Sexual Child Abuse in the Catholic Church
“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”
(Jesus, Matthew 18; 6, KJV.)
This is a newsworthy topic, as there have been generations of victims, the Catholic Church has often protected the perpetrators, most of whom (if still alive) are free to offend again, and the overwhelming majority of casualties have not been compensated.
There are pedophile offenders in all Christian denominations, yet the Catholic Church has the worst reputation of them all. When one considers the sheer numbers of children abused, the lack of empathy and support for the victims, and the fact that the Catholic hierarchy deliberately failed to protect children from known offenders, the Catholic church has distinguished itself as the most uncaring and unrepentant of them all.
The extent of the abuse perpetrated and then hidden from secular justice and the public has been well documented in a few countries and is becoming apparent in most others. Over the past few decades, there has been a tidal wave of evidence that tens of thousands of Catholic clergy have raped or molested children.
Sexual abuse of children and young adolescents by Catholic priests and monks has been documented since the medieval era, when it was commonplace. Bishops were not as preoccupied with secrecy as they are today, so the sexual abuse of children was openly discussed with the public. At the Synod of Elvira in 306 CE, it was decided that,
“Those who sexually abuse boys may not commune even when death approaches.” 
Withholding communion may have been a big deal in the fourth century, but that would hardly have deterred any offenders.
At the third Lateran council of 1138 CE, it was decided that clerics who engaged in pederasty (sexual activity between a man and a boy) were to be dismissed from the clerical state or else confined to monasteries to do penance, but in practice, perpetrators were rarely punished.
One of the reasons Martin Luther rejected mandatory celibacy was because he knew that Catholic clerics commonly had sexual relations with other men, women, and children.
More forward 500 odd years to the 20th and 21st centuries, and in many monasteries, schools, churches, institutional homes and boarding schools, monks’ and priest’s and brother’s “lapses” with boys were so commonplace they were endemic. In the 1950’s, Reverend Gerald Fitzgerald, a Catholic priest, founded “the Servants of the Paraclete,” an order that tried to rehabilitate errant priests with psychosocial problems. They ran treatment facilities in New Mexico, Missouri and California. Their existence was well known to all US bishops. Reverend Fitzgerald thought that he could help priests with drug and alcohol issues, but soon lost confidence in his ability to change pedophile priests’ behavior. In 1957, Reverend Fitzgerald wrote to Archbishop Edwin Byrne that he thought it unwise to
“…offer hospitality to men who have seduced or attempted to seduce little boys or girls…If I were a bishop, I would tremble when I failed to report them to Rome for involuntary laicization. Experience has taught us these men are too dangerous to the children of the parish and the neighborhood for us to be justified in receiving them here…They should ipso facto be reduced to laymen when they act thus.”
Reverend Fitzgerald had discovered for himself what most of the world now knows: pedophiles are usually unstoppably recidivist. He told the Vatican that pedophile activity among Catholic priests was rampant.
One of Reverend Fitzgerald’s suggested solutions was that the Vatican could acquire a deserted Caribbean island to exile the offenders. The Vatican ignored this idea, probably because priests on a deserted island could only drain the Church’s coffers, and would have been hard to explain to the world’s press. Reverend Fitzgerald was trying to protect children, yet he should have recommended a criminal trial for pedophile offenders.
In more recent times, the American media has exposed priest offenders in nearly every state of the USA. In February 2004, the final reports of two surveys commissioned by the US bishops (one must give them credit for doing this) were released. These surveys were conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York  and by the National Review Board. Both reports looked at the issue of youth sexual abuse among Catholic clergy in the USA since the 1950s.
The John Jay survey revealed that almost forty-five hundred clergy perpetrators had been reported by dioceses since 1950, 4.3 percent of those actively working as priests in the period, and that at least ten thousand known victims had made plausible allegations against priests. The authors made the point that these figures were almost certainly an underestimate, and that the Church would face many more allegations in the years to come. Most victims were aged eleven to fourteen and eighty-one percent were boys. Seventy-six percent of the allegations made against priests had never been reported to law enforcement authorities.
The National Review Board report placed blame for the lack of reporting to secular authorities directly on the bishops’ negligence. One of its concluding recommendations was that
“Dioceses and orders should report all allegations of sexual abuse to the civil authorities, regardless of the circumstances, or the age or perceived credibility of the accuser” (pg.144.)
