A Fine Gael Taoiseach is not the type of person who expects to be lauded by republicans. Enda Kenny has managed that. Today, speaking to former prisoners, I heard Kenny taking plaudits for the robust challenge he made to the malodorous Vatican in the Dail yesterday. A woman in our company, with good reason, made the point that he is no longer ‘Enda Lite.’
In terms of State-Church relations, the Dail dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, narcissism rebuke is earth shattering. Its strength and clarity are without precedent. Where it could previously be reported that Ireland had a subservient relationship to the Vatican, as of yesterday that is no more. The Ireland of De Valera and Archbishop McQuaid is dead and gone. As the Irish Independent could report:
Like a Crusader heading off to pagan lands to fight the Infidel, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has embarked on an all-out battle against the heinous evil of protected clerical paedophilia in the Vatican citadel which he must not lose.
The men of god will be seething. There is no place for them to hide, no theological hocus pocus to mumble that will make it all go away, no brandishing of the crosier to intimidate, no threats of hell that will work. They are banjaxed.
There are those who will criticise Kenny by claiming he is relieved at the crisis gripping the Church insofar as it draws attention away from the economic woes. But the argument works the other way. It is they who are hoping to deflect attention, onto the economy and away from the litany of clerical rapes. Moreover, this was an all party motion aimed at exposure, not one from a party with a neo-liberal agenda seeking concealment of its economic performance. Yesterday the Irish people through their elected parliament and their Taoiseach spoke out unequivocally on behalf of Irish children against the monstrous men of god who run the Vatican.
There is no reason not to discuss this issue in the Dail regardless of the state of the economy or the very genuine concerns that people have about Roscommon Hospital. The country is plagued by a number of woes and each should have its day in the Dail. Too often we have seen the issue of child rape by priests pushed to the side and it has solved nothing.
In his address to the Dail Enda Kenny pulled no punches in accusing the Vatican of frustrating an inquiry in a democracy:
as little as three years ago, not three decades ago … the rape and torture of children were downplayed or ‘managed’ to uphold instead, the primacy of the institution, its power, standing and reputation.
The previous day the mendacious men of god were doing what they always do, churning out lies. The cleric Federico Lombardi defended the 1997 Vatican letter to Irish bishops undermining Irish civil law on the spurious grounds that:
There is no reason to interpret that letter as being intended to cover up cases of abuse. Moreover, there is absolutely nothing in the letter that is an invitation to disregard the laws of the country.
This ‘pathetic charade’ will be acceptable to none other than some demented Catholics who think it is all an anti-Catholic conspiracy. Unluckily for them, the Taoiseach is a practicing Catholic which makes it hard for the Church to claim he is at the head of an anti-Catholic campaign. He has 'given a powerful voice to what we've all been thinking' said Tony Flannery, a leader of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland. Some other means of discrediting him will have to be found. Kenny merely made the call that any conscientious ethical person, Catholic or otherwise, would make, that the Church ‘needs to be a penitent Church. A church, truly and deeply penitent for the horrors it perpetrated, hid and denied.’
Freddie the Fabricator and the arrogant Vatican on whose behalf he lies however can brook no such thing. Perish the thought that god’s men could ever be accountable to mere mortals. How dare an elected upstart question god’s men and their infallible leader. Yet Enda Kenny was unrelenting:
this is not Rome. Nor is it industrial-school or Magdalene Ireland, where the swish of a soutane smothered conscience and humanity and the swing of a thurible ruled the Irish-Catholic world. This is the ‘Republic’ of Ireland 2011.
That a woman, scriptwriter Miriam O’Callaghan, is being credited with drafting much of the speech will further enrage the clerics. A lowly woman, a second class citizen, who not so long ago didn’t even have a soul and who will never be allowed to enter the priesthood, has the audacity to question the men of god. Outrageous.
Kenny also put manners on canon law, confirming its irrelevant status in relation to civil law. In deflating its arrogant pretentiousness he asserted the perspective of secular democracy that civil law:
will always supersede canon laws that have neither legitimacy nor place in the affairs of this country. The standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic.
Enda Kenny might never make a better speech. He will hardly need to. In moving to protect Irish children from the Vatican, from rape, from torture, he has done a service to this country none of his predecessors have matched.
Children First. Pope last.