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Donnelly & Inglis Media And Church Maynooth Conf 2008


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Donnelly & Inglis(2008) \'Media Representations of Clerical Child Sex Abuse: Understanding Secularisation in 1990s Ireland\', presented at Researching in the Church in Ireland, Dept of Sociology & Irish Catholic Bishops\' Conference, NUI Maynooth, 22 October 2008.

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Donnelly & Inglis Media And Church Maynooth Conf 2008

  1. 1. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 Work in progress – do not cite. Please contact for details. Media Representations of Clerical Child Sex Abuse: Understanding Secularisation in 1990s Ireland Susie Donnelly MSocSc & Prof. Dr Tom Inglis School of Sociology, University College Dublin ABSTRACT: Insufficient attention has been paid to the relationship between the Church and the media. Using Ireland as a laboratory for study, we argue the rise in media as the public watchdog and social conscience of Irish society can be linked to the secularisation of Catholic Ireland both at a macro-level in terms of the decline in the institutional power of the Church and at a micro-level in terms of decline in institutional participation and trust. The paper describes and analyses how the media has become a major player in the field of religion while, the Catholic Church is no longer able to limit and control the media as it once did. This transformation is most evident in reports of Clerical Child Sex Abuse (CCSA). Further analysis highlights sharp declines in institutional religiosity during the 1990s when reports of CCSA were commonplace. Smaller declines in spirituality suggest a shift towards more personal, privatised forms of religiosity. The Irish Times, 27th October 2005: 16
  2. 2. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 2 Introduction The debate about secularisation in the West has tended to ignore the influence of the media. Defenders or opponents of the secularisation thesis rarely identify the media as having any influential role (Bruce 2002; Greeley 2003; Hervieu-Léger 2003; Crockett and Voas 2006). By examining the relationship between the Catholic Church and the media, we argue that the media played two significant roles in the secularisation of Ireland. At a macro structural level, the influence of the Catholic Church over the media has declined. It is no longer able to limit, let alone control what media organisations do or say. The decline in the symbolic domination of the Church mirrored a general decline in its influence over the state and other social institutions. The Church no longer holds a monopoly over Irish morality (Inglis 1998a). At a micro level, the content of media messages promoted and developed a way of being in the world – a habitus (Bourdieu 1990) – which was often at variance with the Church’s teachings. During the second half of the twentieth century, in a slow but relentless shift in the balance of power, the media began to play a major role in moulding public opinion, shaping morality, and forcing institutions and organisations, including the Catholic Church, to use their services, embody their language and practices and make themselves publicly accountable through them (Conway and Kilcoyne 1997). More significantly, the media began to investigate and interrogate religious personnel and, in playing its role as the Fourth Estate, replaced the Catholic Church as the social conscience and moral guardian of Irish society (Inglis 2000). Media coverage of sex scandals in the Irish Catholic Church, particularly the way it dealt with Clerical Child Sexual Abuse (CCSA), highlights the dramatic change in the balance of power. Within a short number of years CCSA went from being a story that could not be told to one that had to be reported and, indeed, was covered in significant detail. The Church and many of its priests and religious order brothers quickly went from being represented as paragons of virtue, as self-sacrificing national heroes, to being depicted as self-serving masters of evil. The Republic of Ireland is, then, a good laboratory to study contemporary transformations in religion. Many indicators suggest that not only is Ireland still very religious but also very Catholic. In the Census of Population in 2006, almost nine in ten people identified themselves as Roman Catholics. These Catholics have some of the highest levels of religious belief and practice in Europe (Fahey, Hayes et al. 2005).
  3. 3. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 3 The European Values Survey (EVS) in 1999 showed that nine in ten Irish Catholics believed in God, the divinity of Christ, and in heaven. Almost half of Irish attended Mass at least once a week. Another half prayed at least once a week.1 At the structural level, there is another story to be told. The power and symbolic domination of the Church was weakened through a steady decline in vocations. In 1966, there were 1,409 vocations (to become priests, nuns and brothers) to the religious life in Ireland; by 1998 this had declined to 98 vocations (Inglis 1998a). At the same time, the State began to divorce itself from the Catholic vision of Irish society that the Church had been able to persuade the State to adopt during much of the twentieth century, especially after Ireland became independent in 1922. Indeed a 1972 referendum, the Irish constitution was amended such that the “special position” of the Roman Catholic Church was no longer recognised by the State. From the early 1980s, the State began to pass legislation that was in direct opposition of Church teachings, particularly in terms of making contraceptives freely available. But the media also had a major impact. Much of the content of the media messages were in direct contradiction to a family and community life based on the virtues of humility, piety, chastity and self-denial. In the 1990s, the media became more dominant. It began to openly resist and challenge the authority of the Church. It began to try to make the Church accountable; forcing priests and bishops to move away from a rhetoric of Catholic devotion, conviction and obedience to more rational, reasonable and ‘media- friendly’ presentations of its teachings and policies. In this paper, we focus on clerical abuse in Ferns (a diocese in the south-east of Ireland). Specifically, we discuss how the case of Fr Seán Fortune was covered by the media, and how it quickly went from being a local to a national story, eventually leading to the establishment of the Ferns Inquiry – the first investigation of the Catholic Church undertaken by the State. We argue that the intrusion of the media and the State into the affairs of the Church played a significant role in the demise of the institutional authority of the Church and can also be linked to transformations in the pattern of Irish religiosity. We place the media coverage of CCSA within the context of a general pattern of decline in institutional adherence and secularisation. We use data from the European Values Study (1981 to 1999) to describe a general decrease in institutional religiosity, particularly in terms of religious practice and adherence to the Church.
