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Marion On April - 4 - 2010

So the evidence stacks up against the Vatican’s spin that the issue of child abuse by priests wasn’t merely an American problem, as they would want to have us originally believe.

I could have saved them the trouble and told them differently.

Paedophilic priests have been part and parcel of Catholic life since the god in which they believe was a boy. That’s a fact. Systematic abuse of children has been taking place under the Church’s protective auspices equally as long and throughout the scope of the Catholic world.

A priest was removed to another diocese when I was a seventh-grader at the local parochial school. That was in the mid-Sixties. He taught us music. We never knew exactly why he left. He was there before Christmas, and he was gone in the new year. My father told me he’d gone because “he liked little boys too much.” Such was my innocence at the time, I didn’t know what he meant. I do now.

A decade later, over lunch whilst studying in Spain, the topic of homosexuality came up. This occurred in the last days of Franco’s regime, but my host family was an enlightened one. During the discussion, I recall one brother remarking to the other: “And the priests! You remember the priests and what they got up to …”

I have always believed that certain careers were more vocations than professions, where people had a particular knack or calling to serve in a particular field – teaching, for example, or medicine, certainly religion.

When I taught school, teaching was often considered a transient profession, one which many people used as a means to a professional end. With finances scarce for gtaduate or professional school, people often taught for a few years in order to accumulate funds for a law or medical school degree. Others, indecisive about what they wanted to do in life, often acquired a teaching qualification in order to tide them over financially until they really found a career that sparked their interest. Sometimes these transients turned out to be quality educators. One of the most inspirational teachers I ever had in high school was a young man teaching biology as a means of financing subsequent medical school studies. Three years later, when I was a first-year coed at the University of Virginia, he was in his third year of medical school there.

But sometimes, transients weren’t the best of teachers; they were the worst. At best, they’d leave after a couple of years, moseying on down the road to try something else out professionally; at worst, they got tenure for some reason and drew a salary at the expense of a child’s education. Or worse.

I don’t know why it seems, all of a sudden, that the Catholic Church attracted an undue amount of paedophiles amongst the ranks of the priesthood. People can argue that it’s down to celibacy, but sexual scandal has encompassed various Protestant denominations and still does, and Protestant clergy are allowed to marry. Just as a lot of people shouldn’t be in the classroom teaching, a lot of people affiliated with the religion in a clerical capacity, shouldn’t be. Maybe they were pushed in that direction by their parents; maybe they genuinely believed and wanted to serve.

At the end of the day, it transpires that they were all deeply, deeply flawed human beings, who were allowed to get away with the worst kind of sexual offences imaginable: the systematic rape and torture of children.

When one thinks of child abuse in the Catholic Church, one normally thinks about priests kiddy-diddling little boys; but girls suffered also. The Magdalen Laundries in Ireland are a living testimonial to that – where families were enticed by the local parish to commit their daughters for the slightest of peccadilloes – either real or imagined – and there they stayed, often until they reached an early grave; and there they suffered, mercilessly, at the hands of nuns.

The first seven years of my educational life were spent under the tutelage of nuns. Some were excellent teachers, but some of the older ones didn’t spare the rod either. My parents, products of the same school, always told me things were worse in their days. I know now that a lot of these women who entered religious orders did so, primarily, because there was nothing else they could do – which basically meant that there was no man on the horizon to take them off their parents’ hands. If you couldn’t be a bride of a man, better yet to be a cold-hearted bride of Christ and take your frustrations out on a myriad of curious and bright children in various degrees of verbal and physical abuse.

It’s said that a nun so terrified and terrorized the current Vice-President as a child, because of his stammer, until his own feisty mother took matters into her own hands and threatened violence against the woman. Joe Biden was lucky he had such a mother.

Others had parents, so in thrall to the teachings of the Church, that when a child ventured to speak of the unspeakable to his mother or father, they refused point-blank to believe anything had happened, and that the child was giving vent to evil imaginings. I daresay, this is what the Church intended everyone to think. After all, the clergy and religious in question had taken vows. If they were tempted in the flesh in any way, this temptation came from the lay community, even if that meant sexualising an innocent child.

