ROME ROCKED BY CHILD ABUSE SCANDAL (Jan-Mar 2010)
In recent times, the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland has been rocked by a succession of damning reports into the scandal of clerical child sexual abuse and has also been the subject of allegations of serious physical abuse within its care homes. We approach this matter very reluctantly, for we are all too aware of our Lord's challenge when He was brought to the woman who had committed adultery. He suggested that whoever among them was without sin could cast the first stone at her. As sinners saved by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we have to be very careful before we cast a stone at anyone. We know that Protestant churches and organisations are not entirely free from the sort of crimes committed by some within the Roman Catholic Church, for there are "bad apples" in every organisation. However, the abuse of children within the Roman Church, and, perhaps most significantly, the organised cover-up, has been on a scale, longevity and intensity which is quite unprecedented. In that sense, we are dealing with circumstances that are probably unique. We feel we must respond.
The latest dreadful revelations came with the publication last month of the Murphy Report which investigated the handling of clerical sexual abuse of children in the Dublin Diocese between 1975 and 2004. Its findings make harrowing reading, and, to add insult to the very considerable physical and psychological injury suffered by the victims, the report also reveals that there was a widespread and highly-organised web of secrecy involving An Gardai Siochana (the Irish police force). Bishops sought refuge in canon law in order to protect abusers. It was all brushed under the carpet.
Whether it was the Ferns Report, the Ryan Report or the Murphy Report, the same pattern has emerged and the same conclusions have been drawn - namely that there was a complete system failure in which predators abused positions of trust and preyed upon the helpless; and for people in positions of authority to look the other way, close ranks, protect the institution and its assets and enable the guilty party to escape and offend again.
While it is true that the rape or serious sexual assault of a child is indeed a grave moral lapse, it is also true that it is much, much more than that - it is and ever has been one of the most serious of crimes. Those who perpetrated these horrible and perverse assaults are criminals and must not be allowed to evade the consequences of that criminality. However those who aided and abetted those crimes must also be held accountable. When the Lord told the story of the Good Samaritan, the Priest and the Levite beheld the victim and went past on the other side. When senior Roman Catholic officials beheld the victims of clerical child sexual abuse, they took the beasts by the hand who had done this and helped them on their way. For that there must be no hiding place.
The EPS believes that there should now be a full investigation of this issue across every diocese in Northern Ireland. In addition, we strongly believe that no immunity from prosecution should be afforded to those who have brutalised and traumatised little ones. If anyone in any other walk of life was involved in the sorts of crimes committed by priests and nuns, he or she would find no hiding place. Instead, they would be handed over to the authorities, face the full rigour of the law and be sent to jail for a lengthy period of time.
We would ask our supporters and, indeed every Christian believer across the country, to urge those in authority - both in the Northern Ireland Office and in the Assembly - to demand such an investigation and to oppose any attempt to allow the guilty to escape. Meanwhile, at grass-roots level within the Roman Church, there is dismay, disbelief and anger. Out of loyalty to their church, some struggle to explain it away, while others are openly disgusted with the religion into which they were born. Roman Catholic leaders are either in denial or, incredibly, determined to continue to try to protect those who have been exposed. Crocodile tears are being shed. Not only is this unforgivable, but it merely serves to compound the crime and the crisis.
As evangelical Protestants, we will shed no tears of any sort for the guilty men and women of Rome, nor will we lament their downfall or the decline of their church. However, in the midst of this great cataclysm, the door is now more open for us to reach out to Roman Catholics and to tell them of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ought to seize that opportunity with determination and enthusiasm, for the green fields of Ireland are white unto harvest.
"PROTESTANT RIGHT OF CONSCIENCE CHALLENGED" (Jan-Mar 2010)
In October, Sinn Fein proposed a motion in the Northern Ireland Assembly which called on the Culture, Arts and Lesisure Minister, Mr Nelson McCausland "to withdraw his statement that he will 'not attend a service in a Catholic Church'; further calls on the minister to recognise that such a refusal to attend a Catholic Church service from an Executive Minister has no place in an inclusive society, and that as an Executive Minister he has a duty to serve, respect and engage with all sections of society regardless of their religious background."
In other words, in the eyes of Sinn Fein, if people hold public office they are not allowed to have a conscience, especially if it is a Protestant one. By their sinister logic, evangelical Protestant beliefs, and those who hold them, have "no place in an inclusive society". Thankfully it was defeated, but that it was brought to the Asembly at all, and that it received considerable support, are reasons for concern. If this sort of attack had been directed against any other faith group there would have been a deafening outcry by now - and rightly so. Instead, there was support for it from the Alliance Party and the SDLP - the parties which take great pride in their commitment to civil rights and equailty. There would have been an outcry from those who, at considerable public expense, are tasked with defending rights across society. Instead, there was a deafening silence. We therefore challenged Duncan Morrow, Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council, Monica McWilliams, Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, and Bob Collins, Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission, to unreservedly condemn the sentiments contained in the Sinn Fein motion, and to indicate what steps they intend to take to reassure the evangelical Protestant community.