  4. 4. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 4 However, during this time levels of personal spirituality remained relatively stable. This may be an indication of religious practice and belief becoming less institutional and more personal and private. We suggest that the reporting of CCSA scandals throughout the 1990s may have been an important factor in this move by Irish Catholics away from the Church and a more institutional form religion. When comparing Irish religiosity over time and across countries, we find that the move away from institutional to non-institutional religion – believing without belonging – can be observed elsewhere in Europe. However, the rate of which this occurs, particularly in the 1990s, appears to be unique to Irish society. The Media and Religion The relation between religion and the media in the West, let alone the role of the media in the decline of power and influence of churches, has not been subject to significant sociological investigation. With some exceptions (Lundby 1990), most of the investigations have been confined to America (Silk 1995; Stout and Buddenbaum 1996; Hoover and Lundby 1997; Hoover 1998; De Vries and Weber 2001). Many studies have taken what Stolow characterised as an instrumentalist approach, that is how religious organisations and groups have made use of the media as a means of promoting their messages (Angell 2008). There has been very little empirical research on the influence of the media in undermining the power of churches either in subverting and challenging their ethos, teachings, beliefs and practices or in investigating their activities and making them publicly accountable. The absence of research is linked to an absence of a theoretical model within which macro long-term processes of structural transformations can be linked to changes at the micro level in patterns of religious belief and practice. We suggest that Bourdieu’s concepts of social fields and habitus provide a useful theoretical paradigm (Bourdieu 1990; Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992; Bourdieu 1993). Following Weber’s concept of social spheres, Bourdieu argued that we should conceptualise social life as revolving around numerous different, but often over- lapping, social fields. Each social field is characterised by a predisposed, almost automatic, but nonetheless flexible and adaptable habitus or way of seeing, reading and interpreting people and events. This habitus is structured by the discourses and policies of the dominant institutional players in the field. Any analysis of the religious
  5. 5. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 5 field in Ireland or elsewhere would begin then, with a description of the dominant institutional players (churches, sects, denominations) and their teachings which structure ways of being religious, and the religious habitus. The debate about the nature and extent of secularisation has shifted away from the power and influence of religious institutions and moved to religious action and, specifically, to issues such as ‘believing without belonging’ and the individualisation and privatisation of religious belief and practice (Davie 1994; Crockett and Voas 2006; Glendinning and Bruce 2006; Houtman and Aupers 2007). However, Dobbelaere pointed to the importance of structural transformations and argued that as well as a decline in religious belief and practice and the importance of the supernatural and transcendental, secularisation also takes place at a structural level: within religious institutions (the emergence of liberal-individualism and a softening of rules and regulations), and within society (the decline in power of religious institutions over other social institutions). More recently, Taylor has argued that secularisation revolves around a decline of religion in public life, a decline in religious belief and practice, and an increase in the level of debate, critical reflection and scrutiny of religion. We argue that this third dimension is directly linked to the growth of the media and the way in which it has reported and challenged religious teachings and institutions which were beyond debate and discussion. The more general task is to show how these macro and micro transformations are connected and how they have taken place in different societies. What is required in the Irish case is a long-term historical perspective that is able to link changes in institutional structures within Irish society to changes in habitus and practices. There has been a paucity of empirical investigations, particularly case studies that have sought to trace the connections between long-term structural change – in our case between the media and the Catholic Church – and changes in religiosity. The decline in belonging – institutional participation – is related to the decline in the power of churches to influence, limit and control what happens in other social fields such as the state, the media, health, education and social welfare. But while the debate about secularisation may have shifted towards religious action, it is important to recognise that the decline in the power of religious institutions as significant players in different social fields, is a critical aspect of secularisation. It is the decline in the ability of churches to influence the thinking, policies and practices in other
  6. 6. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 6 social fields which is linked to a decline not just in religious thinking or habitus but, more importantly, to a decline in religious practice. There is another important dimension to this argument. As well as churches losing their influence in other social fields, they have been less able to fend off the interference on non-religious institutions in the religious field. In particular, the state and the media have become dominant players in the religious field in Ireland. The state increasingly treats the Catholic Church as any other legal institution and religious personnel like any other citizens. This was most evident when, in 1998, child abuse victim Colm O’Gorman attempted to sue the diocese of Ferns. The Church attempted to claim diplomatic immunity but were found to be equivalent to any club or social group. The diocese eventually admitted negligence and settled. The impact of the media has perhaps been even greater. Not only do many of the messages of the media run contrary to the teachings of churches, but the media in the West have begun to see churches – which were once ‘sacred’ institutions – as potentially profane and to investigate, document and analyse their activities and personnel. The Media and the Catholic Church in Ireland The coverage of CCSA in the media has to be placed in a long-term historical context. During the last half of the twentieth century there was a gradual shift in the balance of power between the Catholic Church and the media. This can be analysed at an institutional level: the Church ceased to be a dominant player in the media field while the media became a major player in the religious field. This shift in the balance of power was linked to a change in habitus. The messages of the media were often contrary to those of the Church, particularly in relation to sexuality. What was once hidden and forbidden became exposed and acceptable. