Is the Roman Catholic church serious about stopping child abuse?

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

At the risk of alienating my Catholic readers, I feel that I have to say something about the recent news story about the Catholic Church leaders abusing children of both sexes, and then covering it up. Let’s start with a news article, then a reaction from a Catholic person I respect, then I’ll give my thoughts about it.

Here’s a news story from ABC News:

Sexual assault survivors shared their stories after a Pennsylvania grand jury report accused hundreds of Roman Catholic priests of assaulting children.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, several of them detailed heart-wrenching accounts of alleged sexual abuse against 301 priests across six of the state’s eight dioceses.

[…]Pennsylvania’s attorney general released the scathing report that revealed the results of a two-year investigation into hundreds of sexual abuse allegations. The probe found that at least 1,000 children had been abused at the hands of Catholic clergy members, dating back to the 1940s.

“Predators in every diocese weaponized the Catholic faith and used it as a tool of their abuse,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Tuesday. “Priests were raping little boys and girls and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing, they hid it all. For decades.”

[…]The investigation was based on official documents and secret archives from the church, according to the report. High-level church leaders allegedly covered up the abuse for years, fostering a “circle of secrecy,” Shapiro said.

“The cover up was sophisticated and, all the while, church leadership kept records of the abuse and the cover-up,” Shapiro said Tuesday. “They sought to do the same things that senior church leaders and the diocese we investigated have done for decades: bury the sexual abuse by priests upon children and cover it up forever. Shamefully.”

The key concern about this is the cover-up. The Roman Catholic church was more concerned with covering up for the abuse and rapes. That was their priority. They were concerned about defending the reputation of the corrupt child abusers. They were not concerned about the victims. And they were not concerned about what the Bible teaches about sexual immorality. Or what the Bible teaches about anything, really.

Matt Walsh, a conservative Catholic, had this to say in a post from June 2018, at the Daily Wire:

I’m taking some heat on Twitter today because I said that the real problem in the Catholic Church isn’t pedophilia but gay priests. As the statistics clearly show, the vast majority of predators in the clergy were homosexual and the vast majority were not pedophiles. The same study that reported those figures did try to absolve gay priests by claiming that their homosexuality had nothing to do with anything. But this is an assumption — I think a plainly absurd and unprovable assumption — that is not born out by their own statistics.

And the problem goes beyond sex abuse of minors. As Rod Dreher has been reporting, and liberal publications agree, homosexuality runs rampant in the modern priesthood. Sexual activity between priests, and between priests and seminarians, is not uncommon. I think it is rather difficult to separate these facts from the fact that teen boys were so often sexually victimized. Is it just a coincidence that gay priests exist in such large numbers, protected by gay cabals within the Church, and at the same time there happen to be a bunch of priests molesting pubescent boys? Are these two realities entirely separate from one another?

Take the case of the scummy Cardinal McCarrick. He has been accused of preying upon young boys. But most of the stories that have come out about him revolve around his sexual exploits with seminarians. Grown men, in other words. Yet we are told that the fact of his homosexuality is irrelevant. How could it be? If he were not a homosexual, he would not have molested boys. Who could dispute this? I’m not claiming that all homosexuals molest boys. I am claiming that only homosexuals molest boys. A non-homosexual, by definition, is not attracted to males.

Just to be clear, the Bible’s teaching on sexual activity is that no one is allowed to engage in sexual activity outside of natural marriage. Period.

I don’t feel comfortable listing the details of what the Catholic leaders did, but you can read about it on the Pennsylvania attorney general’s web site. The important thing here is that none of the men who did these things, or covered it up after, really expect to meet God face-to-face on the Day of Judgment. Everything they did to those children and young people was for their own pleasure and gratification. They certainly were not working for God, or advancing his interests. On the contrary, they put themselves first, and pushed young people away from God.

