convenient scapegoat for those who seek one, be they the terrified church hierarchy, the populist politicians or the families of the thousands whose lives were destroyed by perverted, molesting priests.

It is not fair that Bishop Murray is in this position alone, without the entire church facing judgement alongside him. But it is where he finds himself nonetheless.

He should resign, because he failed in his duty. He will resign, because he is not a man so brazen as to ignore a wave of public ire.

But in this, the true horror of the institutions of the Church is now apparent - not just through Bishop Murray, but through the hundreds of priests and bishops and lay people who have taken part in, one way or another, the greatest social crime ever committed in this country.

For generations, the Church chose to forget one of the most basic of human instincts, the protection of children, to preserve its own power and authority.

The Catholic Church in this country will never be forgiven. They must never be forgiven.

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