Rights

When Pastors and Priests Prey

Last week on January 16th in Geneva, Switzerland, a historic milestone took place as the Holy See went before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The committee was seeking detailed information on the sexual violence against children by Catholic clergy around the world, its cover up within the church and the denial of justice and compensation for victims.

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

A day earlier I went to a special screening of Silence in the House of God, a HBO documentary which details the first known protests against clergy sexual abuse in the USA. The documentary also exposures other cases of sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy around the world. After the documentary, the Center for Constitutional Rights hosted a panel discussion with survivors of clergy sexual abuse. It was emotional to hear their stories and inspiring to witness their unbroken spirits and determination to secure justice.

The realities of clergy sexual abuse of women and minors both boys and girls is now more widely known. However, it is still a taboo subject for many and some victims feel as though they have nowhere to turn with little support from their communities due to the status of clergy persons.

In October 2013, the World Christian Student Federation (WSCF) re-launched a book titled When Pastors and Priests Prey – Identifying, Preventing and Overcoming Clergy Sexual Abuse of Women, a book, which aims to raise awareness about identifying, preventing and overcoming clergy sexual abuse of women.

We hope that this effort will begin a cultural transformation within the worldwide church.” ~ Christine Housel, General Secretary of the WSCF

The book, which was supported by the World Council of Churches’ Women in Church and Society project, offers insights from researchers, advocates and survivors. Also included is a speech by former President Jimmy Carter to the Parliament of the World Religions in which he states:

The truth is the male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter.”

As in any case of sexual abuse it is essential that justice prevails and that the perpetrators are brought before the law and punished for their horrific crimes. However, in situations involving the clergy such as catholic priests, the Holy See have their own law known as Canon – religious – Law, when asked to provide information on known sexual abuse cases (letter of complaints from victims and legal documents of canon law trials of sexual abuse perpetrators) the Holy See declined stating that it is

not the practice of the Holy See to disclose information on the religious discipline.”

This presents a serious problem and complete lack of transparency.

Instead of the sexual abuse perpetrators and paedophiles receiving prison sentences and rehabilitation, these men are simply either stripped of their priesthood or in the case of women (nuns) denied Catholic membership (but are still able to live freely never being brought to justice) or sent to a Catholic rehabilitation centre and then placed into a different parish to continue their religious life as clergy persons and therefore are free to commit the abuse all over again.

In May 2013, the Catholic Archbishop of Durban said in a BBC interview that he had dealt with cases of child sex abuse, which were handled by the church internally, and not referred to the police. There are thousands of cases just like this; clergy, brothers, preachers, pastors and nuns, many churches and religious institutions intertwined in ungodly acts such as sexual and physical abuse, is this really justice?

Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

An NGO report submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child earlier this year by the Centre for Constitutional Rights on behalf of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), lists harrowing examples of the kind of harm done to children by Catholic priests which was subsequently covered up by the Church: a priest who regularly forced sex upon two boys simultaneously; the case of a 9 year old girl who was molested in the confessional booth; that of another 15 year old girl who was taken for an abortion by the same priest who had raped and impregnated her; and a priest who offered money to boys in exchange for acts of sadomasochism – the list is extensive.

This is a global problem with cases from all regions of the world being reported. All perpetrators of any form of abuse must be held accountable by the same laws that govern ‘lay persons’ and those that know and try to cover up the abuse (such as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger) are as guilty as those who commit the crimes – in my opinion. Therefore, let’s break the silence, demand justice for all and prevent this abuse from continuing. Holy See it is time to confess your sins and be held accountable.

For more information

Child Sexual Abuse and the Holy See, a preliminary report from Child Rights International Network

Twitter

#HolySeeConfess

@CRINwire

@SNAPNetwork

@Pontifex_ln

Cover image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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Category: Rights
Tagged with: canon law    catholic    catholic church    Child sexual abuse    clergy    Committee on the rights of the child    CRC    Holy See    pastor    pope    priest    sexual abuse    Sexual Abuse and Assault    Sexual Violence    United Nations    Vatican

Marcia Banasko

@Na_sko

From the United Kingdom, currently based in Geneva, Switzerland working for the World YWCA, a global network of women leading social and economic change in over 120 countries worldwide. Feminist & Youth Advocate for social change.

See more posts from Marcia
  • mike ference

    Every Roman Coward Diocese needs to be investigated.

    http://mikeference.blogspot.com/2013/12/red-flags.html

  • Slowly the court is ensuring documents are revealed. In today’s news:
    Thousands of pages of secret church documents released Tuesday as part of a court settlement provide an unprecedented and gut-wrenching look at how the Archdiocese of Chicago for years failed to protect children from abusive priests. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-chicago-priest-abuse-20140121,0,6326053.story?track=rss

  • Dan

    Imagine if any other global organisation, corporation or NGO behaved in the same way. If The Red Cross, Coca-Cola, Toyota or Western Union were systematically covering up the widespread abuse of minors by their employees. I really don’t see where the difference lies.

  • Thanks for your comments! It is totally unacceptable I agree with you Dan, and the fact that this is being brought before the UN and the Holy See is in fact a nation state, clergy are representatives of the state, therefore state actors. It is can be argued that as a nation the Holy See is in fact committing these crimes and the leaders i.e Pope and Cardinals can be brought before the law for covering up the crimes and not informing the police. Lets see what happens!

  • Its complicated but I think there are loop holes within International Law.

  • Thanks for this great post.

    Of course, and sadly still, the “tabooness” of the subject would reflect in the likes the post will have as compared to other posts on this blog. Obviously, this lame comment of mine, risk figuring among the widow few the post will get.

  • CHRISTIAN PRIESTS???? BY STEVE FINNELL

    Are there Christian priests mentioned in the Bible? The only high priest mentioned is Jesus Christ. The priesthood of all believers is mentioned, however, there is not an office of Christian priest for selected individuals.

    JESUS IS THE HIGH PRIEST!

    Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;

    JESUS IS THE HIGH PRIEST!

    Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

    The so-called Christians priests of today cannot grant forgiveness from sins nor can they make atonement for the sins of the people. Only Jesus is a high priest.

    Hebrews 7:11-12 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

    The Levitical priesthood ended when Jesus died on the cross. There is and never has been a Christian priesthood of individual priests, overseeing, or acting as priests of congregations. THE INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN PRIEST IS A MAN-MADE PRIESTHOOD.

    Hebrews 8:3-4 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law;

    Christians nor anyone else are under the Law. If Jesus were here on earth He would not be a priest. Why would any Christian, here on earth, consider himself to be a priest able to offer gifts or sacrifices.

    THERE IS ONLY ONE PRIEST STANDING BETWEEN MAN AND GOD. THAT PRIEST IS JESUS CHRIST.

    1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus Christ,

    A HOLY PRIESTHOOD, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD INCLUDES ALL CHRISTIANS.

    1 Peter 2:4-9 ….5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…… 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’ own possession….

    Peter was talking to Christians who were throughout the world. (Peter 1:1). Peter was not addressing certain individuals who were selected to the office of priest.

    THE OFFICE OF CHRISTIAN PRIEST IS NOT MENTION IN THE BIBLE. Christian priests are only mentioned in church catechisms and other extra-Biblical books. Man-made writings are not Scripture.

    Ephesians 4:11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for equipping of the saints for the work of service, to building up the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith…

    You will notice priests were not mentioned as equipping the saints. Why? Because Jesus is the priest. There is no office of “CHRISTIAN PRIEST.”

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com