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Is the Abuse Irish?

05/27/2009 Comment

Did persecution play a role? (wiki)

Damian Thompson has a tough question to ask about the Irish abuse scandal. “How much of the abuse was Irish and how much of it was Catholic?”

“Journalists noticed (but scarcely dared point out) that” the worldwide abuse scandal “seemed concentrated among the Irish Catholic diaspora.”

He said a prominent American priest scholar agrees.

Thompson reports in the Telegraph that he had dinner with the priest (whom he doesn’t name) and raised the question about the disproportionate number of Irish involved in abuse stories “rather nervously. To my surprise, he agreed immediately.”

He said that the Irish didn’t leave their legacy of domestic violence and alcohol behind them when they arrived in America; the phenomenon of the weak, drunken father persisted, and this reinforced the towering status of the priest in the Irish diaspora, enabling a minority of clergy — and it was never more than a small minority — to abuse spiritual power for sexual ends.

He added: “There’s a particularly Irish Catholic culture of secrecy, too, partly rooted in a history of persecution, but also not unrelated to the corruption and backroom deals of Irish political life. That culture enabled abuse to happen, and to keep happening.”

Thompson’s inquiry may be odious to the Irish, but perhaps the blame can be laid elsewhere: in the French movement Jansenism (which was influenced by and in turn influenced the Irish).

(In fact, the blaming has begun.)

Innocent X issued a bull condemning Jansenism on May 31, 1653. The bull condemned the following five propositions (says the Catholic Encyclopedia).

1. Some of God’s commandments are impossible to just men who wish and strive (to keep them); considering the powers they actually have, the grace by which these precepts may become possible is also wanting;

2. In the state of fallen nature, no one ever resists interior grace;

3. To merit, or demerit, in the state of fallen nature, we must be free from all external constraint, but not from interior necessity;

4. The Semipelagians admitted the necessity of interior preventing grace for all acts, even for the beginning of faith, but they fell into heresy in pretending that this grace is such that man may either follow or resist it;

5. To say that Christ died or shed his blood for all men, is Semipelagianism.

Among other bad fruits, these propositions tend to provide a psychological loophole for someone to consider himself pious even while participating in egregious sins.

We would hasten to point out, of course, that not all of the abusers were Irish — not by a long shot. There was Goeghan and Shanley and O’Grady, but first there was Gauthier. And as we pointed out here, there was also Irish courage and heroism, too ...

The question, asked by two Irishmen, remains a question, only.

Filed under irish abuse, weekend commentary

About Guest Blogger/Tom Hoopes

Tom  Hoopes
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Tom Hoopes is Vice President of College Relations and writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He has written for the Register for more than 20 years and was its executive editor for 10. His writing has appeared in First Things’ First Thoughts, National Review Online, Crisis, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside Catholic and Columbia. He has served as press secretary for the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee. He and his wife, April, were editorial co-directors of Faith & Family magazine for 5 years. They have nine children.