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10 December 2009 Edition

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The Mitchel McLaughlin Column













Irish Churches selective condemnations

THE media has been dominated over recent months and weeks with the issue of child sex abuse in institutions controlled by the Catholic Church. I totally agree with the demands being made by voices from every walk of life and from all persuasions for not just those who were guilty of these vile crimes to be exposed and prosecuted but for those in the Hierarchy who turned a blind eye to also be held to account.
Historically the Catholic Church in Ireland has not been shy about pronouncing on all sorts of issues that it deemed contrary to the teachings of the Church, especially when it meant straying into the political arena. Now, all of a sudden when faced with a crisis in its own ranks it hides behind protocols and diplomatic niceties. There can be no hiding place for those who abuse children.
Of course, Churches in Ireland have a long history of being selective in their condemnations. Throughout the troubles Church leaders were lining up to criticise, condemn and call for an end to the armed struggle. Invariable when making these demands they were of course only talking about the activities of republicans. When for instance did you ever hear a statement from the Churches specifically directed at the actions of unionist paramilitaries or the crown forces without it being ‘balanced’ with condemnation of the IRA.
In the advent of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) we had a litany of calls from all of the main churches for the need for republicans to disarm as a ‘confidence building’ measure (There is that phrase again.) with unionist weapons or British demilitarisation only thrown in as an afterthought when pressed on the issue. Now eleven years on from the GFA and close on five years since the IRA declared it was standing down there has still been little pressure from the churches calling upon unionist paramilitaries to disarm.
The Protestant church leaders are particularly quiet on this and other issues. For instance, I have no doubt if Sinn Féin were to behave in the intransigent manner in which the DUP is acting that not only would we hear the unsolicited criticism of the Catholic Church but it would be joined by its Protestant counterparts demanding action from the two governments including sanctions. Where is the Protestant churche’s demand for the DUP to show leadership instead of hiding behind the indefinable concept of ‘community confidence’?
I hear no public criticism from Protestant church leaders about the refusal by the DUP to honour commitments given. Like the Catholic Church, when it comes to giving leadership to its members, Protestant church Leaders also put self-interest before doing what’s right.  It is time to be honest, name the problem and demand the necessary leadership from the Unionist political leadership

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