I WAS sitting in my car waiting at traffic lights the other day when I couldn’t help noticing a little girl of about nine years old standing by the traffic lights waiting to cross.
As she stood there she appeared to be practising her ballet dance moves. Then the little green man lit up and she crossed the road, but again she danced and spun and continued to do so as she made her way along the road.
And I thought of the beauty of the innocence of childhood. It was so refreshing, so moving in a way, and my mind turned to the news headlines of last week, of the utter destruction of hundreds, thousands of young lives destroyed by men who were obsessed by evil self-gratification whatever the cost to others. How permanently damaged are men in their fifties or sixties who cannot speak of their stolen childhood without weeping. How many have taken their own lives, or sought to wash away the pain by alcohol abuse we might never know, and yet the cold hearted perpetrators and collaborators remain, or appear to remain distant and untouched.
Whether failure to report a crime is itself a criminal act or not is not the point, the fact is, a shepherd of the flock took no action as the wolves tore his sheep apart. But is that really what went on all those years ago? No, there’s more to it than that. Drummed into the psyche of trainee priests from day one is the elemental belief that as men of God they are expected to serve the church and not the people. Thus the church must be protected at all costs, and that is the fundamental flaw.
Ezekiel could have been writing about the abuse of children in Ireland and beyond over two-and-a-half thousand years ago when he prophesied:
“This message came to me from the Lord: ‘Prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of my church. Give them this message from me, their Sovereign Lord: What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? Yet you drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals while your flocks starve. My sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal.
“Therefore, you shepherds, listen to me: Though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve. I now consider you my enemies; I will hold you responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away your right to feed them. I will rescue them from your mouths; the sheep will no longer be your prey.
“I will find my sheep and rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on that dark and cloudy day. I will bring them back home, I will feed them, I will give them good pastureland. They will lie down in pleasant places and feed in the lush pastures of the hills. I will search for my lost ones who strayed away, and I will bring them safely home again. I will bandage the injured and strengthen the weak, and I will set over them one shepherd, the Good Shepherd, and l will be their God, for when I have broken their chains of slavery and rescued them from those who enslaved them, then they will know that I am the Lord. They will live in safety, and no one will frighten them.”