OF late, countless stories of sexual abuse and molestation of young boys and girls, especially boys, within the Catholic Church are finding the day of the light. These allegations of sexual misconduct are not confined to one part of the world, but from almost all nations such stories are emanating involving the Christian clergy against the children of God. The allegations are so rampant and factual that for the past 10 years the Church has been paying compensations to victims around the world. And with these payments to victims, one is made to believe all these allegations and the running stories.
Recently, the media in western countries has directed its guns towards the senior missionaries of Europe and the USA who have allegedly tried to save and safeguard those individuals priests involved in this ‘inhuman’ crime. Even the present Pope Benedict XVI is not spared by the western media. He is charged with saving the church fathers and bishops indulged in this sexual misconduct when he was the Archbishop of Munich and Chief of the Congregation of Faith, Vatican.
Now the same Pope Benedict XVI has blamed the Church for the sex scandals that has not only shaken the very edifice of the Christian Church but also shattered the faith of true followers of Jesus the Christ.
Pope Benedict XVI on May 11, 2010 blamed the Church’s own sins for the clerical abuse scandal and called for profound purification to end what he called “the greatest persecution” the Church has endured. His strong comments placed responsibility for the crisis squarely on the sins of Pedophile priests, repudiating the Vatican’s initial response to the scandal. Benedict said the Catholic Church had always suffered from internal problems but that “today we see it in a truly terrifying way”. (Times of India, Nagpur, May 12, 2010).
In 2001 a number of sexual exploitation cases by the Christian religious persons within the Church surfaced in the USA, Ireland and many other countries. Many a senior priests were alleged to have acted in a manner most criminal to hush up such cases damaging the Church’s reputation. However, the matter became the epicenter of media attraction when in 2002 Boston Globe published detailed investigative reports of priests’ involvement in sexual abuse and molestation of children and teenagers within the Church. Even the Time magazine came out with a cover story on this issue in the recent past. In these reports those senior officials of the Church who failed to file the report of such cases and tried to save the culprits were also made the targets by the paper.
In 2002 Pope John Paul II met the Cardinals from USA to find out ways and means to overcome this crisis and save the image of the Church. Cardinal Bernard Law resigned from the post of Boston Archbishop for failure to save the children from getting sexually exploited by the priests. Many a dioceses in USA paid billions of dollars as compensation to the victims of sexual exploitation by the priests. In view of all these events rocking the Church Pope John Paul II declared in 2002 that there was no place for such priests who were involved in such acts or crimes damaging the future of the children of God.
In the United States of America in 2007, the Society of Jesus made a US$50 million payout to over 100 Inuits (people of northern Canada and parts of Greenland and Alaska) who alleged that they had been sexually abused.
Also in the United States, allegations of sexual misconduct by priests of the Archdiocese of Boston, and following revelations of a cover-up by the Archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Francis Law, became known in 2004, causing Roman Catholics in other dioceses of the United States to investigate similar situations. Cardinal Law’s actions prompted public scrutiny of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the steps taken in response to past and current allegations of sexual misconduct by priests. The events in the Archdiocese of Boston became a national scandal.
In Chicago in 2001, a self-confessed sexual abusive priest was sentenced to five years in prison for abusing five boys between the ages of 8 and 12 years. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay out 60 million dollars to settle 45 lawsuits it still faces over 450 other pending cases.
According to the Associated Press, 22 priests were involved in the settlement with cases going back as far as the 1930s. Twenty million dollars of this was paid by the insurers of the archdiocese. The main administrative office of the archdiocese is due to be sold to cover the cost of these and future law suits. The archdiocese is also expected to settle about 500 cases for about US$600 million.
The Diocese of Memphis in the US made a US$2 million settlement with a man who was abused as a boy by Father Juan Carlos Duran who had a history of sexual trouble with juveniles in St. Louis, Panama and Bolivia.
According to the Associated Press and the Google website (2010), in 1995 Hans Hermann Cardinal Groër was accused of sexual misconduct. That same year he stepped down as head of the Catholic Church in Austria and left Austria three years later (1998). But unfortunately he still remains a Cardinal.
In Belgium, former parish priest Bruno Vos of Nieuwmoer was officially charged with rape of a minor by the Belgian judiciary. He was also charged with the possession of child pornography.
In Croatia, Ivan Cucek of the Archdiocese of Zagreb was convicted in 2000 for sexual abuse of 37 young girls.
In Czech Republic, Father Frantisek Merta and Olomouc Archbishop Jan Graubner were charged after allegations were made by a theology student, Vaclav Novak, that father Merta had sexually abused and molested altar boys since 1995.
In France, Priest Henri Lebras was sentenced to 10 years in jail for raping a 12-year-old boy between 1995 and 1998.
