Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Neil Addison on not reporting abuse

There is a wise piece in The Guardian by Neil Addison author of the pre-eminently sensible Religion Law Blog on why the Church does not explicitly state that any cases of child abuse must be reported to the police.

For example a priest who has sex with a 14 year old girl in Spain does not commit a crime but would in England; a priest who has an adulterous heterosexual relationship in England would not commit a crime but would commit a crime in Iran which could lead to him and the woman being stoned to death. The same point may be made about homosexual behaviour by a Priest which would be regarded by the church as an offence contrary to canon law but would be regarded in entirely different lights by law enforcement officials in different countries.

It is also important to remember that legal rules regarding what is or is not legal sexual behaviour have changed in many parts of the world and may change again. The church has, for example, been criticised over its 1962 letter "Crimen Sollicitationis" which laid down rules dealing with improper sexual behaviour by priests but did not require that these matters should be reported to the Police. However in 1962, consensual interacial sex was illegal in much of the United States as well as in South Africa, and homosexuality was an imprisonable criminal offence in England.

In 1962 Communism ruled much of the world and a person who attended church could lose their job if the Communist authorities became aware. 1962 was only four years before the start of the Cultural Revolution in China when churches were attacked and Priests killed, only six years after the crushing of the Hungarian uprising and six years before the crushing of the Prague Spring. In those circumstances it is hardly surprising if church instructions did not require that all state authorities be automatically informed of any allegations made against a priest.


Clare@ BattlementsOfRubies said...

That's a very helpful article thank you.

RJ said...

It helps to escape the narrow perspective of our own time and place.

Bryan said...

Here is an extract from a Radio Free Europe Report from 1961 about the arrest of some Hungarian priests:

"Accusations of indecent behaviour have been standard tactics for the past
seven months. They are designed to blacken the clergy's reputation, and it is
of some significance that in four cases out of six the Catholic priests were
accused of having committed an indecent offence against altar boys. The
implication here is that not only is it unwise for parents to send children to
religious instruction and church, but that it is also dangerous..."


The implication of this Radio Free Europe report being that the Communists were falsely accusing priests who were not politically compliant.

Churchgoers in Czechoslovakia in the 1960's and 1970's often found that their children were denied places in the Grammar School and then University.

There is a great need for a good history of religious persecution in Czechoslovakia under Totality.