By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI. Visit rcsocialjusticett.org for our columns, media releases and more.
Initially, this article was titled: ‘Cleaning the Augean stables’. However, when I reflected on what Hercules had done by rerouting two rivers to wash out the filth that had gathered in the King’s stables over a 30-year period, due to the dung of more than 3,000 cattle that lived there, I thought that this title was inappropriate.
By passing waste, the cattle had done something natural. However, the scandal of clergy sexual abuse is not natural. It is an abomination—a violation of the inherent dignity of the human person; a betrayal of the sacred vocation to the priesthood; and to the sterling work of the thousands of priests who are faithful to their vocation.
Read Fr Dr Barry O’Sullivan’s book: The burden of betrayal: Non-offending priests and the clergy child sexual abuse scandals (April 2018). This priest and qualified counsellor in Salford Diocese, England, conducted “carefully controlled interviews” with six fellow priests.
He believes that “his beleaguered brotherhood should be classed among the secondary victims of this ongoing crisis for the Church…this work casts new light on the far-reaching effects which this type of crisis can potentially inflict not just on Catholic priests but also on professionals in all walks of life which have been assailed by child sex abuse scandals.”
As Francis Phillips said referring to this book (Catholic Herald): “Ever since the news first broke of criminality and concealment in the Church, my thoughts and sympathy have gone not only to the young victims but to those affected by the collateral damage: all those conscientious, loyal, faithful men who have given their lives to their vocation only to see the priesthood torn to shreds by the media and in the eyes of the public.”
The priests he interviewed all said that “one of the most difficult things ‘was what they perceived to be other people’s perception of them’. ..Yet despite talking honestly about the anguish they have experienced, none of the six priests wanted to abandon their vocations.”
While I agree with Maria Byrne, UK Catholic Voices, in her report of the recent World Meeting of Families, that “the joy we have as Catholics, is a joy for the whole world and a joy worth sharing”, we have an urgent need to address clergy child sexual abuse and evangelise ourselves also.
In Pope Francis’ recent open letter to the faithful on clergy sexual abuse he stated: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it” (1 Cor 12:26)…It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable.”
He also condemned the cover-up by the clergy and “the failure of ecclesiastical authorities—bishops, religious superiors, priests and others”—adequately to address the issue. He said victims had a right to be outraged at the “repellent crimes” against young people. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them…While it is important and necessary on every journey of conversion to acknowledge the truth of what has happened, in itself this is not enough.”
In spite of decades of attempts by various dioceses, and recommendations from the Commission Pope Francis established four years ago to address this issue, we have not done enough. CNN calls the nearly 900-page grand jury report unveiled in Pennsylvania, USA in August “stomach-turning”.
“The report, two years in the making, revealed shocking accusations: More than 1,000 children had been abused by 300 Catholic ‘predator priests’ in six Pennsylvania dioceses during the past 70 years” (CNN). The President of the US Catholic Bishops Conference calls the scandal a “moral catastrophe”.
Maeve Lewis, Director of the Irish Charity, One in Four, says that Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, has put in place “rigorous safeguarding practices which could be a good template for the rest of the Catholic World.”
Four years ago, Pope Francis appointed the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. What action has been taken on its proposals? Lewis says there should be “mandatory reporting of clergy sexual abuse to the civil authorities across the Catholic world” and Pope Francis should “put in place a Commission that would be responsible for investigating and dismissing any Bishop or Cardinal who acts to protect priests.” (Sky News, August 25).
Let’s pray, fast and ACT to change this scandalous culture in our Church.