The Priests and the Children

Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montréal, Canada, declared in June 2016 that Catholic priests, workers, and volunteers in his diocese are no longer allowed to be alone with children.

Lépine wrote that the Church had “an obligation to ensure the safety and integrity of the people to whom we bring the Gospel message and offer our pastoral care” and that “any form of abuse committed by persons exercising a pastoral duty not only constitutes a counter-witness to the Gospel but also a cause of serious injury.” He further condemned the “horrific reality of abuse of minors” that has “shocked and shaken” the Church.

The Guardian reports that “in February, the church agreed a $30m settlement after around 150 people claimed they had been abused by the Clerics of St Viateur, who ran a school for deaf children in Montréal between 1940 and 1982.”

But critics say the measure is not nearly enough. “The single most effective step would be to publicly disclose and discipline every cleric who committed or concealed child sex crimes. That immediately protects children,” David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) told The Guardian. “We’ve literally seen hundreds of policies, procedures, protocols and pledges like this that sound good on paper but are virtually never enforced. So we are extremely skeptical.”

Catholic priests and workers have a long history of committing and covering up child molestation, in nations across the world.

Father Thomas Doyle writes in “A Very Short History of Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church”:

In spite of claims to the contrary, the canonical history of the Catholic Church clearly reflects a consistent pattern of awareness that celibate clergy regularly violated their obligations in a variety of ways. The fact of clergy abuse with members of the same sex, with young people and with women is fully documented. At certain periods of church history clergy sexual abuse was publicly known and publicly acknowledged by church leaders. From the late 19th century into the early 21st century the church’s leadership has adopted a position of secrecy and silence. They have denied the predictability of clergy sexual abuse in one form or another and have claimed that this is a phenomenon new to the post-Vatican II era. The recently published reports of the Bishops’ National Review Board and John Jay College Survey have confirmed the fact of known clergy sexual abuse since the 1950s and the church leadership’s consistent mishandling of individual cases.

The bishops have, at various times, claimed that they were unaware of the serious nature of clergy sexual abuse and unaware of the impact on victims. This claim is easily offset by the historical evidence. Through the centuries the church has repeatedly condemned clergy sexual abuse, particularly same-sex abuse. The very texts of many of the laws and official statements show that this form of sexual activity was considered harmful to the victims, to society and to the Catholic community. Church leaders may not have been aware of the scientific nature of the different sexual disorders nor the clinical descriptions of the emotional and psychological impact on victims, but they cannot claim ignorance of the fact that such behavior was destructive in effect and criminal in nature.

The John Jay College Survey estimated that from 1950 to 2002 hundreds of thousands of children were raped by Catholic leaders in the United States alone.

The high rates of pedophilia are thought to be attributed to the sexual repression of priests, who often enter seminary in early teen years and never experience sexual contact. Lack of sexual maturity and strict rules of celibacy in the Church may drive priests to eye and rape the most vulnerable in their community. It may also have much to do with a cycle of abuse — priests being raped when they were children and taking out the accompanying shame and post-traumatic stress on the next generation.

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