Breaching Human Rights: Australia, Climate Change and the…

Australia has a mixed relationship with the United Nations Human Rights Committee. …

So Now It's Wrong To Be Racist, Eh?

Just a few short years ago, Attorney-General George Brandis assured us that…

“I'm Sorry, Your Majesty...”

A Tribute to our Late Queen Liz, with Post-Colonial Afterthoughts By Loz Lawrey…

More of the same

1 Here are a few jaw-droppers that are guaranteed to shock you. They…

Shoddy Consultations: Santos, Drilling and First Nations Peoples

Federal Court Justice Mordecai Bromberg has been in the environmental news again,…

Can we avoid mass extinction?

We only have one planet! And we each have only one life! The…

Whither Constitutional Change?

Within a very short space of time, we are going to be…

Offence by Another Name: Suppressing Anti-Royal Protest in…

The right to protest, fragile and meekly protected by the judiciary in…

«
»
Facebook

Cultures of Death: Pope Francis, Apology and Child Abuse

It was long overdue, but Pope Francis’s letter of condemnation and apology regarding the abuse of children by Catholic priests did sent a few ripples of comfort and reckoning. He conceded that the Church “showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them”. He acknowledged the “heart-wrenching pain” of the victims who had been assaulted by the clerical class, and the cries “long ignored, kept quiet or silenced”.

“With shame and repentance,” went the Pope’s grave words, “we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives.”

What is left hanging in the air is any system of defined accountability, one characterised by an ancient institution mothballed by secrecy and obfuscation. In the pointed words of Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins, “Statements from the Vatican or Pope should stop telling us how terrible abuse is, and how all must be held accountable.”

The Pope had been given a prompting this month, a nasty reminder he acknowledged in his note. “Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of the many of the victims.” The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had made a near 900 page grand jury report investigating clerical sex abuse of minors public, a digging enterprise spearheaded by the Pennsylvania state Attorney General Josh Shapiro. The grizzly bounty came to 301 accused priests, with some 1,000 victims throughout the state, and even then, it only covered six of the eight dioceses in the state.

The details read like chillingly lurid pornography: a priest in the Diocese of Erie who “fondled boys and told them he was giving them a ‘cancer check’”; a priest in the Diocese of Allentown who impregnated a 17-year-old and “forged another pastor’s signature on a marriage certificate”. What also accompanied such acts of molestation was the divine remit: victims were assured that their sexual provision was part of a broader Godly purpose.

The exploits of some of the accused resemble catalogues of brutal overachievement. Rev. Edward R. Graff, who served in the diocese of Allentown for 35 years, could add scores of victims to his repertoire. Much of his conduct was executed on the premise that he was “an instrument of god”.

After the abuse comes the vast apparatus, the doctrinally directed cover-ups that warn of continuing offending behaviour while still keeping matters bolted and in-house. The report notes the point. “What we can say, though, despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability. Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades.” Within the church itself, church officials received protection and succour. “Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted.”

Matters have been particularly heady in the field of child abuse accusation this US summer. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick resigned his cardinalship after accusations of abuse from adult seminarians and children. On the other side of the planet, one of the Vatican’s highest ranking officials, Australia’s Cardinal George Pell, is busy battling charges of historical sex abuse.

Resistance to prodding from the secular world remains trenchant in some branches of the Church. In Australia, despite the passage of legislation breaching the sacred seal of the confession, priests have openly stated that they would sooner go to prison than reveal the contents of a penitent’s confession, even if it discloses instances of child abuse. Church business remains resistant, defiantly so.

To that end, the shaking measures of legal action may be one of few mechanisms to ensure accountability. Criminal prosecutions have tended to rarely succeed; issues of evidence and the passage of time often condemn them. Civil lawsuits, as Timothy D. Lytton of Georgia State University argues, might have more prospects of success. This, however, will face bars imposed by the statute of limitations. “Unless lawmakers across the country pass reforms to extend or suspend the statute of limitations in their states, I believe that the church will never provide a full accounting of the scandal.”

The language of Pope Francis can be misconstrued as healing and resolving. It does neither. The Church sprawls and continues to exist with its own rationales, its basis of functioning. It was the world’s first operational corporation, its crimes and infractions as much to do with that logic than anything else. Until its approach to the powerful clerical class is reformed, the abuses will continue in the shadow of misused divinity.

 

Like what we do at The AIMN?

You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.

Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!

Your contribution to help with the running costs of this site will be gratefully accepted.

You can donate through PayPal or credit card via the button below, or donate via bank transfer: BSB: 062500; A/c no: 10495969

Donate Button

 86 total views,  2 views today

3 comments

Login here Register here
  1. Babyjewels

    It was far worse than not showing care, some in the church deliberately harmed the children. When will they finally show they are child abusers and are, perhaps, sorry?

  2. New England Cocky

    This betrayal of community trust by individual kiddie fiddling priests of all persuasions needs a proper financial response. Perhaps it is now time to remove all the tax concessions like land tax, charity status and education funding to name just a few, and impose local government rates and charges where now there are none.

    That will cut the flow of funds to Rome and hopefully make Frankie realise that the world has moved on from fairy tales.

  3. king1394

    Integral to the way priests, nuns and other Church-based authority figures have been able to carry out acts of sexual and physical abuse etc, is that they stand (stood) at an almost saintly level so that it was unthinkable to question their actions. One thing I hope will be carried forward from this is the realisation that no one is above scrutiny, and that when you bestow power on people, even with sacred anointing, they do not become more able to resist temptation. The sexual abuse has been an overwhelming feature of the investigations, but there were plenty of priests and nuns who simply treated those in their care with callous disregard and cruelty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

Return to home page
%d bloggers like this: