Breaking the silence

Gay Priest “Bart” continues his weekly series:

I ended my last post by asking: will our silence [forced as it so often is] be judged as complicity in the Church’s deceptive ways? It’s a question that has been troubling me for quite some time now, not only as a gay priest who is going through a coming-out process, but also in the wider sense, as a member of the Catholic Church. Even as I was grappling with this complex subject, I was informed of a recent documentary shown on BBC’s Channel Four. Entitled Father Ray Comes Out, it presents a very touching account of the coming-out of an Anglican vicar – Father Ray Andrews – to his congregation during a Sunday homily. For the benefit of my readers, I thought of embedding the story here (in 2 parts), before expanding on the subject in today’s post.


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Rethinking Church and Sexuality: London Conference

One of the features of last year’s extensive publicity over sexual abuse and Catholic clergy, was the appallingly inadequate preparation that priests received in their training for matters of sexuality – their own, or that of others in their pastoral care. To some extent, the attention given to sexual abuse over the past few years has dramatically improved the position for those currently in training, but much remains to be done. For evidence of this, we need only consider the response of some bishops to works such as “The Sexual Person” (by the lay Catholic theologians Todd Salzmann and Michael Lawler), which the US Bishops attacked simply because its findings conflicted with Church teaching – without any serious attempt to engage in the evidence and thoughtful reasoning the book presented. We can also point to the ignorance displayed by others who casually cite “nature” as support for Church teaching, when the overwhelming weight of evidence from the real world, whether in the animal kingdom or from human anthropology, flatly contradicts it, or who argue against “redefining” marriage, with no recognition at all of how marriage has been constantly redefined over the centuries, often directly by the church itself.

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Suicide, Abuse, and the Catholic Church

One of my earliest memories from primary school religion lessons is that suicide is a grievous sin, one of the worst of all. If that is so, how serious is it to be responsible for another person’s suicide? And how serious is it if that person is a representative of the Catholic Church, or indirectly, the whole impersonal structure of the Church itself?

 

The Church has by now become accustomed to being sued by survivors of clerical abuse, of boys, girls, and adults alike. It is also now accustomed to paying out large sums, as the result of court judgements, out-of court settlements, or (in some cases) plain hush money, all for abuse. Read the rest of this entry »

Ireland, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy, Denmark – SPAIN

What more is there to say?

First, of course, is to welcome the fact that the cases are being investigated at all, and that the numbers are low.  But here, as elsewhere, there is evidence that some clergy at least put heavy pressure on a young complainant to simply withdraw his allegations.  Given the high proportion of sexual abuse cases outside of the church that never get reported, we should recognise that the reporting rate inside the church will also be low – especially when powerful authority figures put pressure on the weak to just button their lips and go away.

 

From Times Online:

Vatican investigating 14 sex abuse cases in Spain

The Vatican is investigating 14 cases of alleged child sex abuse committed within the Spanish Catholic Church over the past nine years it emerged today.

The incidents of abuse are alleged to take have taken place between January 2001 and March 2010. Charles Scicluna, the promoter of justice in the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said today they amounted to “less than one case every year”.
Monsignor Scicluna stressed that Spain was one of the countries with the “lowest number of alleged abuse investigations” and said no convictions had been made.

The Vatican investigation in Spain widens the number of alleged abuse cases involving the Catholic Church after recent cases in Italy, Ireland and Germany.

Despite falling church attendances, the Catholic Church in Spain is said to wield much power which victims claim makes it hard for them to denounce their abusers.

Juan Pedro Oliver, a lawyer who acted for a 12-year-old boy who was sexually abused by Amador Romero, a priest in Granada in 2001, said that his client came under pressure to withdraw the allegation.

Romero was later jailed for 18 months for sexual abuse of a minor.

“The bishop, instead of helping the victim to make the allegation, did exactly the opposite,” Mr Pedro said.

