I read a very powerful piece about moral courage, and the lack of it, by Dermot Bolger in yesterday's Irish Times.
He mentioned Fr. Kenneth McCabe:
"The young Jesuit, Kenneth McCabe, got a truthful report about Irish industrial schools to Donough O’Malley in 1967. The minister was sufficiently shocked to establish a committee that abolished these lucrative sweatshops, but at the last minute McCabe was excluded from the committee. Tainted as a whistleblower, he resigned from the Jesuits and went to work as a priest with deprived London children."The name rang a bell but it took me a while to place it.
When I was editing the Shanganagh Valley News in 1958, Fr. McCabe had contributed a short story called "Autobiography of a Stamp, or, Converted by the Jesuits" as a vehicle for appealing for used postage stamps for the Missions.
I bet at that stage he had little idea how his career was to pan out ten years later. I checked out the priest list in the Diocese of Westminster and he is listed there as retired and in a Jesuit nursing home in Milltown.
Until today, I had no idea he had run into trouble for following his conscience. This upset me enormously. I'm not sure why. I never met Fr. Kenneth. I had only corresponded with him by letter. But he was nonetheless part of my growing up and he belonged to a more innocent era, as the story of the stamp so strikingly illustrates. So perhaps my upset was at a loss of innocence, a nostalgia for a time when things seemed simpler, and fixed, and true for all time.
Mind you, my upset is slowly turning into a cold anger at how he was treated. From what I read in the Ryan Report, he was one of four people proposed for the Committee of Inquiry, and came recommended by Declan Costello TD, but his name got "dropped" somewhere between the Government Memorandum and the final Cabinet decision. It is not clear what role the Jesuit order played in all of this but his resignation from the Order, if such, would not reflect well on them. On the other hand, he seems to be in some way under their care today.
This post is just a small contribution to making sure he, and his bravery, are not forgotten.
Of course I don't have as many readers as the Irish Times, but, never mind.
In the third comment below, Fr. Kevin O'Higgins has informed me that "Fr. Kenneth McCabe died peacefully a few days ago (Wednesday, Feb 6) in Cherryfield nursing unit, at Milltown Park". He says Fr. Ken was "a genuinely great man" and I totally agree. May he rest in peace.
Fr. Kevin himself is no slouch, as his bio on the jesuit missions website shows. He says Fr. Daniel Berrigan inspired him to join the Jesuits, and as I was reading the bio I was also thinking of Fr. Roy Bourgeois who seems to have shared some of the same experiences as Fr. Kevin on the missions.
Thank you Fr. Kevin, for informing me of Fr. Ken's death, and may the force be with you.