Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Days of Christmas - Number 5 - Catholic Abuse

I think it's time that the community stood up to the notion that the catholic church is somehow interested in the welfare of people ahead of the welfare of the church. This proposition is simply, demonstrably not true.
The catholic church has demonstrated, over the last 80 years or so that it is focused above all else on the survival of the church as an institution rather than the continuance of the mission of the church as a force for good. During the second world war the Pope collaborated with the Germans to protect the Vatican, with much evidence that Italian Jews were sacrificed as a result.
During much of the last 80 years the catholic church has been a breeding ground for clergy who are sexual predators of the worst possible kind. What in my view is unforgivable is that far from seeking to promptly and effectively identify these predators and hand them to the authorities, the church has protected them. I can think of no greater betrayal of trust. The church quietly moved priests when complaints arose; simply allowing them to betray others in fresh hunting grounds. Perpetrators, far from being handed to authorities, were protected and hidden from them.
Whilst the greatest betrayal has been the sexual abuse of thousands, possibly millions of children, there has also been not inconsiderable physical abuse by various religious in catholic schools. The principal of one large catholic school once said to me "there's not much a good bashing won't fix". It wasn't a joke, he ws talking about the children in his care.
What rankles even further is the behaviour of the church towards victims. The system set up under George Pell and still continuing in Melbourne, is designed - in my view - to achieve one thing only: the silencing of victims at the lowest possible cost to the church. Having suffered abuse at the hands of the church already they are then faced with what I believe to be a manipulative and cold hearted process.
Until the catholic church has demonstrated - over an extended period of time - that it has taken action to effectively stamp out paedophillia in its institutions, I believe that it should be sanctioned by governments around the world. The church hierarchy who protected paedophiles by acts of commission or omission should be actively prosecuted by authorities. Government funding should be withheld and in extreme cases catholic schools and institutions should be forcibly shut down.
It is my view that the catholic church has, somehow, created what appears to be the perfect breeding ground for paedophiles and abusers. The problem is therefore institutional and all the more difficult to eradicate. We should take special care before we accept that change has been effected.
At a time when all other institutions in society have gone to - sometimes extreme - lengths to stamp out paedophillia and to protect children the catholic church is a salient failure. Society should no longer tolerate the failure of the church to protect those most in need of protection whilst actively protecting its own and its own institution.
Enough right now.

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