Priests child abuse scandals: any justice in sight?
Alphia Abdikeeva, CIDH ProIgual
That was some Easter. Plagued by pedophilia scandals all across the globe, Vatican had to provide some sort of explanation for — by far not an isolated incident of — child abuse by Catholic priests. The Pope´s verdict: society is corrupt, its corruption penetrates even the churches, and in accordance with this logic clergymen must remove themselves even further from society (and its laws?).
But this reasoning is problematic for at least two reasons. First, there is law, it is (ideally) the same for everyone, and those who break the law should not be permitted to hide behind the Church walls from the responsibility. Second, if the spiritual leaders are so easily corrupted by society, which they aspire to lead to salvation, then perhaps their leadership role is too big a job for them.
When an ordinary John Loe or Jane Moe abuses a child, the overwhelming majority of us are indignant and expect that person to get punishment, and with steps to prevent something like this from happening again. How come then, that up to now, couple decades after church child abuse cases started to come up to the surface after being hushed up, still hardly any abusers are behind the bars? Not just bribed their way out of justice through offering monetary settlement to the victims, but truly were tried and sentenced? Or, for starters, stripped of their church rank, rather than allowed to resign quietly or moved to another location where they continued to abuse other children?
How come the authorities and the police in places where such abuses occurred hadn´t condemned these acts, and hadn´t pursued the perpetrators with all severity of the law during all this time? Or is the Church above the law? Is it also above the elementary decency and morality, upon which modern laws are ultimately based?
Some analysts were quick to suggest that celibacy may be responsible for priests´ child abuse. But arguing whether celibacy is good or bad is beside the point. After all — at least based on evidence presently available — only some priests committed abuses. A much bigger issue is at stake: how Vatican deals with those who do commit abuses.
The Church´s official position is clear: child abuse is wrong (we would not expect them to say otherwise). But why then have the Church authorities (including the then Cardinal Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict) been for years so vehement to silence victims, shield the perpetrators, and cover up the story? It seems that if they fought child abuse with equal zeal, perhaps the current problem hadn´t snowballed to the same extent. Why didn´t they deal with the abusers?
Is the Church´s reputation more precious than the wrecked lives and souls of thousands of children, some already with disabilities, who suffered sexual abuse by priests? What happened to the moral values and decency that the Church is supposed to be the guardian of? Have they all been “corrupted” by society? Isn´t Church supposed to be able to withstand “temptation” and “corruption,” by virtue of its self-acclaimed mission on Earth?