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the Catholic Church developed a monopoly position in the religious field in Ireland. This dominant position enabled it to become a major institutional player in other social fields, particularly the state, family, education, health and social welfare (Inglis 1998a). The Church was also a major player in the field of the media. Although it never developed its own newspaper, radio or television station, it was able to limit and control what was published and broadcast (Adams 1968; Woodman 1985; Boland 1999; Rockett 2004). This symbolic domination operated in three different ways. First, until the 1970s the
  7. 7. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 7 Church was able to ensure that the media printed and broadcasted stories and programmes that were in accordance with its teachings and did not print or broadcast stories that were contrary to its interests.2 Up until the 1950s, there was determined effort through various movements ‘to make Ireland more totally Catholic.’ (Whyte 1980). A very strict censorship of books and films operated up to the 1970s (Woodman 1985; Rockett 2004). As Murphy pointed out, this formal censorship created a habitus of censorship. ‘Official censorship created layers of unofficial, self- righteous, busybody censorship in many a local community’. Writing anything critical about the Church was almost taboo. An employee of the supposedly secular The Irish Times noted that journalists in that paper, ‘had to avoid writing about any subject in which criticism, even if justified, could be construed as criticism of the Church’ (see Inglis 1998a). This habitus of the Church being beyond criticism lasted through the 1980s. Matt Cooper, former editor of The Sunday Tribune noted in 1997 that the Church had ‘got it soft for too long – its comments and statements were reported but not analysed or commented upon’(Cooper 1997). It was not until the 1990s that the media were able to undertake the type of investigate journalism that forced the Church into explaining and justifying its actions and policies. Second, the Church was able to secure regular and ample coverage of its events and to have the media comply with its demands. Albeit a secular newspaper, up to the 1990s The Irish Times devoted pages to newly published Papal Encyclicals. Despite regular protests proclaiming sectarianism by the state public broadcaster, Radio Telefis Éireann still broadcasts (on radio and television) 18 peals of the Angelus prayer bell at noon and 6 p.m. (Cooney 1999; Cormack 2005). Third, although the Church was (and still is) the single largest interest group in Irish society and traditionally has seen itself as the social conscience of Irish society, its leaders rarely engaged in discussions and debates in the media (Ryan 1979). As Inglis (2000) points out, following Bourdieu (1998) this may have been a refusal to enter into discourse where the agenda, format and rules for making contributions are defined by the media. But it is also that the Church refuses to make itself accountable to the media which, increasingly, see themselves rather than the Church as the conscience of Irish society (Browne 1997). The Church has begun to recognise this shift in the balance of power. In 2007, Archbishop Seán Brady noted that the moral and social authority of traditional institutions, such as the Church, had been ‘partly replaced by
  8. 8. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 8 the 'authority' and influence of the ‘mass media’ (McGarry 2007). The change in the institutional balance of power was linked to a change in habitus and practice. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Church controlled the socialisation of each new generation through its ownership and control of most schools. Through these schools, the Church has been able to maintain its symbolic domination in the home. Its teachings and rituals were passed on to each new generation, particularly through mothers who had become central to the Church’s monopoly over morality and spirituality (Inglis 1998a). In the early 1970s, 90 per cent of Irish Catholics went to mass once a week (Nic Ghiolla Phádraig 1976). However by 1999, this reduced to 66 per cent of Irish Catholics attending mass once a week or more.3 The rapid expansion of first radio and later television ownership meant effectively that more Irish Catholics began to spend a greater amount of time with the media than they did in the Church. More significantly, the home became infiltrated with practices and messages that were anathema to the teachings of the Church (Inglis 1998a). Gradually, ritual practices such as saying the rosary and going to the local church for devotions and novenas began to die out. The more the media infiltrated Irish homes, the more they began to influence what people did and said. The dominant habitus of piety, humility and self- sacrifice began to be replaced by a secular habitus revolving around materialism, liberalism, hedonism and self-fulfilment. Pleasures and desires were stimulated rather than repressed (Inglis 2006). A modern generation began to develop a new understanding and appreciation of sexuality, particularly through teenage and women’s magazines. Sexual expression and fulfilment were openly encouraged. This was linked to an encouragement to critically reflect and talk about sex. A Stay Safe programme was implemented in primary schools in the 1980s to prevent child sexual abuse. It encouraged children to say ‘No’ to adults who tried to abuse them and to tell someone who they trusted (Inglis 1998b). Such measures facilitated by the state and promoted by the media played a role in preventing and heightening awareness of child sex abuse in Ireland. Arguably, the gradual social recognition and public debate surrounding this issue finally enabled victims to disclose abuse which may have occurred many years or decades previously.
