Editor's Viewpoint: Catholic Church in denial over Claudy
The Catholic Church has got itself in another horrible mess of its own making.
By continuing to cast doubt on the Police Ombudsman's report into the Claudy bombing - and in particular the central allegation that a priest was one of those involved in the atrocity - it stands accused today of being in denial. Indeed, most commentators will see the church's stance on Claudy as reverting to type and adopting the same position as it did when confronted with allegations of clerical abuse of children. It seems that when the church feels itself under attack it retreats into a siege mentality, defending itself only by rounding on its critics rather than addressing the criticisms.
In the case of Claudy, it is clear from the Police Ombudsman's lengthy inquiry that Cardinal Conway agreed with the then Secretary of State, William Whitelaw, to send the priest to a parish in Donegal. The cardinal described his errant cleric as "a very bad man". Why would the church allow civic authorities to brand one of its clergymen as a terrorist, if it did not have grave suspicions about his activities? Why would the priest allow himself to be railroaded out of the province if innocent?
These are questions which the church does not attempt to address in a statement issued yesterday. That statement was a personal perspective by Bishop Edward Daly, who once interviewed the priest who denied involvement in the atrocity.
As someone who witnessed the events of Bloody Sunday in which 13 people were shot dead by paratroopers six months before Claudy, the bishop knows how a feeling of injustice can fester.
There is prima facie evidence that a priest was involved in the bombing and the church's attitude should be to facilitate the search for the truth rather than trying to defend past actions. It is both losing face and losing friends. It could even end up losing some more of its faithful.