As time goes by, it becomes clear that in every single country where the Roman Catholic church has a major foothold there has been sexual abuse of children by priests. These are men who are supposed to have committed their lives to God and all that goes with Christian mythology - meekness, loving one's neighbour, obeying a Christian moral code that extends way beyond the ten commandments. I feel extremely sorry for all those thousands of priests who have lived blameless lives, serving their religion and their congregations with selflessness, humility and exemplary moral standards for they are now tainted by their peers' cruel exploitation of vulnerable kids over very many years.
There are bad men in the world - paedophiles, rapists, men who are out to gratify themselves with little thought for their victims. We know this. And we might expect such men to appear in different guises - lecherous taxi drivers, raincoated stalkers, egoistic businessmen in flash cars but you wouldn't have expected so many of these bad men to appear in the garb of priests - Men of God.
I can hardly imagine what it must be like to be haunted by memories of sexual abuse. To grow up with feelings of self-loathing, guilt, overwhelming anger and mental confusion. The scars will be deep and long-lasting. I don't suppose you ever truly get over something like that.
Thinking about this issue, certain supplementary questions have occurred to me...
1) How much longer will the Italian government collude with the Catholic church in Italy to cover up that country's legacy of abuse by priests?
2) Yes, children have been sexually abused but what about adults? Grown up Catholics - both men and women - have been vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by priests. Will vigorous investigators ever explore this avenue?
3) Sexual abuse is horrifying but there are other forms of abuse that should invite proper review - physical abuse and systematic humiliation for example. Tales of despotic Christian Brothers and cruel nuns are legendary in Catholic schools and other institutions. Just because such abuse wasn't sexual doesn't mean we should wave it by as if it were ultimately tolerable.
4) Shouldn't the Catholic church ditch the requirement that priests should live pious, celibate lives? Why can't they marry or take partners? Very obviously, existing regulations have helped to provide a fertile climate for sexual predation by priests.
5) Why would anyone continue subscribing to a religion that has provided a previously impenetrable veil behind which such terrible things have happened? A church should be a place of peace, comfort, refreshment, enlightenment - not a place of perversion, wandering hands, evil collusion.
(c) Sean Delones New York Times 2002
Top (c) Don Wright Palm Beach Post 2002