In 2009, in Ireland, a document known as the “Ryan report” was released following a lengthy investigation of residential “Reformatory and Industrial Schools” operated by the Catholic Church and run mainly by the Christian Brothers. Justice Sean Ryan, a High Court judge, wrote the five-volume report based on nine years’ worth of interviews of victims, teachers, and others. It concluded that sexual abuse was “endemic” in the boys’ institutions and occasional in girls’ institutions, and that the entire system treated children more like prison inmates and slaves than people with legal rights and human potential. The sexual abuse of boys ranged from improper touching and fondling, to rape with violence. Perpetrators were able to operate undetected for long periods in these institutions. The Irish Times called the report:
“… a devastating indictment of Church and State authorities” and
“… the map of an Irish hell” and reported that
“The sheer scale and longevity of the torment inflected on defenseless children—over eight hundred known abusers in over two hundred Catholic institutions during a period of thirty-five years—should alone make it clear that it was not accidental or opportunistic but systematic. Abuse was not a failure of the system. It was the system.”
Please read the above quote again.
The Murphy Report, headed by Judge Yvonne Murphy, is the result of a public inquiry commissioned by the Irish government to investigate the way in which the Church dealt with allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests over the period 1975 to 2004 in the Catholic archdiocese of Dublin. The original brief was to report in eighteen months, but such was the volume of evidence and allegations concerning the abusive behavior of a sample batch of forty-six priests, who between them had allegedly abused thousands(!) of children, that time extensions had to be allowed. The commission made no attempt to establish whether sexual abuse actually took place, but examined the manner in which church and state authorities dealt with complaints. The 720-page report was publicly released in 2009. It stated that there was
“…no doubt that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up”
from January 1975 to May 2004.
The report recognized in no uncertain terms that the Church itself, as controlled by the Vatican, had protected its priests and its assets:
“The Dublin Archdiocese’s pre-occupations in dealing with cases of child sexual abuse, at least until the mid-1990s, were the maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the Church, and the preservation of its assets. All other considerations, including the welfare of children and justice for victims, were subordinated to these priorities. The Archdiocese did not implement its own canon law rules and did its best to avoid any application of the law of the State.”
The report noted that Church leaders were well aware of the risk to children; as early as 1987, they took out insurance policies to cover the legal costs of future compensation claims.
Richard Sipe is a retired American Catholic priest involved in full-time research and consultation about the sexual practices of Catholic clergy.   He has authored six books on the subject, and has served as a respected consultant and expert witness in over two hundred cases involving sexual abuse of minors. He claimed, in 2005, that
“Dioceses throughout the United States are now recording an average of 7 to 9 percent priest abusers of minors in their records.” 
The statistics in countries in the rest of Europe, Canada, Australia, Asia, Africa and South America are not as well documented as yet, but there are similar horrific stories of abuse. The figures in the developed world will one day pale in comparison to the number in the developing world, such as in Latin America and Africa, where large-scale official investigations into Catholic priests’ behavior are yet to be conducted.  These countries (not prisons!) have been the dumping grounds for repeat priest offenders. Some of these priests live with women or men, but that is no guarantee that the sex with children has stopped.
Whether the percentage of Catholic priests who abuse children and youths is much greater than for other Christian and non-Christian religious leaders (such as gurus, imams, ministers, pastors or rabbis) is unclear, as I can find no reliable data about these groups. It is also difficult to find consistent reliable statistics as to what percentage of adult males in the general population sexually abuse children.
The large majority of Catholic clergy, perhaps about 92%, are not sexual predators of children, yet that does not excuse them from sheltering their colleagues, and failing to protect juveniles from known offenders. The offenders did not live isolated lives; they were, and are, part of an “old boys club,” so the vast majority of priests always were well aware, at least at a local level, of what was going on, yet nearly always did nothing to alert secular authorities. These priests were often the first people that the victims and their families turned to for help. The vast majority of them were too afraid of compromising their own positions, or creating an embarrassing stir in public opinion. It was much easier to just sit quietly and pretend nothing was going on, and let someone else in their church take responsibility for the problem. Never mind the children. So there is no doubt there is a universal guilt amongst the majority of Catholic clergy.
Up until recent years some Catholic priests have taken advantage of freer access to children than the average adult man, because they used to enjoy a position of authority and trust. Thus the number of abused children per offending priest is probably larger than for the average secular molester.
