from WashingtonPost Website
When I was a child, Ireland was a Catholic theocracy.
If a bishop came walking down the street, people would move to make a path for him. If a bishop attended a national sporting event, the team would kneel to kiss his ring.
If someone made a mistake, instead of saying,
The expression was more accurate than we knew.
This month, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a pastoral letter of apology - of sorts - to Ireland to atone for decades of sexual abuse of minors by priests whom those children were supposed to trust. To many people in my homeland, the pope's letter is an insult not only to our intelligence, but to our faith and to our country.
To understand why, one must realize that we Irish endured a brutal brand of Catholicism that revolved around the humiliation of children.
I experienced this personally.
are pointing the finger at Pope Benedict for doing nothing at the time.
Allen Pizzey reports from Vatican City.
After being caught once too often, I spent 18 months in An Grianán Training Centre, an institution in Dublin for girls with behavioral problems, at the recommendation of a social worker.
An Grianán was one of the now-infamous church-sponsored "Magdalene laundries," which housed pregnant teenagers and uncooperative young women. We worked in the basement, washing priests' clothes in sinks with cold water and bars of soap. We studied math and typing. We had limited contact with our families. We earned no wages. One of the nuns, at least, was kind to me and gave me my first guitar.
But schools for troubled youth have been rife with barbaric corporal punishments, psychological abuse and sexual abuse.
In October 2005, a report sponsored by the Irish government identified more than 100 allegations of sexual abuse by priests in Ferns, a small town 70 miles south of Dublin, between 1962 and 2002. Accused priests weren't investigated by police; they were deemed to be suffering a "moral" problem.
a similar report implicated
Dublin archbishops in hiding sexual abuse scandals between 1975 and
Despite the church's long entanglement with the Irish government, Pope Benedict's so-called apology takes no responsibility for the transgressions of Irish priests.
His letter states that,
What about the Vatican's complicity
in those sins?
Benedict's infamous 2001 letter to
bishops around the world ordered them to keep sexual abuse
allegations secret under threat of excommunication - updating a
noxious church policy, expressed in a
1962 document, that both
priests accused of sex crimes and their victims "observe the
strictest secret" and be "restrained by a perpetual silence."
Now that he sits in Saint Peter's chair,
Benedict's apology states that his concern is "above all, to bring healing to the victims."
Yet he denies them the one thing that might bring them healing - a full confession from the Vatican that it has covered up abuse and is now trying to cover up the cover up.
Astonishingly, he invites Catholics,
Even more astonishing, he suggests that Ireland's victims can find healing by getting closer to the church - the same church that has demanded oaths of silence from molested children, as occurred in 1975 in the case of Father Brendan Smyth, an Irish priest later jailed for repeated sexual offenses.
After we stopped laughing, many of us in
Ireland recognized the idea that we needed the church to get closer
to Jesus as blasphemy.
Benedict criminally misrepresents the
God we adore. We all know in our bones that the Holy Spirit
is truth. That's how we can tell that Christ is not with
these people who so frequently invoke him.
Until it does, all good Catholics
- even little old ladies who go to church every Sunday, not just
protest singers like me whom the Vatican can easily ignore - should
avoid Mass. In Ireland, it is time we separated our God from
our religion, and our faith from its alleged leaders.
Many people did not understand the protest - the next week, the show's guest host, actor Joe Pesci, commented that, had he been there,
I knew my action would cause trouble, but I wanted to force a conversation where there was a need for one; that is part of being an artist.
All I regretted was that people assumed
I didn't believe in God. That's not the case at all. I'm
Catholic by birth and culture and would be the first at
the church door if the Vatican offered sincere reconciliation.
And whether Irish Catholics, because we daren't say "we deserve better," should be treated as though we deserve less.