One need not go far into the blogosphere, or to any media outlet for that matter, to find a plethora of stories about the Vatican and the problem that will not go away–the abuse of children at the hands of church clergy.
Indeed, there are times when I can say, that all that can be said has been, and it’s time to put this sad chapter behind us and move on. But, the stories seem unending, and just exactly when you think it’s “old news” new information comes forth.
The Vatican, in its usual and current frame of mind, tends to take the “backs up against the wall” mentality, and to attack the messenger. Recently, Vatican spokesmen, have decried the “witch hunt” mentality of the NYTimes and other media for their remorseless attack on the institution of the Roman Catholic Church.
That may or may not be true, but alas, it changes nothing; certainly not the facts that continue to leak forth from the hidden nuclear waste bin where they have been secretly confined to for so long.
Some cast severe blame on Benedict himself, mostly for his inaction while a Cardinal, head of the Vatican Department dealing with the crisis. Some defend the Pope, claiming that many of the charges against him are over blown and only tell a partial story.
This is not about who is to blame or what is to blame. It is not about matching numbers from one faith tradition to another, and concluding that one has “more” deviants than the other. It is not about our Christian duty to feel compassion and empathy for those that so deeply lose their way that they would do such acts.
It is, and always was about the cover up. To the victims, of course, it is about more, but to the rest of us, ex-Roman Catholic, and Catholic alike, Protestants, and agnostics, and atheists, and those of other traditions entirely, it remains mind-bogglingly incomprehensible that a CHURCH could under ANY circumstances come to the conclusion that silence was the best answer to such a hideous crime.
Have we so completely forgotten Jesus’ teachings? Do we forget how he gave such special favored place in the world to the “little ones?” Did we miss that such abuse was completely and utterly devoid of anything Christian? Did we push aside that our purpose is to live out our faith in ways that signal to others that there is a better way of life?
All seems forgotten in this mixed up world of due respect for church law and procedure, and the rights of the accused. All seemed forgotten in the desire to “save” the soul of the miscreant who would do such things. Could such a one as these actually preach anything that would be worth listening to? Could they be admired in any fashion whatsoever, when they committed such mind-numbing assault on children?
You may make all the fine statements you wish about a “priest is a priest forever” and the human soul is always redeemable. Those things may in fact be utterly true, but that changes nothing. The ONLY proper and right response to such allegations was always the same–turn the information over to proper authorities and cooperate fully.
The religious hierarchy of the Roman Church has the right and means to offer all the therapeutic treatment it wishes. It was always free to reassign during the interim, any priest accused. It was always free to do all in its power to assist victims and their families.
What it was not free to do was to hide behind the phrase, “taking care of our own dirty laundry behind closed doors, much as any family would wish to.” It was not entitled to hide behind the defense of “the atheists/Satan/secularists are out to get us, and always have been. ”
This was a moral outrage of monumental proportions, on a scale that at least approaches the inhumanness of the Holocaust, and other genocidal actions throughout history. This was the often permanent destruction of children, the most vulnerable and most sinless among us.
Somewhere within church culture, offending priests determined that it was “okay” and some how justifiable to pursue such conduct rather than turn themselves into bishops and other clergy and beg for help. One can only shudder at the “excuses” and “explanations” offered to both themselves and to their victims as they found some foundation for their crimes.
The public is outraged, and frankly I cannot fathom how the Vatican could have thought it would react otherwise. There seems, upon any theory, no possible resolution other than to report such crimes to the police and as I said, cooperate fully. Surely our entire criminal justice system is based on the theory that a crime is a crime. Punishment is tailored to the individual and their personal level of responsibility. But we cannot, indeed, we should not, decide to pull certain malefactors from the system because of who they are.
This is and remains the reason that people like myself cannot let go of what happened. All those who are so misguided as to think that this “transfer, treatment, and forget it” mentality was right, need to be removed from their positions, NOW. This is not an area of grey, it’s as black and white as it can get as I see it.
That such things have occurred to other clergy in other faith traditions, is not in dispute, and we respond with the same clear direction. TURN THEM IN.
For as surely as God forgives his misbegotten priests and pastors, and all those who do grievous wrong to human beings of any age, he weeps for the pain inflicted upon the innocents and demands that we do everything to stop this. WE have not, and we are deeply shamed that in this day and age, we prove but again that we are far far from the mind of Christ.