Joan Smith: Brand Vatican is a failing company

Share
Related Topics

Imagine that you are a senior manager in a highly regarded organisation, responsible for many junior employees, some of whom you know personally. Their jobs put them in frequent contact with the public, and you trust them to work conscientiously.

Then you discover that some have abused your trust. They have sexually abused children on many occasions, and are likely to carry on doing so unless you alert the criminal justice system. What do you do? In the case of the Roman Catholic church, the answer is that you try to bury the scandal. You move a few priests and hope that the whole thing will go away.

It doesn't: in the UK, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Bishop of Arundel, later to become head of the church, moves a paedophile priest to the post of chaplain at Gatwick airport. Michael Hill goes on to abuse a boy with learning difficulties; 12 years later, he is jailed for five years for 10 assaults on children.

In Ireland, a young priest called Sean Brady, who will become Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, is required to record evidence at a secret tribunal where two children claim they have been abused by a priest called Brendan Smyth. The young victims must sign an oath that they will not talk about the abuse other than to a priest. The police are not informed. Twenty-two years later, Smyth is jailed for abusing 20 children.

In Germany, Joseph Ratzinger, Archbishop of Munich and the future Pope Benedict XVI, approves the transfer to his archdiocese of Peter Hullermann, a priest who is accused of abusing boys, on condition that Hullermann undergoes weekly therapy. Unknown to Ratzinger, Hullermann is assigned to a parish and eventually given a suspended prison sentence for sexually abusing children. Promoted to Cardinal, Ratzinger has to decide how to respond to growing allegations about sexual abuse in the church; he issues a directive instructing bishops to keep accusations confidential. Ratzinger's elder brother Georg, choirmaster at Regensburg Cathedral, will one day furiously deny any knowledge of claims that young choristers were being sexually abused by priests and older boys.

Last week, as the international crisis over paedophile priests laps at the doors of the Vatican, Peter Smith, Archbishop of Cardiff, appears on Friday's Today programme. He says that Murphy-O'Connor was right not to step down over his leniency towards Michael Hill, because resignations "are not the most appropriate way of doing things". In fact, four Irish bishops have resigned after failing to report paedophile priests, but Murphy-O'Connor and other bishops claim they did not understand the "addictive" nature of child abuse.

A commercial organisation that knew its employees were sexually abusing children and failed to report the offenders to the police would by now have been savaged by its shareholders. The board would be accused of inflicting possibly terminal damage on the "brand", the directors would have been sacked and the police would be demanding to see company files to establish the extent of the cover-up.

For decades, the Vatican has condemned contraception, abortion and homosexuality while the hierarchy covered up thousands of assaults and rapes. Today a pastoral letter from the Pope will be read to Ireland's Catholics, but it is miles away from a categoric statement of the church's responsibility to report sex crimes to the police. When Benedict XVI arrives in this country later this year, I hope he will be greeted with the disdain due to the head of an organisation that has sheltered hundreds of serial sex offenders.

www.politicalblonde.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Real Staffing - Leeds - £18k+

£18000 - £27000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Sales - Trainee Recruitment Co...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Progressive Rec.

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Progressive Recruitment are cu...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: One of SThree's most successfu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Women-only train carriages would be an insult to both sexes  

Women-only carriages would be an insult to both sexes

Katie Grant
Women-only carriages would be an insult to both sexes  

Women-only carriages would be an insult to both sexes

Katie Grant
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style