Cardinal Sean Brady: Guest post by Ophelia Benson

Our understanding was so inadequate

Lots of people are calling for Sean Brady to resign. Lots of people are horrified at how clueless he still is, how indifferent the Vatican still is, how morally obtuse they all are.

Brady said something in his statement on Wednesday that needs close attention.

With many others who worked regularly with children in 1975, I regret that our understanding of the full impact of abuse on the lives of children as well as the pathology and on-going risk posed by a determined paedophile was so inadequate.

Their understanding was so inadequate in 1975.

Well if their understanding was inadequate then and is better now, that means their understanding has improved over time.

But the clergy are supposed to have a pipeline to god, aren’t they? Aren’t they?

Aren’t they supposed to know what’s what, and isn’t that’s why they consider themselves entitled to tell all the rest of us what’s what?

Their understanding isn’t supposed to be “inadequate,” now is it. They consider themselves moral arbiters, entitled to tell everyone what to do. Not guide, not suggest, but tell. They are priests. They are a special body, so special that filthy weak immoral women are officially barred from entry. They are authorities; they represent Authority.

So how can their understanding of something so basic (and so very important for them in particular, given their history) as what child rape does to children – how can it be inadequate? Why doesn’t god make it not inadequate? Why don’t they know? Why don’t they get it right just by virtue of being priests?

  Photo: H/t Sabrina

We’re always hearing about “church teachings.” “Church teachings” are why the church keeps demanding the right to ignore equality legislation and treat gays as contaminants. Surely this implies that “church teachings” are timeless and always right, while mere equality legislation is the product of foolish human whims and fashions that come and go. But if that’s how church teachings are, why was there no church teaching that timelessly informed all priests about the full impact of rape on the lives of children? Why has their understanding improved over time?

I want to know. I want to know why they’re so certain of their rightness about gays and the ordination of women and abortion when they were so wrong and brutal and self-interested about children being raped by their own colleagues. I want to know why they think they have so much as a toenail to stand on when it comes to morality. I want to know what the hell makes them think they know better than the rest of us about how to treat human beings.

There’s a  fine response by Sigmund over at OB’s blog, the latter of whom is a very experienced and knowledgeable commenter at B&W.

I find it unfathomable. These men of the cloth were very highly educated with philosophy, theology, canon law degrees, etc., under their belts, at a time in Ireland, when the majority of people would have given their right arm to be educated, even to secondary or leaving cert’ standard. Yet given all  that privilege, they have the temerity to say “our understanding at the time was inadequate.” The monies flowing into the religious coffers by generous patrons to educate them obviously did not touch on the moralistic values that they should have been equipped with, to know that it was wrong of to abuse children. Any person with any bit of sense would know that that was wrong. Y et these learned men of the cloth, some of whom unclothed themselves to abuse children feign ignorance.

The same thing happened at the commission to inquire into child institutional abuse when the religious tried to say that they did not understand child abuse or something to that effect. However, they were found out when documentation of evidence  was discovered of what they were to do in times when allegations of child abuse was made. I’ll find out more on this particular incident.


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