I have rejected the idea that the child sex abuse scandals is a case of just a few bad eggs within the Catholic (and other Christian) clergy. For a while, I had a niggling feeling that more ingrained cultural and even theological beliefs have been at play.
Annie Hutchinson, writer of the blog Diary of Heretic Catholic has written the best analysis on the Catholic Church child sexual abuse scandal I have ever read. She argues that, like the coffee shop franchise, Starbucks, all the Catholic churches around the world are under the same guidelines and the same hierarchy. Systemic abuse and cover up has happened in multiple parishes around the world including in Australia, Chile and, as we now know, the U.S. In the U.S. it was revealed that 300 priests had abused 1,000 children over a seventy year period. Do you really expect me (or anyone else, for that matter), to think this was a fluke?
As Hutchinson pointed out, parishes around the world follow the same hierarchy and the same standards. The issue hasn’t just affected one parish, but, as I pointed out, multiple parishes around the world. Something is rotten culturally, and the injustices are to be blamed on the Catholic hierarchy. It needs to change.
Australia ended a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The commission gave the Catholic Church a number of criticisms and recommendations to help prevent abuse in the future. To their credit, many Catholic clergy have been open to at least some of these recommendations, although breaking Confession secrecy is still strongly resisted.
Personally, I think the problem is deeper than the Confessional. When the revelations of clergy abuse in Pennsylvania came to light, a number of prominent Catholics blamed a ‘homosexual subculture’ for the abuse. Essentially in blaming gay men proves, at least to me, that too many prominent Catholics don’t get the gravity of what occurred.
I think a part of the problem with the Catholic Church has been their theology, particularly around human sexuality. I don’t think priestly celibacy itself is the problem (it was the topic that dominated the media during the Royal Commission), but it is their overall ethos of shame around human sexuality.
The Catholic Church has been quite infamous for their ‘prudishness’ around human sexuality. Not only did people have to wait until they were married to have sex, but humans weren’t meant to be a sexual being until marriage. This created a shame around consensual and harmless sexuality and a conflation with sex crime, which gave predators a foothold.
I believe shame around homosexuality in the Catholic Church has been anther factor. Most of the victims by predatory priests have been boys and it’s a fact that Many male survivors of sexual abuse become confused about their sexual orientation, especially when it happens in adolescence. This makes the conflation of gays and the abuse detestable. Too often, male victims of sexual abuse are afraid to speak out in fear of being shamed for their sexuality (whether the victim is gay or not). All victims of sexual abuse are victims of violence. It is NOT a reflection of ANYTHING the victim is or what they allegedly did or didn’t do.
Unless these changes occur within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church (and probably more), I don’t think Catholic hierarchy can be trusted despite “abuse hasn’t happened in [insert number of years] arguments. Unless the Catholic Church hierarchy is willing to examine themselves and make fundamental changes, then, I really don’t think there is anything to stop the abuse from starting again.
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