“He kept the priest in the same village and made it difficult to go ahead with the case.”


Hand Wringing & Blame

The pastoral latter is carefully constructed to address several groups of people affected by clerical sexual abuse, or implicated in it as perpetrators, or as complicit in their protection. Benedict speaks directly to the survivors and heir families, and to the rest of the Irish people.  He speaks to the priests who were guilty, and to the bishops who shielded them. He speaks also to the rest of the Irish clergy ,to those priests and bishops who were not implicated, but are now shamed by mere association with the rotten eggs in the clerical basket.  But – where’s Wally? Who’s missing from the line-up?

Vatican Cardinals: Free from blame?

In treating this as an entirely Irish affair, in speaking only to the Irish priests and clergy, are we really to believe that culpability lies solely on those flawed Irish, and none in his own domain, the Cardinals of the Curia? Read the rest of this entry »

Abuse: Is it OK if everybody else is doing it?

An Irish prelate has lashed out at “the media” for making so much fuss about clerical abuse, when so much more abuse occurs elsewhere.

A senior bishop has attacked the media for singling out the Catholic Church for covering-up paedophile priests when 95pc of child abuse occurs in families and community life.

Christopher Jones, the Bishop of Elphin and head of the bishops’ committee on the family, said in Maynooth last night that he strongly objected to the way the church was being isolated. “Of course we have made mistakes,” Dr Jones added.

“But why this huge isolation of the church and this huge focus on cover-up in the church when it has been going on for centuries?

“It is only now for the first time ever that victims have been given their voice.” Dr Jones said that it was known that “95pc of abuse out there is in families, communities and other institutions.

He is right, of course.  There is far more abuse outside the church than in it.  But that completely misses the point.  We do not point to “families” as at fault, because they do not represent a cohesive group, subject to the same  corporate rules and controls as the church.

But let’s take Bishop Jones’ figures at face value, and consider their implication.  If 95% of abuse takes place outside the chruch, then presumably 5 % is “within” . That implies that 5% of abusers are priests ( or other church staff).  Wikipedia gives the number of secular clergy in Ireland as about 3000, with a further 700 in religious orders.  Call it 4000 for round numbers, or even 5000 in case of undercount. The total population of the country is about five million: one person in a thousand is a priest.  So, 0.1% of the population are responsible for 5%  of the of the abuse.  That equates to a propensity to abuse which is 50 times greater than the general population (or 25 times more if we assume all abusers to be male). That is the point – not the total number of cases, but the incidence, especially in an institution that claims to be a moral guardian, guiding us in right living.

Abuse & Celibacy: Austrian Cardinal Opens the Can of Worms (UPDATED)

As the problems of sexual abuse within the Church continue to cascade across Europe, The Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna has called on the Church to investigate fully the causes of the problem, including the role of celibacy and methods of priestly training.  This is should be welcomed with enthusiasm:  observers and analysts outside the Church establishment have for years been producing convincing evidence that these are two of the crucial issues behind the creation of the enabling environment, evidence which most bishops have simply ignored.   In an odd sequel, though, Cardinal Schonborn later issued a “clarifying” statement that he was not calling into question the Vatican stance on compulsory celibacy.  In doing so, he brings into sharp focus the third of the factors widely believed to be behind that enabling environment:  excessive central control and abuse of power. For there is little point in “investigating” the causes if you rule out in advance certain conclusions that  might follow, or fail to act on the conclusions you might reach, but the Cardinal knows full well that an unfavourable conclusion on celibacy will be totally unacceptable to the Vatican – and so threatening to his own position.  It is not at all accidental that Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, through his extensive work with the Australian problems with abuse, reached the firm conclusion that celibacy was indeed central to the issue – but waited until his retirement before publishing those conclusions.

Cardinal Shonborn - under his watchful eye.

Still, every little step forward is welcome.  The institutional response is clearly “evolving”, and will evolve a lot further before this is over. Read the rest of this entry »