Catholics Against Cartoons

  • the Church is acting in exactly the same way as the Workers Party used to, which is to use its not inconsiderable political clout to censor a point of view which they find embarrassing and difficult to deal with. And the Irish Times is indulging the Church just as it indulged the Workers Party back in the 1980′s – Ed Moloney

A while back, before other events took over, there was a bit of heat generated by the Irish Times decision first to publish a cartoon by Martyn Turner and then to pull it after objections from the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin.

I know that many priests and people feel hurt by a cartoon in yesterday’s Irish Times. I am a strong believer in freedom of speech and of the vital role of satire in social criticism, but I object to anything that would unjustly tarnish all good priests with the unpardonable actions of some. We have great priests in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

In other words he is not in favour of free speech at all. As Michael Nugent contends ‘It is acknowledged as part of the art form that the stereotypes are not to be taken literally ...' This was the archbishop doing what his ilk have done for centuries: move to suppress any criticism of their institution. Blasphemy, for long the clerical censor’s weapon of choice, no longer has the same punching power and souds antiquated. So the clerics compensate with some ring craft, aimed at acheiving the same result - censorship. It has been common knowledge since the clerical demand for the suppression of the anti-theocratic Danish cartoons back in 2006 that the men of god don’t do caricature.

Padraig Reidy summed it up neatly:

In the past (do not mistake this for nostalgia, by the way; Ireland in the past was a low place of poverty and polio and fear), if the Archbishop of Dublin did not like a cartoon in the Irish Times, he would have come straight out and said it; he would accuse the cartoon itself of sacrilege; he would point out that the cartoonist was born abroad, and that the Irish Times was owned and read by Protestants. He would say that no true Irishman should read this communist rag. And then politicians from the two main parties would battle each other to say how shocked they were by this blasphemous scrawl, unfit for the breakfast tables of old Ireland.

There is no need to stress it ad nauseum that not every priest is a threat to children. The vast bulk of them are not. But to seek to curb artistic licence because it is barbed towards clerical institutions is something that should be given short shift. The Irish Times had a dog in the fight but opted not to back it. In time honoured form it remained consistently inconsistent. It could have stated that the cartoon rightly implied that the church as a global institution has been so heavily involved in covering up the clerical abuse of children that it as a paper of record felt duty bound to stand by its cartoonist. But no. It took the Catholic line of another of its regulars, Breda O’Brien, and held that the cartoon was questioning the integrity of every priest in the church. O’Brien objected to the line that “But there is little else you can do for them [children] except stay away from them, of course.” There are many people who think the church as an institution should stay away from "them, of course" given the the countless children it betrayed, let down and covered up the crimes against them.

In what amounted to an act of craven forelock tipping, the paper not only absolved the editorial staff of culpability but blamed the artist rather than the clerical censor:

Sometimes, however, things fly in under the editorial radar. Martyn Turner’s cartoon on Wednesday is a case in point. In making a legitimate argument about the debate over priestly responsibility for reporting child abuse and the concerns for the seal of the confessional, Turner also took an unfortunate and unjustified sideswipe at all priests, suggesting that none of them can be trusted with children. This has, unsurprisingly, caused considerable offence and we regret and apologise for the hurt caused by the cartoon whose use in that form, we acknowledge, reflected a regrettable editorial lapse.

I don’t have particularly strong views one way or the other about the contents of the cartoon. Even if people are offended by what they see as its meaning, it is still not sufficient reason to seek its obliteration. Reidy says the Church approach is ‘a dishonest, dismal tactic. And it works every time.’ It will not work on this blog, a facilitator for a wide range of opinion. Here’s the cartoon. Make of it what you will. Ask for it to be removed if you wish. Just don't expect a positive response.



  1. If I recall correctly, the introduction into law of mandatory reporting was met with hostility from clerics. Some clerics went so far as to strongly defend the withholding of evidence of serious sexual abuse if they learned of it through the confessional. If clerics openly expressed their intention to flout the law on mandatory reporting then the cartoon was not defamatory but a highlighting of an issue of general public concern.

  2. The lesson from the past week is people are in favour of free speech, as long as what is being said is liberal doctrine. By the way the Danish cartoons resulted in worldwide riots,over 200 deaths, and fatwas against the publishers and authors. I don't think there is a parallel with a simple phone call, but its convenient not to make a distinction.

  3. people who are falsely accused of sex crimes go through hell.

  4. More censorship!!!!

    The Belfast Telegraph piece say's

    The gagging orders, which are so secret that the media cannot even report that an order has been obtained, were awarded by the High Court in Belfast.

    And when someone call 'Ben Brown' from '' wrote to the PSNI asking about a super injuction Judith Gillespie allegedly took out, he recived this reply

    Maybe the comment in the Belfast Telegraph called 'T.J.McClean' has it right when he said

    " One system in operation for the 'high profiles' and another for us the plebs. In other words if you have money, powerful friends, or are useful to the Government, you get the 'get out of jail', cover up, free pass, of anonymity. Nice."