Monday, December 27, 2010

Suffer The Little Children

They say that one should never speak about politics or religion in polite society. Since I have long violated the former however, I see no reason not to occasionally violate the latter. (Besides, it could easily be argued that any blog of mine has nothing to do with polite anything.) 

Having survived a good many years of Catholic education at the grade school, high school, and college level with help and support of a number of priests and nuns; and very seriously considered entering the priesthood myself at one point, I feel that I have enough background and knowledge from which to so comment.  

So I am discomfited to say the least, by the recent pronouncements of the Catholic Church on the continuously growing scandal over child abuse by priests (for which the term least seems unfortunately appropriate). How in fact, are we to reconcile the recent end-of-the-year speech to the church hierarchy that Pope Benedict XVI made on December 20th with the behavior of those in question? Certainly we can all be encouraged by him saying, 

"We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen." 

We might be concerned about the sincerity of his message however, when this example of papal eloquence apparently seeks to blame the Church's handling of priestly child abuse by saying that the scandal of such behavior must be seen in historical social context. While accepting blame in a general way for acts that are both illegal and immoral, he appears to in some part blame society for the actions of a few priests: "In the 1970s, pedophilia was theorized as something fully in conformity with man and even with children."

If we are to believe the sincerity of the Pope's concern (and I certainly have no reason to question it), this appears to be some twisted form of admitting guilt and accepting responsibility by blaming society. Nowhere in any part of this mea culpa, does there appear to be a true acceptance of responsibility by the Church for the illegal actions of these priests. Neither does there appear to be a condemnation of the Church's hierarchy for consistently covering up these crimes while shuffling these pedophiles from one parish to another to keep their actions from being discovered or prosecuted. There likewise appears to be no self-condemnation by an organization which ostensibly assumes the moral high ground, but was more than willing to trade money for silence over the years to protect its reputation. 

If the Catholic Church were to be judged like any other multinational corporation, a good faith effort at atonement would require that they would terminate not only the offenders, but any of those in management (Monsignors, Bishops, and Cardinals) involved with the cover up of illegal activities at the very least. And while I am not calling for the current pontiff to step down, it would certainly not be out of line to expect the CEO of such a organization to step down, or at least to condemn the actions of his predecessors for failing to take a more principled stand and more forcible action where the offenders were concerned. 

This behavior is reminiscent of the stand that the Catholic Church took during the Middle Ages, when the Church held itself above any and all secular law and refused to have churchmen judged by anything other than its own Ecclesiastical courts. And while secular courts have often proved to be less than perfect (as proved by the example of Thomas Becket during that period), attempting to consistently protect its members from judgment and from justice hardly seems in keeping with the teachings of the New Testament. 

We read in Luke 18:16: "But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." It also says in Matthew 18, "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." 

In light of the former quotation, it seems indefensible that those tasked by their spiritual leader in their holiest of books for the protection of innocents, should apparently abandon them in the very hour of their need. In light of the latter quotation, it seems more than contradictory that those who committed these heinous crimes brought were brought neither before a secular court nor that of the Catholic Church for the justice (if not the retribution) they deserved. In fact these loathsome malefactors were offered a form of complicit protection, and their reprehensible acts against young victims were swept under the rug by those who are supposed to represent what's best in humanity. 

While new guidelines have recently been written for dealing with future examples of these abhorrent acts, until the Church can reconcile its far too lenient treatment of the despicable perpetrators, their own pathetic enabling behavior over the years, and the complicity of those in power in cover-ups and buyouts with the Scripture that it uses as its defining document; I fear that the only suffering being done will remain that of the little children involved and their families.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for saying what needed to be said. Those that pepetrated evil and those that were party to its cover up will definitely pay on Judgement Day.