THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES is fiction but it is so thoroughly researched that you could gain an understanding of the clerical child abuse crisis that is roiling the Catholic Church these days by reading it.
The story of an impoverished Irish family in the 1930s is based on survivor accounts of the industrial schools and Magdalene laundries, both run by the Catholic Church with the cooperation of the Irish State. The system was in place for decades and the incidents described in the novel can be found in numerous survivor stories from every one of those decades.
Sixty years on from the novel's setting, when the extent of the abuse was revealed, and the extent of the cover-up exposed, the Catholic Church in Ireland lost parishioners. They fled in droves, disgusted by the hypocrisy and the Church hierarchy's incredible rush to defend the criminal and shunt the victim to a quiet corner.
So it should come as no surprise that the deafness continues.
Bishop John Buckley of Cork wants to reverse those losses, and bring the abused back into the arms of their abusers. Oh, and he'll help you find a way to forgive your tormentor as well. Just doing God's work, no thanks needed.
The new scheme will not offer compensation to the women who toiled at slave labor in the laundries, incarcerated for no crime. Sure they're asking for their back wages and a bit of a pension in their old age, but the Church isn't letting go of any cash. It has prayers, of course. Lots of prayers and all for free.
No, the Church has determined that the turning away from the faith is a serious issue that must be addressed in a manner far more speedy than the manner in which the clerical sex abuse problem was addressed. The re-unification effort was launched in Cork on Sunday, but it will quickly spread throughout the island, to bring the lost sheep back to the fold.
And if it's not too much to ask, as long as you're back in the pews, could you dip into your pocket and drop a few euro on the plate?
Join the programme and you'll find that the priest is your spiritual companion towards healing, to make you feel better about the Church that ruined your life. Many of the industrial school inmates turned to the drink. Most of the former Magdalene laundry inmates went into hiding, filled with shame when in fact they had done nothing to be ashamed of. As for the forced adoption of children out of mother and baby homes, that issue has yet to be addressed in a meaningful way.
That's in the past, if you join up. Take the spiritual journey and before long you'll find it in your heart to forgive, and then you'll feel so much better.
The Bishop does acknowledge the difficulty that will be faced by survivors who are well aware that one of the sponsors behind "Towards Peace" is the Conference of Religious in Ireland, which has fought against compensating victims of religious abuse with a ferocity that would make a tigress look like a house cat. Would you attend a meeting staged by someone who is clearly not on your side? Would you trust a word they say? Not likely.
A bit of a lack of confidence issue there.
Or it's just another example of the blindness of those who cannot see an apparent conflict of interest, with an organization desperate to make the victims go away seen to be embracing a programme intended to brainwash those same victims to forgive the religious and therefore stop demanding compensation and inquiries and investigations by the UN.