If I could summarize God’s agenda for his human creations, it would be that we all not do anything that would push anyone away from a two-way relationship with God. That goes for everybody including atheists, by the way. Nobody, regardless of religion, should do anything that pushes anyone away from God. So do these Roman Catholics work for God? To work for God, minimally, is to put your own desires on hold, and perform actions that advance God’s agenda. God’s agenda, minimally, is that people come to have accurate beliefs about his existence and character. It’s OK to be offensive to others by telling them the truth gently and respectfully. But it’s not OK to harm them in a way that pushes them away from God, just because you want to gratify your own selfish desires.

Here’s a thought about the search for truth and meaning. If you want to have a comprehensive worldview that answers the big questions, like cosmic origins, objective moral obligations, life after death, etc. then it’s probably not a good idea to look to people in an organization to tell you what is true or not. Especially when the organization relies on feelings, mysticism, rituals, etc. An organization is interested in protecting the organization. When the Jehovah’s Witnesses get caught lying about their failed end-of-the-world predictions, they cover it up. When the Mormons get caught lying about cosmology and archaeology, they cover it up. Organizations protect the organization. A much better plan, it seems to me, is to develop your own worldview, starting with the evidence from science and history. That’s what I did, and I’m an evangelical Protestant Christian.

24 thoughts on “Is the Roman Catholic church serious about stopping child abuse?”

  1. It also points the trouble in making a doctrine out of a principle. Paul stated only that a single person has time to be more mindful of God and to focus on him. A married person has to think of worldly things including family. For this reason if they could contain their lust it is good to not marry, but it is better to marry than to burn.
    The Catholic Church ignored that many people will do better marrying to have a way to release their passion.
    And from a simple view who is better to commit to not marrying women but a homosexual. It isn’t even hard to figure out that the unnecessary demand for celebate clergy was a big issue.
    Even in the ones that didn’t act out on gay desires they had their own alternate ways of coupling up. Priests would have a sister so and so that they would do things with, so in a sense they had married that person too.

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    1. I actually don’t think this is about priests not being able to marry, because the rates of abuse in other large secular organizations is similar, and those people can marry. I think the issue is that the Catholic Church is running an organization and their organization is about them. The leaders aren’t holding people accountable to the Bible, because their organization’s doctrine is more important to their organization than the Bible.
      Protestants have to deal with 2 Tim 2:4 and 1 Cor 7, but Catholic leaders seem to be more busy with social justice and wealth redistribution and unskilled refugees and global warming.

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      1. I agree that there’s likely something deeper involved than just priests not being able to marry. Christians who remain single for a long time and do not have sex during that time (like me, or moreso Wintery Knight) do not start developing sexual attractions towards children as a result of not having sex for a long time, I don’t see why it would for priests either.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I was going to say that too. Being chaste isn’t that hard to do if you just avoid places where women and alcohol are found. For example, I don’t have a gym membership, I just work out at home and in the office gym after hours. The most difficult thing about being chaste is find Christian women who give you respect and admiration. Once you get that support and recognition, it’s not such an emergency to run out and have sex.

          That’s why I think there’s something else going on, like Matt Walsh said.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. That it so right. I stayed a virgin until I got married, two days after I turned 28. There is ZERO respect that that. NONE. In fact, I’m looked at as a naive oddity, a weirdo who “doesn’t get it”. And I don’t get it. I will never get why people engage in such self and others-destructive behavior as pre-marital sex. I remind them that the Bible says “The naive proceed, and pay the price”. And the price can be VERY high.
            And as you said, it was EASY to stay a virgin until I got married. I just walked away from risky situations. Honestly, it’s not difficult. Avoid risky situations. And say no. It’s easy.
            Once married, the gloves came off though. I found out my sex drive was a 10 out of 10… still is.
            I’ve been married for over 30 years now. What I see is MORE value and respect for those who screwed up than I do for those that didn’t. They call it a “testimony” and the Church eats it up. The worse the story, the more they like it. Nobody wants to hear about the guy who remained pure and didn’t get drunk, and didn’t do drugs etc etc and how he did it. That’s not very exciting.
            It’s like a contest to see who was the worst. The Bible warns against “looking back”.
            Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62
            And we all know what happened when Lots wife looked back.