In Ireland, The Fern Inquiry, a government commission of 2005, report compiled by a former Irish Supreme Court judge delivered an indictment of the handling of clerical sex abuse in the Irish diocese of Ferns.
In Italy, it is difficult to ascertain the correct statistics for clerical sexual abuse because the Italian Government has a treaty with the Vatican that guarantees areas of immunity to Vatican officials, including bishops and priests. But unfortunately three former students claimed abuse and 65 former students signed statements at the Provolo Institute for the Deaf, a Catholic school for deaf children in Verona, Italy. The abuse is alleged to have occurred from the 1950s to 1980s, and they reportedly said that they or other students were abused by 24 Catholic priests including the late bishop of Verona.
At the Diocese of Anapolis in Brazil in 2005, Brazilian priests and Fr. Tarcísio Tadeu-Spricigo and Fr. Geraldo da Consolação Machado were convicted of child molestation while Fr. Felix Barbosa Carreiro was arrested and charged with child sexual abuse in the northeastern state of Maranhão after Police seized him in a hotel room with four teenage boys.
In Peru of Latin America also, Daniel Bernardo Beltrán Murguía Ward, a 42-year-old SCV consecrated layman, was found by the National Police in 2007, in a hostel in Cercado de Lima with a 12-year-old boy, of whom he was taking sexually explicit pictures. The boy was initially lured by Murguía Ward in Miraflores, where he was given Pokemon figures in exchange for photos of his intimate parts. The Police also reported that pictures of two other boys were also found on Murguía Ward’s camera and that one of the boys claimed he received oral sex from Murguía Ward.
In Australia a Catholic brother, Ross Murrin, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing eight male students. Also in Melbourne, Australia, another Catholic priest, Michael Charles Glennon, was sentenced to at least 15 years in jail for sexually abusing four aboriginal boys between 1984 and 1991.
In Philippines in 2002, the Catholic Church apologised for sexual abuse by hundreds of priests over the previous 20 years. And the list goes on.
With these damaging stories of sexploitation of children coming to the fore, the Catholic Church and especially Pope Benedict XVI find themselves under tremendous pressure mainly from the United States and several European countries. These allegations are so damaging to the Church that on March 18, 2010, Pope Benedict had to formally tender an apology to the victims of the sex abuse. He appealed them to forgive the culprit priests and said unto priests to repent. The Pope has agreed to meet victims and compensate them. There is mounting pressure for the Pope to step down. It is allegedly believed that while serving in various capacities within the Church the Pope knew about some of these sexual abuses but defended these priests and fathers instead of the victims, who are the children of God.
Out of the 3,000 cases of sexploitation the Vatican has received since 2001, only 20 per cent have been sent for Canonical Trial. In 60 per cent cases disciplinary action against the priests is taken and they have been either retired from the service or barred from formally addressing the congregation. Only in 10 per cent cases the culprit priests have been removed from their posts.
The exposition of this sex scandal has raised serious question marks over the practice of compulsory celibacy in Catholic Church. According to Catholic tradition all the priests, bishops and nuns are required to follow celibacy strictly. Celibacy is not related to any of the Christian religious dogmas. Since 12th century it has been the practice and has become the convention in the Catholic Church. Many a Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Churches do not stress on celibacy for the priests and nuns. In the first four centuries the priests and bishops were allowed to marry even in the Catholic Church. But the First and Second Laterine Council held in 1123 and 1139 AD issued a strict order making celibacy a must for priests and bishops.
The Church argues that celibacy provides more time to the priests and bishops to devote themselves for the service of God. They have no family botherations and as such can concentrate more on the divine than on the mundane things. St. Paul in his letters to Corinthians had stressed that the Christ was unmarried and followed celibacy. Therefore, the bishops and priests should follow the Christ for spiritual uplift. This tradition of celibacy which influenced the Christendom in 12th an 14th centuries also made people to prefer priesthood over marriage.
However, the exposition of mass scale sexual abuse and molestation cases within the Catholic Church has shattered this myth of celibacy. On many occasions, this compulsory practice of abstinence is supposed to be the root cause of this malice in the Church. Even during the religious reforms movement, suggestion were put forth to remove restriction on priests to follow celibacy as it gave rise to sexual misconduct. In the present times, once again the celibacy principle of the Catholic Church vis-à-vis sexual misconduct has rocked the Church, Christian religious leaders and the laity all over the globe. But so far Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor Pope John Paul II have given more stress on celibacy.
It is puzzling to find out that the Church, which is supposed to protect, guide and turn people into better citizens is the very one committing such atrocities. Does the Church have a moral and spiritual right to reprimand the sinners?