Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Pedophilia and the Catholic Church: It's time for action

I'm sure most of my readers have by now heard about the publication of a grand jury report in Pennsylvania.  It investigated pedophile acts by clergy and laity in the Catholic Church over a period of some decades.  The full report is devastating.  Over a thousand known victims;  hundreds of guilty persons;  and a massive, deliberate, institutionalized cover-up of the facts by bishops and other authority figures within the Church.

I've written about this many times before, in the light of my own experiences within the Church - most recently just a few weeks ago.  I won't repeat my sentiments here.  It would be pointless.

However, for me, this grand jury report is the last straw.  There is no longer any excuse for allowing the Church to police herself.  The time has come to enforce policing upon her.  If we don't, this will happen again, and again, and again.  Sooner or later, we have to draw a line in the sand and say, "No further!"  I believe that time has now come.  I suggest the following steps.

  1. The first measure must be imposed on the Church by civil authorities.  Investigations under the RICO statute(Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) should be summarily launched in every single diocese where clergy pedophilia is known to have occurred.  All those involved in it - actors, those who covered it up, those who permitted it to continue by transferring priests to different locations where they could offend again, those who selected or approved candidates for ordination knowing of their deviant sexual status, the whole schmear - should be prosecuted under RICO, wherever possible.  Where the statute of limitations on those offenses have expired, it should be extended to permit prosecution.  If a long-term, repeated pattern of abuse can be identified and proved in court, that diocese as an entity or organization should face the maximum penalties under RICO, up to and including being shut down by the law.
  2. The Church must deal publicly and ruthlessly with its own "problem children".  Every single bishop, vicar general, chancellor, vocations director, seminary professor or lecturer, etc. who ever permitted, tolerated, covered up, or otherwise enabled pedophile actions, by commission or by omission, should be forced to resign their positions, and never again trusted in public ministry.  Those who have made vows or promises of obedience should be ordered to live the rest of their lives penitentially and prayerfully, perhaps in a monastery of strict discipline, perhaps in another form of private life where separation from the people of God is enforced.
  3. Those who do not merit removal from office must nevertheless be aware that this problem must be, and will be, rooted out.  In the past, one would have presumed that those in ordained ministry would have at least some fear of God's justice.  Sadly, events have demonstrated that this is probably a pipe dream.  Nevertheless, every single ordained minister of the Church should be ordered, on pain of instant and irreversible removal from the clerical state, to swear an oath, under the most severe penalties, that he has never engaged in any pedophile act, never covered one up, never helped to enable a pedophile to continue his career, or in any other way permitted, tolerated or encouraged this sin.  If they won't take the oath, laicize them on the spot.  The penalty for perjury, if and when discovered, should be instant, automatic, and irreversible excommunication from the Church.  I think Matthew 18:6 is sufficiently explicit to warrant such a punishment.
  4. The Church's structures and institutions for selecting, educating and ordaining candidates to the priesthood must be reformed to eliminate, as far as possible, every influence and individual who might select any but the most orthodox, committed and faithful would-be clergy.

The book "Goodbye, good men" describes the situation that developed in US seminaries and dioceses in the past.  Sadly, this is often still the case.  The entire process must be reformed.  If the US church will not do it itself, then reform must be imposed from outside.

For myself . . . I find myself saddened, yet again, beyond my ability to describe it.  I've been accused of being a traitor to God and the Church by turning my back on it and my vocation, and walking away from the priesthood.  I was excoriated for not staying in the priesthood and working to fix the problem, instead of running away from it.  I did not do that because I saw no meaningful way whatsoever of working to correct the problem, inside an institution that was working to cover it up rather than fix it.  I believed that staying within so fundamentally flawed an institution - not in its Divine sense, but in its human sense - would actually help to perpetuate the problem, rather than solve it.  Nothing I've seen in recent years has led me to revise that belief.  Instead, events have reinforced it.

I believe that the human institution of the Catholic Church has so damaged itself that it is no longer salvageable except by radically stripping and pruning it of all who are or have been complicit in this disaster, from the highest levels to the lowest.  It appears that the Church cannot or will not do this from within;  therefore, I believe the time has come that it must be imposed from outside.  The alternative is to see this situation continue - and that is so wrong, on moral, ethical and legal grounds, as to be absolutely intolerable.