            The Church treats previous sin as credibility. And that’s sad.

            Liked by 4 people

  2. People who have seen my posts around know I am a Catholic.

    I’ll be honest I knew a little bit about what was going on in the church…but once the stuff was brought to light in Pennsylvania…that was the moment I decided, ‘no more’. After reading stories of the victims and stories about good men who tried to become priests being forced out by the homosexul cabal. No more rationalizations or protection for these cardinals, bishops, and priests…what they did ruined souls. We need our leaders to make definitive statements and/or resign if what they did was cover up abuse. I’m starting to tell people outside the Catholic church to read this as well, it doesn’t matter if they are Prots, atheists, Jewish, or Muslim…this is a BIG problem…the secular media is smelling blood and I say they should go after them.

    I knew DC and Hollywood had these sort of things and a lot of other news orginizations mentioned ‘the Vatician’ and I always brushed it off because I thought bishops and priests SHOULD know better because they would know the eternal consequences. Well it appears they didn’t and they need to be exposed for what they did.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. “A much better plan, it seems to me, is to develop your own worldview, starting with the evidence from science and history.”

    I agree 100% with that statement, even though we reached different conclusions 🙂

    I do feel it’s important to call out the injustices in all belief systems, and organizations, and not let corruption and wrongdoing hide behind the facade of tradition, authority, prestige or religion. However, it is important to note, as you had, that criticism of the doctrine of a movement, is not the same as criticizing the adherents. I am critical of a number of Catholic doctrine for instance, or Islamic, or Evangelical or a host of others. However, I know people from all those groups who do not stand with the bad sides, and bring out the good sides. Many Catholics decry what the Church has covered up, many Muslims do not stand with Islamic extremism and many protestant sects aren’t the stereotypical bigots against other denominations and people not holding their worldviews. Same for mainstream secular people, versus militant brow beating ones that attack believers.
    https://aladyofreason.wordpress.com/

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    1. You should read it. What these priests/bishops effectively did was ruin souls in children, teenagers, and in some cases…seminarians with these demonic acts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If I was part of the RCC I would, but 1400 pages is honestly too much to go through. What I’m most interested in though is cases of abuse in the last 20 years since the RCC supposedly took a stronger stance on dealing with these things. While it’s important to make clear how bad things were, have things improved?

        The silence of the Vatican to this, while not surprising, is a major concern considering they were forewarned of the contents of the report.

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          1. Right, but my understanding is that not all of it was ignored either. That some of it was actually prosecuted/litigated and that some of the accused may actually be innocent. And some of the report is calling out the church for handling things in a way the grand jury didn’t like but may not have been wrong given the info the bishops had at the time. I’ve seen enough to know that the fault doesn’t lay solely with the church either considering there were PA prosecuting attorneys that admitted they didn’t pursue cases for personal political gain. What we have hear is one big crap sandwich that hopefully pushes the RCC to greater transparency.

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  4. Wintery Knight
    08/16/2018 AT 3:45 PM
    Do you see that coming from men or women more, the idea that having a bad past is better qualification for the marriage enterprise because it means “more grace”?
    ***************************************************
    It’s not marriage, but life in general. That validation that you are a more valuable Christian if you screwed up big time and then repented comes from Church leadership. Not only that, they want you to tell details. There is no Biblical support for spilling details. Even Paul just described himself as “the worst” did not go into details.
    If they valued stories of avoiding sin, I think that would help others want to emulate that behavior. Instead, they value past sin. It’s like a movie or TV show. People like exciting, not boring. It just makes for feel-good stories of redemption, not boring stories of how NOT to sin.
    And those who say “hey, I avoided it. Let me tell you how” are looked at as prideful. Those who screwed up are looked at as noble victims who’s stories are to be valued.
    At least that’s how I’ve seen it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The political structure and control of the people by Catholic church combined with the wrong beliefs the church had taken were some of the stronger reasons the protestant reformation occurred.