  9. 9. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 9 Irish Clerical Sex Scandals The first scandal to shake the Catholic Church in Ireland was, in retrospect rather venial. In January 1992, Conor Brady, then editor of The Irish Times, received a phone call informing him that Eamon Casey, the Bishop of Galway, had had an affair with an American woman, Annie Murphy, in the 1970s who had given birth to his son and returned to live in her native country. At that time, Bishop Casey was one of the most well-known Irish bishops and regularly participated in the media. Conor Brady was extremely cautious about running the story. The Irish media have generally been reticent to report on the private lives of individuals, especially when there was no evidence that it interfered with their job. Brady consulted a senior expert on canon law in the Church, who warned Brady that if he could not prove the story was true, ‘the church will destroy The Irish Times’ (Brady 2005). Brady arranged an interview with Bishop Casey, but he never turned up. Later the same day, the Vatican announced that he had tendered his resignation and had flown to a secret destination in South America. Brady maintains that the fall of Bishop Casey was a monumental event in Ireland. It was, he said, ‘a shocking revelation of the gap between what the Catholic Church preached and what some of its leading figures practised.’ He went on to claim that ‘the dramatic fall-off in religious practice, the steep decline in vocations to the religious life and the near total loss of authority by the institutional church’ could be attributed to the fall of Bishop Casey (Brady 2005). While Brady’s claims may be exaggerated, the story did anger and disappoint many Irish Catholics. As one of the participants in a study by Hilliard concluded ‘[the Casey saga] knocked all the religion out of people ... It lowered the priests down to nothing’ (Mrs McDonald 8:246 quoted in Hilliard 2003). Another participant described the impact on her as a Catholic mother, I can't describe to you what it did to me inside, it was like there was a hole there that could never be filled. The shock I got, personally, that day! The more I thought about it and the things that followed I can say it damaged my whole life. This was a great opportunity for (daughter) to have a go at me so she came in to see me…well Mam she said what have you to say for yourself now?…I said I had heard about Bishop Casey that morning telling her I thought he was ill. I sat there and I hadn't the answers for her but I said to be
  10. 10. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 10 honest it is a bigger shock to me than it will ever be to you. (Mrs Bohan 10:26 quoted in Hilliard 2003). Soon after the Bishop Casey scandal, it was revealed that another nationally famous priest, Fr Michael Cleary, had had an ongoing affair with his housekeeper Phyllis Hamilton who had given birth to his son Ross. Fr Cleary was also a regular participant on national radio and television. He had his own talk show on a Dublin radio station for a number of years. It was only after he died that it emerged he had helped shelter and protect Fr Tony Walsh, a fellow curate in his Dublin parish, and one of the country’s leading child sex abusers. However the first, and probably still the most notorious “paedophile priest” in Ireland, was Fr Brendan Smyth. In 1994, Smyth pleaded guilty to 74 charges of sexual and indecent assault involving children. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, where he eventually died. The media coverage of his court case represented Smyth as a cold, callous, calculating abuser. But there was another factor that added to his notoriety. He had been charged in Northern Ireland but, at the time of charging, he was living with his religious order in the Republic. There had been ongoing problems processing extradition orders between the two jurisdictions. Eventually, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Northern Ireland police force) filed for his extradition. It later emerged that this request lay dormant in the offices of the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions for over a year. The controversial handling of the extradition eventually led to the resignation of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Albert Reynolds and the President of the High Court, Justice Harry White. Sex scandals within the Catholic Church over the latter half of the 20th century have, then, involved both paternity cases and the sexual and physical abuse of children by priests, brothers, nuns and bishops.4 The cases of Casey, Cleary and Smyth provide an insight into just some of the kinds of clerical sex scandals which were featured in the Irish media throughout the 1990s. However, there have been many more. The Ferns Report identified over 100 allegations of child sexual abuse by 21 priests in their diocese since 1962 (Department of Health and Children 2005). The archdiocese of Dublin revealed figures indicating more than 350 allegations of sexual abuse involving over 100 of its priests since 1940 (McGarry 2006). From the 1990s onwards, clerical scandals were frequently revealed through the media. A large
