Monday, 21 November 2011

Mission To Prey

Aoife Kavanagh | Fr. Kevin Reynolds

I sometimes think that we must lead extremely boring lives. This appears evident from the haste with which we jump onto the bandwagon, when any news surfaces that detracts from or calumniates someone. Not to mention the glee with which we then continue to follow this news to its conclusion.

The media, completely aware of this immense desire for news of detraction or calumny, is only too happy to satisfy our needs in this regard. They realise that feeding this desire increases readership/viewers/listeners and has immense monetary value for them. I am sure it would not be far from the truth if we were to classify this strange desire for news of detraction or calumny as a genuine addiction, just like drug addiction. The media being the drug dealers and us the addicts.

Like any addiction, detraction and calumny causes unbearable pain and suffering. Detraction and calumny may in fact be even more harmful, than alcohol and drug addiction, because of the deeply emotional and psychological component of the hurt that is caused, not on the addict himself, but on the third party, the subject of the detraction or calumny.

Consider the case of Fr. Kevin Reynolds who was falsely accused, on the evening of 23 May 2011, by RTE, Irelands National Television and Radio Broadcaster, of raping a minor, named Veneranda, while he was a missionary in Kenya in 1982. He was further accused of fathering a child, named Sheila, because of this rape. The reporter, who broke the story, was Aoife Kavanagh and the report was titled “Mission to Prey”.  Nothing like turning the knife, once you have stuck it in, is there?

Fr. Reynolds was first approached about this allegation on 7 May 2011, immediately after his parish annual First Holy Communion Mass. Nice timing. Could they not have waited until Monday? 

Fr. Reynolds made it quite clear to RTE that the allegations were not true. He also offered to undergo a paternity test to prove that the allegations were not true. Despite this, Aoife Kavanagh ignored him and chose not to give him an opportunity to prove his innocence by going ahead with broadcasting the report. As a result, Fr. Reynolds had to stand down as the parish priest and was required to withdraw from all public ministry. 

Fortunately Robert Dore, a solicitor, agreed to accept Fr. Reynolds case on a pro-bono basis. Fr. Reynolds therefore had the means to go to court to prove his innocence. What would have happened had this solicitor not agreed to work pro-bono? Fr. Reynolds may not have had the means to actually take RTE to court. We may still never have known the facts today!

The case was due to be heard in a Dublin Court on the morning of 17 November 2011, but was delayed till after lunch. However, by 14h00, on that same day when the case was heard, RTE suddenly agreed to settle the matter and a correction order was issued by the Dublin Court. (Why did RTE wait until the day the matter appeared in court? Were they hoping Fr. Reynolds wouldn't have the finances to see the matter through?) Anyway, RTE allegedly agreed to pay $1,5 million in damages to settle the matter. The paternity test also confirmed, crucially, without any doubt, that Fr. Reynolds was not the father of the child.

Aoife Kavanagh has yet to provide the identity of the person who allegedly supplied the baseless information about Fr. Reynolds. Fr. Reynolds and his solicitor have indicated that they will take RTE to court, if that is what is required, in order to obtain details of the RTE source.

Strangely, Aoife Kavanagh has retained her job and continues to report for RTE. Clearly the cost of $1,5 million in damages, paid by RTE, is a minor matter in comparison to the benefits that they must have received from publishing a report that detracts from this priest and which turned out to in fact be nothing more than calumny.

One cannot but help wonder whether our intense desire for news of detraction or calumny, and the obvious benefits that this has for the media, is in fact actually giving the media a “Mission to Prey”. It is a mission, which the media undertakes with great zeal, without any degree of care and with no regard for the untold harm, which this mission may have on the subject.

Imagine if we practiced restraint and stopped our crazy desire to feed our habit for news of detraction or calumny? Would this horrendous incident have occurred? Would the drug dealer – the media, not find themselves out of business and therefore desperately in need of finding more suitable merchandise – factual objective news, to supply their clients. After all, there is definitely no business in trying to supply drugs to a client, who is not a drug addict.

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