Meanwhile, until that is done, I suggest that the faithful should withhold their support from the Church for all except its local needs.  A parish should support its own activities, that goes without saying;  but any special collections, any appeals for Diocesan projects, any funding of anything outside the immediate oversight and scrutiny of those donating the money, should be summarily rejected.  The institution of the Church depends on its deep pockets - so sew them shut.  Deprive those who have allowed this problem to arise and continue, of the financial wherewithal to keep on doing so.

Finally, to those who are still faithful, please don't be angry at the press and others who have exposed this problem for what it is.  As I said a long time ago:

I ... had to ask whether God wasn't deliberately using the news media to accomplish something He'd been trying to get His bishops to do for years – decades! - without success. Since they'd so signally failed in their responsibilities, it seemed to me that the Lord appeared to be using the news media instead – conspicuously less than holy though it might be in many ways – to clean up His Church.

I've seen nothing to make me change that opinion.  We owe a debt of gratitude to the reporters, legal professionals, and others who've refused to let things lie, and have continued to investigate this crisis and bring it to the attention of the public.  I believe they are doing God's work, where the bishops have failed to do so.

Nevertheless, I remain sickened, saddened and in mourning for what the bishops have done to what was once the institution to which I swore obedience, and expected to serve for the rest of my life.  I no longer know what to expect when my own time comes to encounter God's judgment.  Heaven knows, I'm at least as much of a sinner as anyone else.  Will I find understanding and mercy at the end?  Or have I forfeited them by "looking back" after my ordination?  I don't know, in human terms.  All I can say is, if I had to make the same choice again, I'd probably do today what I did at the time.  In conscience, I could do no less.  May God forgive me if I'm wrong.


EDITED TO ADD:  Go read Rod Dreher's impressions of the report.  He lays it out in sickening detail.


perlhaqr said...

Yeah. This has just gone on too long, and in too many places, to be ignored any longer.

The Pope should make solving this the top priority of the Church. In fact, I actually find myself unable to imagine how anyone could not consider this to be absolutely the highest possible priority to solve.

Gorges Smythe said...

The sad thing is that the sins of the Catholic Church will bring government intrusion into ALL churches eventually, since there will be calls for "fairness."

Borepatch said...

This is a worthwhile read:

I would be interested to know whether this is a problem for Eastern Orthodox churches, where priests are allowed to marry.

Margaret Ball said...

I don't want to be too cynical, but attempts by the State to rein in this particular Church don't have a good history. Those who try seem to wind up getting flogged by the monks at Canterbury or standing barefoot in the snow outside Canossa. Henry VIII got off easy by comparison, but even he didn't change the Church, just ran it out of town. (Yeah, yeah, I know, not literally. But over several generations, that's essentially what happened.)

I don't have a lot of confidence that any of our current crop of political leaders will take up this fight. Then again... maybe it's easier if you aren't named Henry.

Unknown said...

Pope Francis isn't going to deal with this unless he's forced to do so. When the US has gotten too hot for kiddy diddlers, the Church usually transfers them to South America. As bad as it is here, it's worse there.

Jess said...

The Catholic Church won't change. Expecting it to do so is probably a futile expectation. There is too much money, power, and unwillingness by those with authority to allow any intervention by authorities outside the church. Even if governments banded together, stole all the visible wealth, and attempted to change the church, their efforts would be wasted. The Jesuits exist worldwide, are organized, and would continue the church underground.

kurt9 said...

The pedophilia scandals of the Catholic Church should drive more people to question the very notion of monopoly authoritarianism. Intelligent, competent people (in the Robert Heinlein definition) have no need for any concept of authority. They are able to create their own lives and futures on their own. What need would there be for any external authority for such people?

Beans said...

I didn't leave the Church, it left me. Between not handling this scandal that's been in the news for 40 years now, and the socialist agendas of many of the priests (and thus their sermons,) I've had it.

They, the progressives within the Church, have taken away all the mysteries, all the glory, all the greatness, and given us the same corrupt church that Martin Luther railed against.

