Sinéad O’Connor Was Right

Nearly twenty years ago, Sinéad O’Connor was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live and sang a song called “War.” While the original Bob Marley song talked about racism, O’Connor changed the lyric to “child abuse.”

At the end of the song, unbeknownst to the SNL people, she held up a picture of Pope John Paul II, yelled “Fight the real enemy,” and tore it up.

You can watch the video here (the incident takes place at the 2:55 mark).

The news came out this week that Pope Benedict XVI was part of a group that chose not to “defrock a priest who molested as many as 200 deaf boys.”

Victims give similar accounts of Father [Lawrence C.] Murphy’s pulling down their pants and touching them in his office, his car, his mother’s country house, on class excursions and fund-raising trips and in their dormitory beds at night. Arthur Budzinski said he was first molested when he went to Father Murphy for confession when he was about 12, in 1960.

O’Connor was vilified two decades ago for her actions, but she was right. You want to fight child abuse? Then you have to go after the Catholic Church. They’ve done relatively little to combat the abuse in their own backyard.

This past weekend, Pope Benedict XVI issued a “pastoral letter” apologizing to the flock in Ireland for the church’s past failures. He did not outline any disciplinary action against the bishops who many here say covered up priestly misdeeds, though on Wednesday he accepted the resignation of Bishop John Magee, who had been accused of failing to report suspected pedophile priests to police. The pope also pinned no blame on the Vatican itself for a culture of secrecy that critics say it deliberately fostered.

What does O’Connor have to say about this?

It’s a study in the fine art of lying and actually betraying your own people… He starts by saying that he’s writing with great concern for the people of Ireland. If he was that concerned, why has it taken him 23 years to write a letter, and why did he or the last pope never get on an airplane and come to meet the victims in any of these countries and apologize?

If you were the boss of a company and some of the employees of your company were known to sexually abuse children, you would fire them instantly. You would also go instantly to meet the people who had been abused and profusely apologize and offer your help in any way whatsoever to deal with this… That has never happened.

It’s a disgrace. The church has never accepted full responsibility. People need to leave that organization and convince others to do the same.

(Thanks to everyone for the links.)

  • Joel

    There have been a whole bunch of talk about the pope and his complicity in child abuse scandals recently. Why the sudden increase in attention?

  • benb

    “Why the sudden increase in attention?”

    Aaarrgghh.

    We have candles burning each evening in our hourse. One day the house catches fire, fire department arrives to find you saying “He always has a fire burning, why the sudden increase in attention?”

  • science101

    Where’s that douchy Bill Donohue. The silence is deafening!

  • Matt Johnson

    There have been a whole bunch of talk about the pope and his complicity in child abuse scandals recently. Why the sudden increase in attention?

    Why not the sudden increase? It’s a terrible thing that has been brushed under the carpet for too long already. The more attention this gets the better if you ask me.

  • Carlie

    It’s an increase in attention because information is finally coming to light about how extensive the abuse has been.

    What I still don’t understand is why they aren’t being arrested right and left for obstruction of justice. They aren’t talking about “sin”, they’re talking about crime. Things that are illegal. Things that are illegal to cover up. They’re admitting to it outright. So why no arrests?

  • Ed

    Hemant wrote:

    It’s a disgrace. The church has never accepted full responsibility. People need to leave that organization and convince others to do the same.

    Sinead seems to come to a slightly different conclusion at the end of the Latimes article:

    Yet you still consider yourself a Catholic?

    I’m a Catholic, and I love God. . . . That’s why I object to what these people are doing to the religion that I was born into. . . .