It is possible that some Catholic priests chose their “calling,” or remained in the priesthood, because of the access it gave them to defenseless children.
The statistics from Ireland and the United States probably suggest that homosexual activity is grossly over – represented in the Catholic clergy as compared to the general population, because roughly 80% of the victims were boys, whereas victims of secular perpetrators are more likely to be girls.  In fact estimates of the rate of homosexuality amongst Catholic American priests range from 23% to over 50%   
There is nothing illegal or immoral about being homosexual, and no one should jump to the erroneous conclusion that homosexuals are more likely to be pedophiles. Yet these figures may surprise some conservative Catholics, and it is ironic that the Vatican so vehemently condemns homosexual behavior when their own ranks are so stacked with male homosexuals.
The Catholic priesthood is a brotherhood of men who are not allowed to marry. In the past, most people did not suspect that many of them were gay. There was a degree of presige in being a priest. It is possible that the priesthood was an attractive option for young homosexual men unwilling to publicly admit their sexual inclination. What made, and makes, so many of them abuse children is unclear. Perhaps they could not unashamedly address their sexuality with other adults, and found themselves isolated. Children became an easy target because they were vulnerable, and explanations were not necessary.
Irrespective of the possible reasons, the statistics are shocking and the behaviour criminal! Thousands of heartless, sadistic, Catholic priests gratified themselves at the expense of innocent children, usually pre pubescent or pubescent boys who were not confident or physically strong enough to resist their advances.
The victims and their families, intimidated by the prospect of involving the police, usually turned to Church authorities for help, expecting that they would be helped, and justice be done. They assumed other priests would be apologetic and supportive, and the perpetrators punished, but the victims and their families were to be seriously let down by their Church.
Bishops around the world, including those in the Vatican, nearly always protected, and then transferred the offenders, not to somewhere where exposure to children would be denied, but to another parish. Richard Sipe claims that sixty percent of U.S. priests were “reassigned” after they were first reported as child abusers. The guilty priest was usually moved to a new neighborhood to start afresh, so the abuse of more victims was allowed to continue.
This usually pattern continued. The repeat offender was often relocated a second, third or fourth time. The worst offenders often ended up in a third world country, where they were less likely to cause a public scandal, but where they had even easier access to vulnerable children. Never mind the kids.
The victims and their families were usually told to keep quiet. The Catholic hierarchy, as a whole, clearly considered the abuse of minors a problem primarily because it tarnished the church’s reputation and compromised its coffers. If they had cared about children, they should have removed the guilty priests from circulation by calling the police. Would the Catholic hierarchy who just transferred the pedophiles have allowed those pedophiles to baby-sit their own nephews or nieces?
Knowing what we do about the declining numbers of Catholic priests in the developed world, it is obvious there were not enough workers on the coalface, so the duds were kept on. The Church’s administration and reputation was more important than the safety of innocent children. The cover-up thereby compounded the original sin.
The Vatican has always claimed its own “Canon law” would deal with sexual predators in their own ranks, and has arrogantly assumed, incorrectly, that this “Canon law” is a legitimate alternative to secular law. The very concept of “Canon law” as a substitute for secular law is immoral, and, if secular law is ignored, illegal. Groups of people cannot just decide to live by their own rules and ignore the laws that everyone else must obey.
What is more, the practise of so – called “Canon law” has at least ten seriously flawed features.
- It has neither public hearings, nor forensic tests; therefore discovering the truth about what happened is difficult.
- Priests, and only priests, act as judges and jury, yet they are often hopelessly unqualified and inexperienced.
- The victim has no legal representative.
- In order to avoid the secular judicial system, complete secrecy was demanded, undoubtedly because that compromised the reputation and coffers of the church, as well as the freedom of the offenders.
- In practice whistle-blowers, people who could help establish an offender’s guilt were often threatened with excommunication and other punishments.
- The victims and their families were often labeled as troublemakers who failed to appreciate the importance of the Church’s reputation. There was a culture in which Church officials intimidated, manipulated, stonewalled, paid off and deceived them to obtain their silence.
- It meant the general public was always deliberately kept in the dark, so most other parents and children were unaware of the danger, a situation that has only changed recently due to secular publicity.
