Saturday, December 18, 2021


At the Catholic Truth Conference, Judge O'Brien K.C.
denounced the plague of immoral literature from abroad.

The Catholic Truth Society (founded 1899) and its company Veritas (founded 1928), have been well known for a long long time. They are both agencies of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland.

In the 1960s Veritas was involed in producing and marketing small devotional pamphlets for the education of the youth of Ireland, such as The Devil at Dances, What to do on a Date, and so on.

It also produced little pamphlet biographies of some of the saints, some of them written by local priests.

The other end of its business was as a repository, selling vestments, church furniture and religious objects.

I was briefly a reader for them at one stage in the early 1960s. I really thought they were very superficial and wasting their time producing some of these devotional pamphlets while there were serious questions facing the church coming out of the Vatican Council of the day. I didn't last as a reader for long.

The company is still with us today supporting the old orthodoxy. Let me take an example of two recent books they refused to stock, no doubt out of religious conviction or is it possibly fear of offending the Vatican.

One was Whatever Happened to Sin by the theologian Seán Fagan. This was an absolutely brilliant book on personal responsibility but was subject to a modern "book burning". The Vatican instructed Seán's religious order to buy up every book in sight and destroy it. Fortunately Dublin City Libraries was out of their reach, unlike what might have been the case in the reign of John Charles Mc Quaid, Archbishop of Dublin, 1940-1972. Many copies of the book survive within the library system, which was, of course, where I got mine.

And then there was Tony Flannery's book, A Matter of Conscience. Tony ran into trouble with the Vatican on a number of fronts - his views on the origins of the priesthood, the ordination of women, and so on. Denounced by the Vatican, Tony was silenced. He was offered a deal from time to time which would have involved him renouncing his views and never, ever, discussing these issues in public again. At the same time these issues were being discussed among theologians but Tony was probably targeted due to his being one of the co-founders of the Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland. He never found out, to this day, who complained him, though there is speculation that it was a churchman.

So that's your modern Veritas.

But let me go back to the 1960s and the little pamphlet biographies of saints who were being held up as role models for the youth of the day.

I would like to take just one particular pamphlet entitled A Model for Millions: St Maria Goretti. This is about a young girl called Maria Goretti. Most of us then were aware of the story that Maria died defending her virginity against a rapist and the saga is set out in some detail in the pamphlet.

Now the pamphlet was written by a young priest, not long out of Clonliffe College, called Morgan Costello. I knew him. I had served his masses in Killiney. I had tea with him in Castledermot, Co Kildare, when he was assigned there. I printed baptismal forms for him when he was in Meath St in Dublin's city centre. I printed the memorial cards for his father's death. Then I lost contact with him.

And in recent years, what did I find? This priest, who had written this glowing, touching, devotional biography of Maria Goretti, was a child sex abuser on a scale which exceeded that of Brendan Smyth.

He abused everywhere he went and left an enormous trail of physical, spiritual, emotional and mental destruction behind him. On one occasion he was beaten up by his parishioners. On another he was saved from a beating by a parishioner who refused to believe the stories circulating about him, though that parishioner's wife would never let a child of hers be alone with him. He was transferred from parish to parish according as his activities came to light.

Eventually, when the law caught up with him at the beginning of this century, the Garda had to hack their way through a battery of civil and canonical lawyers to get him into court. He appeared in court, a feeble old man in in a wheelchair. His final posting was as Parish Priest in Rathmines before he ceased to be a priest of the Dublin diocese.

The hearing of the case kept being put back and eventually the DPP abandoned it. As is the custom, no reason was given. I suspect myself that it was either because he, or the young man he serially buggered in Meath St in the 1960s, was no longer fit enough to appear in court. I've little doubt what the verdict would have been had the case gone ahead. The charges had been preceded by a massive investigation by the Garda and I suspect that this was just a sample case from among many others.

Costello died on 3 July 2016. The death was not publicised and I don't know where he is buried.

So, what is the point of all I have written above?

The thread here is Veritas which, after all is the agent of the Catholic Bishops of Ireland. In spite of the challenges facing the Church in the 1960s, the company carried on producing simplistic devotional pamphlets advocating purity among the youth of Ireland.

Now, the company had no way of knowing the hypocrisy behind the Maria Goretti pamphlet when it was published in 1960 as Costello was only then starting out on his path of destruction. But when the hierarchy did become so aware at a later stage, the response was to rotate him around parishes as was the custom of the day. So the pamphlet is a symbol for me of the church's hypocritical stance on child sex abuse during my lifetime.

And before I go into my peroration, let us not forget that early in his career, Costello, while lauding young Maria's resolve, himself put an innocent young girl into a home where she was most likely abused and Auxiliary Bishop Kavanagh stood idly by on that occasion.

Let me finish with a few quotes from the final pages of the pamphlet on Maria Goretti which are directly addressed to young Irish boys and girls.
God has given men and women the power to create children with Him, who will be happy with him forever in Heaven. These wonderful powers may only be used in marriage, but long before that time young men and women realise that they have received them. God knows too that they will have to struggle hard to keep pure so He gives them the Sacrament of Confirmation. ...

The devil will tempt them to enjoy pleasures in thought and act which are only permitted by God in marriage, and which outside marriage can only bring painful remorse of conscience. ...

Worldly people, obscene magazines, stimulating films will urge one to give up the fight but all must stand by their guns beneath the flag of Christ. ...

In this great battle of life one can imitate St. Maria Goretti. When faced with the decision of sin or death she gave the resounding battle-cry: "You may die but you must never commit mortal sin."
As I leave you I am quietly reading the missioner's sermon on Hell in James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ... ...

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