Enough is enough. Either clean up, get back to the roots of charity and piety, or die.

And for God's sake, quit the stupid Muslim outreach garbage. Gee willickers, nothing like putting the knife in your killer's hands...

suburban said...

The problem of sexual abuse and coverup is not just in the Catholic church. An independent protestant church I attended for many years had a scandal (which became public after we had moved to a different church). Worse than just what happened to a young lady was the coverup after it became public.

Judy said...

As Suburban points out it's not just a Catholic issue. The Protestant side of the Christian religion has the same issues.

The fact is every institute that Man has created has the same issue, abuse of power. Someone in a position of power takes advantage or coerces someone of lesser status to perform acts they won't otherwise engage in.

Will said...

"The Pope should make solving this the top priority of the Church."

What makes you think the Pope is willing to fix it? You don't rise to that level of politics without playing all the internal games that are required to advance. Since the Pope is elected by his brethren, and not by the people, there is no way someone, like Trump did, can circumvent the system to reach that level of control.
The Catholic Church is toast. There is no internal mechanism to fix it. Outside force will be the only viable method to correct it. When priests start dying in noticeable numbers, THEN you may see some internal effort to address the problem.
The question is: how long will they wait?

Mad Jack said...

I no longer know what to expect when my own time comes to encounter God's judgment. Heaven knows, I'm at least as much of a sinner as anyone else. Will I find understanding and mercy at the end?

If you believe that Christ is not just the son of God, but that Christ is God the Son, and you accept Christ as your Savior, you'll go to heaven when you die. I suppose it would help if you prayed and asked for forgiveness for your sins, but it's likely you've already done that. If this seems like a simple, straightforward process, that's because it is, and it's supposed to be that way.

I never did trust the Catholic church, not even when I was a child. I trust it even less as an adult.

The Catholic church has no intention of cleaning itself up. Not now, not later. The hierarchy likes things the way they are, much like the Pharisees did. And then, on another level, we have the evil one, who likes things the way they are as well.

This report is for one State, leaving a few more to go. What is it, one down and 49 to go? Even if a similar report was produced for each State, the individual State governments would have to get involved and the players would have to cooperate with the Federal government (you don't really expect the Feds to stay glued to CNN and just watch, do you?), and the chances for successful prosecution and condemnation of the Holy Catholic Empire will fall as the soldiers step all over each other. While the circus is in town, the most interesting individuals will be reassigned to parts unknown.

No, I really don't see it happening. I may be wrong, but I don't think so.

D.J. Schreffler said...

"If they won't take the oath, laicize them on the spot. The penalty for perjury, if and when discovered, should be instant, automatic, and irreversible excommunication from the Church."

Request for clarification: this means no participating in mass, communion, any part of Christian society, and neither receiving nor giving (except in case of extreme urgency) the sacraments, and that no-one, not the Pope, nor any other, may lift this until it is lifted automatically at the deathbed? But excommunication does not strip away salvation, correct?

Jon said...

So, other than a general feeling of 1) glad this isn't my problem and 2) Does the hierarchy of the Roman church no longer believe in God? In Eternal punishment? Or somehow think they will escape it in purgatory?

That being said I am an Eastern Orthodox Christian. While we have had our problems with predator priests and violations of canonical norms, there has not been a general problem. A lot of specific problems, yes. But generally, the hierarchy has dealt with them pretty quickly and completely.

I know a former priest who admitted to making a pass at a parishioner. He was defrocked (i.e. laicized) within the week. Pointedly he admitted wrongdoing immediately and agreed to not ask for an ecclesiastical court.

At the same time, we have not been so good in the past.

I was a bit player in this group ( while it was extant. We were calling for financial and general transparency from the hierarchy, and we got it, mostly. But things have continued forward. It is not perfect, but we have a much stronger role in the management of the Orthodox Church (at least in this country) than in the Roman Church. And we have a tradition of laity revolting against heresy. And I'm pretty sure there would be a revolt and a few Bishops electing to retire.

For our Archdiocese, a lot has improved, but there are still issues. But most people are not being quiet about it.

And yes, a number of us raising the flag of insurrection were worried about being excommunicated. But we didn't care.

