The recent publication of the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was frightening in more ways than one. It took evidence from over 2000 people who suffered at the hands of the educational establishments run by the catholic church over a period of six decades, and discovered that sexual abuse was "endemic" in boys schools, and that thousands of boys and girls were terrorised by priests and nuns. The Commission found that physical abuse and neglect was rife, that church officials encouraged ritual beatings, and that they shielded their orders' paedophiles from arrest.
It also found that government inspectors failed to stop beatings, rapes and humiliation.
Such a discovery invokes the utmost disgust in decent people and those affected rightly expected that the report's publication should lead to criminal charges, trials, prosecutions and sentences. And yet none of that will happen!
The reason for this baffling evasion of responsibility? The church, in the form of the Christian Brothers, sued the Commission to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report. That's right! The Catholic Church went to court to pursue its evasion of the law to protect from criminal prosecution those very people it had entrusted with the education of young people, and who perpetrated decades of child abuse.
So not only did the church tolerate and even condone the beating and abuse of children in its care, but it sees no moral conflict in continuing to protect those who perpetrated the abuse from criminal charges. So that's our example of catholic church moral standards - condone the institutional abuse, then use the law to protect those known to be guilty!
Of course, the Pope is wringing his hands in sorrow, and the Bishop of Down and Connor has offered an apology talking about his "visceral pain",all breath-taking in its insincerity. How can they possibly be apologising when the institution they represent has acted to prevent the perpetrators facing criminal charges?
So next time a Christian explains how it is their religion that informs them about what is right and wrong, how their beliefs provide their moral compass, we can now see more plainly than ever that morality consists of social values and the church, as much as any other institution has to be held accountable to society. Leaving religious people to interpret their moral codes according to some supra-social dogma is socially dangerous whether it's Anglican, Catholic, Islamic, Buddhist, or any other.
Religion is an appalling source for moral values - to get anything at all salvageable from religious dogma, you have to ignore not just large sections of the religious books themselves (which variously glorify everything from mutilation to genocide), but turn a blind eye to the infamous moral record of religious authorities as well.