    I’m passionately in love and always have been with what I call the Holy Spirit, which I believe the Catholic Church have held hostage and still do hold hostage. I think God needs to be rescued from them. They are not representing Christian values and Christian attitudes. If they were truly Christian, they would’ve confessed ages ago, and we wouldn’t be having to batter the door down and try to get blood from a stone.

    and in this Washington post piece
    she clarifies her position:

    Irish Catholics are in a dysfunctional relationship with an abusive organization. The pope must take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates. If Catholic priests are abusing children, it is Rome, not Dublin, that must answer for it with a full confession and a criminal investigation. Until it does, all good Catholics — even little old ladies who go to church every Sunday, not just protest singers like me whom the Vatican can easily ignore — should avoid Mass. In Ireland, it is time we separated our God from our religion, and our faith from its alleged leaders…I’m Catholic by birth and culture and would be the first at the church door if the Vatican offered sincere reconciliation.

  • http://theredeemed.co.uk James Tyler

    It disturbs me that this kind of thing goes on… and it confuses me even more when you consider the anti-gay agenda of the Catholic church.

    In essense, it’s alright to be gay… as long as you don’t say it aloud or touch a grown up penis. Little boys? Thats fine…

  • http://helctic.wordpress.com Alex

    I think trying to get the Catholic Church and child buggering priests to face the consequences for their actions or inaction will not go far. Most members of the Church are willing to look the other way and hope their priest is not plowing junior in the rectory. All too many members simply lack the vocabulary and mental fortitude to discuss things like child rape. When you lack the vocabulary, you lack the ability to think about it. I think everyone should continue to mention these crimes every time the Pope and the Catholic Church comes up. I want the thought of Herr Pope to be synonymous with condoning the most vile of crimes in people’s minds.
    I went to two Sinéad O’Connor performances back in the late 80s/early 90s when she first became popular. She threatened to not perform at one show if they played the National Anthem before and they omitted the Anthem. She is a woman of strong convictions.

  • plutosdad

    I remember when she did that. Growing up Catholic we had no idea what she was saying. All I knew was she ripped a picture of the pope apart, a very popular pope. But no one ever connected that with child abuse by priests, it just wasn’t in our thoughts, we had no idea of the scale.

    You would also go instantly to meet the people who had been abused and profusely apologize

    no, most companies would fire them, cooperate minimally with police, but not apologize (their lawyers wouldn’t let them ) and certainly not offer anything. Just look at when teachers abuse children.

  • http://universalheretic.wordpress.com/ Victor

    Not only are more cases coming to attention, but they found orders with Pope Ratzinger’s signature on it ordering silence for fear of excommunication. With links to the top office, it is now officially Pope-gate.

  • http://www.givesgoodemail.com Givesgoodemail

    Yepper.

    And now Ratzinger has a fall guy to take the rap.

  • nankay

    The “True Catholics” of my family simply say, “Oh you can’t condemn the Church for the sins of a few men.” sigh.

  • Canadiannalberta

    The reason the Catholic Church hides it, is because it is a ‘sin’ to speak badly about a priest. It is a ‘sin’ to even think that a priest is a bad person. So, in their warped way of thinking, it was/is okay for a priest to do whatever he wanted/wants. He was/is God! Disgusting.

    My sister says she thinks it is so prevalent since priests are not allowed to have sex, or get married, or anything, so its oppression as well as a sickness. She is not sticking up for them, just giving one more reason why they got to be twisted freaks.

  • Ron in Houston

    The problem in my mind is that the folks that did so much to cover things up are escaping punishment. Whether by applying conspiracy statutes or even failure to report statutes, some of these people need to be held criminally responsible.

  • http://smalldogbigstick.blogspot.com Brittany

    This might not be a popular opinion, but I don’t think it’s fair to tell people to leave their brand of organized religion over this.

    It’s not the Church’s fault, it’s the fault of the leaders. There needs to be something done to make this horrible situation right, but telling people to just leave isn’t the way to do it.

    It’s like when the Republicans would tell me to just leave the country if I didn’t like it because I didn’t support George W. Bush as president. I didn’t want to leave America. There was nothing wrong with America. We just needed a better leader.

  • Blitzgal

    Brittany, I think that it would be more akin to people telling moderate Republicans to leave the party rather than simply quietly allow it to be hijacked by far right theocrats.

