The Teflon Church – Irish Edition

The Catholic Church helped run Ireland for centuries, even when Protestants were ruling. They ran organizations like the Magdalene Laundries, which enslaved and tortured unwed mothers and mistreated their children. Some of these laundries had mass graves for children. This went on for many generations, with the knowledge of both Church and state.

You might think that after these atrocities were made public, these groups were shut down. You might even think the responsible parties were brought to justice. You’d be wrong. The groups suffered little more than bad press. They were fined to help compensate the victims, but to date the Church groups involved have simply refused to pay. Yet the government is still giving them business.

Recently, the government gave one of these groups, the Sisters of Charity, responsibility for running St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, which runs maternity facilities in Dublin (here). The Sisters were given two seats on the Board of Directors. Only after Dr. Peter Boylan resigned from the board in protest, was any effort made to exclude the Sisters of Charity from management. Despite its well-known responsibility for the atrocities in the Magdalene Laundries, the government chose to give them similar responsibilities once again – and almost got away with it. The “Teflon” metaphor is inadequate.

I should note that Pope Francis and the Vatican have been rather quiet about all this. They have not attempted to shut down the responsible groups. They have not even publicly disciplined them. Despite Pope Francis’ rants about the moral responsibilities of employers – saying it is immoral to fire employees to save money - he said nothing about the moral responsibility of social institutions to protect their wards from abuse, or to compensate their victims. Needless to say, neither the Pope nor the Vatican seems to believe they have moral responsibility in any of this. While these atrocities were perpetrated by various Church groups reporting to the Vatican, no one has even raised the issue of determining what Church authorities knew about these crimes. The insistence on looking the other way and absolving the Church of all wrongdoing is mind-boggling.


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