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

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour and the Liberal Democrats would both end winter fuel allowances for pensioners with enough income to pay the 40p tax rate  

Politicians court the grey vote because pensioners, unlike the young, vote

Andrew Grice
US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping have a drink after agreeing a deal on carbon emissions  

Beijing must face down the perils of being big and powerful – or boom may turn to bust

Peter Popham
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis