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Christianity Today: Now the Khristian Kriminals Claim 'Executive Privilege'

Wednesday, February 06 2008 @ 10:37 PM CST

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By Ian O'Doherty

Really, just when you think that you're out, they pull you back in again. That must be how Archbishop Diarmud Martin has been feeling these past few days after his laudable and widely commended attempts to provide full disclosure of files to the Dublin Diocesan Commission of Investigation into the rape of children in the care of priests.

It was a sign that the new broom in the Dublin Diocese was going to do his best to sweep away the appalling intransigence and arrogance of his predecessor. Except his predecessor hasn't gone away and the news last week that Cardinal Desmond Connell instructed lawyers to seek a temporary court injunction is just the latest, high-handed PR disaster that has come to characterise the Church in recent years.

Church observers might have been forgiven for hoping that when Connell left and Martin took over, a new era of Church-State relations was going to be ushered in, but the old-school hardliner still managed to expend his baleful grasp long into his retirement.

And while the attempted cover-up is undoubtedly a major PR disaster, it's starting to look as if people like Connell just don't really care about the public. Or their opinion, for that matter.

If he did, he would have done more than simply shuttle the pederasts and perverts who worked for him around the diocese, determined to keep them one step ahead from potential embarrassment and allowing his roving band of sexual predators to go about their work, secure in the knowledge that when they were eventually exposed in one parish, as such despicable acts ensured they would, they would be moved into a new area with fresh meat.

This time, Connell is claiming legal privilege over some of the documents. And, in fairness to him, people who aren't lawyers should be reluctant to quickly jump to any immediate conclusions.

But that prohibition doesn't extend to the experts, such as Fr Tom Doyle, the American Dominican priest who has done more to expose clerical sexual abuse than perhaps anyone else alive and who is revered by those he has helped to much the same degree that he is despised by the Hierarchy.

According to Doyle, Connell's assertion that he had legal privilege was wrong and "the only reason why Cardinal Connell would seek to prevent access to the files is because they contain incriminating evidence".

Quite how much more incriminating evidence might be out there and just how pernicious that information must be to force the Church to take such radical action is something which perhaps shouldn't be pondered on for too long. After all, the facts that have already been established are so horrific as to beggar belief.

But what's particularly interesting about Connell's move is the echo of his previous arrogant statement that there are higher laws than the law of the land -- God's law.

On this, as on so much else of what he has to say, he is simply wrong.

There is one law in this country, and that is the law of the land.

Connell's smugness, something which oozes with egregious insincerity every time he opens his mouth, is bad enough -- but then to employ the vocabulary of the Christian fundamentalists, who shoot abortion providers or the Muslims who shout that man-made laws are actually immoral because "there is one law, and that is Allah's will", was really a sign of just how far out of whack this guy really is.

But his claims for privilege also open another question -- just what on earth is civil society doing respecting the confidentiality of the confessional?

Surely in this day and age the notion of a priest -- or anyone else for that matter -- going to confession, discussing crimes against children and then receiving absolution and going back to their parish free from the stain of sin and luxuriating in a state of grace is an obscenity in the modern world.

It's one of those nexus points where common sense and religious rights collide, but nobody has the right to be allowed to continue such crimes, simply because they get to salve their conscience with one of their colleagues.

And before readers start to complain about Catholics being picked on while other walks of life are allowed to retain privilege, you should remember this -- a psychiatrist's sessions with his patient are confidential, like all medical records, yet they can still be compelled by law to surrender evidence.

And as for the good old journo and their right to privilege and confidentiality?

Well, journalists work to expose things and inform the public and need protection to adequately fulfil their job.

The Church, in this and in innumerably more incidents like this, are instead attempting to use privilege to cover something up and deny vital information to the authorities.

So who's acting in the public interest now?


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