01 December, 2012

Popes N Kids

The Catholic Church comports itself as a moral authority, speaking and lobbying regularly on temporal matters. As a matter of routine its opinions are treated as worthwhile fodder for reproduction by all mainstream news agencies across Europe, the UK, the US and beyond. Meanwhile, many very important people within the Catholic Church, both within individual diocese and within the Holy See itself, covered up and continue to hide the activities of child rapists and child abusers, working to prevent such people from being prosecuted or treated, from their crimes being exposed publicly; they worked diligently to prevent the victims of such crime receiving due compensation and frequently, even, to prevent the paedophile from being removed from a position of trust, thereby actively facilitating their crimes.

People are responsible for their individual failures and it would not be right or appropriate to blame all people within the Church for the crimes, the culture of silence, etc. That being said it is perfectly appropriate to recognise the failures of the Church as an organisation in regards to issues of transparency, justice, and duty of care, for it surely did fail on a truly massive scale in self appointed responsibilities on a very serious issue, and designedly so.

The problem as applied to the organisation of the Catholic Church as it pertains to the shielding of paedophiles, as opposed to the laity, is that a) the Church is highly hierarchical, and it is therefore right and proper to condemn the power structure which deliberately shelters clergy from prosecution for their crimes and even allowed individuals known to have abused children to remain in a position of responsibility to vulnerable charges, b) the sexual abuse and its subsequent concealment was international, occurring in churches, orphanages and places of education in Ireland, the US, Austria, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands etc., c) the Church, even now, has failed to come clean about the full extent of such abuse and continues to fail to even seriously attempt to expiate its sins with its continued zeal in preventing justice from running its course, d) some people very high up indeed have been implicated, or were directly involved in the protection of clergy from investigation by secular authorities.

Additionally it is not merely the fact that sexual abuse happened. Nor is it merely a case of individual serial monsters, nor, to re-emphasise, am I suggesting collective guilt; the fact remains that Catholic Church is an organisation with a hierarchy which facilitated such abuses. For instance the power structure of the clergy was involved in the decision to castrate boys for being abused or for being gay: the structure of the Catholic Church designedly did shield paedophiles, designedly did maim boys for their sexuality or for being abused. Those individual Catholics involved in such decisions are personally responsible for their crimes and their protection of crimes, but one has to also question how they were given such absolute jurisdiction over people in the first place, prerogative they clearly should not have had.

The response to the charges, and to moral blame being laid at the feet of the Church, has almost without exception been ad hominem tu quoque. We are to suppose that the crimes of the church are reduced because they also occur in state schools. We are supposed to be dissuaded that such acts are not heinous because we cannot know how many Catholic clergy participated in crimes compared to the general population in a given nation. We are to prevent ourselves from recognising the role of the Church in protecting paedophiles because paedophiles are ubiquitous, or may be more or equally prevalent in other bodies. We are supposed to fail to recognise the many abuses which occurred in the past couple of decades, because most of the known scandals happened in the 70s or earlier. It is a paltry attempt at relativism by those who, for centuries, when not engaging in insipid political apologetics, feebly claim divinely inspired knowledge of an external moral absolutism. It is not good enough to say that others have been or were at the time as morally retrograde as you were if you purport to be a moral authority of any value, particularly one ordained and guided by God. Frequently, instead, such supposed jurisdiction is merely a dark mirror of our worst inclinations as a society allowed to run unfettered; instead, frequently, it is about control and greed on a massive scale. That there were more such acts that we know of happening several decades ago does not alter the fact of ongoing abuses, and pretending otherwise is a shameful apologetics of such crimes.

The sins of one are not mitigated by the sins of another. Indeed such arguments are an obvious and transparent false equivalence intended to defend some of the worst organised crimes in civilised society, as is pretending such crimes are about gay people in the Church, a claim that demonstrates a complete lack of concern for the seriousness of the crimes or a proper sense of responsibility.

The current Pope himself has been implicated in hiding paedophiles, and certainly knew of both the crimes and the efforts of the Church to hide them, but his efforts to defend the culture of insularity from justice are instead cast as triumphs. No one is absolved by the document, particularly considering how selectively released such information is. Of especial note it becomes clear that at no point does it seem to have entered anyone's head that perhaps child molesters should face actual punishment, removal from society, justice or rehabilitation. It is not a terribly startling display of ethics that inside the Church there was discussion of how hard it should be to demote some of the predators. Although one supposes that since he recognised there would be less fallout for the Church in the event of the wall of silence being breached, Benedict is a hero.

The further claim is that the church is finally getting the problem in hand, that it is working to finally expose and prevent such abuses, we must forgive and forget. The abuse and cover ups, meanwhile, continue; this resistance to justice ran all the way up to the Holy See, as it always has. They are ongoing to a shocking extent in countries across the world. The catholic church at its highest levels cannot be trusted to allow the paedophiles within its clergy to be brought to justice, frequently cannot even be relied upon to remove them from positions where such crimes can be committed easily. Even now!

Ire and frustration at a body conducting this sort of thing is entirely appropriate. Any individual who protects a single paedophile from being exposed to justice is a monstrous evil; any institution which shelters such criminals on a regular basis purely to protect its own reputation, as a matter of course, even now - even now! - is wedded to the evil of the initial crime. To defend that sort of behaviour, to defend the squirming apologetics of the Church's behaviour in this regard, to repeat their falsehoods, is to be wedded to that evil.

Unsurprisingly an international lobby group masquerading as a moral authority cannot be trusted to be open or to serve the public good when short term political gains are to be had protecting its image by protecting the paedophiles in its own ranks. For decades child abuse and rape has been institutionalised across the globe in orphanages, churches and schools; in some places it still is, and only in drips and drabs does the truth out, fought so vigorously against by the Church, often far too late for punishment or rehabilitation to be meted out against individual offenders, let alone to rescue children from such horrors or provide timely assistance or after care. Again and again a power structure obsessed with the personal lives of its laity has the transparency of a brick of lead, and it wields this opacity as a bludgeon against any kind of justice.

And yet, the very same officials partaking in such acts, in such apologetics, in such cover ups, have their opinion on moral and political matters – abortion, contraception, women, and so forth – treated as if it were any less trivial than that of a random punter on the street. Their pretensions to superior knowledge of an external morality are treated as legitimate positions – their faith, in other words, treated as potentially fact. But such notions are a nonsense. The Holy See is a political body with political goals. The fiction of them being anything else is perhaps most amply demonstrated by the child abuse scandals and the way in which they have been handled.

Shorter version:

-The Rev. Schmitt., FCD