Unheard Story: Dublin Archdiocese and The Murphy Report, by Pádraig McCarthy (Londubh Books, €14.99 / £17.99; ISBN 9781907535352)
J. Anthony Gaughan
At the outset of his book, Pádraig McCarthy makes it clear that he has no intention to minimise the harm and hurt caused by paedophiles in general, or Dublin clerical paedophiles in particular. He also acknowledges the impetus provided by the Murphy Report towards the development of a proper Child-Protection policy in Ireland.
The author’s sole aim is to present a critical analysis of the Murphy Report.
To this end he lists the following propositions: “Courts administer justice in public. The work of this commission was not public: The report assesses the handling of allegations of child sexual abuse by the Dublin diocese; in 27 cases it approves the handling of cases, in 18 cases it criticises it: The report rejects the claim by diocesan officials that they were on a learning curve prior to the late 1990s but it does not provide evidence to support this rejection: diocesan officials with responsibility in the handling of allegations are named but State officials are not; the allegation that the diocese engaged in a nefarious ‘cover-up’ over simplifies a very complex situation and is not in accordance with the facts; The report fails badly in not taking account of the level of knowledge and understanding in the historically different, although relatively recent decade in question; in not seeing the facts in the context of the problem of abuse in Irish society; and in not relating the findings to how sexual abuse of children was handled by other organisations. The media’s uncritical acceptance of the report helped create a public perception not in accordance with the facts.”
The author then claims that a close reading of the Murphy Report validates his assertions.
Pádraig McCarthy is not a disinterested party in the matter of the Murphy Report. This engagement grows out of his experience as a Dublin priest, which he describes.
Ordained in 1967, he was appointed as chaplain to Artane Industrial School, where the only child abuse he witnessed was on one occasion when he saw a child being struck on the head. He attended a course in child care, during which there was no mention whatsoever of sexual abuse of children.
He concludes: “Until the late 1990s I would never have thought of such abuse.” I suggest that the author’s experience resonates with Dublin priests almost to a man.
Hence, to put it at its mildest, their profound disappointment at the report’s gratuitously offensive conclusion: “That child sexual abuse by clerics was widespread: that some priests were aware that particular instances of abuse had occurred …. but the vast majority simply chose to turn a blind eye.”
Throughout McCarthy highlights the extraordinary development in the understanding of paedophilia during the past decades. This has occurred across the professions and both nationally and internationally.
He includes a number of useful appendices, detailing the Dublin Diocese Child Protection Programme and the Healing, Counselling and Support Service for survivors of institutional, clerical and religious abuse.
McCarthy published the gist of this critique of the Murphy Report in The Furrow of February 2010 and forwarded copies of his article to journalists on the major newspapers. Yet no comment or reference to it appeared in the print or electronic media. It is to be hoped that it does not remain an Unheard Story.
In the meantime congratulations are due to Pádraig McCarthy for this well-argued monograph and to the Association of Catholic Priests for sponsoring it.