Is the Catholic Church being unfairly blamed for past abuses in Ireland


So I read a recent article about Ireland, the Pope’s upcoming trip to Ireland, the past abuses in Ireland, and what type of protests are acceptable.

Honestly, this article bothered me a lot. I felt it was taken out of context, and some blame put on the Catholic church was unfair.

I’m of Irish decent and I’ve been their many times. To put things in context…

Ireland had massive problems of every sort for the last 200 years (200 years at the very least)…

  1. Massive famine
  2. Massive poverty up until the 1960’s to 1970’s. My family describes visiting relatives that lived in a house with a dirt floor in the 1950’s. Parts of Ireland may have been considered a third world country 50 years ago in Europe.
  3. Massive ongoing emigration
  4. War and civil war that was ongoing from 1916 to 1999
  5. A completely isolated Northern Ireland

The point that I ask is how are all the bad things that happened in Ireland blamed on Catholic Church. I see it differently, the Catholic church tried to hold a nearly broken country and people together. Often it was the only functional part of that entire society.

As always, try to be constructive with the discussion…


I didn’t get the sense from the article that all bad things were being blamed on the Church – but rather that the overwhelming nature of the sex abuse and child abuse scandals have diminished the Church’s moral authority.


I’m of Irish descent, also, and I don’t see anything in that article blaming the Church for anything except what the Church was responsible for. There were horrific abuses, and I don’t blame people for being angry about them.


I agree that the article isn’t saying the church is responsible for all bad things that happened in Ireland. I didn’t mean to imply that.

My question is more along the lines of…Yes there was terrible abuse…some of it was committed by religious or priests etc. The country had so many problems, that some type of terrible abuse would have happened no matter what institution controlled the country. Whether it was a protestant church or a really strong central government.

It feels like the Catholic church was put in an impossible situation. The Catholic church was never setup to run Ireland, but they had no choice but to run Ireland.

In other words why are people protesting an Argentinian pope about what happened in Ireland 20 to 100 years ago?

What realistically could the Vatican have done differently over the last few generations in Ireland?


As with all hierarchies, the person at the top is ultimately responsible for the behavior of the institution. In the case of Ireland, the Church as an institution had horrific cases of sex abuse and cover-up, of the physical abuse of children in orphanages and schools, and of such judgmental behavior against unwed pregnancies that multiple young mothers and their children died.

The Church is responsible --we can’t just say that some kind of abuse would have happened no matter who was in charge. We don’t actually know that, but more importantly, the Church is supposed to be better than that.


I don’t think I agree…at least it is worth more discussion. It seems like thinking in terms of absolutes…
I see subtleties and dozens of points of discussion. Should these abuses discredit the entire Catholic church? doubt the abuses were terrible.

The Catholic church was never meant to run Ireland.


I guess I don’t see that as the issue – the issue is the horrible, horrible abuses committed by the Church. Where, in popular American parlance, does the buck stop?


I see the analogy closer to the good Samaritan laws

They protect people who try to help in a terrible situation not to be totally liable for major problems that might happen. I think the Catholic church was not equipped to play the role it played in Ireland, but there was no other meaningful institutions in Ireland.


That doesn’t excuse abusing children, or young unwed mothers.


This is speculative, but where there is so much struggle, brokenness, and dysfunction in a country, it becomes all the more likely that much of that dysfunction is going to spill over into the Church, as the Church is of course made up of people. Could it be that many priests and religious in Ireland during those decades were not adequately prepared for their vocation (or perhaps did not even have a true vocation in some cases) and brought their own dysfunction with them?

I am not saying that it is necessarily unfair to blame the Church, but Ireland was almost entirely Catholic in those years and the Irish people were the Church in their country.


How was the Catholic Church ‘not equipped’ to refrain from sexually abusing children, and physically abusing others?


If they were ill-prepared for a vocation that involved not abusing children, then it’s definitely on the shoulders of the institutional Church for not forming them adequately in those vocations.


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