After every horror involving child abusing priests (and there has been many) there is much wringing of hands and promises from the State and Church about accountability and bringing in laws to protect children.
When public anger subsides, however, the church and State usually revert to form â€“ putting the interests of the church above the protection of children. The recent Ferns case is no different.
According to Colm O’Gorman director of One in Four, the Catholic church has produced guidelines that essentially will continue to protect the church and leave children open to sexual abuse.
‘Within the very policies they have issued today, they have one set of rules for those working within the church and another set for the rest of us. If an allegation is made against somebody working within church they adjudicate as to whether or not to refer to the civil authorities’
This system of protection for the church is similar to that afforded to solicitors and financial institutions, especially the banks. A filter is how Ken Murphy (President of the Law Society) described it on Liveline last Friday.
This is how it works. If an ordinary citizen rapes a child, robs a client or steals from a customer, they are immediately subject to the law and if found guilty, usually end up in jail.
Under the Catholic Church filter, the local Bishop will decide whether or not the civil authorities should be informed. To date, nearly all decisions have favoured the Church rather than its victims.
Solicitors operate a system of filters that gives them virtual immunity from the law. If a solicitor robs his/her client of thousands, the whole case is dealt with by other solicitors, behind closed doors. Neither the State, courts nor police play any part whatsoever.
The rogue solicitor can present all the evidence he wishes in his own defence in front of his own peers. The impression I picked up from last Friday’s Liveline is that the victim is afforded no such opportunity.
In addition, the Law Society operates virtually as a secret society. For example, try to find out how many solicitors have been reprimanded, fined or struck off in the last five years or just for the fun of it ask for access to the society’s annual reports â€“ you’ll be waiting.
The filter for financial institutions comes in the guise of The Financial Regulator . Most people think that the regulator is there to protect citizens from the excesses of the financial world – Wrong. The regulator exists to protect the financial institutions, not Joe Bloggs. Here’s just one of many examples.
259 cases of overcharging have come to light since May 2004, involving 32 financial institutions. None of the offenders have been punished and all their identities are kept secret by the regulator. All they are required to do is repay the money overcharged/stolen.
This policy of secrecy is of enormous benefit to the financial institutions but puts the citizen at a great disadvantage in that he doesn’t know who the “cowboys’ are.
The only real protection the ordinary punter has from these so-called pillars of society is investigative journalism or whistleblowers.
So, the message is – if you want virtual immunity from the law, become a priest, banker or solicitor.