April 27, 2010

Rachel Maddow talks to Sinead O'Connor about the Catholic Church's abuse scandal. As Rachel noted in the previous segment:

MADDOW: Last month, Pope Benedict issued a pastoral letter of apology to the Catholics of Ireland. But the church took the extraordinary step of actually having the letter read aloud at Sunday mass all over Ireland.

Sinead O‘Connor, for one, is not accepting the apology. In a “Washington Post” op-ed last month, she wrote this, quote, “Benedict‘s apology states that his concern is, above all, to bring healing to the victims.”

“Yet he denies them the one thing that might bring them healing, a full confession from the Vatican that it has covered up abuse and is now trying to cover up the cover up. He suggests that Ireland‘s victims can find healing by getting close to the church, the same church that has demanded oaths of silence from molested children.”

“As Ireland withstands Rome‘s offensive apology, I ask Americans to understand why an Irish Catholic woman who survived child abuse would want to rip up the pope‘s picture. And whether Irish Catholics, because we dare not say, ‘we deserve better,‘ should be treated as though we deserve less.”

Transcript of the interview below the fold.

MADDOW: The interview tonight is someone I‘ve been very much looking forward to talking to. Sinead O‘Connor joins us from Dublin.

SINEAD O‘CONNOR, SINGER/ACTIVIST: Thanks for having me. Thanks.

MADDOW: You called for accountability for the church at a time when almost no other public figures were doing that. Do you feel like you‘re starting to see accountability now?

O‘CONNOR: Well, I don‘t think we‘re really seeing proper accountability, no. I mean, accountability would be for the Vatican to admit that there was a cover-up orchestrated by central command.

The fact is that the Boston report, the Philadelphia report, the three reports done in Ireland were done all independently of each other. The four corners of the earth, each report concluded the same thing, that there was a cover-up in each diocese. Everyone behaved the same way.

If that hadn‘t been orchestrated by central command, there would be differences in how each diocese had handled the manner. And as it happens, they all behaved without exception in exactly the same way when dealing with complaints, which was they transferred these priests in or out.

They put pressure on families and victims not to go to the police. And they - the conclusion of all of those reports is that the church‘s concern was for the preservation of its assets and its reputation above the caring of the children.

So you know, the only thing that I think would make anyone happy and which would honor not only the victims but the Holy Spirit who these people claim to be representing would be for them to actually admit there was an orchestrated cover-up and get out of office and let us have our church, which is run by people who actually believe in God.

MADDOW: The Vatican sort of awkwardly is a country. The pope is a head of state and that makes thinking about legal justice here complicated. Also in terms of theological doctrine, there really isn‘t accountability for the church from outside the church.

How important do you think it is that abuse be handled as a legal matter by secular authorities, by the police, instead of within church rules?

O‘CONNOR: well, I mean, it‘s very, very poor that the - these people are allowed to live by their own laws. And this is where we need to call into question the child protection laws of each land.

Now, I only know about my own country. But right up until today, it is not mandatory that anyone knowing abuse has taken place should go to the police. So if I know my next-door neighbor is abusing his child, I‘m not under any actual obligation to go to the police, which is incredible but true.

So there is a part to play on the part of all our governments here and

sorry - all over the world in dealing with this issue, that it‘s important to look at what are the child protection laws in your country regarding this matter.

And yes, the thing is I think that, you know, the Vatican is - it‘s a 15th century organization. It‘s a medieval organization. And what we‘re seeing is the battle between medieval thinking and 21st century thinking.

If they want to survive into the 21st century, they‘re going to have to become a 21st century business, which means that they are, first of all, those who have brought the Holy Spirit and Catholicism into total disrepute should be fired.

Whoever was involved in the cover-up of child abuse and therefore endangering children should be fired. The pope should be fired or should stand down. There should be a criminal investigation of the Vatican and of the pope.

They should all get out and let us in the 21st century choose who we think is fit to run our church because it is ours. It‘s not theirs. It shouldn‘t be any more of this black smoke, white smoke nonsense, you know, it‘s them and us.

It‘s our church. We need to reclaim it and we need to have it run by people who actually believe in God.

MADDOW: When you have allowed yourself as an artist to be such a lightning rod on this issue, just by putting yourself up publicly and talking about it, not only in personal terms, but in very political terms, it was always interesting to me that people took that to mean that you were no longer Catholic or that you were an atheist or that you - people essentially took it as an opportunity to question your faith.

I wonder if you still encounter that, if you have any reflections on that.

O‘CONNOR: Well, no. I mean I think anyone that really knows me or whatever would know that in fact I would have taken that action and still continue to take all of this action because I believe passionately in the Holy Spirit, and I‘m in love passionately with the Holy Spirit.

I feel the Holy Spirit is being held hostage by the people who are presently running the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is full of beautiful people, men and women, you know, who have given up their whole lives, who serve human beings. They do nothing but love.

But those people also are being betrayed by the people who are running the church. Now, I would say I passionately believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe all of us who believe in the Holy Spirit should be standing up now and defend that spirit and rescue it from these people.

And sometimes, I‘m not asked, do I believe in God? But I‘m asked, am I anti-Catholic? My answer to that is no but the people who are running the Vatican actually are. They brought Catholicism into a disgraceful state of disrepute.

Now, when people hear the word “Catholic,” they think - they shudder. They think of nothing but abuse. So it‘s, you know - that would be the only question that people ask me, am I anti-Catholic? I would say absolutely not but those in charge are.

MADDOW: One last question for you about your activism on this. Why did you write this op-ed recently for “The Washington Post.” I wonder why you think the American media is important here and how you think in this global scandal the American public and the American media have been important.

MADDOW: Well, you know, I was talking to your research there last night, and I have to say on behalf of all the Irish survivors, they and I and anyone involved in the campaign is so, so grateful to the American media. Because, you know, you all have leapt in just at the right moment.

After Pope Benedict‘s letter came - that‘s why I then wrote to the “Washington Post.” I was disgusted by this letter, which actually referred to the priests, the bishops who covered up as being a “well-intentioned” desire to protect the church.

What on earth was well-intentioned about it? The letters are a study in the art of lying. It suggests that the Irish hierarchy were acting independently of the Vatican.

The letter and their actions have not punished at all those people who were accomplices by silence to the crime of child abuse. None of them have been fired. It looks very bad that the pope hasn‘t fired all of them and said, “How dare you bring us into disrepute.”

That looks like the house of the Holy Spirit has become a haven for moral criminals. But as I say, just at the right moment, America stepped in, the “New York Times” piece. “Boston Globe” also stepped in.

And now, a lot of the victims - I was just sitting with some of them this morning. They were saying, you know, almost with tears in their eyes, sitting back, saying, “We‘ve waited 40 years now, trying to bang the door down here. And now, we can sit down and relax because the American media have taken it on board.”

And it‘s their baby now for want of a better - pardon the pun, you know. But we‘re enormously grateful in Ireland for what the American media are doing because we know the Americans don‘t take any nonsense and they don‘t take any prisoners.

And there‘s no way the Vatican are going to get off the hook now that the Americans are after you. So thank you very much.

MADDOW: Sinead O‘Connor, thank you very much for joining us tonight and for your continued dogged activism on the subject.

O‘CONNER: Thanks.

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