  • http://dabbleponder.blogspot.com Juliana Marie

    I’ve tho’t the same thing Sinead says above – when the boss of a company learns of illegal activity, she takes action. Granted, sex harassment policies and the like are more concerned w/liability for lawsuits than just doing the right thing. And these abuse scandals are coming from all over the world. (How many are still undiscovered?) The cover-up attempts, for so long successful, indicate the systemic problem.

    @ Brittany, the catholic church is not a nation, so I disagree w/your analogy. Although quasi-governmental in its political standing, the church more like an international company. Would you work for, or buy products from, a similarly corrupt company? Continuing discoveries of corruption mean its time to question everything about their “corporate nature”. Talk about violating your mission statement.

  • benjdm

    Not only are more cases coming to attention, but they found orders with Pope Ratzinger’s signature on it ordering silence for fear of excommunication. With links to the top office, it is now officially Pope-gate.

    They found that in 2005. I don’t know why the sudden increase in attention either; perhaps the Christopher Hitchens article?

  • Ron in Houston

    I think the reason it’s getting so much more attention is there is a lot more linking this particular pope to covering up the abuse scandals. When he was a cardinal he was in the office that helped handle those issues. They also broke a story about his brother covering up abuses in a boys choir.

  • Killer Bee

    Things that are illegal. Things that are illegal to cover up. They’re admitting to it outright. So why no arrests?

    It’s strange. My only idea is that no DA wants to go up against the Catholic church, a super rich and powerful organization that can no doubt afford the best legal representation. They’re like the Mafia with crucifixes instead of guns.
    Added to that, the politics of attacking a church, I should say, “The Church.”
    And add to that, the weakness of children as witnesses. Or the years interspersed between the crime and the trial.

  • medussa

    The increase in attention is because the story broke and became headline news in Germany, where the current pope was the archbishop and colluded in protecting known child predators.

    As for Sinead’s ripping up the picture of the pope: her concern at the time was child abuse, which was plenty known, though not as discussed or documented as it is now. But her actions resonated with plenty of others who have known that the catholic church is one of the major forces in slowing down progress.
    I was heavily involved in AIDS awareness activism at the time, and the church’s general ban on condoms was and still is a problem. And as an abortion activist, the church has always been a problem for me. We celebrated her courage, and even criticized it for being a bit non-specific and therefore lame (OK, I was in my 20′s then, that’s my excuse).

    The church’s involvement in criminal and unethical actions is not new, it’s just new that the evidence has piled up enough that even the general public is starting to register it.

  • TThinker

    Religion is a very dangerous business and there is no way for me to see it differently from business. Catholic church has lots of money and very little moral values. They preach moral values, they never practice that.

  • Andrew

    @ nankay

    And true atheists would say you can’t fault the godless for the acts of a few men like Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin. Sigh yourself.

  • nankay

    If I belonged to an atheist group whose leaders did such things, I would leave the group but still be an atheist. But in the case of the Catholic Church, “The Church” are these men. The pope and his priests are representatives of god himself on earth. Without priests, there would be no sacraments, without sacraments,no mass, no mass, there would be no Catholic Church. One can say the people are the church, but that is not accurate. The priests(cardinals, bishops and pope) have the power…spiritually and physically. So yes, The Church is guilty.

  • Andrew

    Ok so you would agree with the idea that a few bad men doing bad things doesn’t mean your belief system is bad. Thanks for agreeing with my point.

    @ TThinker
    Please research Catholic Relief Services before you say something that is completely untrue. I thought atheists were smarter than that.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    I’ve shared this post on my Google Reader feed today. Getting lots of views and others sharing it, too.

    Wrong pope, but same position.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Andrew, agreed, a few bad men doing bad things doesn’t mean that a belief system is bad. However many bad men throughout an institution regularly doing bad things, and having their activities regularly enabled and covered up by that institution does make that institution bad.

    Standard Catholic doctrine puts the hierarchy of the Catholic church in a somehow special relationship with God. So systematic enabling of child molestation by that hierarchy should be logically relevant to those who believe in this doctrine. I’m not following the relevance of your example with Stalin, since I’m not aware of any accepted atheist doctrine that places Stalin in a special moral category, or expects that the Soviet Communist Party has any ability to speak for atheists worldwide.

