Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals around the world have been leaping into print, to defend the pope, and to insist that he is a man of great sanctity and courage and whatever… The most absurd defence of him has to be the one ventured by Archbishop Timothy Dolan in New York:
He urged the Manhattan congregation to pray for the pope, saying he was suffering some of the same unjust accusations once faced by Jesus.
Dolan credited the pope for making possible the progress the Catholic Church has made in the United States against “this sickening sin and crime,” saying changes “could never have happened without the insistence and support of the very man now being daily crowned with thorns by groundless innuendo.”
Memo to Dolan: Ratzinger, a.k.a. Benedict XVI, is not Jesus Christ himself. Nobody is going to imprison him, lash him, treat him as a common criminal, crown him with thorns, or execute him. No matter what, his body will remain unviolated, and his life will not be taken. Much better treatment than was meted out to the children who were raped by pedophile priests. But Dolan thinks that Benedict is just like JC himself.
Bring me a bucket.
(At this point, I typed, and then deleted, several expletive laden sentences. I really cannot find the words to describe Dolan’s wrongheaded stupidity.)
But that’s not all. Dolan retreats to relativism.
“All we ask is that it be fair and that the Catholic Church not be singled out for a horror that has cursed every culture, religion, organization, institution, school, agency and family in the world,” he said.
Shorter Dolan: Everyone else was doing it, so it must be okay.
Well, there goes the Catholic church’s claim to being the source of absolute truth. It turns out that what matters in the church is not what is right, but what the neighbours’ think. But funny how that doesn’t apply to other issues, like say, abortion.
I had hoped that the Catholic church in New Zealand, in which I was reared, might have done a little better. My understanding is that the church in New Zealand is still a missionary church, so it is not under the direct control of Rome. Whatever the status of the church in New Zealand may be, it is clear that it has fairly much gone its own way. For example, for many, many years, it has declined to have the office of lector, instead having just readers, people who read assigned passages from the bible to the rest of the congregation at mass. ‘Reader’ is an informal office, so it can be performed by anyone who is willing to do so. However the critical trait for being a lector is not the ability to enunciate clearly, nor the confidence to speak to a large audience, but the possession of a penis. Early on, the New Zealand church simply side-stepped this issue, and opted to have readers, male and female, instead.
Because I was born and bred in the Catholic church in New Zealand, because I was active in it, I happen to know of one or two or a few cases of abuses. Each of those cases was dealt with by the courts. To my knowledge, that is the path that the Catholic church in New Zealand has taken. Defrock the priest, or the brother, by all means, but above all, go to the police, and let the justice system of New Zealand take its course. This is a marked contrast to the treatment of abusers in many other countries.
But… when Bishop Patrick Dunn, Catholic bishop of Auckland, got his say in the New Zealand Herald today, he came out with the same line that mealy mouthed bishops have come out with across the world.
When anyone comes to us with a complaint of abuse, our preference is that they go to the police and we encourage them to do so, offering whatever assistance they require.
Occasionally, people do not wish to go through the upheaval of a criminal investigation and choose instead to confine their complaint to church authorities.
In these cases we have had no choice than to respect their privacy, rather than cause them further pain by the prospect of judicial proceedings.
In other words, it’s all up to the victim.
Bish, there is absolutely nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, to prevent a cleric who has sexually abused a child from going to the police on his own account. If he fronts up and admits the crime, if he goes to court and pleads guilty, then the victim doesn’t need to go through a court process at all. The victim doesn’t need to be the person who makes the complaint to the police. She or he doesn’t have to endure inquisitions and evidence giving and cross-examination, if the abuser turns himself in.
The Catholic Church in New Zealand has a protocol for dealing with cases of sexual abuse: A Path to Healing – Te Houhanga Rongo. It’s a good protocol, emphasising the need to look after the victim, and the imperative not to try to cover up the crime at all. But there’s one major thing wrong with it. It places the onus for pursuing civil remedies on the victim.
17: If the offence is a crime in civil law and the complainant places the matter in the hands of the police, the Church authority will cease the investigation and will not do anything to protect the accused/offender from the processes of civil law nor hide the facts from those who are entitled to know them.
As I wrote just a few days ago, when I was a child, I was taught that if I committed a crime, then in order to receive absolution through the sacrament of confession, I would need to turn myself in to the police. I would like to see the same standard applied to the men in clerical robes who have raped children.