And that leads to another reaction by parents, whose children confided abuse to them. Until recently, to complain to one’s bishop about the unwonted attentions of a priest on a child, would have only resulted in the priest being removed to another parish, and the bishop apprising his replacement with a warning to keep an eye on the family who’d made the complaint, marking them down as trouble-makers. And so the parents would make a decision to leave the Church, to remove the child from harm’s way and hope for the best, tacitly sweeping the incident under the carpet in hopes that the incident – out of sight – would soon be out of everyone’s mind.

Well, we all know that life doesn’t work that way, and psychological scars are those which never heal.

I don’t know what will happen with all this, except to say that, at present, the Catholic Church is acting like the thief who got caught with his hand in the till and apologises profusely for getting caught. An entire lifetime of Catholic theology, dating back to the mythical St Peter, the first Pope, is hingeing on this one. That the current Pope was aware of all the shenanigans and responsible for the cover-ups of the past thirty years is without a doubt; but now he’s Pope, a person whose infinite wisdom is supposed to be infallible.

Someone suggested he should be excommunicated, but only he can do that, himself. He could resign, but that would never happen – to do so would denote fallibility instead of the opposite, which is the basic tenet of the Pope being God’s representative on earth. Most people, and probably most Catholics, don’t believe in the fact that God needs a representative here amongst us who mirrors God’s perfection, and maybe something could be done, ultimately, in the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

But whatever is done will be precious little to rid the victims of abuse of the scars they’ll carry until the release this mortal coil, nor will it assauge some of the guilt their own parents may have felt at their inadvertant actions, which they did, genuinely believing that they acted in the interest of their child.

There are a lot of recovering Catholics, angry both at religion and at their God.

Happy Equinox.

Categories: News & Politics

27 Responses so far.

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  1. Khirad says:

    I mentioned this before, but finally found an article:

    The love gurus: Sex with swami

    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/india/100402/sex-india-gurus

    BANGALORE, India

    • Mightywoof says:

      What an amazing movie that was Khirad!!

      An interesting question -- even the no-structure, in the religious sense, has a societal structure. Many societies have a culture that gets so interwoven with the religious (eg FGM, wearing a burka …..at least, it’s my understanding that those practices are cultural and not governed by scripture) that it seems impossible to separate the two.

  2. LiseLives says:

    Not to be glib, but I can only post a quickie right now.
    Was raised a Catholic & there are a lot of good things I got out of it THEN -- I’m now an agnostic.

    All I can say in that quickie comment is what a poster at Huff quoted :
    “”Abstinence makes the CChurch grow Fondlers.””
    IMO, anyone wearing a vestment should be able to marry or be in a relationship.
    It would surely diminish the number of priests who choose to release their sexual urges this way --

  3. Khirad says:

    I read an article about abuse in Latin America today in the paper. I totally believe it could be the worst in Italy, itself. And no, I don’t believe this is new by any means. Not at all. I also think what got de Sade into really hot water wasn’t blasphemy qua blasphemy, but because he was hitting a little too close to home.

    It’s not about country, it’s about the level of influence the church holds over a nation, IMO. And of all Italians I’ve chatted with, they will tell you, not kidding in the slightest, that the Vatican, while technically a sovereign state, is little more than the second/shadow capital of the country.

    With Latin America and Brazil, these are poorer areas. The Church does really good works there. But what did they do to the Leftists? (under Pope John Paul II). If a church was too liberal, they’d replace the priest or defund it -- but for tithes. Such is the pull of the Vatican. And incentive to keep your mouth shut.

    Even here in Tucson, the Diocese pleaded with then Cardinal Ratzinger to do something, but:

    “Unfortunately for the Diocese of Tucson, they’ve had to pay millions of dollars because this particular Pope, Cardinal Ratzinger, refused to laicize or defrock two of the molester priests, Father Trupia and Father Teta.”

