The Frustrated Potential of the Alienated Church

“I no longer have any trust in the Catholic Church but I have my own faith and belief in God. I believe that Martin Ridge and his investigation stopped me from committing suicide and I owe him everything.”

This was Martin Gallagher – Donegal victim of the ordained abuser Eugene Greene in the Catholic diocese of Raphoe – speaking to the Donegal Daily (October 24th, 2019).

Martin Ridge was one of two Garda officers who painstakingly took the testimony of Martin Gallagher and twenty-five other victims of Greene, resulting in a successful prosecution in 2000, and a twelve-year prison sentence. Greene died in November 2018.

Martin Ridge d. Jan 6th, 2022

Martin Ridge, also raised a Catholic and still a firm Christian believer, sees the clerical Catholic church in Donegal as still in denial – his reason for calling for a ‘cold case’ forensic review of the mystery of Greene’s three-decade invisibility to church authorities before he came to the attention of the police in 1997.

Nothing could be clearer from Martin Gallagher’s testimony than that the Garda officers who took up this cause were also ministers of grace to himself and his fellow-sufferers – so why, more than half-a-century after Vatican II, can that not be fully acknowledged by our Catholic bishops – to begin a healing of the chasms that have opened up in the Irish Church over the past quarter-century?

And just how many others are there in Ireland who have been alienated from the church’s clerical superstructure precisely because they identify, as did Jesus of Nazareth, with victims of institutional injustice and have nowhere to go in their church to express their revulsion?

And just when will the Irish Catholic clerical institution begin to research this very question?

On October 1st 2019 Irish Catholic bishops were presented with the case for making the common priesthood of all baptised Catholics in Ireland the lynch-pin of a strategy for the recovery of the church. This would solve another pressing problem – the failure of the clerical church to address the problem of deference to clergy that lay at the root of the institutional abuse recorded by the Ryan report of 2009.

The Church of Christ the King, Gortahork, Co Donegal – one of the chapels in which Eugene Greene ministered

Despite that report, our Irish church has still heard nothing from the Irish bishops’ conference on the problem of clericalism – despite the many allusions to that problem by Pope Francis since 2013.

For example, on August 20th 2018 Pope Francis described clericalism as “an approach that not only nullifies the character of Christians, but also tends to diminish and undervalue the baptismal grace that the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart of our people. Clericalism, whether fostered by priests themselves or by lay persons, leads to an excision in the ecclesial body that supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today. To say ‘no’ to abuse is to say an emphatic ‘no’ to all forms of clericalism.

When will all of those harmed by and alienated from the clerical church by Irish Catholic clericalism hear that emphatic ‘no’ to clericalism from their own bishops’ conference, and hear their own baptismal priestly role recognised?

Martin Gallagher, Martin Ridge – and far too many others – have already waited far too long for that to happen.

Postscript: Martin Ridge died in the Donegal Hospice, 6th February 2022 – without seeing the closure he hoped for – a full and honest accounting for the toll of secrecy and denial of true ‘synodality’ in the Irish Church, in the early decades of the 21st century – when transparency and honest communion could have made such a difference for himself and countless others. Personally suffering the memories of his years of investigation of an unspeakable evil he exemplified the common priesthood of service of others to which all baptised Christians are called.

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About Sean O'Conaill

Retired teacher of high school history and author. Now editing here and on acireland.ie - and campaigning for immediate implementation of Article 37 of Vatican II's 'Lumen Gentium'. A fuller profile can be found at 'About / Author' from the navigation menu above.

One thought on “The Frustrated Potential of the Alienated Church

  1. Sean, the question you rightly ask is one I have repeatedly asked myself and I surmise so have many others, including those who have given up hope that the Irish clerical establishment, especially at the level of bishop, is ever going to change adequately and so have walked away.
    Aidan

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