- There was usually no provision for sympathetic treatment, counseling, or support for the traumatized children or their families.
- “Canon law” failed to protect innocent children by removing the offenders from circulation and was therefore directly responsible for the sexual abuse of thousands more youngsters by repeat offenders.
- The penalties for offenders offered no real deterrent value. Canon law only imposed a “punishment” that was spiritual, such as prayer or penance, or (rarely) a defrocking.
Canon law is illegitimate, and hopelessly inadequate at dealing out justice and protecting the community.
As a direct result of the Vatican’s paranoia about losing their workers, assets and reputation, they have been running a worldwide sanctuary for child abusers. There has been, and still is, a network amongst Catholic priests protecting offenders. It extends from the local community right up to the Vatican. Some Catholic priests have tried to change this, and some small steps have been taken in the right direction, but the underlying culture is still very much the same as it has always been.
Secular law is far superior in all ways that matter. In most states of Australia, America, Canada, and most of Europe, doctors, nurses, police, and schoolteachers are legally obliged to report suspected child abuse to the appropriate civil authorities. I am an Australian doctor, so am under that legal obligation, and rightly so. There are no excuses allowed for failing to report, even if you are uncertain that abuse has actually occurred, and you must do it without delay. You are required to make an additional report each time you suspect any subsequent abuse. It is your responsibility to report —not the responsibility of your superior (if you have one.) If you fail to file a report of suspected abuse, you are subject to both civil and criminal liability. In a civil action, you may be held liable for damages that any person suffers due to your inaction. In a criminal action, you may be found guilty of a misdemeanour punishable by imprisonment.
Why should Catholic priests be allowed to presume that they are exempt from laws which other reputable people are required to follow? Imagine the mess society would be in if other groups simply decided they were going to invent their own laws!
In 1981 Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was appointed as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, (CDF) a Vatican organization whose main function has always been to protect the image of the Catholic Church. He held this position until he climbed another rung to become pope in 2005. So he has spent a large part of his working life protecting and promoting Catholicism. The CDF is an integral part of a large corporation, a very important tool used to control the Vatican’s public image. There are, after all, billions of dollars worth of assets and a solid tax-free income stream that must not be compromised.
The CDF is supposedly in charge of disciplining clergy. So Benedict, according to his job description, was ultimately responsible for the investigation of thousands of child abusers. As such, it can be rightly argued that he had a moral obligation to protect the world’s children from known priest offenders, a task he, and the bishops around the world under his leadership, were astonishingly incompetent or unwilling to perform.
During his twenty-four years in charge, it is obvious to anyone who has looked at this issue in any depth, that the CDF covered up or refused to effectively deal with most cases that came to their attention. That, it can be argued, was criminal behavior. There are many well-documented examples. Only one will be discussed in detail.
Stephen Kiesle was ordained as an Oakland, Californian diocesan priest in 1972. In 1978, he was arrested for tying up six boys, aged eleven to thirteen, and molesting them in his church. He pleaded guilty to two charges, and (surprisingly) was given only three years’ probation by a secular court. Kiesle’s arrest and conviction alerted the local bishop, John Cummins. He removed Kiesle from active ministry and placed him on “an extended leave of absence for the next three years,” while Kiesle attended counseling sessions and reported regularly to his probation officer. Cummins obviously thought Kiesle deserved a second chance.
It was not until 1981—three years after the arrest and conviction—that Cummins sent Kiesle’s file to Rome. Cummins had changed his mind, and asked that Kiesle be defrocked, and informed the Vatican that Kiesle no longer wanted to be a priest.
There was no response from Ratzinger until a few months later, when his office wrote back, asking for additional material which officials in the Oakland Diocese supplied in February 1982. Bishop Cummins wrote to Ratzinger three times over the next three years, asking for a decision, but was not graced with a reply. In one letter Cummins wrote
“It is my conviction that there would be no scandal if this petition were granted—and that, as a matter of fact, given the nature of the case, there might be greater scandal to the community if Father Kiesle were allowed to return to active ministry.”
Cummins knew that more innocent children were in danger, and he made sure that the Vatican knew it too. Consider the above wording. He knew Rome’s primary agenda was to avoid the dirty linen being made public. He informed Rome that Kiesle was likely to re-offend, which, he knew for them, was an issue, not because of the danger to children, but because of the risk of public scandal.
