Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pervs and Perps

Big in the news this Easter is the scandal of pedophilia in the Catholic Church. That's the way it's described and the way most people seem to understand it, but the story should be reported as the problem with the way the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy has dealt with pedophilia in the Church. Statistically, there probably isn't as much of a problem with pedophilia as there might be in a less select population. But there have been some clergy with that propensity, and the way they have been 'dealt with' is now coming to light.

I would imagine a contrite Catholic pedophile, like a contrite murderer, or thief, or other sinner, coming for the absolution of the confessional, and receiving the same conditional absolution as any other penitent. The conditional part lies in the penance part. For, in most cases of sin, sorrow, atonement and restitution, if possible, as well as the firm intention to avoid such sin again, lie at the heart of forgiveness. A thief wouldn't get a 'by' to keep his ill-gotten gains; even if they were already disposed of,  restitution to the offended party remains part of the penance. In like manner, a civil penalty might also be inflicted. A murderer, say, while protected by the privilege of the confessional, would not find forgiveness until he surrendered and confessed to the law. Other than that, there is no real contrition. That someone might suffer from an illness causal to the behavior is not the bailiwick of the confessor, although knowledge of such would enhance the penitential aspect. The onus for forgiveness lies with the confessed, not the confessor. In like manner a pedophile seeking absolution would have more than the confessional dialogue to work through. A course of spiritual development to ensure there is no repetition, even a legal process, should be de rigeur.

That such Catholic pedophiles were part of the Holy Office adds another dimension. Such a moral failure in the light of whatever stresses of the vocation might have caused it, does not reduce the severity of it. Unlike a sexual dalliance with an adult, a relationship that uses children lies outside the pale, both social and theoretically, of the Curia. That such an individual might find absolution is understandable. That such an individual would be returned to his milieu without a rigorous moral reindoctrination, is simplistic at best, ludicrous at worst. The strength of the Holy Spirit lies in avoiding occasions of sin, not so much in an absence of recidivism. One failure should be all that is tolerated in terms of a failure of celibacy, no failure should be tolerated if it involves a child. Such a man might continue to serve as priest but not in the society of those who evoke his weakness. Not so much for his good, as for theirs.

But that doesn't seem to have happened in the church. The people have known of these things, and have been scandalized by these things but the hierarchy has been on the 'hush'! Those making complaint have been silenced by threat or blandishment. Those offended against have been reoffended by blame. Those weak vessels have been 'passed on' to other situations with no warnings or cautions. And some have reoffended without effective sanction either from religious, or lay powers. This is unacceptable and requiring acknowledgement and action.

The hierarchy of the church remains on the 'hush'. Refusing to submit to what it calls 'gossip' and refusing to examine what has gone on. In doing so, the hierarchy wounds the Body of Christ. The People of God are called to trust, not in the Divine Providence, but in the continued direction of those who have so abjectly failed in their Pastoral  duties. In a misguided attempt to maintain the majesty of the 'unblemished Bride of Christ', they have ministered to the wolf and ignored their flock. This lack is telling on the face of the Holy Father. He looks worn and haggard. If he failed as bishop he should acknowledge his failure and seek forgiveness. They say that confession is good for the soul, his too.

Like all confessions it need not be public. But what needs to be public is the church's condemnation of those who knowingly cause the little ones to sin. Jesus did no less.

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