Sunday, November 27, 2011

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI insisted on Saturday that all of society’s institutions and not just the Catholic church must be held to “exacting” standards in their response to sex abuse of children, and defended the church’s efforts to confront the problem.

In last year’s Christmas message to Cardinals and Vatican officials the Pope suggested child sexual abuse was considered normal in the 70’s.  Certainly, we are all familiar with the popular refrain that sexually abusive priests were the result of the sexual revolution of the 60’s and the moral relativism of the 70’s.  But this year, in remarks to visiting US Bishops, the Pope reminds us that abuse happens in every institution. It’s the “everybody else is doing it too!” response.

There is a problem of historical amnesia here. Concerning the 60’s and 70’s excuse, documents from Church Councils back in the first centuries and through the Middle Ages  make reference to the abuse of boys by clergy. And of the victims I personally know, some now in their 80’s, their abuse occurred as early as the 1940’s and 50’s.

And what about the “clerical culture” issue? Some priests have suggested that it is the very culture in which priests are trained that is the cause of the widespread sexual abuse crisis and cover-up.

Yes, child abuse occurs in every institution, culture, and generation. But even the Penn State debacle can’t hold a candle to the institutionalised cover-up that has protected criminal Catholic priests for centuries. Only in the Catholic Church are there documented rules demanding secrecy from victims, often weighted with the threat of excommunication or eternal damnation.

Let’s all pray during this Advent Season for the power of the Holy Spirit to break open the Catholic community and give courage and energy to those who are still convinced that there is value in being Catholic and a reason to resist the dictatorship of the Curia.