Deeply Disturbing

Today, a more serious subject than is usual for this blog.

There have been a number of reports in the international media recently about the increasingly numerous allegations of paedophile Catholic priests that are surfacing. These allegations are threatening to implicate even Pope Benedict in cover ups from the 1980s.

The sin of sexual abuse is horrible enough as it is. Suffice to say that our Lord’s words seal the fate of those who perpetrated these atrocities:

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6.

I was deeply disturbed on recently reading Dirty Work by former Detective Glen McNamara. In it he outlines the corruption that was endemic in the police force in the Sydney Kings Cross area in the 1980s and 90s. One of the more disturbing revelations he makes in the book is that of a network of police, judges, lawyers and prominent businessmen who form a powerful paedophile ring that systematically abuses children and protects its member from the law and from exposure with a ruthless efficiency. The chilling thing was that this was not a fictional novel, but a chronicle of real life that apparently is still happening today. No wonder parents are over-protective of their children!

To learn that such things happen in the world is bad enough. To learn that they happen within a Christian Church, which should be protecting little children, is nothing short of devastating.

We shouldn’t go overboard here – it is, after all a very emotional subject. No doubt, the paedophile is in one sense a sinner as all of us are sinners, and as such, deserves compassion and pity. But this particular sin is one with awful consequences for the innocent and vulnerable victims who cannot protect themselves. I have, sadly, had to counsel victims of child abuse a number of times (yes, it does happen in our community) and have been shocked at the far-reaching effects these victims have experienced, well into their adult life.

In Christianity, mercy is reserved for those who repent. Sadly, many paedophiles seem to have accepted their sin and show little sign of repentance. Would not a repentant Catholic priest have voluntarily removed himself from contact with children, perhaps even left the priesthood altogether? Perhaps this did indeed happen with some, and of course we hear nothing about that person now because he stopped anything from happening in the first place. But the ones we hear about are those who insisted on continuing in their service, dealing with children, knowing full well the temptation that represented for them. Often they consciously plotted with the greatest of care and created situations that allowed them to abuse children. Their actions are unforgiveable, for they prove that there is no repentance in their hearts.

But even more shocking to me is the silence of Catholic Church authorities when they learned of these paedophile priests. Rather than defrocking the perpetrators or at least confining them away from the public, they were simply shuffled from parish to parish, in the vain hope, perhaps, that a transfer would be enough to stop them offending again? Where is the logic in that? The more I hear of the details about how these horrible crimes were hushed up and left unresolved, the more angry and frustrated do I become. It is dangerous to prejudge things, but there seem to have been enough cases that have been tested in the courts to show an unmistakeable pattern of the Catholic Church putting its reputation above its values.

This got me thinking: how could this happen? What was so wrong in the whole Roman Catholic Church system that could have led not just one or two Church leaders to cover up for paedophile priests, but apparently to have become the system-wide policy? I find this frightening. And saddening, for there is a great deal to respect in the Roman Catholic Church, such as its apostolicity, its sacraments, its tradition and its strong commitment to practical Christianity and charity through arms like the St Vincent de Paul Society. All the Catholics I have met personally have been wonderful ambassadors for Christ. How utterly unfair it is to have a small section of the Church so terribly tarnish what is otherwise a beautiful expression of Christianity!

I do not wish to judge another Church here. But for the grace of God, there go I. But certainly, we are so blessed in our Church to have two major factors that prevent these kinds of crimes among the priesthood.

The first is that our priests, with a few notable exceptions, are married and have families of their own. This allows the priest to live the natural family life and to have personal experience of parenthood. I cannot imagine any sane parent, who has seen how innocent and vulnerable childhood is, not being enraged by paedophilia.

The second is the fact that no one chooses the priesthood for himself in our Church. This is in obedience to Hebrews 5:4: “And no man takes this honour to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was”. His Holiness Pope Shenouda often summarises this policy by remarking upon his dilemma in finding suitable parish priests: “those who are fit for the priesthood do not want to be priests, and those who want to be priests are not fit for the priesthood”.