    And in the poorer countries it can be crueler. These people depend on the church, it is central to their lives in a way it hasn’t been in Europe for well over a century. Can you imagine anyone speaking out if something were happening? And I’m not talking about “El crimen del Padre Amaro” stuff. [By the way, “The Magdalene Sisters,” is a good movie on that deal in Ireland]

    The vocational stuff is nothing new. I’ve got a book on my shelf from 1977 entitled: “Lions of God, lambs of God: Psychoanalytic concepts of passivity, dependence, and celibacy within the Christian clergy” and I’m sure there is much more current data based on MMPI, and other diagnostic tests, etc. The celibacy is a problem, but there is a definite predisposition (among a vast minority).

    Enough with the non-apology apologies. The Church doesn’t need to go, Catholics don’t need to leave the flock, but many things need to change.

    I also read this today, about his inner circle… I swear…

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100404/ap_on_re_eu/eu_church_abuse_pope_s_advisers_5

    Amen on mentioning women too. The thing about this, is that The Lost Boys in fundamentalist Mormon communities and boys with anorexia and other problems associated with girls are so often overlooked. “Be a man” and so forth. That is another facet that kept this silent for so long, I believe. Nevertheless, in the same spirit, I would never forget female victims, either -- even if they don’t fit the ‘stereotype’ of what the victim or sufferer of a situation or condition should look like.

    Just need another disclaimer. I’m not kissing ass or being polite. Seriously, the rites of Catholicism I envy at times. And as everyone here is proof of, while the whims of bitter nuns may have been cruel, you didn’t suffer from a good education and Catholics definitely have an intellectual streak (seriously, what percentage of PPOVers are R.C.?!) Seriously though, as a friend, the current leadership is effed up and the lack of accountability built in to the system -- especially at the very top.

    I’m sure Rowan Williams did enjoy criticizing the Pope (there are so many jokes here), and the CoE I highly doubt is perfect. I just wonder, honestly, if he could survive the same scrutiny. Maybe he could. I really don’t know the answer…

    Merry Ostara!

  4. escribacat says:

    I might have a skewed perspective, but child sexual abuse is more prevalent than people realize — and it’s not just priests. I worked for a time transcribing police interviews for a bunch of departments in Florida. I got to listen to many interviews with sexual abusers and their victims, including very young children who didn’t have a clue what happened. The vast majority of abusers were family members or boyfriends/stepdads of family members. A good number of the abusers were abused themselves. I think of all the cases I heard, one of the abusers was a woman.

    I also remember as a 10 year old kid going to the doctor with stomach pains. My male doctor had a little peek down my pants and I remember wondering why, but I didn’t say anything. Years later I met another woman who had a bad experience with this same doctor. To this day, I never go to a male doctor.

  5. AlphaBitch says:

    I spent 20 years as a litigation paralegal, in another life. Once I was working with one of the nicest people I have ever met, whom I will call “W”. He had been molested for 7 years by a priest -- and was so emotionally fragile some 15 years after that time. It broke my heart, really. This was in the 1980s; the abuse occured in the 1960s-1970s). What happened to that priest? He was sent to an alcohol rehab clinic in Tucson, and then reassigned to another parish!

    I was reared as a Lutheran, chose to become a Methodist, and now don’t attend church any more. I have decided to roll up my sleeves, do the work myself, and worship God on my own. God is not in a building, but in my heart. The money I could tithe to support a ministry and/or a building and salaries is better used directly on the ground, IMHO.

    Thanks to all those who write and care and keep vigilant. As the Blov stated to me: “A nun for Pope would fix this.”

  6. AdLib says:

    In our AP Widget:

    Easter Mass becomes papal pep rally in Rome

    By FRANCES D’EMILIO, Associated Press Writer

    VATICAN CITY

    • KQ says:

      To be honest Easter Sunday is for celebrating with the faithful and they should not have addressed the controversy at all.

      It sounds like the unending campaign has hit the papacy as well.

    • whatsthatsound says:

      “It is a thorny situation (pardon the ironic imagery), when leadership is exposed as irretrievably corrupt yet there remains great value and meaning in the organization of which they are leaders.”

      In other words, (Holy Water)gate.
      Gerald Ford would understand.

  7. PepeLepew says:

    Very heavy post. Heavier than mine, even.


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