We have received replies from Ms McWilliams and Mr Collins, neither of whom has properly addressed our key concern. Both had hitherto utterly failed to take any action whatever in relation to this matter of fundamental right of conscience, and, rather than deal with it now, they are content to fob us off with excuses and prevarication, although Mr Collins has, in fairness, offered us a meeting. Monica McWilliams sought to assure us that she does not choose the option of silence when human rights are being tested. But that is precisely what she did on this occasion. She also interestingly stated that the exercise of Mr McCausland's right "may have given rise to the view that other citizens' religious beliefs are of lesser worth". In other words, Mr McCausland becomes the problem rather than the victim.
The evangelical Protestant community in Northern Ireland has never had any confidence in these hugely expensive commissions, run in large measure by those whose track record only serves to further justify that lack of confidence. When it came to a full-frontal sectarian attack on the rights of conscience of a Protestant politician, we were not really surprised that these so-called champions of human rights, community relations and equality were nowhere to be found. But they will not be allowed to hide from this. We will give full and detailed consideration to the replies we have received and will respond accordingly.
MAN IN DARKNESS - The spiritual agony of an infallible Pope. (April 2010)
The late Pope John Paul II whipped himself, denied himself food, and slept on the floor as acts of penitence and to bring him closer to Christian perfection, according to a new book by Monsignor Slawomir Oder, a Pole and main promoter of the cause to have his fellow-countryman, who died in April 2005, made a saint. John Paul II has been fast-tracked for sainthood and, just recently, he was moved closer when Oder approved a decree on his "heroic virtues". This account of John Paul's masochism reminds us of the sort of punishment Martin Luther inflicted upon himself when he was an Augustinian monk. Luther was tormented by doubts and fears, and he was particularly concerned about God's wrath and justice against sin. He sought comfort in the ritual of the Roman Catholic Church and punished himself in a hopeless effort to find peace and acceptance with God. But then, from his reading of Scripture, Luther's eyes were opened. He came to see that no amount of good works or penance could ever bring peace to his soul. The only way was by faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone - justification by faith. From that moment, Luther was a new man and the Protestant Reformation began. Good works and self-denial are important, but, as Luther realised, they can never secure acceptance with God. They are instead the fruit and the evidence of genuine saving faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone, but Rome still rejects this great message of the Gospel. John Paul II claimed to be the vicar, or representative, of Christ on earth, and also to be infallible, but yet he felt the need to engage in acts of penance in order to find peace with God. Although he was the head of his church and was revered and respected by millions of faithful Roman Catholics, Protestant ecumenists and others, he lived and died in spiritual darkness. This tells us much about the true nature of popery and confirms yet again that it is inherently rotten from the top down. The pathetic spectacle of the process of John Paul's canonisation offers still further proof of this inherent rottenness. The Bible makes it clear that we are made saints at the moment of our conversion and only on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Therefore, on the evidence available to us, John Paul II did not become a saint during his life, and he certainly cannot be made one after his death.
LOVE MUST BE BASED ON TRUTH (July-Sept 2010)
On Radio Ulster'sThought for the Dayon 22 April 2010, Archdeacon Stephen McBride spoke of the love of God. A wonderful theme indeed. It's just a pity Dr McBride didn't anchor his Thought on the solid ground of Truth rather than on the sinking sands of a lethal mixture of truth and fantasy.
Dr McBride spoke of how being God was a "lonely place" and how He needed our love. God certainly delights in our love, but He does not need it or depend upon it for He is an all-sufficient God. Nor is He is in a lonely place, for He is worshipped night and day by adoring angels and the great host of sinners who are in Heaven because God loved them and Christ died for them. Dr McBride really went off the rails when he told a story - and what a fanciful fictitious story it was, although, interestingly, he didn't admit that himself - about the Judgement Day. In this story, designed to further underline God's love, Jesus is pushing against the crowd when Peter stops Him and asks Him where He is going. "To get Judas" is Jesus' reply. This is not merely a harmless fictitious story. It is dangerous heresy.
The Bible speaks often of Hell -(indeed, Jesus refers to Hell more than He refers to Heaven) but it paints a grim picture of everlasting torment for those who have rejected God's love to them in Christ. It never speaks of people being taken out of Hell and then being brought into Heaven. That is why we must urge men and women to turn to Christ alone for eternal salvation before they are eternally damned. A Day of Judgement is coming. On that day, the blood-washed saints will be gathered into Glory while those who rejected the Saviour will stand before Him only to hear those fearful words, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matthew 25:41). How sharply that contrasts with the picture of the Judgement Day as presented by Dr McBride.
