Tuesday, 16 March 2010

It's okay if you're a heterosexual pedophile Catholic priest.

Once more, the Vatican Taliban is under scrutiny for implicitely condoning child sexual abuse.

JJ at unrepentant old hippie has been writing and posting links to news items about Pope Maledict and how he may have played a role in facilitating a pedophile priest's access to children. As a German cardinal he wrote in 2001 a church directive instructing bishops to keep abuse cases "confidential". Decades of dissembling about the issue of pedophile priests has become the standard procedure, not for protecting Catholic children, but for saving the Church from public embarassment.

These cases usually come to light and provoke a public outcry when the victims are boys, since this highlights hypocrisy regarding two aspects of Church doctrine: obligatory clerical celibacy and edicts against homosexuality.

In Ireland, where MASSIVE numbers of girls and young women as well as boys were sexually assaulted by priests, powerful, upper-echelon clergy have refused to accept accountability for their actions. For example:

Ireland's senior Roman Catholic, Cardinal Sean Brady, said Monday he would not resign despite admitting he helped the church collect evidence against a child-molesting priest — and never told police about the crimes.

Brady, as a priest and Vatican-trained canon lawyer in 1975, said he interviewed two children about the abuse they suffered at the hands of the Rev. Brendan Smyth. He said both children were required to sign oaths promising not to tell anyone outside the church of their allegations.

Smyth went on to molest and rape scores of other children in Ireland, Britain and the United States before British authorities in neighboring Northern Ireland demanded his arrest in 1994. The Irish government of the day collapsed amid acrimony over why Smyth had not been extradited to Belfast.

Brady admitted his role in gathering evidence against Smyth because he has been named as a defendant in a Dublin lawsuit filed by one of Smyth's victims. Lawyers in that case unearthed records of Brady's involvement in gathering testimony from two Irish victims who said they were abused by Smyth — one a 10-year-old altar boy, the other a 14-year-old girl — around 1970.

Brady said it was the responsibility of his diocesan bishop, as well as the leader of Smyth's separate Catholic order of priests, to tell police. But he said the church didn't do this because of "a culture of silence about this, a culture of secrecy."

"Yes, I knew that these were crimes," Brady said. "But I did not feel that it was my responsibility to denounce the actions of Brendan Smyth to the police. Now I know with hindsight that I should have done more, but I thought at the time I was doing what I was required to do."

Things have reached the tipping point in Ireland. On one hand, the Catholic Church ferociously lobbies against contraception, birth control and abortion and bleats piously about the unborn. On the other, it has in deeds been complicit in allowing thousands of children to be physically and sexually exploited and damaged.

From the Irish Times:

The other key reason people focus on the church and its appalling record of child abuse and cover-up is, of course, that this organisation retains central power over the running of our education system, through which it maintains contact with the vast majority of children in the country.

Take Bishop Jones, for example. He directly appoints the chair of the boards of management in virtually every school in his diocese of Elphin, which spreads from Athlone northwards across Roscommon and Sligo. He has a veto over the appointment of each and every other member of the boards. He likewise chooses the interview boards for each teacher in the schools. And, last but not least, he is in charge of the ethos of his schools, which means that he controls the kind of instruction given to the children in what is right and what is wrong.

Given the views of Bishop Jones that we should cease focusing on the church and its failure to protect children against serial rapists like Brendan Smyth, it is entirely reasonable for the parents of children in the Elphin diocese (and elsewhere) to ask whether he is a suitable person to exercise such influence over the lives of thousands of youngsters through his control of the schools in his area.

In the religious world, people can vote with their feet and decide for themselves what, if any, church they wish to be part of, and how and when they wish to worship. That is no one’s business but their own.

In the secular world, however, it is our clear duty as citizens to question whether a religious organisation whose Irish leader so palpably failed to protect children from a rapist should have any role whatsoever in the governance of our schools. It is a recurrent question. It will arise again and again as each scandal of church cover-up emerges.

The Irish State and Government can allow this poison to ooze out gradually, but relentlessly. Or it can intervene and engage in the now desperately needed process of extending the Murphy Commission inquiry process to each bishop and diocese in the State.

In Canada, adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of priests have created organizations that provide mutual support and challenge the institutional denials of the Catholic Church, who refuse to acknowledge that clergy engaged in criminal actions. This is the experience of one member - it is not unusual or rare, as last year's news item about former priest Charles Sylvestre in Ontario reveals.

***Un grand merci to CC's blogpost That's gonna leave a mark, which directed us to the opinion piece in the Irish Times.***


Anonymous said...

Ever notice the difference in degree of sympathy toward victim of abuse by the Catholic Church in the "general public" and those who suffered generations of abuse in Residential schools?


deBeauxOs said...

Yup. It's not a question of sympathy, though. It's all about the "general public" outrage against an arrogant religious and political institution - in this case, the Vatican Taliban.

Because the abuse of many generations of Native children was systemic (governmental, cultural, religious), the implication is that non-Natives were complicit with the ongoing violence. That would require more than a cursory 10 minute acknowledgement. Restorative justice would be appropriate, but how to start the process?

One can accept responsibility for the role one's ancestors played and the benefits they received from allowing the abuse to continue, but how does one - in practical terms - mend or repair the terrible harm that was done?

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