  11. 11. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 11 number and variety of clerical sex scandals came into the public arena over a relatively short period of time. A possible explanation might be that by the 1990s more and more people started to feel less regulated and dominated by the Church, which further contributed to enabling victims to come forward and disclose their abuse. From Fortune to Ferns The disclosure of clerical child sex abuse in the media can be described as a subject which, due to the power and symbolic domination of the Catholic Church in Irish society, could not be reported to one which had to be reported. This is most apparent in the recent history of the Ferns diocese, described in a banner front-page headline of one tabloid as the ‘most evil diocese in the world’(Vousden 2005).5 The Irish Sun, 26th October 2005:01 In 1990, a regional newspaper within the Ferns diocese, The Wexford People, carried a front-page story of a CCSA case which led to the conviction of local priest, Fr James Doyle. Doyle pled guilty to the charges and received a suspended sentence. An hour after the newspaper was published, the office of The Wexford People was inundated with calls protesting the story. By that evening, the townspeople had gathered in front of the office building in Wexford’s main street and proceeded to burn copies of the newspaper in a mass demonstration. Complaints against the newspaper continued for weeks and there was even a campaign to boycott any product or service which used The Wexford People for advertising.6 Five years later the case of another local priest, Fr Seán Fortune, accused of child sex abuse was carried by the
  12. 12. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 12 newspaper. This time there were no public demonstrations or threat of boycott (O'Connor 2000). Within the space of five years the notion that a priest could be a paedophile went from being an idea beyond the realm of possibility, provoking a defiantly aggressive reaction, to something that could be contemplated. This work seeks to describe and analyse the process by which this change in attitude towards the Church occurred during the 1990s. In February 1995, Colm O’Gorman made an official complaint of CSA against Fr Seán Fortune to Wexford police.7 Like many other CCSA victims in Ireland and internationally, the Gorman family’s attempts for recognition and retribution from the Catholic Church for these crimes would prove to be unsuccessful. Ultimately, the media played a central role in exposing this issue to the wider public. The suicide of Fr Seán Fortune, in March 1999, prompted the first newspaper reports naming Fortune as the priest charged with child sex abuse. Throughout the four years of this case, the media pressured Church authorities for answers, particularly Bishop of Ferns, Brendan Comiskey. Comiskey was responsible for Fortune and, despite being aware of many complaints of abuse against him, repeatedly placed Fortune in parishes where he had access to children. However, journalists investigating this story were met with what has been regarded as a legal rather than a pastoral response. Bishop Comiskey who usually revelled in the media spotlight, refused to give interviews. Instead, lawyers and public relations experts were employed by the Church to respond to the scandal (Ryan 1999). In the midst of these allegations, Comiskey took leave and underwent treatment for alcoholism in America. After a long drawn out legal process, Fortune committed suicide before his trial. He was facing sixty-six charges of sexual assault against nine boys. The issue of CCSA in the Ferns diocese continued and climaxed with the release of The Ferns Report in 2005 which contained the findings of a major inquiry by the state into CCSA and its mishandling by authorities in the diocese. By this time, the media had revealed a wealth of CCSA cases where the victims’ complaints had been inappropriately mishandled by church authorities. It was revealed that traditionally the most common response by the church was to reinstate the accused priest in another parish, where he invariably continued to abuse children. This local story focusing on an individual abuser in a small Irish community, escalated in the media to represent a culture of abuse. CCSA appeared to be
  13. 13. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 13 disseminating from the Catholic Church in Ireland during the 1990s. The case of Fr Seán Fortune reveals macro-level shifts in the relationship between the Church and the media. Media reports during this period illustrate how the values and beliefs, carefully cultivated by the Church and inculcated over generations in the bodies and souls of Irish Catholics were now being undermined and contaminated. As shown in the following image, tabloid newspapers commonly referred to clerical child sex abusers as ‘pervert priests’ judging them as ‘guilty sinners’ in a Church increasingly depicted as ‘evil’ (Vousden 2005). The Irish Sun, 26th October 2005:01 It is argued this “revelation” highlighted on an institutional level by the media has provoked a reflexive process in Catholic individuals which was linked to a decline in solidarity and support for the Church and a decline in Catholic belief and practices. Trends in Irish Religiosity While it is not possible to make direct causal links between cases of CCSA and the way they were reported in the media and secularisation, it is possible to document some dramatic changes in the nature of Irish Catholic religiosity and the decline in trust and support for the Church. Using EVS data, analysis of these trends in personal and institutional religiosity was conducted to examine the religiosity of Irish people over time.8 This was done with the aim of comparing levels of religiosity in Ireland at three points in time from three waves of data collection; in 1981 when media reports of CCSA were less frequent, in 1990 when cases of CCSA were beginning to be exposed to the public, and in 1999 when Ireland was experiencing a barrage of these cases in the media. Irish religiosity over time was compared with Italy, Malta and
