Irish religious orders confirm they will not pay Magdalene Laundry victims
In a completely enraging move, two of the four religious orders that once ran Magdalene laundries in Ireland have again refused to contribute any money toward compensating the surviving women.
Over a year after the Irish Taoiseach (Prime minister) Enda Kenny gave a heartfelt State apology to the tens of thousands of women who had been cruelly incarcerated in Magdalene laundries, the Irish government’s repeated attempts to hold the orders financially accountable have met with blank refusals.
All four orders, which include The Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of Refuge, the Good Shepherd Sisters, and the Sisters of Charity have, at various times, publicly refused to contribute financially to the proposed compensation scheme.
According to recent reports in the Irish press, the four orders, which ran the Magdalene laundries, made almost $415 million in property deals during the Irish economic boom. Given those eye-popping figures, the refusal to offer one thin dime in compensation can be seen in its proper light.
It hasn’t quite been two decades since the last Magdalene Laundry in Ireland closed in 1996. That’s well within the living memory of young adults. All those decades of unpaid drudgery, with moral opprobrium added on top, and the orders don’t feel they have a case to answer?
Clearly they are hoping that even now most Irish people would prefer to look the other way – exactly the way they used to when these for-profit gulags were in operation.
Recall that the Irish government had to be brow beaten for years by a group of committed former inmates and their offspring before they finally offered the women a full apology. That apology was only offered in February 2013, by the way.
So the deep Irish reluctance to face up to the legacy of exploitation and widespread physical and sexual abuse within the church has been one of the most remarkable aspects of the now three decade long crisis.
Instead of principled stock-taking, denial, defensiveness and withholding have been the standard responses.
What fascinates me is what happens to a nation that fails to confront its own traumas? Will it hand them on to the next generation without comment? These orders profited for decades from indentured servitude. The women they incarcerated had to pay their own way out.
Now, flush with cash from their extensive property deals, they are withholding all material support from the women they once treated as chattel.
It is estimated that 600 Irish women who were once incarcerated in one of the laundries run by the four orders are still alive. All of them are elderly. The orders may hope that time turns the page on their stories and the nation forgets them. Waiting out the clock, they may be right.
Galway priest silenced by Vatican is set to return to public ministry
June 14, 2012 – 7:30am
By Bernie Ní Fhlatharta
A Galway Redemptorist priest who was silenced by the Vatican because of his criticisms of the Church in relation to their response to clerical sex abuse in Ireland will be returning to public ministry next week.
Fr Tony Flannery, who is based in the Redemptorist Monastery in Esker, will be welcomed back by his congregation and colleagues there on Tuesday with the start of the Order’s annual Novena.
Fr Flannery, along with two Redemptorist colleagues, Fr Brendan O’Rourke and Fr Patrick O’Keeffe, will be preaching at the Novena, which focuses on the virtues of living a good Christian life.
The Attymon native publicly supported Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s call in the Dáil for the Catholic Church to apologise for its handling of clerical sex abuse. Fr Flannery was a regular contributor to the Redemptorist magazine Reality, in which he aired his views and support of the Taoiseach.
Just before Easter, Fr Flannery was ordered to take time off for spiritual reflection, which he did. Part of that dictat was that he stop writing for Reality, after the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith objected to some things he had written in various articles and on the Order’s website.
Following almost two months away from his ministry, negotiations with his Redemptorist superiors have led to his return.
This week, Fr Flannery told the Connacht Tribune that he was looking forward to returning to public ministry.
“I haven’t ministered since Easter but I will be returning next Tuesday on the first day of the Novena and I will be preaching at that every third day, alternating with my colleagues,” he said.
Vatican laments Irish dissent, silences priests
Apr. 26, 2012
DUBLIN, IRELAND — Just weeks after a report from a Vatican inquiry into the Irish church lamented what it described as “fairly widespread” dissent from church teaching, it was revealed that the Vatican has “silenced” Redemptorist Fr. Tony Flannery.
The Holy See’s move provoked fury among the members of the 800-strong Association of Catholic Priests, which has accused the Vatican of issuing a fatwa against liberal clerics.
It’s not exactly clear why Flannery, a popular author and retreat director, has come under Vatican suspicion. He has voiced support in the past for opening up debates around the ordination of women, a change to the church’s ban on artificial birth control and an end to mandatory celibacy. He also provoked dismay among senior Irish bishops when he publicly backed Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s 2011 attack on the Vatican in the wake of the report into the mishandling of clerical abuse in the Cloyne diocese. Kenny accused the Vatican of “dysfunction,” “disconnection,” “elitism” and “narcissism.” Flannery described the speech as “wonderful.”
