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Cardinal Welcomes Reporting Of Scandals

The Irish Times - Tuesday, March 12, 1996 by ANDY POLLAK

CARDINAL DALY has said the media have done the Catholic Church a service in reporting recent scandals. But he warned against anti church campaigning in some sections of the media.

Speaking yesterday at the reopening of the Veritas bookshop and building in Dublin, the Catholic Primate said the media had "discharged their rightful function" in reporting scandals involving the hierarchy and clergy.

"The space given in news reporting and in editorial and feature comment on these scandals can well be said to be disproportionate," he went on.

"But this reflects the place held by Catholic clergy in public esteem and trust in Ireland, and the particular horror evoked by the abuse of that esteem and that trust.

"I believe that the media have done a service to the church in this regard. The truth can be painful, but it is also healing and liberating.

"Painful truths about ourselves or our brethren can make us bishops and priests humble and penitent; and humbled and penitent bishops and priests can be better bearers of Christ's message of repentance, humility and service."

However, he said, there had also been "allegations of scandal reported sometimes with a scant regard for the pain and the rights of the subjects of these allegations. There has been a perception, moreover, that in some sections of media something of a campaign against the Catholic Church has been carried on.

"I believe that editors, producers and journalists generally should honestly address this perception and should ask to what extent this may be true, and to what extent the ethics of journalism, requiring balance, fairness and integrity, may have been transgressed.

"I do not think that any newspaper in Ireland would want to see itself perceived as `anti Catholic'. But perhaps the time has come for some soul searching by journalists and editors and media commentators in this regard."

Cardinal Daly stressed the need for "corresponding soul searching by us church people about our attitudes to media. Too often our attitudes are defensive and suspicious."

The cardinal said there was a sense "in which media, operating within a `liberal consensus' culture in our Western world, will almost necessarily, be at variance with the teaching of the Catholic Church. Catholic Church teaching is, almost of necessity, counter cultural in terms of many of the core values of modern Western liberal culture."

But he warned against developing a "victim complex".

"We must embrace what is good in modern culture, confident that all that is true and noble and good derives ultimately from Christ."

Turning to recent revelations of child abuse in religious run orphanages and "industrial schools", Cardinal Daly praised the Mercy Sisters for responding "in an admirably open and honest way to allegations of harshness and punishment in these institutions; they have humbly apologised and offered help to those who suffered.

"In the interests of truth and justice, it is essential that such events of the past be put in their wider context.

"Any true account of these events should include answers to such questions as the extent of state funding for these institutions at the relevant time; the quality of state childcare services and support services at the time; the availability of training courses in child care at the time; state of psychological and social work services and indeed awareness of child psychology in Ireland at the time; the support offered by the relevant government departments at the time.

"Attempts should be made to research also the positive results achieved by the Sisters and Brothers despite public neglect and the paucity or absence of state supports, results evidenced by the subsequent successes in life of so many of the former children in care, as attested by grateful tributes from hundreds of past pupils."

He warned that while exposure of past abuses was a legitimate concern of the media, "the moral indignation thus evoked can be spurious, and dangerous moral smugness and complacency about the present can be fostered unless the wider truth is also revealed".