On Easter Sunday I blogged about the protest at Dublin’s Pro Cathedral. Picketers placed children’s shoes on the altar to demonstrate their conviction that the Irish Catholic Church has not dealt adequately with the clerical sex abuse scandals.
I’ve just received an email from a participant, who took some photographs of the event. These include images of the shoes they tied on the railings outside the cathedral. The shoes were secured with black mourning ribbons.
I’m posting those photos here, with thanks to the participant. There are also some powerful images of the event – both inside and outside of the cathedral – on the ‘Dublin Documentary’ photography website.
Back in December, I blogged about an anonymous clerical sex abuse survivor and letter-writer to the Irish Times. In that letter, the victim asked: When will the people of Ireland stand up for me and others?
The letter writer had a list of steps that could be taken by people at all levels of Irish society to help victims heal and ensure that such abuses never happen again. In light of the Easter protests, I think it’s worth re-posting the list, noting its call for public demonstrations:
- Protesting for one week outside churches in Ireland when services are on.
- Withdrawing funding from an organisation that, in Irish terms, has been responsible for an “Irish holocaust” of physical and mental abuse of hundreds of children, as children and beyond into their adult lives.
- Outlawing (proscribing) the Catholic organisation until such time as it (like other organisations which we have banned during our history) demonstrates that it has fully reformed itself.
- Requiring the church to publish the list of churches and timeframes where and when abuse occurred (those listed in the reports and those not listed, ie outside the sample of cases).
- Forcing the Government truly to separate State and church through requiring Catholic clergy, and the religious, to resign from school boards/management, hospital boards/management, health services boards/management, etc.
- Requiring any public servant who has expressed support – through inaction or through words of bureaucratic mumble-jumble – for the Catholic hierarchy, or the papal nuncio, to resign.
- Requiring clerics in positions of governance who failed to act appropriately to resign rather than hide behind word games of “reflection”, “mental reservation” and such utterances, insulting to victims such as myself.
Monday’s Irish Independent reports that there were 1,000 pairs of shoes outside the cathedral. The story includes additional comments from those who participated. It also notes that the protesters received surly responses from some mass-goers and Garda monitoring the event.
Public protest, in and of itself, isn’t going to convince the Catholic Church to respond to the scandals in ways that would satisfy most Catholics in Ireland – let alone heal the victims and survivors of abuse.
But I think the protest is important symbolically and ritualistically. The protesters are tapping into victims and survivors’ deep needs for public acknowledgement of their pain.
The desire for public acknowledgement, followed by meaningful repentance, is natural. But the whole process is spiritually draining. Evidence for this can been seen in the raw emotions on the faces of mass-goers and protesters, especially those in Richard Whelan’s photographs on the Dublin Documentary site.
The Catholic Church has a wealth of ritualistic resources at hand to promote repentance, healing and reconciliation. The Easter Sunday protest is yet another reminder that it has yet to employ those resources in a manner that is meaningful to victims and survivors.