Ever wondered why the Catholic Church cannot come to grips with the level of Child Sexual Abuse within its ranks?
I can suggest a couple of reasons and I suspect those closer to the Church can suggest a few more.
The biggest problem comes from the sacrament of Confession and for a couple of reasons.
Reason 1. Justice runs a very poor second to Forgiveness in their institution. Forgiveness is one of their key marketing points and I suspect a very good one from the point of view of having an edge over other Faiths. Where other religions have you down on bended knee facing the music for an undetermined length of time to get to their Heaven, over at the Catholic Church it’s a slick and quick process of confessing, doing a few Hail Mary’s, promising to be good, and voila, you are back on the A list.
What happens if you re-offend?
No worries mate. Rinse and repeat.
Reason 2. Confidentiality of the Confessional. This one is especially helpful for Abusing Priests because it’s a get out of jail (literally) card. Regardless of his intentions, a serial offender has the ability to fess up his crimes knowing he now cannot be reported to the Police. He can be dealt with by the Church itself, but he will not be reported and unless he is especially abusive, the matters will be dealt with privately. He may be forced to relocate but no warnings will be issued to his community and he effectively gets a new crop of victims to exploit.
This leaves the worst offenders with the option of not fessing up until exposed then running off to Confession to limit the damage or should I call that limiting the Justice?
Reason 3. Mateship. As the Church continues to lose it’s grip on society it has turned inwards on itself. As society raises it’s expectations of these holy men, they feel harassed and have given to protecting themselves from a changing world. Where once your local Priest would expect to dominate your life and demand certain behaviours, since the arrival of The Pill, they have lost relevance and folk are more prepared to make their own decisions. Especially women.
The end result is an Us or Them situation and this is particularly noticeable in older clergy who struggle to make sense of a more thoughtful society. Some even try to blame Feminism which completely blows the whistle on where they think women stand in their God’s eyes.
Now where does that leave us in our endeavours to get this institution to deal with the Sexual Abusers within their ranks?
That’s the big question and I would suggest it cannot be resolved internally. The Church is too big, too greedy, and they are too set in their ways to be able to enforce change and see it through. It can take centuries for even minor changes to make their way through their system. More serious concessions take even longer. The Spanish Inquisition ran from the 1400s to somewhere in the 18th century and it wasn’t till 2004 that the Church saw fit to offer an apology for it. And that didn’t involve them coughing up any money. Imagine how hard the battle with millions of dollars involved.
Can a non clergy, practicing Catholic solve the problems? Highly unlikely. If the Forgiveness thing is part of their makeup, then Justice will not be served. It comes down to putting kids ahead of the Priests and the requirement of respecting Priests goes hand in hand with the psyche.
It can’t be fixed by hostile ex Catholics either and nor we they be invited to.
Probably the only viable option is the blunt use of the Law and it needs political will to break through. How this is going to work in Australia is an open question especially with the current Prime Minister highly sympathetic towards the Church where he trained as a Priest and who has stood as a character witness for a convicted paedophile. On the global scale it’s even harder and a battle between the Vatican and the UN would be an exercise of many years duration. The early steps have been miniscule but at least some have been taken and perhaps a hot shot lawyer will take up the challenge.
Whatever the outcomes though, we have a very long way to go and I’m sure it won’t be resolved in my lifetime. I’m already in my early 60s and the Church has great expertise at playing their cards close to their chests. Even folk inside the Vatican can’t break through without good will from the incumbents. They also have plenty of money and plenty of political friends even before having to shell out any cash.
It’s depressing but it’s a battle that has to be fought because even minor changes can benefit some kids who would otherwise be just another casualty of the Sexual Abusers concealed within their walls.