That was quite a speech by the Taoiseach on Wednesday when he lambasted the Vatican and that state's representatives in Ireland for their responses to a child sexual abuse report concerning priests and bishops in the Roman Catholic diocese of Cloyne, near Cork (51 degrees North, 8 degrees West). This is the third such damning report, leaving people in Ireland well past the state of shock that the initial findings evoked. Now the widespread national emotion is anger, leavened with a dose of 'I-told-you-so'.
If representatives of any other sovereign state acted in this way in Ireland – raping and abusing children, active covering up and not reporting these crimes by superiors, privileging the law of their own state over the law of the land and thereby exonerating their representatives from the crimes, using a confidentiality practice peculiar to their own rules in order to subvert the laws of the state they are resident in – they would be sent packing.
But these are representatives of The Vatican State and bishops are involved, invoking canon law and the secrecy of the confessional. It is a decadent form of sharia law, run by despotic mullahs in the service of Rome, delivering their authority through centuries of the abuse of power and male privilege, based on religious stories from the Bible.
It is all about Man, nothing about God. All about power, nothing about good. It is evil in practice in that it is, at essence, anti-person, anti-world and anti-now.
Attempts by people to create other forms of social organisation that did not privilege the priests (or the monarchs) have struggled to produce viable democracies and republics. These attempts have often failed and currently struggle to offer viable alternatives to religious or aristocratic domination, but it is striking that it is to the Republic that the Taoiseach appeals in his speech.
'This is the Republic of Ireland 2011', he says. 'A republic of laws, of rights and responsibilities; of proper civic order; where the delinquency and arrogance of a particular version, of a particular kind of “morality”, will no longer be tolerated or ignored.'
Strong words. Actions will be needed, however, to convince people that the concept of a Republic is underpinning the Irish state's response to the criminal actions of priests and bishops. And the State will have to take action on itself in regard to the neglect and abuse of children. Other institutions and bodies – professional, medical, sporting, commercial and others – will have to give account and assurance that their practices are not criminal in regard to children.
To paraphrase Rousseau from his 1762 treatise, Social Contract,
'Children are born free, and everywhere they are in chains.'
Will the Taoiseach follow through on his brave words, face down the representatives of The Vatican and, again invoking Rousseau, use the legislative power he currently has to bring about real change in Irish society?
'The legislative power belongs to the people, and can belong to it alone.'