Article from the November 2005 issue of the Socialist
newspaper of the Socialist Party, Irish section of the CWI

The Ferns report - Separate Church and State NOW!

By Fiona O'Loughlin
BERTIE AHERN has strongly defended the role of the Catholic Church in Irish society. His comments were made during the debate in the aftermath of the Ferns Report. The Report into the sexual abuse of children in the diocese of Ferns by priests is a damming indictment of the Catholic Church. The Inquiry identified more than 100 allegations of child sexual abuse between 1962 and 2002 against 21 priests.

However, it is not just the sexual abuse of these children that has enraged people, but also the subsequent treatment of the victims by the Catholic Church. In an incredible statement Bertie Ahern said that there was a genuine sense of disappointment at recent revelations of child abuse and that the Catholic Church was an important part of civil society. The majority of people are not disappointed at the sexual, physical and mental abuse of children by the Catholic Church - they are outraged and disgusted.

The hierarchy of the church consistently refused to act, treating the crimes as minor misdemeanors at best. Even casting doubt on the innocence of the victims as if they as young children were in some way responsible. In many cases the offenders were left in their positions or simply moved onto another parish where they offended again. The damage done to these children was exacerbated by the fact they were not believed and branded as troublemakers and liars. The esteem and position of the church was placed before the protection of children.

The role of the state and its link with the church in the scandal of the abuse of children in the industrial schools has also been exposed. Michael Woods did a deal with the Catholic Church on behalf of the state whereby the church would only be liable to pay 127 million to victims with the state left to pick up the rest of the bill estimated to be between 800 million to 1 billion between 9,000 abuse victims. The Socialist Party believes that the church should be made pay its full share of the compensation bill even if it bankrupts them.

The Catholic Church has been severely weakened by these scandals but it still has influence in society, and with the political establishment as Bertie Ahern's comments show. The Catholic Church still controls a majority of our schools and has a major influence and control in the health service. This was recently shown when a consultant was prevented from carrying out cancer treatment trials on women at the Mater Hospital in Dublin because the religious controllers of the hospital refused to allow the women to be prescribed the pill during the tests. According to the Catholic Church it is better that women die of cancer than use contraception!

Bertie Ahern has said that the Catholic Church's role in managing 3,200 primary schools was "indispensable". No religious organisation should have any role in the management of our state funded education and health services. The Socialist Party believes that the fundamental lesson of the child abuse scandals is that there should be total separation of church and state.

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