"BRITAIN MESMERISED BY BENEDICT" (Oct-Dec 2010 edition)
Although crowds were smaller than initially anticipated, the much-hyped state visit of the pope to the UK in September was well stage-managed by Vatican spin-doctors and their allies, and an atmosphere created in which the Pope was portrayed as everybody's favourite grandfather - a genial, decent, sort of chap who defends old-fashioned values in an age when it is unpopular to do so.
The many problems of the papacy were largely forgotten as the pope met fawning politicians, church leaders and adoring followers. As he greeted the great and the good, kissed babies, waved at the crowds, shook hands, apologised for child abuse and spoke out in defence of traditional moral values, Benedict seemed to be the friend of all. The media were intoxicated by the pope's presence, and much of their reporting was not only overly-respectful but reverential and pathetically ingratiating. Once again, we were reminded of those words in Revelation 13:3-"and all the world wondered after the beast".
All this, of course, was precisely the sort of image the papacy and its supporters in Britain wanted to create for it enabled them to dupe the gullible and the naïve. The core aim of the organisers of the visit was to further the Roman Catholic cause in Britain and they will be reasonably satisfied. However, the "beatification" of John Henry Newman was a clear reminder of Rome's true agenda. Newman deserted his evangelical and Anglican roots and became a Roman Catholic. It is very significant that his "feast day", which would normally be held on the date of a person's death, has been set for 9 October -the date Newman converted to Rome. The current pope is on record as having re-emphasised that Rome is the only true Christian church and the whole beatification mass at Birmingham was a studied insult to Protestantism. But how many Protestants actually realise this -or even care?
It was sickening to observe the deference shown to the pope by local church leaders. The Church of Ireland primate Archbishop Alan Harper seemed happy to be at Holyrood and Westminster Abbey. The Irish Methodists were not present at the Abbey, but former President, Dr Donald Kerr, met the pope at Holyrood. The clerk of the Irish Presbyterian General Assembly, Rev Donald Watts, also shook his hand at Holyrood. But the Irish Presbyterian Moderator made an absolute fool of himself. He annoyed evangelicals by announcing that he would attend the ecumenical service in Westminster Abbey, and then he upset ecumenists by saying he would not meet the pope at this service. He has said, however, that he would wish to meet him on some other occasion.
No matter how much common ground there might be between Rome and Protestantism on moral and ethical issues, the matters that divide are, ultimately, far more important. Religion's main aim is not to establish a set of moral values for mankind but to define and proclaim the nature of man's relationship with God on the basis of Holy Scripture alone. We are all fallen sinners, and, on the crucial question of how a man might be just with God (Job 9:2), there is a gaping chasm between Rome and Biblical Protestantism. Adherence to the key doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone is the mark of a faithful church. Rejection of that doctrine is the mark of a fallen and false church. Rome proclaims a different Gospel from that of the Bible and it is our duty and privilege to continue to oppose the false teachings and blasphemies of the Church of Rome and proclaim the Gospel to all. We commend all those who protested in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. The spirit of the protests was good and we pray that they will yield fruit.
It seems likely that the pope will visit Ireland in 2012 and this time the itinerary could well include Northern Ireland. We must begin to prepare for such an eventuality. Those who would favour a papal visit to Ulster will be confident that the atmosphere is now right politically and in other ways, and they need to be reminded that there will be opposition from those who will refuse to bow the knee to the papal Baal. As a major umbrella organisation which seeks to maximise unity among evangelical Protestants, EPS will shortly be in contact with politicians, churches, the loyal orders and other key players. "Brethren, pray for us".
"TRUTH IS FALLEN IN THE STREET"
EPS RESPONSE TO THE REPORT ON THE CLAUDY BOMBINGS - (Oct-Dec 2010)
The prophet Isaiah states that "judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter". These words, written many centuries ago, seem so very relevant in light of the NI Police Ombudsman's Report into the Claudy bombings of 31 July 1972.
The Report has now confirmed what has long been suspected by many people. The British Government, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the Roman Catholic Church conspired to cover up the central role of a Roman Catholic priest in the IRA bombings which claimed nine lives. This appalling reality, which almost beggars belief, has turned the stomachs of all decent people across Northern Ireland and beyond, but, for the families and friends of the victims, the Report will have re-opened old wounds and added insult to the trauma and suffering they have had to bear for the past 38 years.