  14. 14. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 14 Spain in order to test whether trends for Ireland were similar or different to that of other Catholic European countries.9 Trends in Personal Religiosity An index was constructed in order to measure the latent concept SPIRITUALITY using five variables indicating personal religious beliefs associated with Catholicism. These variables concern answers to the following “yes/no” questions, Do you believe in God?; Do you believe in life after death?; Do you believe in heaven?; Do you believe in hell?; Do you believe in sin? The scores on these five variables were added up to create a SPIRITUALITY index ranging from 0 to 5. A score of 5 meaning the respondent reports to believe in all five spiritual concepts, and a score of 0 meaning the respondent believes in none of the five concepts. This index is considered to indicate the personal religiosity of individuals. Data: EVS 1981 – 1999
  15. 15. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 15 Visual inspection of the mean scores in Graph 1 shows that spirituality in Ireland has remained relatively stable over time. The mean score for SPIRITUALITY in Ireland was 4.23 in 1981, 4.12 in 1990 and 4.09 in 1999; during this time Irish people, on average, believed in approximately four of the five concepts of SPIRITUALITY used in the index constructed for this study. The total mean scores for Italy and Spain indicate that the average respondent believed in about three of the five concepts of SPIRITUALITY. The total mean score for Malta reveals the highest levels of SPIRITUALITY reporting on average to believe in all of the five beliefs. It was found that differences across countries were statistically significant whereas differences across time were not.10 Trends in Institutional Religiosity The second dimension examined was the institutional religiosity of individuals. This was done using two separate variables CHURCH ATTENDANCE and TRUST IN THE CHURCH.11 These variables indicate the institutional religious practice and attitudes of respondents in this study. To be able to compare across countries and over time, regardless of changes in spirituality, analysis was conducted using the SPIRITUALITY index as a covariate. Like the SPIRITUALITY index, CHURCH ATTENDANCE varies between 0 and 5. 5 meaning respondents attend church more than once a week and 0 meaning respondents never attend church.12
  16. 16. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 16 Data: EVS 1981 – 1999 Examination of the mean scores shows a decline in church attendance in Ireland. In 1981, the mean score for CHURCH ATTENDANCE in Ireland was 3.44. This indicates that on average, Irish people attended church somewhere between monthly and weekly. In 1990, this frequency remained stable with a mean score of 3.44. However, in 1999 CHURCH ATTENDANCE dropped to 2.91. This indicates that the average Irish person attended church less than once a month. This analysis shows that regardless of spirituality, levels of CHURCH ATTENDANCE remained relatively stable between 1981 and 1990, and there was a decline in CHURCH ATTENDANCE between 1990 and 1999. Italy showed similar results as respondents attended church on average slightly less than once a month. Spanish respondents also attended church once a month in 1981 and 1990. However, this decreased to an attendance of more than once a year in 1999. As with spirituality, CHURCH ATTENDANCE in Malta was the highest with respondents attending church almost weekly in 1981, gradually declining to somewhere between monthly and weekly by 1999. The differences across time and across countries are statistically significant.13
  17. 17. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 17 Finally, the variable TRUST IN THE CHURCH was examined as an additional indicator of institutional religiosity. Compared with the other variables used in this study, the number of answer categories for was less for this variable. TRUST IN THE CHURCH was coded such that 0 meant respondents reported to have no trust in the Church, and 3 meant respondents reported to have a great deal of trust in the Church.14 Data: EVS 1981 – 1999 The mean score for TRUST IN THE CHURCH in Ireland was 2.28 in 1981, this decreased to 2.11 in 1990 and again decreased to 1.80 in 1999.15 This indicates that in 1981, Irish people had more than ‘quite a lot’ of trust in their Church. In 1990, this decreased somewhat. However by 1999, their trust ranged between ‘quite a lot’, to ‘not very much’. Analysis shows that regardless of one’s SPIRITUALITY, Irish peoples TRUST IN THE CHURCH declined significantly declined during the 1990s. This is the first time in this study that we see a dimension of Irish religiosity levels dropping below that of Italy and Spain. In short, by 1999 Ireland had the lowest levels of TRUST IN THE CHURCH than any of the other Catholic European countries examined.16
