Offended by Offence

Easter, Catholicism and Sexual Abuse

As today is Easter, and we are being encouraged to celebrate the absurd notion of the resurrection of a mythical Supreme Being (chocolate eggs and bunnies are a recent addition so as to offer a more enticing bribe to the young), supplications at the Vatican are being prominently covered.  The usual deference of the media towards religious propaganda, however, is being tempered by allegations that Pope Benedict (then Cardinal Ratzinger) obstructed justice by attempting to cover up the sexual abuse of boys by catholic priests.  In a letter to bishops in 2001, Benedict ordered that sexual abuse allegations be “subject to pontifical secret”, a breach of which could result in excommunication.  The letter also demanded that initial investigations of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger’s office, which could choose to divert them to church tribunals where the “functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests” (www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/24/children.childprotection)

The most recent scandal involves documents that emerged in March 2010 showing that a secret canonical trial that could have resulted in Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy’s dismissal was halted after Murphy wrote a letter personally appealing to Ratzinger.  Murphy is alleged to have molested as many as 200 boys, but he was never disciplined by the church; instead he was transferred to another diocese where he spent 24 years interacting with children.  Although several American bishops raised the alarm about Murphy, correspondence shows that the highest priority of officials was in ensuring that the church was protected from scandal (www.nytimes.com/2010/03/25/world/europe/25vatican.html).  Benedict is also facing other criticisms that he did not alert civilian authorities about priests involved in sexual abuse when he was an archbishop in Germany.

These circumstances have led to a great deal of soul seaching within the catholic church.  One of the most common responses, however, is to defend the church, claiming that the entire institution should not be judged on the basis of the actions of a few mouldy wafers.  On CBC Newsworld today, for example, Neil MacCarthy, a representative of the Archdiocese of Toronto, compared paedophile priests to police officers, teachers and lawyers who abuse the public trust. 

Arguments like those of MacCarthy show the extent of denial that exists in the catholic church.  They ignore the systematic climate of secrecy and contempt for state authority that exists within the institution.  It is apparent that the power wielded by the Vatican continues to enable church officials to envision themselves as being above the law.  There is also the question of the extent to which Catholicism itself contributes to paedophilia within the institution.  Unlike police officers, teachers and lawyers, the catholic church dictates that priests must be celibate.  This stipulation ensures that the priesthood is likely to attract a higher proportion of sexual deviancy than would be present in the wider population. 

One positive result of the growing scandal is that the power of the catholic church is weakening.  The enormous power of the Vatican in global affairs is increasingly coming under scrutiny.  But there still needs to be a recognition that the current “crisis” is not accidental; it is rooted in the irrationality and deference that superstition, Catholic or otherwise, demands.

4 thoughts on “Easter, Catholicism and Sexual Abuse

  1. Oh sure, pick on the Catholics – ignoring all the wonderful things they’ve done over the years. The efforts of Mother Theresa alone, in preventing women’s freedom to terminate unwanted pregnancies, has resulted in thousands of starving orphans – there are lots of photos of her posing with them! And then Brother Andre, who, with an I.Q. of only 78,toiled for years building some kind of momento that almost froze his fingers off! And don’t get me going about Joan of Arc! Now there’s old what’s-his-face-Ratzinger just attempting to be loyal to those paedophiles who were probably just trying to help deaf kids. If you researched your low German, and found out the meaning of “zinger”, you’d feel a little compassion for those poor rats too. Just as those Catholic intellectuals have been trying to explain, not all priests are molesters (although what they get “up” to among themselves is not anyone else’s concern). Sure, the sexual urge is as natural as any other ummentionable bodily function, but that is exactly why the church has chosen it as proscribed activity – if it were easy what would be the point? Any stable, emotionally balanced person would be able to get in. The expectation of those chosen for the religious orders is that they will take the matter in hand and deal with it in prayer and other effective ways. I’m sure the lads discuss this at length over their hot chocolate before bedtime, and when studying together in their cells.
    On a related topic, this being the Christian celebration of the hideous torture of Jerusalem Slim, I encourage everyone to join me in the traditional Easter drink, the Rusty Nail (two parts Scotch, one part Drambuie, over ice – no garnish). In respect for historical accuracy, I always have three. After which I reflect upon the perpetrators of the terrible act – the Romans – and I can understand the cause of so much anti-Italianism in the world today!
    Happy Easter!

  2. The scandal is only the beginning. What will the catholics around the world do about it? Nothing. The pope lieutenants will defend him because they are all involved. What will the rest of the world do about it. Nothing! Back to square zero!
    is the end nigh for those at the helm of the catholic church?

  3. Religion has nothing to do with the issue of Paedophilia. Those that perpetrate such acts should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law no matter who they are, society demands it. Joking about this subject, as the first poster does, is frightening, truth be told.

  4. Mark-Allan Whittle is partly correct. My attempt to ridicule religion in general and Catholicism in particular, slipped carelessly into offensive joking about a tragic circumstance.
    I’m not convinced, however, that there is no connection between religion and paedophilia – although not necessarily in the causative sense. First, the incidents are disproportunately higher among Catholic clergy, than other irrational belief systems; this can possibly be attributed to increased opportunity. Growing up in Quebec, I observed that some very disturbed people sought refuge in “the cloth”.
    Religion is a socially destructive force. There is nothing funny about paedophilia.

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