There is little doubt that some of the Catholic paedophile priests chose the path of priesthood because of their predilection for paedophilia, because it offered an ideal setup for them to satisfy their lusts. The priest is trusted and respected in the community; he is trusted to take people’s children on trips; and if ever he is found out (so they would think) the whole authority of the Church will protect him because it has a vested interest in protecting its own reputation.

In the Coptic Church, such a person would never even be considered for the priesthood. The nomination comes usually from the people, people who have lived with the person and his family, who have seen him in a wide variety of situations and gotten to know his character very well. The same is true of the monks who are sent out to serve in parishes, although in this case, their character is stringently tested in their monastery by the whole monastic community, and by an experienced spiritual Father. The least hint of a man manoeuvring to be ordained usually starts the alarm bells ringing and disqualifies that man from ordination.

That said, I believe that one of the lessons we the Coptic Church need to learn from this whole horrible matter is that our Christian values and principles MUST always come before the good of the Church as a mere institution. What good is a Church with an excellent reputation but that is filled with dark evil corruption inside? Where has the Church’s commitment to Truth gone? Will people really respect a Church that covers up its faults more than a Church that is up front and open about its faults? And which is more likely to result in people getting to be close to God and entering the kingdom of heaven; covering up our faults and pretending they don’t exist, or honestly acknowledging them and working together to repent from them?

And we need to be diligent in praying for our Church and for its leaders. The devil prowls around us like a roaring lion, seeking whom to devour…

Fr Ant

No votes yet.
Please wait...
Voting is currently disabled, data maintenance in progress.

6 Replies to “Deeply Disturbing”

  1. I had to stand silently as my senior colleagues belittled the Catholic Church and the Pope today, with such veracity, that the anger I felt about the abuses made me think that if I had not respected the Roman Church on its doctrine, I may have joined them. I too don’t feel its my place to prejudge the matter either, and a little annoyed at the obvious bias of the public. Instead of having an article about the Easter sermon, they focussed on the scarce abuse comments. It is my suspicion that every Christian holiday, they dig dirt for the front page. I know that the Pope’s preacher did not help by using this occasion to discuss this topic, and I don’t particularly agree with much of his comments either. But I’m not a Catholic, not someone affected by this, and don’t really think this was so radical a comment that the press should use this controversy in their (and ours) holy day. Imagine being Catholic, and its Easter morning, and you get the paper, and having to read that controversy again.

    As you said- this was a systemic, calculated, world-wide policy by the Catholic Church. One colleague, though, seemed reasonable, and said that though he doesn’t particularly have any likings for the Pope, he was an archbishop (not the bishop at the time) and would have “most very unlikely be involved personally in the {alleged} coverup”. He said his responsibility is akin to the director of health in the state for what is happening in the corridor of a hospital. He thought the pontiff was genuinely ascetic, and even said probably involved with the opus dei (I add this in for humour).

    Further, Abouna, I met someone who was a Greek Orthodox person, who alleges that he was molested by a priest in Italy. I do not know their selection process. And I encountered a Copt overseas who had said the Bishop is doing nothing (but a warning) to a priest that abused him (do not know how, though). I agree that our Church is not protected entirely, but I think that we have some protective factors. I wonder why these scandals are not hitting other religous/moral authorities and institutions?

    It is interesting- I was reading a book called “The Twilight of Atheism” by Alister McGrath, and he talks about how repulsed the French in particular and many Europeans were of the Catholic Church (and the CofE etc.) during the revolution; their abuses and scandals of the clergy, and how that was pivotal in creating Atheism as we know it today, or at least a secular society. Its an old lesson! He also showed the link between Protestantism (though an Evangelical himself), and Atheism.

    Anyway, is it right for us outside the Catholic Church to say that their fault is not allowing priests to marry? I mean its their expression of priesthood, and who are we to say how someone practices their tradition. But I think those who defend it on historical grounds, would find this shaky, since it clearly is not the most ancient practice. But if we argue in this point, we will find it harder to defend our on practice of monk-only bishops.