  18. 18. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 18 An opinion poll in 2008, found that six in ten of the respondents agreed that their trust in the priesthood had been damaged by allegations of child sex abuse (Red C 2008). However, it is not possible to make a direct correlation between the decline in institutional support for the Catholic Church and the dramatic increase in the negative stories that emerged about the Church in the 1990s. It may well be that that Catholic Ireland was already in the process of becoming more secular, that Catholics had begun to distant themselves from institutional religion and engage in what Davie has described as ‘believing without belonging’(Davie 1994; Voas and Crockett 2005; Glendinning and Bruce 2006; Inglis 2007). However, it may well be that the willingness of the media to break the sacred ring of steel which had protected the Catholic Church for so long and not just to report but engage in investigative journalism about CCSA was an important catalyst in the demise of church practice and loyalty to the institution. The question is if there had been no media coverage would more Catholics still belong and participate in the institutional church. In other words, has CCSA and it’s coverage in the media accelerated the process of secularisation in Ireland? It would seem that continual negative publicity in the media helped to challenge the traditional Catholic habitus and the view of priests being paragons of virtue and the Church as the moral guardian of Irish society. It was through the reporting of CCSA that the media, for the first time in its history in Ireland, broke through the embargo on criticism and negative reporting which the Catholic Church had created and developed and, in so doing, helped to replace the Church as the conscience of Irish society. Conclusion The question at the heart of this paper is simple. What role did the media play in the decline in the power and influence of the Catholic Church in Ireland? We have argued that over the past fifty years, the Catholic Church lost its ability to limit and control the media. It was no longer a major institutional player in the media field. The result was that the messages contained in newspapers, magazines, radio, television, film and more recently the Internet, were often at variance with the ethos, lifestyle and practices promoted by the Church. More significantly, until the 1990s the Catholic Church had managed to prevent either the media or the state from entering the religious field and interfering in the affairs of the Church. There was a real but rarely
  19. 19. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 19 acknowledged ring which surrounded the Church, which made the religious field sacred, and which prevented profane intrusions from outside institutions and organisations. The decline in the symbolic domination of the Church meant that although it was no longer able to control media content, it was able to prevent negative reporting and investigations into its affairs. We have argued that once the sacred ring preventing any intrusion was broken and the media began to report on sex scandals, that there was a major shift in the balance of power between the two institutions. Investigative reports and documentaries became combined with detailed coverage of court cases involving clerical child sex abuse. The reports and documentaries about the Ferns diocese pressured the state into undertaking a detailed investigation of its own. What was crucial in the media reports, particularly the coverage of the Fr Seán Fortune case and the Ferns report, was how the Church was depicted as evil. It had moved from being regarded and treated by the media as a sacred, almost untouchable institution, to one which was profoundly profane. Within a period of ten years, the media abandoned its policy of non-interference in Church affairs and regularly depicted the Church as a public enemy. In this paper, we have outlined some important links that are central to understanding recent transformations in Irish culture. One of the main transformations has been the decline in the dominance of the Catholic Church in Irish society. It has lost its monopoly over morality. It is no longer able to limit and control what is done by the state. It is no longer the dominant stakeholder in many social fields particularly family, health, social welfare and education. The decline in its influence in these social fields is linked at the micro level to a decline in institutional belonging and participation; mass attendance and trust in the Church have declined. Future research can reveal whether the trends outlined in this study continue. It is hoped that the work presented here, which shows that examination of the relationship between the Church and the media, can further our understanding of the secularisation process.
  20. 20. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 20 NOTES The authors would like to thank Dr Gijs van Houten for his advice and comments on the quantitative analyses in this paper. 1 An opinion poll appearing in The Irish Examiner in 2008 suggested these levels of religiosity may have declined, but only slightly. More than eight in ten (84 per cent) of respondents believed in God; 78 per cent believed in heaven. Over six in ten (63 per cent) prayed at least once a week, 45 per cent went to church or religious services at least once a week. There is however, a question mark over their commitment to the institutional Church. Only half of the respondents said they would be willing to donate €10 or more every week to the support of their local church (Red C). 2 Although the relationship between religion and the media has been the focus on some considerable debate in Ireland, there has been little empirical social or historical research, (Bogle 1997). However, Inglis (2007) argued that during most of the twentieth century, the Church symbolically dominated the media through formal and informal censorship. 