It took three years for a Vatican official to reply. The excuse was that the file
“…might have been lost” and it was suggested the materials be resubmitted.
Finally, in 1985, Ratzinger sent a now infamous half-page reply, with the decision not to go ahead with the defrocking. He wrote, in Latin, that he was fearful of
“…detriment within the community of Christ’s faithful.” Ratzinger wrote he deemed it
“…necessary to consider the good of the Universal Church together with that of the petitioner.”
Ratzinger urged that
“as much paternal care as possible” be provided for Kiesle, and concluded that they would need more time to consider the case:
“Regarding the matter of the removal from all priestly burdens pertaining to Fr. Stephen Kiesle…(this matter) necessitates a longer period of time.”
Ratzinger wrote not a word about compensating the victims, nor about ensuring this convicted pedophile had no further access to children.
Ratzinger placed the
“…good of the Universal Church” above all else. As head of the CDF, he should have defrocked Kiesle as soon as he learned of his conviction in 1981!
Kiesle was stripped of his priestly status in 1987, though it is not clear what role—if any—Ratzinger had in the decision. Kiesle was sentenced to six years in prison in 2004 after admitting to molesting a girl in 1995. In addition, more than a half-dozen victims reached a settlement in 2005 with the Oakland diocese, which included multi-million dollar payouts, after it had been proved Kiesle had molested them as young children.
The lawyer for one of Kiesle’s victims stated,
“He was the most evil, remorseless sociopath…just a terrible human being…When asked how many children he had molested over the years, he said ‘tons.’ He admitted molesting many children and bragged that he was the Pied Piper and said he tried to molest every child that sat on his lap.”
Spokesmen have made a number of excuses for Joseph Ratzinger. They said that he was just following a rule made by John Paul II, in which priests could not be defrocked before forty years of age, (Kiesle was only thirty-eight at the time) the implication being that the letter was a bureaucratic formality. The CDF, however, had been provided with specific details of the case and Ratzinger had specifically referred to the “grave significance” of Kiesle’s behavior, so this pretext is not valid. This excuse is utterly lame, as such a rule should never have existed in the first place, and should never have been applied to priests who were proven child molesters.
This was not an isolated case. Every few months, details are discovered of another instance of Ratzinger failing to act to protect children from the priests he was supposed to discipline, and these cases are obviously only the tip of the iceberg.
The Vatican’s spin-doctors have worked hard making excuses for Ratzinger and the CDF. It can be argued that their resources would be better employed investigating the abuse happening in the here and now.
The Vatican has shown little real evidence of taking the problem of child sex abuse seriously. In May 2001 the Vatican published an update on Canon law,
in Joseph Ratzinger’s name. Despite discussing the very topic of the abuse of minors as one of those serious crimes, it made no mention of a duty of bishops or other priests to report the crime to civil authorities, and insisted only priests act as judges! The letter stated,
“In tribunals established by ordinaries or hierarchs, the functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests.”
This was a seriously culpable statement, and one that will, no doubt, haunt the Vatican in the future.
On July 15, 2010, the CDF published an update on Pope John Paul II’s 2001 Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela, still minus any reference of an obligation to report to civil authorities!
The CDF appears to be totally out of touch with the real world. Their attitude has been, and still is, that while child molestation is regrettable, unfortunate, and might upset the child, it is not serious enough to cause a scandal or ruin the career of an otherwise splendid priest.
The Vatican’s hierarchy is made up of aging men who usually have had no experience in raising children. They do not reside in households with actual families, but in an old boys’ network. They are dedicated to the holy mother Church that feeds, houses, and pays them, and makes them feel important. Most priests like to be known as “Father,” but no real father would allow his children anywhere near a known pedophile. Most priests cannot and do not know what it is to be a true father. Nor do they live with the cries of traumatized children, or deal with the long term damage: the ensuing years of depression, drug addiction, alcoholism, panic attacks, sexual dysfunction, and sometimes suicide that are so often the consequences of being sexually abused as a child.
Various Catholic officials are still arrogant enough to try to pass the blame for the sexual abuse on to others!
- They have claimed that psychiatrists and psychologists knew little of pedophilia, and therefore they did not warn priests that their fellow priests were likely to reoffend. This is not true. Even if there was a basis to this argument, when has the Vatican ever listened to health professionals, and in particular psychiatrists? Consider how the Vatican is still, in the 21st century, occasionally promoting the exorcism of demons out of mentally unwell people.
