Priests, paedophilia and papal protection
Something is rotten in the State of Vatican City. The New York Times has made allegations that the present pope, Benedict XVI, protected known paedophile priests in Germany and the United States.
Benedict’s statement to Irish victims of the Church’s reign of terror against children and subsequent cover up was an apologia for the Church, not its victims. It recognised no culpability of the Church itself in the crimes of its hierarchy.
Ordinary citizens are required to report crimes. Apparently the higher ups in the Church, upon becoming aware of criminal abuse of children by their priests, are not normal citizens.
Covering up a crime is itself a crime. I wonder when or if civil authorities will begin the process of investigating these cover-ups and perhaps questioning the Church’s hierarchy, including the pope, for possible conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, being accessories after the fact and other crimes.
The Vatican has responded saying that as a head of state the pope is immune from such investigations. Really? Why does the so-called representative of God on earth have anything to fear from such secular searching?
New cases of Catholic priest paedophilia are surfacing almost daily. From Europe to North America to Australia the voices of the abused are rising from their prisons of silence to demand the Church address its abuse of children.
to an outsider like me it appears the priestly preying on children is systemic.
There are in fact two crises – the paedophilia and the cover-up. They both represent a singular religious or perhaps Catholic view that the Church is above mere earthly concerns.
It seems the Church wants to render to God the things its all too human representatives believe are God’s but not to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.
It is this sense of the other world, of the godliness of their functions and the earthly power that goes with it that creates the conditions for criminality and its cover up.
But why the rape of young children in particular? Why not tax evasion or some other white collar crime?
If you couple supreme deity worship, a sense of superiority and untouchability with the actual earthly experience of the Church and priesthood – the obeisance, the power, the misogyny, the anti-human idea of marriage to Christ and the failure of secular society to impose transparency and accountability on an important institution of capitalism – and the conditions are there for rampant sexual abuse.
Add to the mix the trust priests win by virtue of their position rather than their humanity and the access they have to children and the results are that some rape children.
The cover-ups reflect the sense of God-given power the Church has and the need to continue the facade of Catholic invincibility and to attract new adherents and priests.
The Church’s response to the New York Times article is instructive. They have gone on the offensive, attacking the authors, proclaiming how committed the Pope is and was to investigating claims of abuse against priests. Maybe, but that doesn’t address the real issues – the abuse of children and the cover-ups that appear endemic.
Some in the Church are now claiming that the devil has infiltrated sections of the hierarchy. Again this is to excuse the crimes in theological terms and divert attention away from the real structure of crime - the Church itself.
If the Church were serious about dealing with paedophile priests one first step would have been to refer all matters to the police for investigation. Why don’t they do that? Why are these horrific crimes still even today an in-house matter?
Because to have them investigated would bring into question every one of the Church’s claims – to be God’s representative on earth, for the pope to be able to speak infallibly and so on. It could destroy the very structures of power that the Church depends on for its viability and continued existence.
Feuerbach argued that it was not god who created man, but man who created god. If we recognise that then we can strip aside the cant and unreason and see that the agents of crime here are the individual priests and a Church which has nurtured and trained them, turned them into what they are and then protected them.
Many of the billion Catholics around the world are horrified by the actions of paedophile priests and the Church hierarchy in covering them up. Clearly they want to clean out the unweeded garden, to eradicate things rank and gross in nature.
A good start would be a movement of the laity to force the hierarchy to refer any suspicions of abuse by priests to the Police.
Yet most, steeped in traditions of unquestioning obeisance, will listen to and follow the very hierarchy that is part of the problem. A movement to democratise and modernise the Church, to reform it and sweep away the discredited hierarchy, would be a good first step.
In doing that the reform movement opens up the possibility of their own religious liberation. But that won’t in the long run address the key issue - the idea of a god and the power structures that flow from that anti-human irrationality - which is at the criminal heart of the Church.