But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Mark 10:14
The U.N. Report
Recently, the United Nations demanded that the Vatican fire all clergy members who are known or suspected to be child abusers and turn them over to the police. The Vatican’s reputation has been shattered after an extensive report prepared by the U.N. was released that detailed the protection of pedophile priests at the expense of their victims.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child also demanded that the Vatican give up its files on suspected abuse of thousands of children.
According to the U.N. report, no Catholic bishop has ever been sanctioned for sheltering an abusive priest, but the Vatican’s ambassador to the U.N. repudiated that allegation. He also later pointed out that during his last two years as Pope, Benedict XVI defrocked close to 400 priests for raping and molesting children. Benedict’s most recent defrocking binge resulted in more than twice the defrockings that had been ordered during the two years that preceded the explosion of sexual abuse allegations.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
It’s been widely publicized that even though the archdiocese removed some priests from ministries, they often wait years to do it after they were suspected of committing child abuse. Not only that, some churches, such as the Archdiocese of Chicago – America’s third largest – also moved accused priests from parish to parish for decades. They even went so far as to hide the clerics’ histories from the public.
Vatican documents show correspondence between a Vatican official and a French bishop praising his policy to protect his abusive priest. Another report released in 2011 by the Irish government cites an Irish bishop ignoring a directive, set forth by Irish bishops themselves, which made the reporting of abusers to the authorities mandatory.
Many have argued that the structures and rules of the Catholic Church foster these cover-ups. Obsessed with secrecy and seeking to avoid public scandal at all costs, there appears to be a disgusting tactic of “don’t ask, don’t tell” running rampant within the Church.
The U.N. report excoriated the Vatican for its “code of silence” which it believes has kept victims silenced and prioritized the protection of the reputation of the church and the alleged offender over the protection of the child.
The report adds: “Due to a code of silence imposed on all members of the clergy under penalty of ex-communication, cases of child abuse have hardly been reported to law enforcement agencies.”
That code is still in place, according to the report; two months ago, the Holy See ignored requests “to provide the committee with data on all cases of child abuse brought to its attention.”
Here’s something most of the public has no clue about – to date, the Holy See has never really had to defend its record on cracking down on child abuse. This is because it has successfully argued, in numerous countries, that the Vatican is immune from lawsuits because it is a sovereign state.
In 2010, for example, Pope Benedict was a defendant in a lawsuit alleging inaction when, as a Cardinal in 1995, he was told about a priest who had abused boys. The plaintiff’s lawyers withdrew from the case and the Vatican showed that the Pope couldn’t be held liable for the actions of priests.
To make the statement above even more crystal clear – the Church has literally argued that it is not legally responsible for its own priests molesting children and cannot be expected to keep in check all clergymen across the world.
The Vatican is astronomically hypocritical. The Vatican wants to practice “the truth” found in scripture but also cover up abuse? It wants to combat the practice of molestation effectively but never hold itself accountable to state law, only to canon law? I don’t think that’s a position Jesus would have taken.
If the Church ever gets serious about stomping out these cover-ups and molestations, it should also instantaneously discharge any bishop that oversaw a diocese that shielded an abusive priest from local authorities. But it won’t.
The Church doesn’t want this information out in the public because it will turn public opinion against the Church and cause all priests to be characterized as potential molesters, however unfair that might be. But by withholding this information and continuing its culture of secrecy, the Church’s reputation will ultimately be damaged beyond repair.
The Church is hurting itself and its clergy but it doesn’t seem to recognize this fact. If it ever gets more transparent, it will bolster its credibility as an organization which holds itself accountable. If not, the controversy will just continue to ratchet up. There will be a heavy cost to pay if the Church insists on finding legal loopholes to protect its own.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that the Vatican is not trying to remedy the problem. After all, it has released some limited information.
Officials from the Vatican condemn the U.N. report, saying that it gives a “distorted picture” and does not cover “a series of changes for the protection of children.” I believe that is unequivocally true.
But although the Episcopal of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome submitted a report on abuse in 1994, it didn’t provide any progress reports until 2012 and that was only after the explosion of reported child abuses cases throughout Europe around 2010.
The bottom line is that the Church is not doing nearly enough to remedy the problem and consequently putting children at risk. They are knowingly leaving some rapists in positions of power within their churches, and such negligence is completely unacceptable.
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