I blogged about the The Intelligence Squared debate on the Catholic Church with Stephen Fry and Ann Widdecombe a while ago. In that debate Stephen Fry, very effectively, brings up the way the Catholic Church has covered up child abuse committed by its Priests worldwide. If you haven't already, I would recommend you watch the debate included in the link above.
Today we saw the Irish Government admit that a report commissioned to investigate child sex abuse claims against Priests in Dublin, going back to the 1960s, showed extensive abuse and a systematic covering up of it by senior figures in the church with the collusion of the Irish police. In my opinion this is a massive story. I don't understand why it isn't leading every on-line/dead tree newspaper headline and television news cast this evening. It's as if we have become desensitised to the idea of child abuse by Catholic Priests and subsequent cover ups by their seniors.
What amazes me is that, had any other organisation with responsibility for the care of children been found guilty of this kind of abuse and cover up, it would have been mercilessly attacked in the media, prosecuted and banned from having anything to do with children in the future.
But, because this is a church, a religion, it is treated differently. Indeed, it is because this is a religious organisation that it was so easy for the Priests to abuse these children. Not just because they had easy access to children but because they were trusted as "men of God" and any accusations against them could be easily dismissed as ridiculous, even blasphemous.
It's this kind of story that has helped drive me to my atheist point of view from my previous, rather lazy and non-controversial agnostic view of religion. To me this shows that religion isn't just irrational and archaic in a modern society, it is positively dangerous. You can see how, in this case, religion led to the abuse and cover up. The unnatural celibacy of these Priests (required by Catholic dogma) unsurprising led to sexual deviancy; the need to sustain the image of the infallibility of God's chosen representatives on Earth led to cover up. And so the abuse was allowed to continue and proliferate.
Yes, you can point to good works undertaken by religious organisations around the world and some people will decry the dredging up of this "old" Roman Catholic child abuse story again. But, as Stephen Fry points out in the debate... "It's like a burglar in court saying "I knew you'd bring up the burglaries again, what about that present I bought for my Dad on his birthday that time".