One does not need a medical or psychology degree to know that if someone has sexually abused multiple children in the past, he is likely to continue doing so.
- The Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa,  speaking at Good Friday prayers 2010 in St Peter’s Basilica, attended by the Pope, likened criticism of his Church to the
“… most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism,”  as if to say he now knew how the Jews have felt. He was treading on very shaky ground, as his Church has treated Jews abysmally over the centuries.
- Papal spokesmen defend their Church from “outside enemies” who “assault” it and subject it to “a smear campaign.” They portray their Church, not the abused children, as the victim!
- Giovanni Maria Vian, editor of L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, said the criticism of Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican in handling the clerical sex abuse crisis was part of a media campaign to sell newspapers (Catholic Spirit. April 12, 2010.)
- Vatican spokesmen have been quoted as blaming the “secular world,” “gay culture,” child pornography, or people hoping for a payout. It seems they fire bullets at anything, or anyone, that might shift blame away from themselves.
- The Vatican has dubiously asserted that their Church is being unfairly picked out for criticism because pedophiles are just as common in the secular community. Even if this were true, is there another group or organization that so vehemently protects pedophile offenders?
As recently as April 2010, at Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square, Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals, publically assured Benedict that the faithful were
“…unimpressed by the gossip of the moment.”
If Sodano really needed to tell the pope this, he should have done so privately. Sodano was too obviously trying to create public opinion, not report on it.
The Vatican, understandably, does not like being exposed, but instead of humbly accepting the criticism, and doing something about it, they respond like an immature, angry, self righteous child.
They do not appear to appreciate that the publicity helps protect future victims from abuse.
Ratzinger claimed that
“…in the 1970s, pedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children.” 
I do not know anyone who would agree with Christ’s ex vicar on earth.
Ratzinger also tried to twist the focus onto others by stating how child sexual tourism in the third world was
“…threatening an entire generation.”
If Ratzinger had really cared about that, he should have protected children by removing all child abusing priests from their jobs and handed their records over to the police.
These excuses and this blame shifting amount to pathetic arguments. Vatican officials try to talk about a broader context that the Church is not responsible for and cannot or could not have done anything about, and thereby deliberately avoid addressing the contexts that matter: admitting the Church’s guilt, how they are going to deal with past and future offenders, and how they propose to recompense the victims.
In what appears to be a public relations exercise, Pope Benedict has held brief meetings with survivor groups and issued seemingly sympathetic, but qualified, statements about their plight. In his letter to the Catholics of Ireland, (written in March 2010)  the pope did acknowledge the harm done to the people of Ireland, but then told them to get right with Jesus by going back to Church!
“But it is in the Church that you will find Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and for ever (cf. Heb 13:8). He loves you and he has offered himself on the cross for you. Seek a personal relationship with him within the communion of his Church…”
Thousands of Irish children have already had a “personal relationship” with members of Ratzinger’s Church, and they will never fully recover from the experience. Pope Benedict appeared to have little appreciation of that fact. He went on…
I say “bollocks!” Pushing perseverance and prayer is deliberately ignoring real solutions to real problems.
Amazingly, Pope Benedict had the gall to write about
“…the firm faith, strong leadership and upright morals of the Church in their native land”
when referring to his Church, in which hundreds of its chief members had sexually ravaged three (and no doubt more) generations of Irish children!
Pope Benedict went on,
“In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values. All too often, the sacramental and devotional practices that sustain faith and enable it to grow, such as frequent confession, daily prayer and annual retreats, were neglected. Significant too was the tendency during this period, also on the part of priests and religious, to adopt ways of thinking and assessing secular realities without sufficient reference to the Gospel. The program of renewal proposed by the Second Vatican Council was sometimes misinterpreted and indeed, in the light of the profound social changes that were taking place, it was far from easy to know how best to implement it. In particular, there was a well-intentioned but misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches to canonically irregular situations. It is in this overall context that we must try to understand the disturbing problem of child sexual abuse, which has contributed in no small measure to the weakening of faith and the loss of respect for the Church and her teachings.”
