Damage was done by the time 'mad monk' was muzzled
He's now been told to shut up -- but it's a bit late in the day.
I can't have been the only one who listened open-mouthed and aghast to Monsignor Maurice Dooley's intervention in the Cardinal Sean Brady child abuse controversy.
It was sickening to hear the canon lawyer say, with indignation, that he would not act if a paedophile priest confided his crimes to him.
This 'mad monk' said his sole responsibility would be to maintain confidentiality.
He said it was neither a civil crime nor a sin against the law of God for the clergy not to report such matters to the gardai.
When questioned, the monsignor said Cardinal Brady had no obligation whatsoever to report allegations of abuse to the garda when he first learned of them as a priest 35 years ago.
The monsignor said Fr Brady was dealing with a particular in-camera investigation within the Church and it would have been a violation of his obligations if he went to the gardai on that.
What he did was to go to the bishop and pass the report to him.
It is exactly this kind of thinking from within the Church that resulted in the abuse of so many Irish children and ruined so many lives, over decades.
And it is this kind of thinking which causes me to wonder if, even now, after all the revelations, there is any sense of doing the right thing across the Church.
What is truly worrying is that we don't know how many other bishops and priests hold the same view as the monsignor.
The monsignor's superior, Archbishop Dermot Clifford, last night moved to distance the Church from the controversial views.
He said he regretted "the distress, anger, and confusion that Monsignor Dooley's remarks have caused in recent days to all concerned".
However, despite the efforts to present Monsignor Dooley's views as those of a maverick, the damage is already done.
His comments contradict the Catholic Church's own national guidelines introduced last year under which Church authorities must ensure all allegations or suspicions of child abuse are promptly reported to civil authorities.
They show that many in the Church still think they are above the civil law.
There was a time in Ireland when the local priest had an elevated position in his parish. They acted and were treated as if they were a cut above the layman and woman.
Because of this position of authority enjoyed by the clergy, thousands of children in this country did not get the protection they deserved from predators wearing a collar.
The Church's position of power was more important than the welfare of defenceless children.
Abusers were quietly sent away to recover -- or were shunted to other parishes where, in so many cases, they simply abused again. Canon law reigned above civil law.
I would like to ask Monsignor Dooley: has he ever protected a fellow priest who he knew to abuse children?
Does he know of priest colleagues who did so?
And in the light of what he said this week, and the rage and confusion his comments have caused, will the Church now come out with a clear statement saying that Monsignor Dooley's rules are not the Church's rules?
And could someone please tell us why was the monsignor not muzzled when he made his initial comments?
The need for clear talking, and transparency in the Irish Catholic Church has never been greater. It is not above the law of the land and neither are some of its most senior members.
The monsignor's comments were one of the lowest points in the debate on clerical sex abuse to date.
No wonder there is such despair in Ireland and indeed around the world, with how the Church has dealt with, and is still dealing with, abusing priests.