  • Jeff B.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvLPLGHD_OI

    Here’s Billy boy the king douche defending pedophilia

  • Andrew

    You are missing the point then. My point is exactly that individuals can be bad regardless of belief system and the actions of said individuals cannot invalidate ones belief. Simply because priests are put on a special level by Catholic doctrine and a tiny percentage of them commit abhorrent acts does not mean that the entire system is bad at all. The VAST majority of priests, bishops, etc. worldwide are working toward the common good of all people. Religious or otherwise. Certainly changes should be made and are being made at various levels of Catholic leadership to make sure nothing this awful happens again. But this scandal as bad as it may be cannot and does not invalidate a centuries old effective system of leadership. If that were the case the Catholic Church would have ceased to exist after the Protestant reformation.

  • http://www.palibandaily.com Mike Daniels

    I remember O’Connor tearing up the photo of John Paul.

    I recall it being connected to the Catholic vs. Protestant politics (war) in Ireland, nothing to do with priests raping children.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    To paraphrase what I wrote in another post, The Catholic Church operates as a criminal pedophile ring that also (happens to run) charities on the side. They are a criminal organization. The leaders of this mob should be tried and imprisoned.

  • http://thegodlessmonster.com/ The Godless Monster

    @Andrew

    But this scandal as bad as it may be cannot and does not invalidate a centuries old effective system of leadership.

    You’re right. Himmler liked it enough to emulate the Jesuits when he organized the SS.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Andrew, I’m not sure what point you think I’m missing. It’s not that I don’t understand what you’re saying, it’s that I think your characterization of the Catholic Church is wrong. If this were simply a matter of a few isolated incidents of child abuse that an otherwise vigilant and self-policing Catholic church had sadly missed, then sure, I’d say a few bad apples shouldn’t make anyone question an entire institution. However, this is far, far from the reality. The reality is that the child abuse has been widespread and repeated, because the Catholic leadership throughout the world has been systematically covering up abuse, and then moving accused priests to other locations, where they could repeat their sexual abuse. Nor do I see any evidence for your claim that the Catholic church has worked vigorously “to make sure that nothing this awful happens again.” They initially responded to the scandal with more cover-ups, lies, and reprehensible treatment of the victims. I can think of no way in which the Catholic Church has meaningfully punished bishops and archbishops who covered up and enabled child molestation, which I would think would be the most minimal first step in either truly apologizing, or in reorganizing to make sure that nothing awful happens again. For example, Cardinal Law, rather than being defrocked, had been rewarded with a prestigious position in the Vatican. I can’t think of any other institution that I respect that would continue to employ someone who use his position to enable child molestors, let alone reward them.

  • muggle

    I didn’t know her reasons but I just thought it was so cool that she did that! It was nice to see this human not treated as holy.

    Brittany, it’s not so much ordering them to abandon the Church as it is being utterly mystified as to how anyone could want to have any connected to that nest of pervs. There’s really no excuse for that. Why would anyone want any connection to the Catholic Church at this point? I just don’t understand it even given the brain washing.

    And the Institution is rotten to the core. It isn’t just a preist here, a nun there; it’s permeated with the stench of organized child abuse. When someone gets caught, move them to another parish and persuade the police to understand.

    Put it this way, if a school district caught a kindergarten teacher diddling a kid and the Superintendent simply transferred said teacher to a different elementary school across town and everyone complied. The other teachers kept quiet, the new school’s administration just accepted this teacher without argument, when the principal of the previous school threatened the victim and his family to keep quiet while the rest of the school board wrung their hands and cried what were we to do, would you think that school district corrupt? Would you want your child in that school district? Of course not and the parents would be hollaring for the Superintendent’s blood and probably the rest of the Board too and everyone involved and rightfully so. Yet somehow everyone wants to give the Church different, more lenient standards. Why?