3 Finding based on European Values Study 1999 for Ireland ( 4 In order for sexual and physical violence against children to be considered a social problem, and therefore become subject to public attention, these acts had to be recognised as abusive and even criminal. This is a relatively recent phenomenon in Western society (Pfohl 1977). 5 The Ferns diocese incorporates most of county Wexford, and some of counties Carlow and Wicklow. 6 This was not the first occasion where a boycotting strategy was used as a form of protest in Ferns. In the 1950s, a local parish priest orchestrated a boycott of Protestant business in reaction to the decision by a local Protestant woman to home-school her daughters rather than send them to Catholic school. This was deemed to be in breach of her duty as the wife of a Catholic. The story attracted international attention and was dramatised in the film, A Love Divided, in 1999 (McGuigan 1999). 7 Although O’Gorman made his complaint as an adult, he was allegedly raped by Fortune in 1980 (aged 14) and abused for a further two and a half years. While it can be said the Fortune “case” was drawn out over ten years (1995–2005), the alleged abuse of young boys by Fortune took place over decades. 8 Data were weighted to control for age. Weights were assigned based on the proportion of respondents in twenty age-groups (Ntiles) in each of the countries relative to the proportion of respondents in those age groups in the entire sample. As SPIRITUALITY was used as a covariate, analysis for CHURCH ATTENDANCE was carried out on only those respondents who answered CHURCH ATTENDANCE and each of the five variables used in the SPIRITUALITY index. Similarly, analysis for TRUST IN THE CHURCH was carried out on only those respondents who answered for both SPIRITUALITY and TRUST IN THE CHURCH. 9 EVS data for Ireland and Italy were collected in the following years; 1981 (WAVE 1), 1990 (WAVE 2), and 1999 (WAVE 3). EVS data for Spain were collected in; 1981 (WAVE 1), 1990 (WAVE 2), 1999 - 2000 (WAVE 3). EVS data for Malta were collected in; 1983 (WAVE 1), 1991 (WAVE 2) and 1999 (WAVE 3). For ease of presentation, the mean year for each wave (1981, 1990 and 1999) is used in the main text of this article. 10 A 2-Way ANOVA was conducted to determine the influence of COUNTRY and WAVE on SPIRITUALITY. Results show that although WAVE does not have a significant main effect F(2,13586) =1.542; COUNTRY does show a significant main effect F(3,13586) =568.549, p<.05; and findings show there is a significant COUNTRY by WAVE interaction effect, F(6,13586) =27.852, p<.05. Post hoc analyses using the Tukey HSD method with an alpha value of 0.5 found numerous significant mean differences for Ireland between waves and between countries. Please note that a single independent variable “countrywave” was used for ‘all’ post hoc testing. 11 The EVS variable Confidence in Churches is used as an indicator of TRUST IN THE CHURCH for this study. As 98 per cent of the sample report to be Roman Catholic, it is assumed they refer to the Roman Catholic Church in their response. 12 Mean scores for Church attendance were recoded as follows, 0= Never, 1= Once a year or less, 2= More than once a year, 3= Once a month, 4= Once a week, 5= More than once a week. 13 A 2-Way ANOVA was conducted to determine the influence of COUNTRY and WAVE on CHURCH ATTENDANCE. Results show that WAVE has a significant main effect F(2,13585) = 45.146, p<.05; that COUNTRY shows a significant main effect F(3,13585) = 257.092, p<.05; and that there is a significant COUNTRY by WAVE interaction effect, F(6,13585) = 13.940, p<.05. SPIRITUALITY accounted for a significant amount of the overall variance, F(1,13585) = 7523.552, p <.05. Post hoc analyses using the Tukey HSD method with an alpha value of 0.5 found numerous significant mean differences for Ireland
  21. 21. Donnelly & Inglis Researching in the Church in Ireland NUI Maynooth, Ireland 22nd October 2008 21 between waves and between countries. Analysis was also conducted without the use of the SPIRITUALITY covariate. Results for a 2-way ANOVA showed that WAVE had a significant main effect F(2,13586) =35.965, p<.05; that COUNTRY had a significant main effect F (3,13586) =776.384, p<.05; and found a significant COUNTRY by WAVE interaction effect, F(6,13586)= 35.338, p<.05. 14 Mean scores for TRUST IN THE CHURCH were coded (in EVS) as follows, 0= None at all, 1= Not very much, 2= Quite a lot, 3= A great deal. 15 This represents a drop in TRUST IN THE CHURCH of 0.17 between 1981 and 1990, and a drop of nearly twice that, 0.31, between 1990 and 1999. 16 A 2-Way ANOVA was conducted to determine the influence of COUNTRY and WAVE on TRUST IN THE CHURCH. Results show that WAVE has a significant main effect F(2,11815) =86.194, p<.05; that COUNTRY shows a significant main effect F(3,11815) =55.220, p<.05; and that there is a significant COUNTRY by WAVE interaction effect, F(6,11815) =19.464, p<.05. SPIRITUALITY accounted for a significant amount of the overall variance, F(1,11815) =3036.212, p<.05. Post hoc analyses using the Tukey HSD method with an alpha value of 0.5 found numerous significant mean differences for Ireland between waves and between countries. Analysis was also conducted without the use of the SPIRITUALITY covariate. Results for a 2-way ANOVA showed that WAVE had a significant main effect F(2,11816) =86.711, p<.05; that COUNTRY had a significant main effect F (3,11816) =174.953, p<.05; and found a significant COUNTRY by WAVE interaction effect, F(6,11816) =14.126, p<.05.
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