Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday 29 April 2002


Last week, the Holy Father met with the Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church from the United States of America, to discuss with them the growing disquiet felt by many in the Church in the US and elsewhere concerning the revelations of child abuse by priests in the United States and in other countries and the cover-ups perpetrated by the Church hierarchy. This is a public relations disaster for the Church, and the efforts by the Vatican to bring some semblance of order to what has been going on must of course be seen as welcome, although some consider the Pope’s actions to be both dilatory and inadequate. It is probably too soon to form a proper judgement about what the Church is doing to purge itself of the sickness at its heart, but the following Vatican press releases seem to give an indication of the way the Church’s policies are veering:

- Press release VATICAN CITY, APR 23, 2002

Pope John Paul II said, in part: "Because of the great harm done by some priests and religious, the Church herself is viewed with distrust, and many are offended at the way in which the Church's leaders are perceived to have acted in this matter. The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by Society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God. To the victims and their families, wherever they may be, I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern. …. It is true that a generalised lack of knowledge of the nature of the problem and also at times the advice of clinical experts led Bishops to make decisions which subsequent events showed to be wrong.”

The last sentence above seems, to me, to beg a great many questions and to seek to confuse the issue – namely, that senior personnel within the organisation of which the Holy Father is the effective ‘CEO’ covered up, over many years, flagrant criminal activity by members of staff.

The Holy Father also said: “The abuse of the young is a grave symptom of a crisis affecting not only the Church but society as a whole. It is a deep-seated crisis of sexual morality, even of human relationships, and its prime victims are the family and the young. In addressing the problem of abuse with clarity and determination, the Church will help society to understand and deal with the crisis in its midst."

I beg your pardon, Your Holiness, but society understands very well what has been going on in your Church and the flagrant cover-ups which you[r personnel] have hitherto participated in.

The Pope continued: "People need to know that there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young.” To read the full text of this press release, please click here.

- Press release VATICAN CITY, APR 25, 2002

This followed on from the discussions held two days earlier and a lunch held on 24th April, and the statement said, in part: “1) The sexual abuse of minors is rightly considered a crime by society and is an appalling sin in the eyes of God, above all when it is perpetrated by priests and religious whose vocation is to help persons to lead holy lives before God and men. 2) There is a need to convey to the victims and their families a profound sense of solidarity and to provide appropriate assistance in recovering faith and receiving pastoral care. 3) Even if the cases of true paedophilia on the part of priests and religious are few, all the participants recognised the gravity of the problem. In the meeting, the quantitative terms of the problem were discussed, since the statistics are not very clear in this regard. Attention was drawn to the fact that almost all the cases involved adolescents and therefore were not cases of true paedophilia.”

Excuse me? What is this ‘true paedophilia’ nonsense all about? Crimes have been committed by priests, and such crimes have been covered-up by the Church. End of story. Paedophilia is paedophilia – let’s not try and indulge in this attempt at minimising the gravity of what has happened, shall we?

The statement continues, in part: "We will propose that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recommend a special process for the dismissal from the clerical state of a priest who has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors.” To read the full text of this press release, please click here.

This seems to imply that a first offence is acceptable, and that it is only a repetition that will cause dismissal. What disgusting nonsense! There appears also to be an attempt, pretty explicit, to conflate paedophilia with homosexuality – I refute this utterly. Many commentators have reported that most cases of child abuse occur within the family and are perpetrated by married (and presumably in the main heterosexual) men. Paedophilia is the crime, not homosexuality.

I think the Church still has a long way to go before it ‘owns’ the crimes committed within its own organisation and is prepared to accept fully the implications of this for its own future – time will tell.

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