Monday, March 29, 2010

Up To The Pope

The latest revelations about sexual abuse against children by Roman Catholic priests are nothing short of morally revolting. The story of Father Lawrence Murphy, who abused more than 200 deaf boys in Milwaukee over decades, despite the boys' speaking out and calling for help, should outrage us all. The new revelations from Germany and other European countries add to the understanding that pedophile priests are, in the words of my colleague, Dan Maguire, "a global Catholic Church pandemic."

"It went up to the Pope", a formerly Roman Catholic friend said to me yesterday, with tears in her eyes. "How is it possible that people knew and didn't stop it?"

Unfortunately, the answer is that people all along the Catholic hierarchy did know, and chose to move the priests rather than directly address the crimes that were being committed against children. Yes, crimes.

And in a secular world, those authorities would be held criminally accountable for their behavior. It is not enough for the Pope to apologize, as he did to victims last week. It is unconscionable when Catholic spokespersons try to explain away the lack of action as being part of another time, when people didn't talk as much about child abuse.

It is a testament to the power of Catholicism in people's lives that these past 30 years of revelations haven't driven its followers from the church. It is hard to imagine that if countless liberal church clergy were found to have been abusers that our churches wouldn't be empty. I can't even imagine what would happen to the field of sexology if even one of our certified professionals had this history.

The fact that the Catholic Church, in the midst of this scandal, continues to speak out on other people's sexual decisions is astonishing. It's time for them to stop pontificating against abortion and homosexuality and birth control and the role of women. In light of these recent revelations, it's time to take the log out of their eyes and start with the sexual immorality in their own house.

It's up to the Pope. Pope Benedict XVI, the world is watching and waiting.

1 comment:

Desmond Ravenstone said...

Certainly the Catholic church's handling of this issue is the most visibly egregious, but it is not the only one. If a lesson is to be learned by all faith communities, it is that this could all too easily happen in our midst as well.

We need both proactive measures to raise awareness and reduce risk, and clear protocols for dealing with complaints of sexual abuse. And none of us can be so complacent or arrogant as to assume that what happened in the Catholic Church would ever happen in our spiritual homes.