If there is one issue which reveals the double standard which is at the heart of modern Irish secular society it is the area of child abuse. For the last number of years the Catholic Church has been torn to shreds in the media over her appalling recording on the care of children by some in the Church. Much of this was deserved, though at this stage the continued attacks are more of an ideological nature than righteous indignation.
But compare this with the treatment the media give the state and its institutions when their record of appalling failures in the care of children is exposed. Yes, a front page article, but where is the hysteria? Where is the righteous indignation? Where are the politicians demanding retribution? Where are the resignations? It is a very different affair. We have people speaking calmly on television and radio, politicians in government wringing their hands and promises of implementing recommendations. The item may be given first billing in news reports, but we then move on to something else, unlike news bulletins following the release of the Ryan and Murphy reports which dominated the bulletins and had teams of journalists on the job.
For readers who do not know the Irish state's history of child care read this report in The Irish Times which details the publication of a report on the issue, a report which has been due out for a long time. Children have died in state care - over a hundred dying various unnatural deaths in recent times. Children have disappeared without a trace - still missing, and yet self-righteous Ireland picking over the corpse of the Catholic Church barely raises an eyebrow. Why? As priests and religious sisters are named and shamed (legitimately if they are offenders), those in the HSE and other government departments hide behind anonymity, keep their jobs and no one is any the wiser. Why?
A number of years ago we had a high profile case in which a young girl sued the state to allowed go to England to have an abortion. She won and with the help of the then Health Board went on her merry way to an abortion clinic. Only it was not as merry as we had been led to believe: we learned only recently that the girl did not want an abortion; that her parents did not consent to it - the girl was underage; yet officials in the then Health Board took it upon themselves to decide that an abortion was needed. The girl was devastated when she realised what had happened her: "Where is my baby?" she pleaded after the abortion. And where are those state employees? Why have they not been called to account and put behind bars not only for the murder of an innocent baby, but the abuse of young pregnant girl who did not know what they were doing to her.
And yet self-righteous secular Ireland - modern, "mature" Ireland, picking over the corpse of the "evil Catholic Church" barely raises an eyebrow. But there is much more. As the Church is condemned for her failures in area of child care, the state's part in this is airbrushed. Yes, we had token expressions of regret, but if you examine the situation you see that more than such expressions are necessary. In many cases the state dumped children on the religious orders and told them to look after them. Yes they provided funding, but it was paltry, not enough to feed a canary never mind look after growing children.
A number of sisters involved in the work told me that state officials would arrive at the door with a child, or a family in tow and basically tell the nuns or brothers that they had to look after them. The children were abandoned by the state, put out of the way and burden fell on the Church to look after them. These congregations, contrary to secular accusations, did not have a lot of money - they struggled to make ends meet. Yes, unlike the state, the congregation had lots of dedicated staff who worked for nothing - religious who did not get a salary. Let's remember the innocent, hard working religious who never harmed a child but devoted every waking moment trying to provide food, clothes, heat, education and some affection with inadequate resources. It was not always successful, and some of these religious were not naturally affectionate and some were struggling with "mother's vocations", so there were difficulties. I think we can say that the Church has taken a beating for the state in recent years, it is a pity that politicians do not realise this: as priests and religious are made pariahs, the state slips out of the equation quite conveniently.
What is most interesting in all of this is that we have a Children's Rights referendum coming up in the Autumn. In this referendum the citizens of this mighty Republic will be asked to give the state more powers to protect children, to take them into care and leave parents with lesser rights. The media and secular groups are all in favour of this. Now, will we hear much bashing of the state over this recent report? Will the media take the risk of even planting in people's minds a doubt: that this referendum may need to be defeated because the state has an appalling record of child care? Well, I think we can all work that one out for ourselves.