The safety of our children must come first.
It’s a simple, direct, crystal clear statement. It’s one that we’ve put to clergy members in the form of a question in clergy child sex abuse cases many times over the years: “Father, wouldn’t you agree that the safety of our children must come first?” They’ve almost always answered in the affirmative. How could they not? Distilled this simply, the statement is an absolute no-brainer.
Yet, the Catholic Church hierarchy ignores this truth to protect itself, making excuses, convoluted arguments and specious assertions of blame for sexual abuse of children by its clergy. Pope Benedict XVI is the latest. In his recent 11-page essay, Benedict writes that the clergy sex abuse crisis was caused by the sexual revolution of the 1960s and liberalization of the church’s moral teaching. Nowhere in the essay does he mention that the Vatican had a moral and legal duty to make sure its clergy did not abuse children, and to refrain from covering up child sexual abuse.
This is the man who led the Catholic Church not all that long ago.
Before unpacking some of Benedict’s slippery baggage here, we are obligated to point out that the Catholic hierarchy has had a problem with its clergy sexually abusing children and covering it up to protect itself for DECADES, likely centuries. We’ve seen hundreds of thousands of documents verifying clergy abuse and hierarchy cover-up across the breadth of the twentieth century, with ample evidence for abuse well before the sexual revolution. We shouldn’t have to dispel Benedict’s ridiculous Swingin’ ‘60s theory with cold hard facts, but we can and have.
Benedict, who resigned in 2013, writes that changes in moral standards on sexuality in society and within the Church are partly to blame for the clergy sexual abuse crisis. “Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms,” he writes. He later adds: “Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ’68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.”
He also blames perceived moral relativism of liberal theologians who questioned the Church’s traditional norms on sexuality. “Consequently, there could no longer be anything that constituted an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; (there could be) only relative value judgments,” he states.
Reasonable people can argue the legitimacy of moral relativism and the loosening of sexual mores. But to try to pass them off as excuses for sexual abuse of children by priests is preposterous. Raping children has always been absolutely illegal and absolutely evil. And it has always been the absolute duty of institutions such as the Church to prevent it and expose it. The Vatican and bishops failed to do so in order to protect themselves. Benedict ignores this.
Benedict also complains that “the authority of the Church in matters of morality is called into question” by many, yet ignores the failure of the Vatican and bishops to responsibly wield their moral authority regarding clergy abuse. He warns that this questioning of the Church’s moral authority forces the Vatican “to remain silent precisely where the boundary between truth and lies is at stake.” The hierarchy no longer has credibility regarding the boundary between truth and lies.
Benedict also blames the abuse crisis on the absence of religious belief and God in society. He makes inaccurate assertions that “The question of pedophilia, as I recall, did not become acute until the second half of the 1980s” and that pedophilia was “theorized only a short time ago as quite legitimate.” Benedict has no clue, or pretends not to, when he writes: “And now we realize with shock that things are happening to our children and young people that threaten to destroy them. The fact that this could also spread in the Church and among priests ought to disturb us in particular.”
Which begs the question:
“Do you expect us to believe that?”
“Father, wouldn’t you agree that the safety of our children must come first?”