Thursday, March 11, 2010
Sexual Abuse: Let there be Light
Outside the Church everyone inside it seems to be either an abuser or somehow implicated in abuse; goodwill turns to coldness or to loathing or downright hatred. For secularists or professional atheists it becomes another stick with which to beat the Church.
Those who know about such things keep saying clergy are less likely to abuse than other members of society, less than social workers, less than teachers and certainly less than other family members, especially step parents.
In New York recently there were claims of a big abuse scandal hovering just under the surface in the Jewish community. There are other claims that there is a serious problem in the Islamic community. Some Anglican dioceses in the States and places like Australia have declared bankruptcy because of abuse claims. Before the revelations from Nova Scotia in 1985 revelations of Catholic clerical sexual abuse of minors appeared very occasionally but didn’t seem to be a Catholic problem. Now it seems to be a specifically Catholic problem.
In this country abuse by people other than Catholic clergy is rarely reported unless it is particular horrendous. It could be that abuse by priests is seen to be particularly offensive because of the Church’s teaching on sexuality, or it could be that clergy abuse is far more common than other group in society. Possibly it is that abuse by others isn’t reported but that there is particular reason to concentrate on the Catholic Church’s failings.
There are those who claim celibacy either becomes a useful mask for abusers or even causes it, others claim that the discipline of celibacy makes celibates less likely to abuse. In the States there are claims that there is a direct correlation between at least the abuse of older boys and homosexual clergy. Again there is a claim that this is primarily a post-Concilliar.
At the moment some German bishops are claiming that it is a societal rather than an ecclesiastical problem. As Catholic clergy tend not to move around that often, they are always in the diocesan directory, it is perhaps easier to track of them down; abusive social workers or scout masters can just move on to another job or even out of the profession altogether and be lost in society.
In Ireland especially almost every childcare facility was run by the Church, so whilst everywhere else abuse might be spread amongst lay teachers, social workers, carers in orphanages, reformatory instructors, youth workers, scout leaders, clergy, all the dirt was laid a the Church’s door.
If the German bishops are right, presumably then their assertion is provable. Is it not time some honest Catholic statistician produced some figures? Child protection or “Safeguarding” is obviously important here and now but what damages the Church now and in the future is the appearance that it is full of abusers. Shouldn’t every Episcopal Conference be commissioning a study into the figures that are available. If the popular conception is right, that Catholic priests are more prone to sexual abuse than others, then this needs to be addressed urgently. If it is incorrect then we need evidence to contradict our detractors. What is needed is clear light not claim and counter claim.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake