Friday, November 27, 2009

Mental Reservation

From the report on child sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Dublin[PDFs available here]:
Cardinal Connell explained the concept of mental reservation to the commission in the following way:
"Well, the general teaching about mental reservation is that you are not permitted to tell a lie. On the other hand, you may be put in a position where you have to answer, and there may be circumstances in which you can use an ambiguous expression realising that the person who you are talking to will accept an untrue version of whatever it may be – permitting that to happen, not willing that it happened, that would be lying. It really is a matter of trying to deal with extraordinarily difficult matters that may arise in social relations where people may ask questions that you simply cannot answer. Everybody knows that this kind of thing is liable to happen. So, mental reservation is, in a sense, a way of answering without lying."

Both Marie Collins and Andrew Madden independently furnished the Commission with examples of how this concept was deployed by the Archdiocese in dealing with their complaints. In 2003, Mr Madden was invited to meet Cardinal Connell. In the course of an informal chat Cardinal Connell did apologise for the whole handling of the Fr Ivan Payne case. He was however at pains to point out to Mr Madden that he did not lie about the use of diocesan funds in meeting Fr Payne‟s settlement with Mr Madden. He explained that when he was asked by journalists about the use of diocesan funds for the compensation of complainants of child sexual abuse, he had responded that diocesan funds are not used for such a purpose; that he had not said that diocesan funds were not used for such a purpose. By using the present tense, he had not excluded the possibility that diocesan funds had been used for such purpose in the past. According to Mr Madden, Cardinal Connell considered that there was an enormous difference between the two.

After the conviction of Fr Edmondus [alias] for the child sexual abuse of Mrs Collins and others in the criminal courts, in 1997, the Dublin Archdiocese issued a press statement claiming that they had co-operated with the Gardaí in relation to Mrs Collins‟s complaint. Mrs Collins was upset by that statement as she had good reason to believe that the Archdiocese's level of co-operation was, to say the least, questionable. Her support priest, Fr James Norman, subsequently told the Gardaí that he asked the Archdiocese about that statement and that the explanation he received was that “we never said we cooperated 'fully', placing emphasis on the word 'fully'.

His eminence, with no apparent irony, said today: "The abuse of children is an unspeakable crime."

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