Jennifer said...

I would worry far more about your eternal soul had you not walked away. Jesus spoke quite bluntly about those that lead the children astray. Business should be booming in the millstone industry.

Sam L. said...

I just saw this, linked by Instapundit:

Wraith said...

Jennifer and Mad Jack have it right.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that those who believeth on Him should not perish, but have life everlasting."

Not "those who go to this church."

Not "those who subscribe to this dogma."

Not "those who protect the institution(I may have thrown up in my mouth a little upon typing that)."

Those who believe in Jesus Christ, accept Him as Lord and Savior, and do their level best to follow His commandments...WILL BE SAVED. God said so.

Enoch was brought directly to Heaven, even though he existed long before Jesus came. How could he have been saved without knowing Jesus, when Jesus is the only way? Because he loved God and loved his fellow man--the two commandments Jesus gave us. If you follow these commandments, you are a de facto Christian, even if you've never heard the name of Yeshua.

Peter, it's obvious that you love God, and you love your fellow man. I wouldn't worry yourself over your eternal destination. Put in a good word for me when you get to Heaven.

Wayne said...

Most of the incidents I’ve heard about in Protestant churches involved the pastor diddling a grown woman to whom he was not married.

Wayne said...

If that were to happen, the increase in sea level from the displaced water would drown Florida!

seagypsy said...

I believe in the next couple of years the Boy Scouts of America will have the same sort of scandal, scout masters abusing their charges, just another miserable example of the "Progressive" march through the institutions of Normal Americans.

HMS Defiant said...

It is long passed time to burn the church down.

It's time to drag the priests out into the street and give them a necklace.

This is far beyond vile.

They are all guilty.

McChuck said...

What are the chances that any bishop or archbishop has not participated in these heinous crimes or played some role in covering them up or ignoring them?

This is why the Vatican is not interested. They're almost all compromised, to one degree or another. As the fallen one intended.

takirks said...

Reading through some of the Pennsylvania report, I picked up a strong whiff of the McMartin debacle--Some of the reported incidents are so over the top that I have to wonder if there isn't some of the same crap going on with the interviews of the victims that went on with the McMartin case.

You go asking questions about sexual abuse among a certain sub-set of the population, you are going to get some very lurid tales of events and abuses that occurred solely in the imaginations of the "abused". And, they will be convincing as hell.

I am not trying to take anything away from the real victims that actually were abused, but I would like to sound a note of caution, here--And, not just for the accused. It strikes me that if you wanted to discredit a bunch of the accusers, this is one line of attack: Include so many outrageous cases that are false that the real cases vanish into the background of incredulity.

Something about this report is triggering my instincts to ask for more actual evidence, which sadly, ain't likely to materialize. Ever. Convenient, that...

Beans said...

I was taught, as a Catholic, that salvation only occurs when the person truly, heartfully repents and seeks forgiveness from God. All the smelly smearing of holy water and holy oils is just to help the person seek to repent. Salvation will never occur if one doesn't actively seek it.

Of course, this could be after a long, nasty life full of sin and relatively evil acts, but it must be a true repentance and a true seeking of forgiveness, not just one being scared of the Pit and trying to whine their way out.

And takirks? If you look at the incidents on an actual curve, from the 'over-the-top OMG' reports to the 'meh, he looked at me' ones, and toss out those on either side of the central curve, there is still a huge mass of reasonable cases left to give actual meat to the heinous crimes committed.

Kind of like the lead up to Desert Storm, where some Kuwaitis got on tv and proclaimed horrible acts were occurring, some so over-the-top as to be suspect. But at the same time there were actual Iraqis in Kuwait, actually looting and manhandling Kuwait citizens. Ignoring the over-the-top comments, there still was plenty enough evidence of wrong-doing by Saddam's forces.

Sad. This should have been rooted out 40 years ago or more when it first started coming out.

Tim said...

When will Trump release Hillary Clintons Family Foundation trying to smuggle in 46 boys and girls from Haiti? Sooner or later. Probably after this Mueller show is over.

sdharms said...

it is long PAST time for action. When the bishops met in Dallas in 1984 and took a vote on pedophilia and it almost was approved, should that have been a clue?