    The Catholic Church if it changes culture and structure moves slowly and has a deep powerful political structure to protect the Roman Catholic Church.

    They do believe they hold the truth and are the true church. That likely makes the church more valuable than those that are wronged.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The church is valuable…however that doesn’t mean evil clergy should get away with evil acts and be protected, especially of this nature. Clergyman are not ‘too big to fail’.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Humans are weak and fallible and prone to corruption everywhere. The high and mighty church is no different. Catholics don’t condone such vile acts, and those so called priests don’t represent what the Catholic church ought to be.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. The cover up is one thing but what really grinds my gears is the fact that no one in the church exposed it. We are talking about unspeakable things being done to young children and yet it seems like not one person acted in their defense. There is no excuse for this. As Christians we are supposed to “not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28) yet all I see here is just more of the cowardice that I’ve come to expect from the church and people looking the other way instead of doing something and now they will have to answer to the one who can ‘destroy both soul and body in hell’.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m a bit uncomfortably close to the Catholic Church’s abuse from a couple different angles.

    I’m sure many of your readers have seen the movie, “Spotlight.” (Yes, the 2015 movie that won two Academy Awards). And I know in all the interviews and articles they’ve run on it, everyone has tried to mention that the reporters were “largely not religious.” Except for one.

    Matt Carroll, the spreadsheet guy, is a very devoted and long-time member of my church. His wife was the assistant to the senior minister for a long time and recently has become the Financial Manager for the church. Matt’s dad, John, was one of the first set of elders when the church changed the bylaws (governance changed from a large board of deacons to an elder board). He’s played by Brian d’Arcy James in the movie.

    I don’t think the writers/producer/director wanted to play it as an Evangelical vs. Catholic kind of thing. Matt was part of the Spotlight team for a long time. Matt even wrote about his experience of investigating the abuse and watching the movie (story is the same in both links):
    https://www.huffingtonpost.com/matthew-s-carroll/spotlight-my-personal-take_b_9355566.html
    View story at Medium.com

    The Spotlight team was the first in 2001 to run the story and covered it factually. They received a 2003 Pulitzer Prize for their work. The saddest part of the movie is the ending scene (which you can find here on youtube), especially at the part around the 3 minute 14 second mark and onward:

    (Summary: the phones start ringing off the hooks, calls from abuse victims, and the abuse is really widespread and far-reaching — across all of America and many places in the world.)

    And yes, I lived in the city long enough to read those articles.

    (My wife and I watched the movie together and the following Sunday, I ran into Matt at church, and introduced him to my wife as, “This is Matt Carroll, from the Spotlight investigative team. He was the spreadsheet guy played by Brian d’Arcy James in the movie.”)

    Second, I did take classes at the local Catholic seminary, St. John’s. This seminary has recently popped up in the news here: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/08/15/cardinal-malley-cancels-ireland-trip-focus-investigation-john-seminary/Gf847dhl3jz16Qx0QnKemM/story.html

    My ecclesiology professor was (now Monsignor) Robert W. Oliver, the secretary of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (first nominated by Benedict XVI in 2014 and appointed for a second term in 2018 by Pope Francis). He was a canon law and ecclesiology professor. Prior to his appointment to the commission, he was the Promoter of Justice.

    [Dr. Oliver was nice enough that while I did not affirm papal or Marian dogmas, and I largely wrote my assignments and exams in third person about what one should do or believe and he was aware of my dissent and lack of communion with Rome, that he still awarded me an A.]

    Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley is the president of this commission. Other members are listed on the Vatican’s website: http://www.protectionofminors.va/content/tuteladeiminori/en/who-we-are_section/page_en-members.html

    While it has been mentioned (2015) as another “important step in the wide-ranging effort by Pope Francis to ensure total protection for every child and minor in all institutions of the Catholic Church worldwide, and to prevent the sexual abuse of minors by priests ever again happening…” (ref: https://www.americamagazine.org/content/dispatches/vatican-publishes-statutes-commission-protection-minors )

    I don’t know how effective the Commission has been or is being.

    They’re Christians. They’re part of our body. When they hurt, we hurt.
    Christianity would do better with a strong Catholic church (and I do know that one of the questions they are trying to answer, and may not come up with an answer for it in the next 50 or so years, is “Who / what is a Catholic?” — and not just because one was baptized Catholic.)
    I don’t like to air Christian dirty laundry.

    Unfortunately as the Spotlight movie detailed, priests were … shuffled around. Maybe it was with somewhat good intentions to allow priests to have “a second (or third or fourth or fifth or nth) chance.”

    The systemic abuse wasn’t dealt with — and only because Spotlight brought out all the facts and the stories — that’s when it was exposed. Just to review the timeline:

    1976: priest John Geoghan is arrested for child molestation and the arrest is hushed up and the priest is released.
    2001: Boston Globe hires Marty Baron, they start their investigation
    2002: story is released a bit later than desired due to September 11th attacks
    (Example: https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/special-reports/2002/01/06/church-allowed-abuse-priest-for-years/cSHfGkTIrAT25qKGvBuDNM/story.html )
    December 2002: Cardinal Bernard Law resigned; promoted to Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (passed away December 20, 2017)
    2 April 2005: Pope John Paul II passed away
    19 April 2005: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger becomes Pope Benedict XVI (until 28 Feb 2013)
    13 March 2013: Jorge Bergoglio becomes Pope Francis
    22 March 2014: Pontifical Commission is created
    September 2015: Spotlight – international release date
    November 2015: Spotlight – United States release date

    Maybe this is my being rather naive. I would rather the church discipline its own, first and foremost. I understand people sin, mess up, make mistakes. Sure. We don’t need to demonize sinners and we can allow (to some degree) for people to save face, depending on what was the offense / nature of the sin, how many people were involved, etc. On the other hand, if it’s criminal, I do want the church to cooperate with the authorities and even hand the perpetrators over. (Yeah, permissiveness is not my strong suit.)

    I also want to go one step further: in a different post last week, WK and one commentator talked about “not wanting to seem hypocritical because they didn’t want to teach God’s moral law.”

    Just so I’m not just hard on the Catholic hierarchy:

    There is a local non-denominational Evangelical-leaning church, let’s call it Grace Tabernacle (not the real name). They hired (late 80’s) as their senior minister for some time a man who had had an important rank within a Christian organization, but then had an affair (mid/late 80’s). As a result, he resigned (or was forced to resign) this position. He was a pastor of Grace Tabernacle for over two decades.

    What has struck me is that he was unable, especially over sexual sin, to tow the line and preach on obedience to God. He was always about grace, grace (as per the name of his church).

    I’m reminded of James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness,” or Hebrews 13:7, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

    It seems to me that part of repentance is saying “God is right and I was not.”

    It’s not legalistic to tell Christians to obey God — God’s commands are not optional.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ‘What has struck me is that he was unable, especially over sexual sin, to tow the line and preach on obedience to God. He was always about grace, grace (as per the name of his church).’

      I think this important fact you highlighted must be interpreted as to a ‘why’ sexual sins should be taken more seriously. Really any sin is disobedience to God’s will…but for some reason the sexual sins are especially blinding to that fact and makes it easier to be disobedient.

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  8. To answer you question, from what I have I have to say no they are not serious about stopping the abuse.

    People who break the law in this manner should immediately be reported to law enforcement. Not reporting a crime is a crime.

    They will not be serious until they go to the roots of the problem and change he structures which created the problem and allowed it to flourish.

    Priests should be allowed to marry and have families. They should be allowed to have normal relationships with other people. Loving an artificial live foes dot lead to good results.

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