Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Church and abuse

The Church and Its Abuse

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but he whoso confesseth and forshaketh them shall have mercy.” Proverbs 28:113

“The sins of the common, untutored people are nothing in comparison with the sins that are committed by great and high persons that are in spiritual and temporal offices.”
Luther, Table Talk

Stories about members of the Catholic clergy abusing children continue to appear in the press. A Sunday’s New York Time Magazine article (February 13, 2011) featured a report by Russell Shorto, “The Irish Affliction,” detailing the sexual abuse (I believe more accurate terms are “sexual assault” and “rape.”) of children perpetrated by priests throughout Ireland.
Besides the thousands of cases in Ireland, which makes that country only second to the US in the number of cases, Shorto cites reports of clergy sexual abuse in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, Britain, Italy, Spain, France, Malta, Switzerland, Austria, Mexico, New Zealand, Canada, Kenya, the Philippines, and Australia. Though this list might seem shockingly long, it does not report all the countries that have experienced abuse by Catholic clergy.
More tales of horror will, no doubt, surface in the future (See Washington Post, L.A. Cardinal’s legacy tainted by priest abuse.” Saturday, February 26, 2011). But how many victims have remained silent over the years and how many victims from centuries past took the abuse they suffered silently to their graves?
One particularly disturbing story that has made its way into the news is that of Marie Collins. Collins told the curate of her parish about a priest who sexually abused her when she was thirteen. The curate listened to her ordeal and then informed her that she “may have tempted” the priest into “digitally raping” her.
Other depositions and news stories have revealed that the church would sometimes pay off victims and then convince them to sign nondisclosure agreements, prohibiting them from speaking about what they suffered. In other cases, church authorities transferred abusive priests to different parishes when complaints against them became too clamorous to contain.
Worst of all, the Vatican frequently asserted it had legal jurisdiction over priests accused of abusing children in order to shield them from criminal prosecution. These tactics were part of a ubiquitous pattern of concealing the crimes being perpetrated by their priests.
Through its history, the church had been more interested in protecting its reputation and wealth than the lives of the young. But now that the church is buried in an avalanche of public evidence, one would expect at least a trickle of mea culpa to emanate from the Vatican. Nevertheless, Rome rejects responsibility for these crimes and dismisses the fact that it covered them up. One wonders, what makes this self-proclaimed guardian of morals blind to its own culpability?
The mendacity of the Vatican has persuaded all but the most docile and dogmatic supporters (The Catholic League for one) to see the church for what it is: an accessory to numberless counts of sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape. Though it might attempt more subterfuge, it can no longer disguise its history of obstructing justice and helping perpetrators evade punishment.
To anyone with the most rudimentary moral sense, it’s astounding that an institution guilty of covering up thousands of sex crimes continues to censure society’s “immoral” culture and behavior. Yet, as its own crimes pour out for everyone to see, the Vatican still tries to deceive the world about the rot circulating through its clergy body. Rome’s duplicity reflects a controlling hierarchy trapped in an archaic system of beliefs, beliefs of an insular male culture that sees issues involving women, marriage, celibacy, sexuality and the contemporary world through a warped lens of a medieval theology and philosophy.
If the church is to purge itself of their foul crimes, it would first have to launch itself into the twenty-first century by modernizing all of its positions on the issues above. But that is more than unlikely, since it would require jettisoning an all male hierarchy that will never surrender its control and power.

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