Leon J. Podles :: DIALOGUE

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God Hardened Their Hearts

May 29th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Father Gerald Fitzgerald in the 1950s and 1960s warned American bishops and Pope John XXIII and Paul Vi about abusers. A sample of his opinions: 

In a 1957 letter to an unnamed archbishop, Fitzgerald said, “These men, Your Excellency, are devils and the wrath of God is upon them and if I were a bishop I would tremble when I failed to report them to Rome for involuntary layization [sic].” The letter, addressed to “Most dear Cofounder,” was apparently to Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne of Santa Fe, N.M., who was considered a cofounder of the Paraclete facility at Jemez Springs and a good friend of Fitzgerald.

Later in the same letter, in language that revealed deep passion, he wrote: “It is for this class of rattlesnake I have always wished the island retreat — but even an island is too good for these vipers of whom the Gentle Master said it were better they had not been born — this is an indirect way of saying damned, is it not?”

The response: Fitzgerald was removed as head of the order he had funded, which was then run by abusers and suspected murderers.

Father Edward Flanagan, founder of Boys Town, in 1946 returned to teh land of his birth and  warned the Irish about their reform schools. The Irish also would not listen.

But Fr. Flanagan was unhappy with what he found in Ireland. He was dismayed at the state of Ireland’s reform schools and blasted them as “a scandal, un-Christlike, and wrong.” And he said the Christian Brothers, founded by Edmund Rice, had lost its way.

Speaking to a large audience at a public lecture in Cork’s Savoy Cinema he said, “You are the people who permit your children and the children of your communities to go into these institutions of punishment. You can do something about it.” He called Ireland’s penal institutions “a disgrace to the nation,” and later said “I do not believe that a child can be reformed by lock and key and bars, or that fear can ever develop a child’s character.”

Flanagan  added

What you need over there [in Ireland] is to have someone shake you loose from your smugness and satisfaction and set an example by punishing those who are guilty of cruelty, ignorance and neglect of their duties in high places . . . I wonder what God’s judgment will be with reference to those who hold the deposit of faith and who fail in their God-given stewardship of little children.”

However, his words fell on stony ground. He wasn’t simply ignored. He was taken to pieces by the Irish establishment. The then-Minister for Justice Gerald Boland said in the Dáil that he was “not disposed to take any notice of what Monsignor Flanagan said while he was in this country, because his statements were so exaggerated that I did not think people would attach any importance.”

A hardened heart is deaf to the words of God; it is a stone which the Holy Spirit cannot touch – and many Catholics have this heart, and think that carrying outteh pope’s commands and obeying canon law assures their salvation as they let children be abused and tortured.

Tags: Ireland · Uncategorized · clergy sex abuse scandal · clericalism

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Staten Island Catholic // Jun 4, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    This Irish controversy seems highly exaggerated, as William Donahue pointed out. The vast majority of the “abuse” consisted of things like being cold, being looked at funny, etc. Surely there was some true abuse, but the enemies of the Church are using this report as a bludgeon. And the bad kids that were sent to these homes way back when have grown into self-centered adults who still want to be the center of attention.

  • 2 Joseph D'Hippolito // Jun 12, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Staten Island Catholic, I wouldn’t take what William Donahue says seriously. First, Donahue has become for Catholics what Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have become for blacks; a wolf-proclaiming siren who uses group identity to promote himself. Second, this business about “Church persecution” is a load of crap. It’s become a convenient stratagem to rally Catholics around Church authorities who receive legitimate criticism and approbation. The corrupt cardinal of Chicago, John Cody, used that tactic when he was being investigated for financial irregularities in the 1970s and 1980s; he conveniently died before the investigation could be completed.

  • 3 Tony de New York // Nov 20, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Joseph D’Hippolito u r a bitter and angry men!

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