“Invicible Ignorance” and an Irish Uprising

The faith of Ireland

Can it Survive the Vatican?

Add to the ever-growing numbers of people around the world angry at the Church for the clergy abuse scandal, the Prime Minister of Ireland and the Archbishop of Dublin.

Here’s what AP had to say:

The Irish are broadly lauding this week’s thunderbolt from Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who denounced the Vatican’s role in the past 17 years of abuse scandals. He accused the Holy See of downplaying “the rape and torture of children” and hiding behind its status as a sovereign state with its own secrecy-obsessed canon laws.

Astonished cabbies pulled off the road to watch the unprecedented speech on their smartphones. Victims of clerical sexual abuse, who have spent two decades trying to be heard and believed, cheered a day they thought would never come.

“It’s a landmark speech in emphasizing that Ireland’s historic deference to the Vatican, and to the Catholic Church generally, is over,” said Diarmaid Ferriter, professor of modern Irish history at University College Dublin.

Even Ireland’s priests, dismayed by their church leadership, voiced support for Kenny’s attack on the Vatican.

“The prime minister is a practicing Catholic and has a love for the Christian faith. He’s given a powerful voice to what we’ve all been thinking,” said the Rev. Tony Flannery, a leader of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland…

The RC Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin was equally gob-stopped:

In his first public comments since Ireland’s Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny had issued a blistering condemnation of Church leadership, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin charged that Church officials both in Ireland and at the Vatican have still not grasped the need for full cooperation with government prosecutors and investigators.

In an interview with the RTE broadcast network, an obviously emotional Archbishop Martin said that he was appalled and angry at the findings of a report on the handling of abuse charges in the Cloyne diocese, which showed that Church leaders in that diocese had covered up evidence of sexual abuse—even after the Irish bishops’ conference had approved policies requiring full disclosure of such charges.

“What do you do when you’ve got systems in place and somebody ignores them?” the archbishop asked. He said that there are groups both in Ireland and at the Vatican that have undermined efforts to address the abuse scandal. “I find myself asking today, can I be proud of the Church that I’m a leader of? I have to be ashamed of this,” said the archbishop….

What is possibly the most amazing thing about this (other than it happening at all) is that nobody saw it before. What, abusers working together? Who would ever think that could happen?

Obviously, these guys have never heard of the work of experts like Richard Sipe or Tom Doyle, or any of the victims, including even li’l ol’ me.

There’s a legal term for this, that has been in the news in regards to the News of the World hacking scandal: willful blindness. It may be defined as “when an individual seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally putting himself in a position where he will be unaware of facts which would render him liable.”

The same sort of intentional stupidity is referred to by a lovely theological term (which would make a great name for a band): vincible ignorance. This is “a moral or doctrinal matter that could have been removed by diligence reasonable to the circumstances. It contrasts with invincible ignorance, which can not be removed at all, or only by supererogatory efforts (e.g. exceptionally remote location).

“While invincible ignorance prevents a sinful action from being a sin, vincible ignorance at most mitigates it. It may even aggravate guilt. The guilt of an act performed or omitted in vincible ignorance is not to be measured by the intrinsic malice of the thing done or omitted so much as by the degree of negligence discernible in the act.”

In other words, covering up sexual abuse either actively or through inaction is not only a crime, it’s a sin. Unless of course, the Church admits it is invincibly ignorant about sexual abuse. Which means that no matter how hard they try, they’re never going to get it and therefore must not be held morally accountable.

Unfortunately, it’s getting to the point that invincible ignorance might be the Church’s only defense left.

It might save them from Hell, but it won’t save them from the wrath of the people they have betrayed. Maybe Ireland, where that betrayal was perhaps greatest, will lead the revolution. For reform cannot be done by silly stunts any more than by appealing to Mother Church’s better nature.

The Reformation proved that only state power can reform the Catholic Church. Let’s hope the revolution starts in the Emerald Isle.

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