“misguided tendency to avoid penal approaches,”
in other words the deliberate protection of offenders, can never be “well-intentioned” unless viewed from the Vatican’s jaundiced, self-centred perspective. What is more, the pope was trying to imply that sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy was somehow a consequence of modern secularization, Vatican 2 and people losing their faith! These assertions are misleading, patronizing and unforgivably arrogant. There must be millions of ordinary Catholics who cringe on hearing such spiel.
In May 2011, the Vatican published new guidelines, drawn up by Cardinal William Levada, the head of the CDF, on dealing with clergy sexual abuse cases. The guidelines tell the bishops and heads of Catholic religious orders worldwide to develop
“clear and coordinated”
procedures for dealing with the sexual abuse allegations. These words mean little. The guidelines do instruct bishops to cooperate with police and respect the relevant local laws in investigating and reporting allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy to the civic authorities, which is a step in the right direction, but still do not make reporting of sexual abuse by the clergy to civic authorities mandatory. Ipso facto, the Catholic Church is still making up its own rules and protecting pedophiles.
The Vatican’s relations with the people of Ireland reached a new low in July 2011 when the Cloyne inquiry report, Ireland’s fourth investigation into child sexual abuse by clerics, was released. The report claims that over a 13-year period between 1996 – when the Irish bishops introduced guidelines for mandatory reporting – and 2009, most of the 19 alleged cases of child abuse by priests in Cloyne were not reported to the civil authorities, and laid most of the blame for this on the bishop of Cloyne, John Magee. It found that Magee had misled an earlier inquiry and failed to implement child-protection procedures.
John Magee had previously been at the heart of the Vatican as personal secretary to three successive popes, Paul V1, John Paul 1 and John Paul 11, between 1969 and 1982. He quit as bishop in March 2009 after an earlier independent report found his Cloyne Diocese had put children at risk of harm. He responded to this latest report carried out by the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland (NBSC) saying
“I take full responsibility for the criticism of our management of issues in that report.”
The Pope accepted his resignation from the priesthood a year later.
Magee went into retirement. There were calls in the media for his arrest. If he had been charged for protecting pedophiles, maybe the floodgates would have opened, and more criminal charges against those who shelter child abusers would have been made.
Mr. Enda Kenny, the Irish Prime Minister, addressed the Irish Parliament in July 2011, saying
“The Cloyne Report excavates the dysfunction, disconnection, elitism, the narcissism that dominates the culture of the Vatican today. The rape and the torture of children were downplayed, or managed to uphold instead the primacy of the institution, its power, its standing and its reputation.”
Kenny called the actions of the Catholic Church
His remarks won a standing ovation in the Irish parliament and strong support from the public.
There are many more public enquiries about the sexual abuse of children by people in Catholic institutions happening around the world. That is positive, because the very fact that the issue is talked about increases community awareness, and also encourages victims to come forward and get help.
How can anyone excuse the inhumanity and arrogance of an organization that puts its business interests ahead of the safety of thousands of innocent children? The Vatican is desperately out of touch with the real world and the majority of ordinary Catholics. They just do not get it. They think they are going through a rough patch and the mud won’t stick, but they are seriously mistaken.
The contrived, weak excuses and obstructions of justice must cease. Priests who are proven abusers should be removed from their offices and dealt with by secular courts. All the details of all allegations, past and present, should be handed over to civil authorities for investigation. The Catholic Church should stop funding convicted offenders legal costs.
All this should happen not just to avoid future lawsuits, but because the Church ought to genuinely care about the children. The Vatican should initiate a dialogue with all past victims, and pay for their treatment (they do have the funds for this.) They should beg forgiveness for the damage their cover-ups have caused, without qualification, so that it means something to the victims.
These things are not happening because the Vatican’s pride, their love of power, and the protection of billions of dollars worth of assets, are, it seems, their highest priorities.
There are good Catholic clergy who would agree with the above, and are brave enough to do something about it, yet they are still a small minority.
Some Catholic lay people, including prominent political, police and legal figures, have been reluctant to investigate priests and brothers. They have not believed the children. They did not speak up when priests and bishops claimed they had their own law. Surely these ordinary Catholics too must realize that it is time for a serious change in attitude.
The following documentary, What the Pope Knew, in five parts, is rivetting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilF4oRLbsQs , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnQOx_l4Idk&feature=related , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9i9KhADQb8&feature=related , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G3KfX8Ka3E&feature=related , http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xjIueX6i3Ns&feature=related