“Absolute power corrupts absolutely”

As Patsy McGarry of the Times wrote the other day:

But there was also the parallel, deeply dark underbelly of the church at that time, as disclosed yesterday. The commission report records such levels of depravity and barbarity in the treatment of thousands of children by Brothers, priests and nuns that one can only conclude that it illustrates nothing less than an utterly dysfunctional and deeply corrupt institution.

It is such corruption as results from the regular and unaccountable exercise of absolute power. Then, as the great, Catholic, historian Lord Acton observed “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The report illustrates voluminously the absolute corruption of an absolutely powerful institution.

We — as in Ireland in general, and maybe humans in general — learn too little or too slowly from the past.  We continue to ignore problems of the most vulnerable in society. Not at the same scale, but without protections in place, absolute power can easily occur on a smaller scale. We can’t say ‘never again’ when measures are clearly not in place to protect against abuse happening again.