Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

A clerical collar shouldn’t keep these vile abusers out of prison

The revelations of clerical abuse just keep on coming. And some of the stories are so harrowing and heartbreaking it's hard to contemplate how the survivors lived to tell the tale.

Many victims took their own lives. We will probably never know if any of the victims actually lost their lives during an attack.

That's a possibility few are willing to suggest, but I think we must assume that out of many, many thousands of attacks on poor and defenceless children, at least a small number of children may have died.

I'm not really interested in what the Catholic Church, or anyone in it, has to say about clerical abuse any more. If the Church was going to do anything to protect children, it would have done it by now.

Therefore, I can only assume that the hierarchy does not intend to modernise the organisation in any way.

I think we can safely assume that married men and women will never be ordained into the Church, nor will independent investigators be allowed access to Church archives.

As far as I am aware, not a single cleric worldwide has handed himself in to police and made a full confession of his crimes.

If any of the governments in any of the countries where children were abused had any courage whatsoever, all and any clerics concerned would be under arrest today.

And so would any of the clerics who deliberately concealed what was happening from the public. I include the current leader of the Church in that number.

Just because these men wear priestly outfits doesn't mean they are above the law. If that were the case, then any secular paedophile in the world could set up their own religion and go on to abuse children at will.

They could also demand weekly donations from anyone living in their catchment area and use some of that money to silence whistleblowers. This sounds like a ridiculous scenario, but that's basically what happened within the Catholic Church.

Clerical abuse has been going on for decades; perhaps for many centuries. Perhaps the entire religion was conceived as a way to wield power and control over lay people.

And in recent years they added insult to injury by collecting money every Sunday in tiny pastel envelopes.

If the Church really cared about children it would have stamped out child abuse a long, long time ago. It would have vetted everyone in the Church, ordained married men and women into its ranks, made sure young children were never left alone with clerics and handed abusers over to the police immediately.

Some commentators from within the Church are suggesting that the vow of celibacy may have contributed to the problem; and that any religion that is presided over by an all-male, celibate elite is bound to struggle to relate emotionally to its flock.

I'm sorry, but I don't accept that idea at all. Millions of women across the globe were widowed in two world wars and they didn't abuse children.

They did their best to struggle on amid their grief and loneliness. And they did it without a house, a car and a housekeeper all paid for by the Church.

Millions of people in the world today are single, divorced, bereaved, gravely ill, seriously depressed or otherwise unable to enter into a physical relationship. They don't become child abusers; again they live their lives to the best of their ability.

They have friends for emotional support. They spend their spare time doing housework, on hobbies, or pottering in the garden.They satisfy any sudden sexual urges with a little bit of thoroughly healthy self-pleasuring.

They do not resort to recreational rape and they do not threaten small children with excommunication and everlasting hellfire.

How could any child possibly have the maturity to sign an oath of secrecy?

And what does it matter if one is excommunicated for breaking the oath? Just join another religion, for heaven's sake.

One that doesn't have a hopelessly outdated stance on birth-control, divorce, remarriage, female ordination, gay rights and the concealment of crimes against humanity.

I can't be the only person who is absolutely terrified that many seriously disturbed individuals may still be at large in various religious communities throughout the world. I have no idea what causes a person to become an abuser of children, but experts tell us such people can never be fully cured. Therefore they must be locked up or otherwise prevented from abusing another child.

The very least the Vatican can do now is accept full responsibility for what happened and compensate all of the survivors without further delay.

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