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Zombie church survives with state support
17 March 2010
Today Ireland is a zombie society. Almost every aspect of civic society is in decay: financial instutions, political parties, trade union leaderships and a zombie peace process in the North. What they all have in common is that no level of scandal, no demonstration of corruption, no matter how public, seems to spell the end for any of these institutions.
Chief among the zombie institutions is the Catholic Church. Its followers used its special position to mutilate women who had difficult births in order to meet Catholic dogma. It imprisoned women for breaking its sexual codes and brutalised children left in its care. Then the true depth of corruption was exposed when widespread rape and sexual brutality were shown to be commonplace.
A new dimension of depravity was revealed when it emerged that the church authorities had colluded in the rapes by hiding the rapists and moving them from post to post where they could commit further crimes. The Vatican has been deeply involved, with allegations of cover-up directed at the present pope.
The cover-up has continued to the present day. The recent Murphy report into the Irish scandal showed a majority of the current hierarchy were involved. They tried to deny their role. A new entity, the Church in Ireland, was invented to try to disguise the role of the Vatican. The Vatican itself refused to answer questions, going as far as to invoke diplomatic immunity.
Now the scandal has reached the top of the local church with the involvement of Cardinal Sean Brady.
The facts are uncontested. In the 1970s Brady attended a meeting where two boys gave evidence against the notorious paedophile Fr Brendan Smith. The boys were forced to sign an oath of secrecy and Smith went on to blight other lives across Ireland and later in the USA.
Now Brady intends to tough it out, resisting calls from victims for his resignation. The outcome will not shake the arrogance of the church – Cardinal Law in Boston only resigned in similar circumstances when priests openly joined the protests. He then went to Rome where he was elevated in the Church hierarchy
How can this be? Clearly the scandals damage the church and their support amongst the working class is plummeting. Why does this not lead to their collapse? The answer is that a loss of support at the bottom was compensated for by increased support at the top of capitalist society and from state institutions. A very basic example of this support was the compensation payments to victims. They might have bankrupted the church, but the Irish state stepped in and picked up the tab.
Today victims call for honesty and accountability and the arrogant prelates of the church with their background as feudal princes, accuse them of seeking vengeance and yet again demand that the interests of the church be put before those of the victims. In the background, outside the circle of debate, state forces in both the North and the South act to strengthen state power.
So the Irish government announce, a week before the Brady revelations, that the church, controlling 92% of primary schools, is out of line with the growing diversity of religious belief and the even faster growing rejection of clerical control in many communities. Its proposal is for a reduction to 60 to 80% representation, depending on the area. Its mechanism for change? It is asking the bishops to consider the matter! In a significant statement on the issue of patronage, the Minister for Education, Batt O'Keeffe, said it would be up to the church itself to identify the particular schools in these areas that should close.
The new sectarian structures being built in the North represent a more blatant strengthening of church power. A new body, the Northern Ireland Commission for Catholic Education, is about to release plans for closures and amalgamations across the secondary sector. The purpose of the plan is crystal clear because it mirrors an earlier strategy applied to the primary sector. The church wants to ensure Catholic control for decades to come. The interests of children, parents and teachers will count as nothing. Because a more general planning process is under way based on a mix of schools in particular areas, the church decisions will impact on the education of children outside the catholic sector.
What is most notable about the above process is that the Catholic commission is simply an ad-hoc collection of the bishops and their cronies. The current maintained schools committee, given legal control by the British, is ignored, as is the framework of the Education and Skills Authority, in the process of establishing overall control. Essentially the church acts as if it can do as it pleases and the state acts as if it were correct in that assumption.
The church is sponsored by the state because it truly is the opium of the people, deadening dissent and preaching submission. Today it plays an invaluable role in house-training republicanism to accept a subordinate position in the new dispensation and Sean Brady has played a central role. Capitalism will not throw away such a valuable weapon.
Many activists with a one-dimensional view of society believe that difficult problems will fade away. Loyalist gangs, Orangeism, Church power - all will fade away. The story of the church, mired in scandal yet retaining power over children, refutes that notion.
Workers have to actively fight for change. They have to oppose the church and its history of gross oppression, now finally being unveiled. They have to oppose the capitalist state that sponsors it and they need a party that will support a secular socialist society and freedom from theocratic rule.
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