By acting against Flannery now, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith may well have scored an own goal by provoking the ire of the priests’ association. As well as his retreat work, Flannery is a founder of the association, which now represents some 20 percent of Ireland’s clergy. Since its founding less than two years ago, the group has campaigned for liberal reforms in the church and is due to hold a national assembly in early May to harness momentum. Key priorities for the group include “a re-evaluation of Catholic sexual teaching” and “a redesigning of ministry in the Church, in order to incorporate the gifts, wisdom and expertise of the entire faith community, male and female.”
Flannery is the latest Irish priest to face Vatican censure. In mid-April, it was revealed that moral theologian Fr. Seán Fagan had been silenced by the Vatican two years ago. His Marist order even took the bizarre step of buying up unsold copies of his 2008 book What Happened to Sin?.
Capuchin Fr. Owen O’Sullivan also fell foul of the doctrinal congregation in late 2010 after he published an article suggesting that homosexuality is “simply a facet of the human condition.”
More of the same is likely to be in the cards given some of the findings of the apostolic visitation, published on March 19. The summary of the document — oddly, only four of Ireland’s 27 serving bishops have seen the full report — warned that “dissent from the fundamental teachings of the Church is not the authentic path towards renewal.”
The tendency “among priests, religious, and laity, to hold theological opinions at variance with the teachings of the Magisterium” required, the visitation concluded, “particular attention directed principally towards improved theological formation.”
A war of words has now broken out — of sorts, since no one of the Vatican side of the argument is speaking at all. Renowned ecologist Fr. Seán McDonagh, a member of the priests’ association’s leadership team, accused the Holy See of “outrageous” behavior in silencing of the clerics.
He accused the Vatican of “throwing a fatwa” at the priests and said that some of Rome’s recent actions were like a return to the Inquisition.
“This isn’t the time for heresy-hunting,” he warned.
The association has rallied behind Flannery, insisting, “This intervention is unfair, unwarranted and unwise.”
The association has also resisted attempts to cast it simply as a liberal pressure group. “The issues surfaced by the ACP since its foundation less than two years ago and by Tony Flannery as part of the leadership team are not an attack on or a rejection of the fundamental teachings of the Church. Rather they are an important reflection by an association of over 800 Irish priests — who have given long service to the Catholic Church in Ireland — on issues surfacing in parishes all over the country,” the group said in a statement.
A recent survey commissioned by the association seems to demonstrate that the priests are not the Irish church’s only restive members. While weekly Mass attendance is still relatively high, three out of four people who identify themselves as Catholic say they find the church’s teaching on sexuality “irrelevant.”
The survey — conducted by the respected research association Amarach — also showed that almost 90 percent of those surveyed believe that divorced or separated Catholics in a stable second relationship ought to be able to receive Communion at Mass.
The figures were compiled from a sample of 1,000 Catholics and, according to researchers, have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
According to the results, 35 percent of those surveyed attend Mass at least once a week; 51 percent attend at least once a month. Just 5 percent of Irish people who identify themselves as Catholics never attend Mass.
Eighty-seven percent disagreed with church teaching on an unmarried priesthood and said they believed that the church ought to allow priests to get married, while 77 percent said the church should admit women to the priesthood.
When asked “to what extent do you agree with the Catholic church’s teaching that any sexual expression of love between a gay couple is immoral,” 61 percent said they disagreed while 18 percent of those surveyed believed homosexual acts to be immoral.
Seeming to set himself on a collision course with the Vatican, McDonagh said the survey “confirms that those who are advocating for change in the church are not a tiny minority, but are, in fact, at the heart of the church.”
He said Irish Catholics are “crying out for change and do not want the church to go backward, but to move forward and change.”
A spokesman for the Irish bishops’ conference, pointedly not commenting directly on the findings, said, “The results of this survey confirm the importance of all in the church taking up this task in a spirit of communion and sharing the good news of the Gospel in a rapidly changing social and cultural environment in Ireland today.”
The Vatican seems to be drawing a clear line in the sand. From Rome’s point of view, whatever the future shape of Irish Catholicism will be, it must be a future marked by greater adherence to church teaching. The Association of Catholic Priests strikes a decidedly different note. This Vatican approach, it warns, “may have the unintended effect of exacerbating a growing perception of a significant ‘disconnect’ between the Irish church and Rome.”
[Michael Kelly is deputy editor of The Irish Catholic, an independent, lay-owned weekly newspaper.]