As a follow-up to the four reports released by the Irish government in the past several years about the serious situation of abuse of children by Catholic clergy and in Catholic institutions in Ireland, Amnesty International has just released a report, "In Plain Sight" (the link points to a pdf file). The document is a damning indictment of the leaders of the Catholic church in Ireland for tolerating, and in many cases creating, conditions in which children were tortured. As Francis X. Rocca notes in this summary of the report at Huffington Post, Ireland's minister for children and youth affairs Frances Fitzgerald has responded to the report by observing that it "reminds us that Irish children were subjected to treatment that would be horrifying if it were done to prisoners of war, never mind little boys and girls."
I'm linking to an article about the Amnesty International report at Huffington Post for a specific reason. The reason is this: this image--of the Catholic church as an institution that tortures children--is rapidly becoming the image of the Catholic church in the secular media. And in the minds of an increasing number of people around the world.
And as that image takes shape, there are still large numbers of Catholics, both lay and clerical ones, who want to ignore the responsibility of church leaders for creating this image (and for the dreadful acts towards children on which the image is based). There are still large numbers of Catholics who blame the secular media as the bearer of bad tidings about the Catholic church, and who insist that the media are the problem, that the media are out to destroy the church.
There are still many Catholics like Bully Bill Donohue who--beyond belief!--want to blame the victims themselves, to discredit children reporting abuse by religious authority figures, to claim that the abuse crisis is a figment of their imagination (and an invention of enemies of the church).
And I must say: I don't get it. These responses are so wildly inappropriate, on the part of followers of a Christ who was all about compassion and healing, and so self-defeating and ineffective as a way of creating a more positive image of the Catholic church, that I can't begin to understand why so many Catholics continue to try these ugly tactics.
I can only conclude that the persistence of the tactics points to a tremendous moral darkness at the heart of my church, which is the same epicenter from which the abuse and its cover-up emanate.