In an attempt to re-evangelise people of Ireland, Pope Francis held the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Dublin last week-end. A 36-hours tense and costly visit that has highlighted the increasing gap between Catholics and more broadly the Irish society and the Vatican.
Stand for Truth
The Pope’s visit has been overwhelmed by the issue of sexual and institutional abuse within the Church. During his visit, the pontiff was repeatedly forced to address the decades-long scandal that has impacted the church’s reputation and moral authority in Ireland and elsewhere. In his final mass at Phoenix Park, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness. He talked about “shame and pain” but failed to deliver the frank acceptance of responsibility that many victims still demand.
Indeed, people of Ireland want more than apologies. Since 2002, more than 14.500 people have reported sexual abuse by priests in Ireland in a widely institutionalised system covered up by the Church and governmental officials. The victims and those supporting them strive for truth about forced adoptions and babies reported dead resulting from clerics’ illicit heterosexual relations and about the widespread physical and sexual abuses in parishes and Catholic-run childcare networks. They want truth and they want justice. On Sunday 26, thousands of them gathered at “Stand for Truth”, a silent protest organised in support of the victims of clerical abuses alongside the papal visit.
In a deeply emotional speech, clerical abuse survivor and Amnesty Ireland Executive Director Colm O’Gorman addressed the crowd at the rally: “We don’t need to look to a Bishop. We don’t need to look to a Priest, or a Cardinal or a Pope. We need to look to ourselves, to our humanity, to our tradition. We have learnt how to love each other in Ireland. An Ireland that refuses to be told how to love and care for its own people.”
Humanists, freethinking, respect and rights
Our colleagues from the Humanist Association of Ireland joined the march and stood up in support of the victims. This move came as a closure of their two-days Summer School on Humanism, freethought and censorship held in the surroundings of Carlingford and jointly organised with their counterparts from Northern Ireland. The EHF was very pleased to attend such a constructive, stimulating and open-minded meeting. Throughout the week-end, the “All Ireland” humanists gave the floor to historians and activists, journalists and Unitarian ministers; covering issues such as media ownership in Ireland, censorship by the Catholic Church and censored art in Irish history.
These past few years, the Humanist Association of Ireland has greatly contributed and supported Ireland’s recent moves towards better rights and freedoms for all, fighting for the recognition of humanist weddings, for marriage equality, for abortion rights and for the suppression of the reactionary “Blasphemy” law introduced in 2009.
We are grateful for their work. At a time when the Catholic Church persists with offensive and harmful behaviour and opinions – last one being Pope Francis suggesting “psychiatric support” to homosexual kids -, we can only encourage the Irish government to get away from the Vatican’s dogmatic lines. Concretely, that means urgently preparing a bill to allow safe and legal abortion as requested by 66% of the voters last May; standing firm against extremist views and translating into action its promise to hold a referendum to remove the offence of blasphemy from its constitution.