Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The new report on Clerical Sexual Abuse

I you have not read the commentary on the John Jay report by George Weigel or the report on that on Fr Z's blog, I advise you to do so. I googled this phrase this morning - "Increase of child sexual abuse" just to see what, if anything, there is there. I should not have been, but was amazed - page after page of reports from different parts of the world, going back to the 1990's and up as far as 2011 saying that child abuse was, and is, on the increase. Some reports mentioned alcoholism as a contributory factor in the perpetrator, other reports spoke about the effect of the recession and the economic downturn in different places. The environment was mentioned. Thank God the incidents in the Catholic Church seem to have seriously decreased, but scanning through some of headlines of these reports will show that many married people have been involved in this and that most abuse takes place within the family. The question I want to ask is this; if child abuse is the expression of an emotional/psychological condition or profound weakness, why are there so many of them? Where has all this emotional, psychiatric/psychological disturbance suddenly come from? Someone will answer, "it was dormant" -really? How do we know? The assumptions of the psychological, psychiatric and sociological communities may be correct, but they could just as easily be, at least partly, mistaken. There is clearly a need for further and courageous study.

It has been said - and is still being suggested - that many of the offending priests entered the priesthood with a deliberate intention of abusing. This is manifestly untrue. If certain problems arose after ordination (Fr Z mentions 13 years later) where did it come from? I agree with those who cannot accept that homosexuality played no part; common sense suggests otherwise, but I am also concerned that there should be no attempt to categorise a section of the population or a group of priests as "those over there with THAT problem" in such a way as to separate them from the rest of sinful humanity. There is more to this tragedy than we have yet been willing to admit, but at least the new report does open up the matter for debate. The fact is that sinful (and weak - but who is that?) human beings need strong spiritual and moral foundations and LAWS. The liberalisation of the Church in the 60's and 70's (into the 80's perhaps) is surely connected with the sweeping liberalisation in the West especially. We are not just dealing with people with recognisable emotional weaknesses - we are dealing with sinful humanity. Pope John Paul II understood the matter correctly in my opinion. No one should take refuge in an obsession which is out of control - perhaps it became such when it became addictive or compulsive - we are dealing with SIN and those who commit such sins should not be allowed to take refuge in such phrases as "I can't help it!" or even "I didn't want to do it". There must be no avoidance of responsibility either for the perpetrators or for the institutions that (sometimes out of crass ignorance) shielded them. The other aspect, which I have mentioned before, is the involvement of Satan - something which few people have been willing to recognise and because of that he is surely laughing at us because we are avoiding one of the main causes of all this - the mystery and the presence of evil in the world and the Church.


  1. Thank you Fr, John, for this excellent post. I agree that the clerical sex abuse of children has been and continues to be a source of great scandal and a grievious wound in the body of Christ. What I do not agree with is then judging all priests and thinking of them as worse sinners than us, that is plain anti-clericalism.I will be forever grateful for the gift of priests in my life, for their prayers and example of joyful filled lives. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,we have also been justified by the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary. Pointing fingers at others is escapism from dealing with the effects of individual and communal sin. Evil begets evil and we all, good and bad suffer its effects. Weakness and wretchedness should draw all of us to repentance and reparation and above all living a True Life in God with Love us our guide and constant help. Let us all cry out to God: Jesus Christ, Son of God and Saviour have mery on us sinners! He will come and save us.

  2. Anglican friend27 May 2011 at 03:45

    Sadly, the very means of communication that has published your splendid post has been one contributory factor in the subject under discussion.

    Human curiosity and sin are close allies. Surely this is the message of the Fall.
    Ready access to addictive material, whether it be drugs, alcohol or whatever, is the negative side of the quest for knowledge and experience- a normal human drive turned bad.
    Wasn't that what the Temptation was all about?

  3. Anglican friend22 June 2011 at 10:06

    An updated, edited repeat of some of this post would be of interest at this time.
    The psychological aspects, addictive, compulsive behaviour etc. plus the relevance of free-will in this disorder and the influence of evil.
    Thank you.