Saturday, April 3, 2010

Clergy Sex Abuse Is Again in the World Headlines -- 2

Further Observations on the Clergy Sex and 
Sex Abuse Issues (contd.)

Pope Benedict XVI

Photo courtesy: The Internet

  • As the Status of the Catholic priesthood is heaven-high, so is the demand on their character and morality. The Catholic Church teaches that the priest is the alter Christus (the other Christ) in the holy altar of the church where he offers the holy Mass. In addition, Jesus Christ has given him power that even the angels of heaven don't have, that is, first, to turn the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during the Mass, and second, the power to absolve sins of a person in the name of Christ during the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). The holiness, prayerfulness and sacrificial life (chastity, poverty, obedience, and celibacy) are supposed to be a part and parcel of the Catholic priesthood. The majority of the Catholic saints is priests, too. Naturally, there is the highest expectation from priests. This row all over about the clergy sex abuse may be thought to be by anti-Catholic elements, some definitely are, but a greater number is from Catholics who are genuinely angry, appalled, frustrated and ashamed of the unpriestly conduct, others are victims who have been used by these priests for their purely selfish interests. In the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus Christ himself rebuked the Jewish Pharisees and Scribes who were speaking and acting against their position and standard by being hypocrites. If Jesus can rebuke them, why can't Christians and others rebuke the modern priests who go astray? In the secular world, if policemen break the law, why do people get so angry? Because, policemen are supposed to maintain and safeguard the law and not break it. The situation of the priests is also same in the religious field.

  • Regarding child sex abuse, priests and bishops, kindly place yourselves in the shoes of the parents of abused children. Let's be practical about it. Let's think that you are the parents of a child -- boy or girl who has been molested, sexually abused or, in extreme case, raped by a priest (or a bishop). How would you feel? What anguish, anger, feeling of vengeance would you be filled with? Let's say that you made a complaint to the local Superior of priests or to the Bishop. To your surprise, you notice that, initially, there is the denial that such a vile act could be done by such a nice and holy priest. You are told to keep quiet and not dare to defame the good name of your accused person. Upon further complaints and insistence, the action is slowly taken by removing the priest to another parish or institution. Sometimes, you see the priest is given a promotion or more responsible position. In the new place, none knows that the priest concerned had done something very evil which is against his vow or office. He is free to repeat the same type of crime. Let's say that you filed a lawsuit and ultimately, after a long delay, you won and your child is financially compensated. Will the financial compensation erase the scar that your child suffered? Can your child's innocence, that has been robbed by the priest forever, be returned? What will your thoughts on Church silence and secrecy be? Or, finally think for a moment that the alter Christus (the other Christ) has sexually abused or has been abusing an innocent child. How will you take it? If you think this way, you will be quick to take action against the perpetrator. If you fail to place yourselves in the shoes of the parents or the victims, if action is not taken, if there is flat denial, if there is every effort in saving the face of the clergy, a great omission or, in a serious case, a great sin is committed. Thereby, the Superior or the Bishop -- who is supposed to be working for truth and justice -- participates in the sins of the perpetrator he is trying to protect or defend. The parents, the victims and the laity can't fathom this dichotomy, this ambivalence, this double-standard, and this hypocrisy on the part of the supervisors or employers of the perpetrators.

  • Clergy sex abuse is not only a matter between the abuser and the abusee but also between the abuser and the community (Church). The Catholic Church is a community of faithful where religion is practised. The Church is the body of Christ. If one part of the body is hurt, the other parts get hurt, too. The priest is the leader of the community, the child is part and parcel of the community. If a priest harms a child, the family and the community are harmed in many different ways. One most glaring harm is by way of scandal or bad example given by the perpetrator priest. Jesus spoke of tying a millstone round the neck of a scandal-giver and throwing him into the sea.

  • The Catholic Church's obsession with the sin does not adequately reflect in the treatment of the cases of the clergy sex and clergy sex abuse. The Church teaches extensively on the sins: the original sin (committed by first man and woman -- Adam and Eve) and automatically transmitted to their descendants and the personal sin. The personal sin again can be venial (light or small) or mortal (deadly or heavy). The more serious case, serious consequence or sin committed by an important and responsible person fall under the purview of mortal sin. If a priest commits a sexual sin with another person (whether with a child under 16 years of age or with an adult male or female -- even though the sex with the adult may be consensual (mutually consented) -- is a mortal sin because the priest at the time of ordination knowingly and solemnly promised to observe chastity and celibacy. Secondly, he, to the full extent of his knowledge, knows what sin is and it is also his duty to preach and teach about sin. Some Superiors and Bishops, who had shifted the sex abusing priests from one parish or institution to the other, say that, previously, they did not know about the serious consequences of child sexual abuse -- that it has a lasting physical and psychological effect on the child for the rest of his life. That may be true, but the very action of the persistently abusing priests had serious spiritual consequences for themselves by way of committing serial mortal sins. Why were they allowed to commit or given scope for committing mortal sins knowingly? Wasn't it tantamount to cooperating with the mortal-sinning priests or participating in their mortal sins? 

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