Daily Archives: Tuesday 8 January 2008

Still avoiding responsibility

Every time I see a Catholic priest, I want to make snarky comments about people who are active members of the Paedophile Protection Society. Unfair, I know, so the comments always remain unspoken. The individual priest is unlikely to be a paedophile, even if the proportion of men who rape children in the Catholic priesthood seems to be much higher than in the general population.

What has been truly offensive, aside from the horror of committing the offences in the first place, has been the eagerness of the Catholic church’s hierarchy to avoid taking responsibility for the problem, by simply shifting offenders from one parish to another, and hushing it all up.

To his credit, that reactionary conservative Benedict has said that under his papacy, the church will take responsibility for the actions of the men it has placed in positions of power. In the United States in particular, it has paid substantial sums in compensation to the children who were raped by priests, and elsewhere in the world, it is starting to acknowledge, and compensate, the victims of rapist priests.

But the latest move from il papa is nasty. Benedict has called on Catholics to atone for the sex scandals by engaging in round the clock prayer, at churches of perpetual adoration.

I was ah… blessed with a convent education, so I know just how perpetual adoration works. In any Catholic church, the Jesus biccies are always present, in the tabernacle. There’s a little red light burning to indicate the presence of what Catholics call “the blessed sacrament”. In a church of perpetual adoration, there is always someone there praying, in the presence of the blessed sacrament / Eucharist / Jesus biccies. To keep the perpetual adoration, well, perpetual, there is a roster of people, usually from the parish, who come to the church to kneel and pray, or just to be there. God never gets to be alone. It’s a version of Berkeleyan idealism, in reverse. Not all Catholic churches are churches of perpetual adoration – some lock the door on god overnight.

So, in order to take responsibility for priests raping children, Catholics are being urged to pray to their sky fairy.

Right. So praying to ghosties somehow means that the church is taking responsibility for priests who raped children. But that’s not what upsets me about this initiative. It’s all Catholics being asked to take responsibility that’s offensive. Benedict is asking elderly women, children, young mothers, widows and widowers, hard working fathers, all the good, ordinary, decent people who belong to the church, to be responsible for the actions of priests who raped children, and the parish priests and bishops and cardinals who covered it up, and perpetuated the abuse. It’s a neat little sidestep, asking rank-and-file Catholics to atone for the sins of the abusers.

The crime of preying on children was not committed by ordinary parishioners. It is not a stain on the ordinary men and women who belong to the church. It is a crime that was committed by the Catholic priesthood, and it is the Catholic priesthood that should be taking responsibility. It is the Catholic priesthood, and the hierarchy of the church that is deeply disfigured by this enormous sin, and it is time they admitted that, and made amends themselves, instead of somehow involving all the people of the church in it.