    The Catholic Church is guilty as sin (pun intended) and I am amazed that anyone sends their child into its filthy midst.

  • Tom Buckner

    Sinead was right all along. Setting aside the present issue, ask yourself what it must be like to grow up a freethinking woman in a country (Ireland) where the Catholic Church is effectively an unelected arm of government.

    In any case, this Pope is a real jerk. Before his elevation, he was basically a right-wing mook whose job description was to ostracize any liberals in the Church, such as the Liberation Theologists in Latin America, and strengthen the hand of the medievalist Opus Dei types who were so chummy with the oppressors and death sqads.

    Bartcop ( http://www.bartcop.com ) has a charming habit of always referring to the Pope as Benny The Rat.

  • http://smalldogbigstick.blogspot.com Brittany

    Blitzgal said:

    Brittany, I think that it would be more akin to people telling moderate Republicans to leave the party rather than simply quietly allow it to be hijacked by far right theocrats.

    Yes, but if the Republicans are Republican, why would they leave? Instead of leaving, why not speak out against it?

    Juliana Marie Said:

    @ Brittany, the catholic church is not a nation, so I disagree w/your analogy. Although quasi-governmental in its political standing, the church more like an international company. Would you work for, or buy products from, a similarly corrupt company? Continuing discoveries of corruption mean its time to question everything about their “corporate nature”. Talk about violating your mission statement.

    Analogies don’t have to be the same thing, hence being an analogy, but okay- I’m sorry you didn’t like my analogy. As for the other part- honestly, it would depend on the circumstances. If I worked for a company that paid me good money, and my boss was absolutely great, and I didn’t want to go to any other companies, then I might just stay.
    Sure, the company head might be corrupt, but that doesn’t mean that EVERYONE is corrupt, not does it mean that if I were to stay there, I would be corrupt. As I said to Blitzgal, one could just speak out against the things going on, and make people aware that not everyone in the “company,” “party,” or “nation” supports whatever corrupt practices are going on.

    @muggle
    I completely agree with you on why anyone would want to be a part of it. Personally, if I belonged to the Catholic faith, this would be enough to make me leave the church.

    On the other hand, I can understand why someone wouldn’t want to leave the organization they believe in, especially if their church isn’t part of the corruption.

    As for the school analogy, what if your child wasn’t in danger of being near the horrible teacher, and had a great teacher that was helping him/her through something rather difficult? Let’s also add on that this is the only school district nearby, and if you wanted your child to go to a different school, you’d have to move, but you don’t have the money. Wouldn’t it be better to get with other people and get that teacher and the school board removed?

  • Joel

    They found that in 2005. I don’t know why the sudden increase in attention either; perhaps the Christopher Hitchens article?

    Ya, I first heard about all this stuff years ago. There’s been very little new information over the last few weeks, but the stink is only now being raised. That was what I meant by my first comment

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Sure, the company head might be corrupt, but that doesn’t mean that EVERYONE is corrupt. . .

    Brittany, you raise some valid points, and it’s difficult for me to say what I would do if I had invested a large part of my identity in being Catholic. However, one way in which I feel that your analogy is flawed, is that in the case of the Catholic church, it’s not that the company head (e.g. the pope) is corrupt. The cover-up and obstruction of justice of child abuse extended throughout the entire organization. I agree that there’s a difference between an organization being corrupt, and everyone in an organization being corrupt. But there’s also a difference between an organization being corrupt, and an organization having a few bad apples. When people try to defend the Catholic church by acting as if this massive criminal conspiracy to enable child molestors was nothing more than a few bad apples, then I think that’s very wrong.