Various reasons have been given as to why this grotesque decision was taken by the state and the Roman Catholic Church to pervert the course of justice, but none of them holds water. The main defence for the conspiracy is that, in the context of the time, the arrest of Chesney would have enraged the Roman Catholic community and might also have provoked a loyalist backlash against them. Apart from anything else, this argument rather calls into question the accusation that the RUC was an anti-Catholic and bigoted force. Whatever the reason - or the excuse - what hope is there for society if those in authority deliberately act in such an expedient, unprincipled and unethical manner? And on how many other occasions during the Troubles was similar perverted logic applied by those in authority in our nation? Along with the victims, truth and integrity fell on the streets of Claudy on that fateful July day in 1972.
Many people have long suspected that the priest, James Chesney, who was director of operations of the South Derry brigade of the Provisional IRA, was centrally involved in planting the bombs that killed nine innocent people including 8 year old Kathryn Eakin who was cleaning the windows of the family shop when the first bomb exploded. It also seems highly probable that Chesney, who died in 1980, was involved in other terrorist atrocities. But he was never brought to account for his crimes on this side of eternity.
The Ombudsman's report raises a number of serious questions for the Government and the police, but the spotlight once again also falls heavily on the Church of Rome.
Did William Whitelaw, the Secretary of State at the time, makes the decision on his own, or, as seems more likely, did he consult with Prime Minister, Ted Heath? To what extent were officials in the NIO and No 10 involved? We need to know how far up the Government line this matter actually went. As the conspiracy involved moving a terrorist out of the United Kingdom into the Irish Republic, were there any discussions between the British and Irish Governments, and what was the latter's role? After all, this was only two years after the infamous arms trial which implicated the Lynch administration in Dublin in the procurement of weapons for the Provisional IRA.
It is vital that more is revealed about the goings-on within the RUC, and there must be disclosure of the full extent and nature of the information and evidence they held about Chesney.
Whilst the official position of the Roman Church has been one of opposition to terrorism, there has, down through the years, been a certain degree of Jesuitical ambivalence towards the IRA which, during the height of the Troubles, did little to reassure the Protestant and Unionist community. Chesney was not the only cleric to either support, or refuse to condemn, the IRA. Other priests who joined the IRA include Father Patrick Fell and Father John Burns.
As we observe the Roman Catholic Church's role in this sordid matter, there is a very real feeling of déjà vu. The half-hearted hand-wringing, the hand-washing and the crocodile tears from Edward Daly and Sean Brady are merely variations on a sadly all too familiar theme. Daly, very conveniently for him, appears to be in complete denial, and he says he has difficulty accepting the Ombudsman's conclusions. He says that he met with Chesney and accepted his denials about any involvement with the IRA. But did he not wonder why Chesney was suddenly being moved to Donegal? Did he play any part in that move? He further asserts that he did not know of Cardinal Conway's involvement in the case until December 2002. We have heard and seen it all before and, as on previous occasions, none of it rings true. Yet again, the protection of a Roman Catholic priest is more important than truth, justice or honesty. When Cardinal Conway arranged for Chesney to be moved across the border to Donegal, did he discuss this matter with any of his colleagues, and what reasons were given for his sudden transfer? The leaders of the Roman Catholic Church must face up to their responsibilities. If Chesney was involved in an attack which included the murder of a little girl, then his abuse of children is in a league of its own, and there is a very real need for the Roman Church to engage in meaningful and genuine confession.
When the Saville Report was published, Protestant Church leaders quickly visited the Bogside to show solidarity with the people there. This dramatic and highly symbolic gesture contrasts with the much more muted response to date by the Presbyterian Church and the Church of Ireland to the Police Ombudsman's Report. Surely leaders from these churches should have visited Claudy immediately. They should also be demanding urgent answers from the Government and the PSNI and, above all, they should be challenging the Roman Catholic Church to face up to its responsibilities.
"RC BISHOP DISPLAYS HIS ARROGANCE" (Oct-Dec 2010)
The Roman Catholic Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Devine, is reportedly furious with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, because he won't amend the Act of Settlement of 1688 which prevents Roman Catholics from taking the Throne.
Using words rich in irony, Mr Devine said, "The Prime Minister is already showing alarming signs of the arrogance and disdain so often associated with power". Well, Mr Devine, your church could teach him a few lessons, for, over many centuries, it has abrogated to itself a power which has bred an unparalleled arrogance and disdain toward all churches and states outside its control. And it is precisely because of the exercise of this powerful arrogance and disdain by Romanist monarchs such as Mary, Charles I and James II that our forefathers felt it necessary to exclude Roman Catholics from the Throne. So, for as long as Rome retains its spiritual and temporal claims, there must be no repeal of the Act of Settlement.