The famous calypso Shame and Scandal in the Family aptly describes the shocking revelations in Ireland about child abuse by Catholic priests over many years, also across Europe and the United States. The accusations against the clergy are as varied as the countries in which the sordid offences were committed.
(photo) REECE... paedophilia should have been viewed as a psychological illness and not spiritual or moral culpability
The main accusation levelled at the Roman Catholic Church is that no appropriate tangible disciplinary action was administered against the offending clerics, who in many instances were transferred to other locations after participating in some form of internal penitential punishment. Based on the principles “the punishment must fit the crime” and “justice must not only be done, but seen to be done”, these attempts at remedial reform were woefully inadequate. The new cases of child abuse being exposed in Ireland and Germany have created a new groundswell of complaints by alleged victims, bringing the number of countries involved to seven so far. This shameful episode in the history of the Roman Catholic Church is now again in the public domain demanding a solution to the ungodly affair.
A question was raised as to why the Church failed to administer appropriate discipline to offending clerics. One presumed reason is common to family scandals, which close ranks to protect their members and the family's reputation. This act of self-preservation is usually evident in cases of rape and incest. Secondly, such inactivity is reflective of the distinction between religious principle and human frailty. There is, however, no confusion concerning the gravity of such crimes and the severity of punishment due, as explicitly stated by Jesus thus: “Therefore anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. But if anyone causes one of these little ones who trust in me to lose faith, it would be better for that person to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around the neck” (Matthew 18, vs. 4-6). In this 21st century the equivalent punishment could be interpreted as “defrocking” or excommunication of guilty parties, or criminal prosecution, or both.
Confusion exists widely in the minds of the faithful laity who condemn the Catholic religion as distinct from the Catholic Church for its shortcomings. Frequently, for example, there are reports of senior executives in a company being found guilty of an offence, be it fraud or corruption, that warranted their dismissal or prosecution, or both. Such occurrences do not necessarily lead to condemnation of the company and its policies, which continues its lawful and ethnically correct business activity. This criticism regarding the current scandal heaped upon the Catholic religion as distinct from the Catholic Church is misplaced, and probably but understandably related to the highly intense emotion surrounding the flawed characters and inherently sinful nature of the human perpetrators. Catholicism has existed for more than 2000 years and will exist until the end of time. The faithful are therefore urged to seriously consider this mandate from the Church's founder before defecting to an alternative path for salvation because of the unfortunate scandal.
Archbishop of Kingston Donald Reece is to be commended for explaining that “paedophilia should have been viewed as a psychological illness and not an issue of spiritual or moral culpability”. He also quoted the Holy See, which has said only between 1.5 and 5 per cent of its clergy have been implicated in paedophilia scandals. Regarding a possible link between celibacy and the present scandal, Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi, professor of canon law and psychology in Rome says : “It has been established that there's no link.” He continued: “First off, it's known that sexual abuse of minors is more widespread among lay people and those who are married than in the celibate priesthood. Second, research has shown that priests guilty of abuse had long before stopped observing celibacy.” Another salient factor in the scandal is contained in a report by the US Catholic bishops that an understanding of clerical sex abuse isn't possible without reference to both celibacy and homosexuality, since the vast majority of US abuse cases were of a homosexual nature.
A toxic side effect of public outrage is the diminished confidence of the laity in the moral integrity of the clergy when judging lay persons as culpable sinners. This reaction was inflamed by uncalled for remarks by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Church, saying Roman Catholicism has lost its credibility in Ireland due to the scandal. Such remarks, despite a schism within the US Anglican community, which condones homosexual marriage and permits a practising homosexual priest, Gene Robinson, to continue performing as a clergyman, was disingenuous to say the least. The Anglican Archbishop has since apologised to Pope Benedict and the Irish bishops for his indiscretion.
Finally, the Roman Catholic Church remains resolute and faithful to the Catholic religion, according to teachings of its Founder Jesus Christ. It works tirelessly with distinction in the fields of education and charity, particularly in Jamaica, continuing to form the minds and characters of children and young adults while helping the poorest in society, the economically deprived and destitute. What is needed most during this Easter season is the help and support of the faithful, to be united in their purpose of defending their beliefs according to sacred scripture, and in time confidence and integrity in the Catholic Church and clergy would be completely restored.