Hector Goes nowhere

By James Falconer

This is a review of Hector Ó hEochagáin’s TV show called ‘Hector Goes Holy’. I was shocked and surprised to see that the obvious [clerical child abuse] was not mentioned or even hinted at. The 40 minute programme lacked any significant content and presupposed that all viewers knew about the Church. Surely viewers could expect some background to what faith and Christianity are, or any variant therein, to be at least grounded in something other than Hector’s opening line: “There was a time in Ireland when there was a picture of the Pope, JFK and the Sacred Heart in every kitchen up and down the country”. Of course, we can all remember and relate to this!

The show was clearly aimed at a particular audience – broadcast after the 9pm news on RTE1. However, with the luxury of realplayer, more and more people have the opportunity to see a wider range of shows. Hector’s journey, or “pilgrimage” as he calls it, begins on top of Croagh Patrick where he says: “The Church used to be the boss, but for many, me included, it has become a great irrelevance […] I stopped going to mass and confession – I don’t know why. I stopped engaging with the Church years ago.” Hector travels to Knock, Maynooth and Navan to speak to trainee priests (seminarians) and members of the clergy. He bordered on the insulting towards the young seminarians by chiefly focusing on the perks of the job: “Lads, do yis have Sky Sports; petrol in the car? Dinner on the table?” There was a nervous feeling from “the lads” which seemed to say: “Well there’s a lot more to it than that Hector, you muppet!”

The central theme of the show was why the Church had lost its grip? Hector must have been aware of the huge elephant following him across the country. How on earth was there no mention of clerical child abuse, or even an allusion to it? Considering the absolutely shocking chronicle of rape, torture and cover ups which are contained in both the Murphy and Ryan reports, it seems preposterous that this could be completely overlooked. In all the interviews, there was an air of mystery about why the Church had lost its grip in Ireland. It seemed so elusive to all concerned and was met with much speculation; however, no one could seem to put their finger on it. It’s hard to believe that not one single church-goer or random member of the public was interviewed – exclusively priests?

Of late, we’ve been preoccupied with the grossly unjust socialisation of private debt [bailing out European banks], but let us not forget that Bertie Ahern and his government made a deal with the Catholic Church which saw taxpayers pick up the bill for compensation to victims of clerical sexual abuse, which came to over €1 billion. How could anyone possibly claim that the Catholic Church don’t have the funds to pay compensation to victims of abuse; it is the wealthiest and strongest political institution in the history of the world.

Recent “revelations” show how the Church’s international portfolio, which lies camouflaged behind a massive offshore company structure built up over many years, was actually created by money donated by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929. Imagine central London and upmarket streets such as New Bond Street, or the nearby headquarters of the wealthy investment bank Altium Capital, which stands at the corner of St James’s Square and Pall Mall. These office blocks in London’s most expensive district are part of a startling secret commercial property empire owned by the Vatican.

Is there no end to scandal in the Catholic Church? It appears that the Redress Board in Ireland was set up by the government and the Church to pay out as little compensation as possible. If a victim wants proper compensation he/she would be best advised to go to the High Court or the European Court of Human Rights. Isn’t it time the Pope was brought before the Hauge? As head of the Catholic Church he is responsible by law for the crimes committed against children placed in their care. However, the Catholic Church appears to be above the law and their silence is deafening.

To be guaranteed protection from civil prosecution in Ireland, the religious orders agreed in 2002 to contribute €128m in property and cash to the compensation fund; ten years later, only €105m has been transferred to the state, with orders retaining a fifth of the properties they promised to transfer. At the time of the 2002 deal, the estimated cost of redress was €500m. However, the horrifying revelations in 2009 in the Ryan Report more than doubled the estimated cost to its current €1.36 billion. Victims of clerical sexual abuse are now left in a situation where the government is trying to compensate them with healthcare benefits. This is absurd and an utter disgrace.

One can only imagine that Hector had been briefed from upstairs in RTE and it’s likely that “don’t mention abuse” was agreed upon. The Catholic Church has received a hammering in the media and rightly so. It seems that this programme wanted to explore reasons why people have drifted away from the Church. Instead of simply acknowledging the horrendous reports of abuse at the beginning of the show and then examining other aspects from there, it came across as a complete whitewash. Talk about any other topic, but whatever you do, don’t talk about what’s really going on. The show seemed to represent the ethos of the Catholic Church itself – say nothing.

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