Wednesday, January 4, 2012

News about Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis: Netherlands, Ireland, Canada

Re: the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church, there are a number of significant items I've been saving  to bring to readers' attention in the post-holiday period:

First, Voice of the Faithful issued a good press release shortly before Christmas, summarizing the findings of the recent report of the Deetman Commission about abuse of minors in Catholic institutions in the Netherlands from 1945 to 2010.  As the VOTF statement notes, the Deetman Commission finds at the heart of the abuse situation in the Netherlands the same "culture of cover-up" and "culture of silence" that have been identified in every report now issued by similar commissions anywhere in the world as significant factors contributing to the abuse situation within the Catholic church.

Different countries.  Different histories.  Different cultural situations.  But within each one of these different countries, the one uniform factor in all of the abuse stories remains unvaryingly the same: the clerical club running the Catholic church persistently engages in cover-up and attempts to silence whistleblowers, and actively works to create a culture of cover-up and silence.

And so, as VOTF and other groups have noted for some years now, anyone seeking to resolve the horrific problem of sexual abuse within the Catholic church has to deal with that clerical club and the toxic culture it has created.   There can be no substantive, effective change in the abuse situation until the problem of clericalism and clerical culture is addressed.

And turning to Ireland: not long before Christmas, the Irish Department of Justice and Equality released sections of the Cloyne Report (and here and here) that were not initially published when the report was issued last July.  As the additional sections of the Cloyne Report were released, Irish Justice Minister Alan Shatter stated

The publication this afternoon of the redacted portions of the Cloyne Report yet again details the failure of the Church to comply with its own child abuse guidelines and its failure to ensure that allegations of abuse when first received were brought to the notice of An Garda Síochána. The litany of allegations made and the failure to appropriately report cases of abuse reinforces the need to enact a statutory measure for the protection of children in the future. 

And Irish Minister for Children and Youth and Affairs Frances Fitzgerald noted, 

I want to make it very clear - it is absolutely unacceptable that child abuse allegations were not reported to the Gardaí and the HSE in a timely way by the Church authorities. The handling of child abuse allegations is not discretionary; there is no choice, no exception. All allegations must be reported so that the allegation itself is investigated and any potential risk to other children is assessed. 
In my view the most shocking aspect of the Cloyne report is that it deals with issues right up to the very recent past. It is not dealing with terrible wrongs committed in the distant past but how the Diocese of Cloyne dealt with complaints made from 1996, the year in which the Catholic Church put in place detailed procedures for dealing with child sexual abuse.

And turning to Canada: a sentence is expected today in an Ottawa court in the case of the former bishop of Antigonish Raymond Lahey.  Lahey was arrested in Ottawa in 2009 after Canadian customs officials found hundreds of child-pornographic images on his computer, some featuring young boys forced to submit to acts of bondage and torture, during which the boys were also, in many cases, wearing rosary beads and crucifixes.  

As Chris Cobb and Dan Neutel point out in the Ottawa Citizen article to which the preceding link points, it will be important to see how the Vatican reacts to whatever sentence Lahey may be given by the court, since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith promulgated new rules in May 2010 making it a crime under canon law for clerics to possess child pornography.

And so the weary world turns in 2012, as the former president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops informs the nation that gays are akin to the Ku Klux Klan, as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops demands the "right" to skirt non-discrimination laws while receiving taxpayer dollars, as that same USCCB insists that the Obama administration is attacking the "religious freedom" of Catholics when it expects Catholic institutions to provide access to contraception in their health care plans, and as a devoutly Catholic candidate for the U.S. presidency, Mr. Santorum, tells the public he'd like to dial the clock back to before 1965 and permit states the right to ban access to contraceptives altogether.

Because contraceptive use is dangerous, is "not okay," and is "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is [sic] counter to how things are supposed to be.”

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