Unless you’ve been living on another planet with no access to any form of mass media, you’ve heard of what’s happening in the world of Catholicism. The supposedly American phenomenon of pedophile priests shuttled around to shield them from the long arm of the law turned out to be a global problem which the Vatican chose to ignore or cover up for years to defend its veneer of piety and high moral standing. But as the world realizes just how little Pope Benedict seems to care about pedophilia in his ranks and the sheer scale of cover-ups in the U.S. and Europe, that veneer seems to be slipping and the Vatican is busy blaming anyone and everything for its problems except the pedophiles themselves and their inability to deal with these issues without making things worse at every possible turn. In short, the Pope and his followers are trying to defend the indefensible.
There is only one way to deal with pedophiles in any institution. Remove them from their positions, hand them over to the authorities with every bit of information you have on them, and take whatever lumps you deserve. In the last few decades however, the Vatican’s method of addressing this problem has been the exact opposite, and lacking any argument to deflect their more than fair share of blame in the matter, they’re using the kind of brain dead excuses that should be met with nothing other than derision and contempt. We’re not talking about religion or personal beliefs here. We’re talking about a crime against children by people who are supposed to be trusted with nothing less than the souls of mortals around them. The same people who were supposed to be shining beacons of morality failed spectacularly in their task and instead of being properly punished, were shuttled around to stay one step ahead of the law. So how exactly could you defend a practice like that?
Well, the first attempt came from Andrew Brown, the Guardian’s logically and apparently, decency impaired columnist who argues that since Catholic priests don’t molest children any more than any other profession, it somehow means that we’re unfairly singling out the Church. Please remind me, when was the last time that plumbers, or mechanics, or programmers, or corporate managers were charged with providing their clients a way towards immortality in heaven and leading the community by their example of upstanding morals? That’s what priests do. They’re supposed to hold themselves to the highest ethical standards possible, otherwise, their prescribed role in the community is pretty much unnecessary and their message is nothing more than a hypocritical exercise in false piety. The other, more sinister implication of Brown’s article seems to be that the public should be ok with a certain pedophile rate and not get worked up when the very person who gives them lessons in ethics and morality on Sunday mornings rapes their kids. The only acceptable rate of pedophilia in any profession is zero, especially in one which holds itself as an apex of societal good.
If you thought Brown’s defense was bad, let’s consider Pope’s Benedict’s personal preacher and the only one with the authority to question the pontiff, Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa. His method of dealing with all the negative reports about the institutionalized cover up of child abuse in his organization? He offhandedly quoted an unnamed Jewish friend of his comparing the media attention to anti-Semitism. Yeah, that’s low. If you’re in a position of power in a religious movement that supported the infamous Deicide Doctrine, one of the main sources of anti-Semitism in the Western world, you don’t get to use the anti-Semitism card. Just because you apologized to the Jews for over a millennium of demonization, you don’t get to use them as a smoke shield for your members’ crimes against children. No wonder a number of Jewish religious councils condemned these excuses as repulsive, asking how Cantalamessa could use the history of violence and hatred against a small group of people, fueled in no small part by the Vatican, to deflect from outrage against institutional pedophilia. And quoting your “Jewish friend?” Do I even need to spell out all the things wrong with this framing?
But even this excuse is nowhere near as vile as the one spat forth by that professional ball of pure hatred, Bill Donohue. Whatever mind Donohue had at some point at his life was obviously discarded when he said that a vast majority of child abuse cases involved pubescent boys and thus weren’t rape but cases of homosexual behavior. Basically, what he’s saying is that once little boys get some hair down there and a couple of zits on their faces, they’re fair game to be raped by a pillar of their community. After these comments, the members of the Catholic League should hang their heads in shame for allowing this amoral lunatic to become the head of their organization, fire him and get somebody new at the helm, preferably a person who doesn’t go on national television to defend pedophiles by borrowing an argument from NAMBLA. And not only did Donohue really say that having sex with a 13 year old isn’t pedophilia, he’s been as defiant as possible about his comments, just as you would expect from someone who’s incapable of telling right from wrong, simply foaming at the mouth and straining at the end of his leash like a rabid dog.
Here’s the important thing that the pope and his apologists should keep in mind next time they decide to take a shot at blaming something else for their priests’ inability to keep their penises in their pants around kids. In a situation in which a child is involved, our evolutionary drive is to protect them and defend them from any and all evil, especially the kind of evil which masquerades under false piety and high morals. Our children are the biological point of our lives. They’ll carry on our lineage and deserve nothing but love, support, instruction and protection. If someone under your supervision does something awful to a child, there is nothing you can ever do or say that will somehow make it better. Trying to excuse their behavior only makes you look heartless and corrupt, especially when you insist that you’re the only thing standing between heaven and hell…
[ illustration of a dark soul by Neil Blevins ]