My take on the church's response to child abuse

April 12 2010. In a move that is really nothing more than a public relations response to the outrage of the countless atrocities committed an unknown number of Catholic priests over the centuries, the Vatican has adopted a new “hard-line” stance against the pedophiles among its ordained clergy. The Vatican has officially established that, as its new SOP, accusations of sexual abuse against its clergy are, for now on, to be turned over and handled by local law enforcement agencies. So, it would appear, at least on the surface that Vatican is taking the issue very seriously…right? Well maybe not so much. For starters, let’s examine why it was necessary to establish this as a policy in the first place. Defenders of the church would argue that the church dropped the ball only because of how unusually a situation this is; that nobody within the hierarchy ever anticipated that the church would actually need a policy to address such horrific realities. For anyone who accepts this “defense” let me ask you, can you possibly image accepting this defense from any other organization facing the same concerns? Would you be tolerating any other organization that knowingly shielded its employees from prosecution for the crime of pedophilia? Imagine the fall-out if up until now, Wal-Mart had a policy of handling “in house” every accusation of pedophilia filed against one of its employees…would you ever shop there again? Imagine if Wal-Mart, in this scenario, consistently failed to find any wrong doing on the part of its accused employees and on the rare occasions where it did find wrong doing merely transferred the guilty employee to another store rather than seeking criminal prosecution? Would any of this be tolerated legally? Would a manager who knowingly shielded a pedophile from prosecution and then transferred the employee to another store be exempt from prosecution himself? Of course not. So what we have here, at best, is the Vatican finally agreeing to abide by the same rules and laws regarding child rape that the rest of us are held to…that the rest of us have always been held to…and we’re to laud this as a heroic step in the right direction? What makes the matter even worse is the fact that in 2002, the US Council of Catholic bishops had already adopted this same policy…a move that required Vatican approval (which the Vatican was at first very hesitant to give). This of course means that the Vatican clearly had the opportunity to adopt the same policy church-wide…and ultimately opted not to. The Vatican justified this failure by asserting that the problem was for the most part limited to just the United States of America and was the result of the corrupting influences of American culture and unsurprisingly a handful of Catholic priests fell prey to this reality. Of course; this attitude required the Vatican to ignore what was the worst kept secret in all of Europe: that Irish priests, on a scale that matched what happened in the USA, were molesting children left and right and had been for centuries. For a young Irish lad, being molested by a Catholic priest had almost been deemed a rite of passage or an unofficial sacrament…nobody was ignorant to this reality. What’s worse is the fact that the Vatican knew damned well that they were covering up the Irish abuses as well and their efforts to feign ignorance about them were intentional acts of dishonesty deserving of legal prosecution…and this time they couldn’t blame the centuries of Irish child rape on the evils of American culture. As a result, to cover their tracks, the church has once again been forced to do what it has always done when confronted with the shame of its own failures…blame somebody else. This time however, it makes no sense to blame the Jews, but the homosexuals will do nicely.

The defenders of the catholic church are always quick to point out that Catholic priests are no more likely to be pedophiles than the general population (a claim which even according to official catholic church research on the subject appears to be false); none-the-less, this particular line of defense fails to even address the actual problem. The objections to church behavior have never been to the fact that some priests happen to be pedophiles, as such a reality is inevitable within any significant population of adult males. No, the objection is not that pedophiles exist among the Catholic clergy, but rather the fact that they have been tolerated, defended and knowingly placed in situations where they had virtually unrestricted access to children. The Catholic defense of this fact has always been to initially deny it, and then when confronted with undeniable evidence of their church’s guilt they would grudgingly admit that perhaps individual bishops here and there failed to provide adequate oversight. Of course, this defense ceased to even be plausible once letters signed by the current pope started to surface that instructed various bishops and Cardinals to keep these scandals under wraps and investigate them internally…one went so far as to require dioceses to encourage the victims to remain silent for a length of time approximately as long as the statutes of limitations for the particular offense. Church complicity in this matter is undeniable, and the bulk of the evidence clearly indicates that this was not the fault of just a few rouge priests and bishops. The evidence makes it undeniably clear that willingness to ignore the pederast tendencies of an untold number of catholic clergy was the result of directives coming from the highest positions in the Catholic Church. And it appear almost a certainty that the single most culpable individual in these cover-up is the pope himself, the "esteemed" Pope Benedict XIII.

Sadly, there are many victims in all of this, and perhaps the most forgotten of these victims are the legions of good decent men who now serve as catholic priests and bishops who are now, for the sins of their brethren, living under a constant veil of suspicion. Justice demands action, and all those involved in the abuse and cover-up need to be prosecuted to the extent that the law permits; the current pope should not be excluded. I applaud the efforts of Dawkins and Hitchens to undue this deficit of justice as they attempt to have the Pope arrested upon his arrival in the U.K., and while I seriously doubt that their efforts will meet with success I none-the-less view them as heros for the efforts.

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