Seanad debates

Thursday, 10 November 2005

1:00 pm

Photo of Mary O'RourkeMary O'Rourke (Fianna Fail)

It was a significant breakthrough. One is pleased to see little girls serving at the altar. I hope they have always been safe.

One wonders about chastity. I am aware of studies that say that celibacy is not a factor in child molestation by the clergy but I wonder about that.

I do not offer any excuse for such behaviour but I wonder whether it would be better to have married clergy. One must also wonder whether the situation would have been different if there were women priests. Women get parish council roles or take responsibility for gathering money and other good deeds. They are also permitted to administer the sacrament of communion. It is not a great deal. When there is more involvement by the laity in the running of church affairs, even setting aside the question of female clergy, it will be a better day for the church.

This report is not the end of the road. Senator Feighan spoke about the inquiry to take place into events in the diocese of Dublin. I understand the commission of inquiry that has been set up will have the power to call for investigations into other dioceses if evidence in this regard becomes apparent. I am sure such evidence will emerge and that this will be an ongoing process. I would be delighted to say that everybody has had a rude awakening as a consequence of the revelations in Ferns and that nothing similar will occur in the future. The reality, however, is that there will always be good and evil in every aspect of life. Those forces have been in contention since the beginning of time. Will this be a fairy story in which good will triumph and no more evil will be perpetrated? I do not believe so because such an outcome is not realistic.

The struggle must go on and the Ferns Report represents a significant rebuff to the forces of evil within the church. An important issue is the chasm in accountability in that a person who does not get redress from the church in Ireland must then go to Rome. It is a long way from Rome to here, and an arduous route for those who have raised legitimate issues here to seek judgment and redress. Many of us are Catholic and it is good that we can express our worries and fears in a forum such as this. This State is republican in ethos and, as such, it should demand that every person be treated equally.


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