    I’d like to think that if I was Catholic, and felt the need to stay Catholic, I would be able, like Sinead O’ Connor, remain Catholic while still criticizing the Catholic church, and recognizing that the hierarchy of the Catholic church has sytematically engaged in gravely immoral acts. Because, to use your example, I think if I worked for a company that I knew was systematically and regularly supporting child molestors, and that I not only kept working for the company, but kept defending the actions of the company as reasonable, or a few mild mistakes, or insisting that the company had apologized and taken serious steps to rectify the problems that had led to the mistakes, when such was clearly not the case, then I think I would be in some way complicit in the actions of my company. It would be difficult to speak up, if my company offered me a great salary, and might fire me for speaking up, so I don’t know what I would actually do, but I do think it would be wrong not to speak up.

  • alex

    The church shouldn’t apologize; they should stop covering up the crimes. Apology is good, yes, but it is not enough. If, say, somebody was coming late for meetings, kept apologizing for it, and continued to come late, what would their apology be worth? Let’s see if they can walk the walk.

    Also, the mere existence of child molesters among priests does not automatically make Catholic church bad — after all, some people rightfully pointed out that such cases can be found among doctors, teachers, etc.; rather, it is the church’s complacency with such acts, their refusal to expose, expell, and prosecute the offenders. This wasn’t an isolated case of child abuse; it was an official, institutionalized course of action that was going on for decades. This is why they are under fire now. They literally fucked up, and now they have to answer for it. I think it’s only fair.

  • Andrew

    @Godless Monster

    Looks like I got under your skin their champ. Your Himler reference that’s called the Hitler Card and it is a fallacy. Your post above that is just an out and out lie. And that is all I will say about that.

  • Andrew

    @Autumnal Harvest

    Based on the sheer size of numbers of the Catholic Church this is a few bad apples.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    Andrew, many people have pointed out the ways in which the abuse was widespread and institutional, as well as the fact that one of your “bad apples” is now the pope. But you’ve chosen to ignore those facts, I suspect you will simply do so again, and see little reason to repeat them.

    Brittany, I will point out that Andrew’s posts are a good example of what I find wrong here. It’s not that people remain Catholic. It’s that for many (not all) people, choosing to remain Catholic requires choosing willful blindness to evil actions of the Catholic church. Willfull blindness to evil perpetuates evil.

  • Andrew

    Yep I’m blind. I want change to come the church too. In the Archdiocese of Seattle where I live the only incident I can think of child abuse the priest was immediately suspended and then after the facts came out he was fired. A decision I know everyone in the diocese was pleased with after such a horrible act. Also thanks for being pompous. I was not ignoring your facts I was pointing out that the Catholic Church is one of the largest institutions in the world and that relatively speaking this is not actually happening in even close to a majority of Catholic churches and dioceses worldwide. Which of course would mean that the Church as a whole is not an evil organization overall. Which by the way was the original argument.

  • amanda

    Briteny, I think that your analogy is fine, but I disagree with your conclusions.

    Britney, If you’re working for a company and the CEO is molesting children and the whole company knows about it (or bunches of ppl including yourself) and you keep working there, then yes you would be wrong. Especially if you stayed there for the reasons you stated… because you were comfortable and well paid! geeze. The guy at the top is the guy that you are making money for. You are making him rich! And if he is using that money and power to harm children or to cover up his activities, then you are helping him. Also, if you know and don’t say anything to anyone you are helping him.

    Also, if you work there long enough, you may well be asked to do something (shred some documents or whatever) that helps him. You may KNOW that it is helping him or it is also possible that you won’t understand the true reason you are doing things.

    If you work for the mafia, you work for the mafia. even if all you do is delivery letters. you can’t say, “I didn’t kill anybody. I didn’t do anything illegal.” You can avoid criminal prosecution, but you are morally at fault, even though you do not know what is in the letters. Just because you chose to turn a blind eye does not make your conscience clean. Just because somebody else would do it if you didn’t doesn’t let you off the hook either.

    Now if you worked for the post office and the mafia sent a letter through the US mail and told someone to kill somebody, you wouldn’t be responsible for that. But if you chose to knowingly work for the mafia, then you know where your bread and butter comes from. You feed them and they feed you.

    So I can see where the idea of not supporting the Church comes from. They have power over worshipers, but their power comes from the worshipers. take that away, their power is weakened.


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