Bishop promotes collective guilt for clerical sex abuse

Roman Catholic Bishop Donal McKeown yesterday (Sun 18 July) told members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association that they should “Continue to do penance for the sins of those Church personnel who abused children,” because “We have all been diminished and humiliated by what they did.”

This is an attempt to make innocent people feel guilty for serious crimes committed by members of the Roman Catholic clergy, and for the cover-up of those crimes by the Roman Catholic hierarchy. Indeed, there may well have been some victims of these crimes in the very audience whom he was asking to do penance.

Bishop McKeown also said that “Our secular society – that so often likes to locate sin and repentance only in individuals rather than accepting the possibility of corporate responsibility – cannot easily comprehend the idea of doing penance and making reparation for others. But Pioneers and all Christians can.”

Secular society does not locate “sin” anywhere. Sin is a theological notion. Secular society involves people agreeing together how best to live together, based on our experience of reality. Democratic secular society is typically based on protecting human rights by the rule of law, not on blaming innocent people for the crimes of guilty people.

Atheist Ireland is campaigning for a secular state for a pluralist people, with freedom of belief for everybody protected by a government that is neutral on religion.


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  1. Avatar
    aZeroGodist July 22, 2010

    What next, telling them they should go to jail instead of priests and bishops, these self proclaimed masters should be run out of Irish life.

  2. Avatar
    lordsippa July 22, 2010

    The idea of compassion and shared guilt is not entirely negative as this article suggests. To take share in the personal suffering of another who has committed a heinous act can be a remarkable statement of peace and reconciliation. Of course that only matters if it is a voluntary choice of the other party – it’s not the same when the guilty party demands it from on high. But let’s not forget the value of compassion just because of politics.

  3. Avatar
    Ter August 18, 2010

    Share the Pain !!!!!