It’s surely not unreasonable to conclude from events earlier this month that the United Nations has virtually declared war on the Vatican. It issued a report on Catholic clergy abuse that was so sweeping and accusing, so lacking in fact and nuance, so extreme and damning, that it resembled pamphlet propaganda rather than informed reporting. The report not only accuses the Church of covering up, in the U.N.’s own words, “the molestation and rape of thousands of children” but also demanded that the Church change its teaching on abortion, contraception and homosexuality. In other words, the same U.N. that has called for the age of consent to be lowered to fourteen and thinks Iran and Saudi Arabia are worthy to be arbiters of human rights issues, hates Catholicism and wants the world to know it.
The U.N. Human Rights council currently includes, amongst others, Pakistan, Russia, Venezuela, China, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates. Frankly, the whole thing is laughable. But tragic, too. Pakistan has a blasphemy law under which hundreds of people are arrested and incarcerated for expressing comments considered negative about Islam. China operates gulags and executes political dissidents. The list goes on, on, and grotesquely on.
If we delve a little deeper the situation becomes positively whacky. On the U.N. Committee on the Right of the Child, led by the same Kristen Sandberg who announced the anti-Catholic report to the media with such evident relish, we have Syria, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Egypt and Thailand. In Syria, children are tortured and murdered by the government’s security service; Thailand has the largest child prostitution trade in the world; Saudi Arabia allows if not encourages child brides and female circumcision; and in Uganda homosexuals are beaten, arrested and even murdered.
Those are the nations condemning the Vatican.
Frankly, the report reads more like the ranting and raving of a bunch of first-year students in the campus Atheist Society than a piece of research into a deeply serious issue. Nothing, it claims, has been done at all by the Vatican to address the abuse issue. Goodness, even the far from Catholic-friendly BBC reporters in Rome who have covered this issue have said that such an accusation is patently absurd. It is, and is also irresponsible, sectarian, hateful and awash with hyperbole.
I have written about the abuse issue many times—I even included a full chapter about it in one of my books—and I wish I would never have to mention it again. But I will, and thus have to speak truth to liberal and secular power, even if it is jarring.
When we discuss the abuse crisis it is extraordinarily difficult to sound fair and sympathetic. Because if we are the former, we seem to lack in the latter; if the latter, we often neglect the former. To describe what happened is sometimes assumed to be a defense or even some sort of vile justification. It isn’t, of course, but because there are so many people in the media in particular who wish to beat the Church with the stick of sexual abuse it is often extremely difficult even to be heard at all. Denial is immoral but obfuscation just as bad.
The hard, harsh facts are that perhaps as many as 3% of Catholic clergy were directly or indirectly involved in this horror, the typical victim was a teenage boy, and most of this occurred decades ago. The nature of the victims is significant because the U.N. report constantly speaks of children; in a way, of course, they were, but more than 80% were teenage boys, young men of 14 and 15.
This is evil, horrible, and wrong—but it’s not actually pedophilia, and it tells us much about the perpetrators as well.
For the most part, the reaction of bishops and bureaucracy was to order the abuser to change parishes, demand that he undertake counseling, and never repeat the crime. Today we cringe when we hear of such a banal, pathetic response. But this was standard secular, psychiatric advice at the time, and it was the same advice given to school boards, sports organizations, and other religious bodies.
We now know better, but while those other groups are not taken to task for not doing enough, the Church is attacked for its callousness. Good Lord, the double standard and the tendentious history are almost overwhelming! Of course there were men in authority who chose to do nothing out of their own sexual deviance or downright fear and cowardice, but they were a tiny number. It was panic rather than perversion that characterized the worst of the response by bishops, and that is something for which we should all be deeply ashamed.
Yet there is surely no other group of men and women on earth that have done so much since all of this to put matters right, to show contrition, and to make the Church arguably the safest place for a young person to be. Tragically, this is not the case for all institutions. In the United States, for example, the influence of teachers’ unions has meant that some abusers have not been dismissed and are still teaching in public schools.
Abuse is a reflection of the broken status of the human person. We are fallen, damaged, and in need of repair. It says nothing about the Catholic Church, other than this is why we need the Church: to guide us back to the ways of God. If it were a result of celibacy, there would be no abuse in non-Catholic churches or sports teams; if it was due to an all-made clergy, there would be no abuse in families – where, obscenely, it is actually at its highest. Those alleged explanations are just excuses used by unscrupulous critics with an agenda to attack Catholicism. They often seem more concerned with using the abuse issue to attack the Church than with caring for the victims of the actual abuse.
I remember meeting a man in his late-20s who had been sexually molested by a priest. The priest later took his own life. I expected to meet an angry, Catholic-hating person, but instead had the privilege of spending time with a devout, peaceful Catholic. “I was abused by a man, not by the Church. He used the Church to further his lust, and I see the Catholic Church as being as much a victim in all this as I am”, he said, making me feel extremely inadequate. The Church dealt with this issue some time ago, we know that Pope Benedict defrocked 400 clergy in a single year, and we are also aware that there are exploiting lawyers and radical groups wanting and seeking to smash the Church.
Men who are sexually ambivalent or confused are now generally prevented from entering seminaries and for this the Church has been accused of sexual discrimination. It just can’t win, which is precisely how the sexual revolutionaries and political extremists at the United Nations want it. They are exploiting a monumental tragedy to try to force the Catholic Church to abandon its theological position, give up the fight against ethical decay, embrace moral relativism, and sign on to the anti-family manifesto of some of our new masters.
It’s not going to happen. Unhappy, oppressive lords in New York and Brussels: there will be no surrender.