    No votes yet.
    Please wait...
    Voting is currently disabled, data maintenance in progress.
  2. He said his responsibility is akin to the director of health in the state for what is happening in the corridor of a hospital.

    This analogy is disingenuous. We know that in at least one case, a priest who had abused children requested permission to leave the clergy. His bishop concurred and they both sought approval from the current catholic pope when he was an archbishop. The pope refused to make a decision for several years because he wished to avoid losing a young priest. Since we have letters the pope actually signed directing a bishop to retain a priest who had abused children, I don’t see how one can say that it is unlikely that the pope was involved. Isn’t the catholic pope responsible for the documents that he signs? Isn’t that the whole point of a signature?

    Therefore, a better analogy might be that the pope’s responsibility is akin to that of a director of health who meets with one of his doctors. This doctor admits to intentionally murdering patients but the director refuses to fire him or inform the police. For years.

    Anyway, is it right for us outside the Catholic Church to say that their fault is not allowing priests to marry?

    Yes it is.

    I mean its their expression of priesthood, and who are we to say how someone practices their tradition.

    Anyone can practice any tradition they wish, but they must accept the consequences of their tradition. The catholic pope delayed removing some priests who admitted to abusing children because he was concerned about the shortage of catholic priests and did not want to lose a young priest. The cause and effect is clear: requiring celibate priests reduces the number of priests, which forces the church to be far less discerning about which priests to keep and which to remove.

    But I think those who defend it on historical grounds, would find this shaky, since it clearly is not the most ancient practice. But if we argue in this point, we will find it harder to defend our on practice of monk-only bishops.

    Given the overt political reasons for requiring celibacy (explicit concerns about priest children inheriting church land and property), I think we can safely dispense with any historical arguments.

    No votes yet.
    Please wait...
    Voting is currently disabled, data maintenance in progress.
  3. I encountered this article among others and I see your point, and that I was ignorant of the facts.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/15/AR2010041505072.html

    The above article says, however, that the case in interest was that of the housing of an offending priest under the roman pontiff’s archdiocese for “therapy” for a single offence (though it would difficult to believe that only one would have occured), and that the priest still completed a prison sentence. So going from your insights and reading, I suppose the therapy was to help the “penitent” young priest (who wanted to leave his post) to reform, and continue his duties?

    Yikes.

    No votes yet.
    Please wait...
    Voting is currently disabled, data maintenance in progress.
  4. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/pope-criticised-over-latest-sex-scandals-20100411-s06e.html

    Oh it gets worse. 🙁

    Anyway, thanks Abouna!

    No votes yet.
    Please wait...
    Voting is currently disabled, data maintenance in progress.
  5. I choose not to comment on HH Benedict’s intentions in the alleged cover-up of the sexual abuse cases, all I am going to say is that if he is found to have done so then he should be stood aside.

    I agree that the probable major causes of this sexual abuse which seems to be common in the Roman Church, is the non-existence of the married priest, and the lack of the priesthood being a ‘calling’ but rather a choice of a man to enter the seminary and ‘train’ to be a priest.

    However, I would like to say this, and I truly believe it….a priest does not become a paedophile, but rather a paedophile becomes a priest because it provides him with a safe haven for his perverted lusts and gives him a position of trust with children.

    So we shouldn’t be asking ourselves why these priests are doing these things, and lose faith in the vocation of priesthood, we should be asking ourselves how we can eliminate the paedophiles from falling through the cracks to ordination.

    That is all…..

    No votes yet.
    Please wait...
    Voting is currently disabled, data maintenance in progress.
  6. I read a very disturbing article recently where in it Richard Dawkins(controversial atheist) apparently is assembling a team of lawyers to try and charge Pope Benidict with crimes against humanity. I think that not dealing with these situations in a proper manner leaves Christianity open for people such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens,who are both very strong anti-religion campaigners, to try and cause instability in the church and in the faiths of the people.
    Here is a link to the article: http://news.ninemsn.com.au/world/1038462/pope-arrest-bid-for-crimes-against-humanity
    PPFM

    No votes yet.
    Please wait...
    Voting is currently disabled, data maintenance in progress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*