Church scandals: Clergy goes too far

You’re probably wondering why so many Catholic priests are child molesters. Is it because they’re celibate and have no other way to relieve their sexual tensions? Or maybe they’ve read too much fanfiction and think that kids like it when they touch them? Amidst the recent wave of allegations of the Church’s child abuse, Bishop Christopher Jones, head of the Irish episcopate’s committee on family affairs, has complained that the Church is being singled out, with most abuse actually happening inside families and other organizations (such as orphanages in authoritarian countries). While he is correct, we hold the Catholic Church up to an extreme moral standard. We expect the preachers of a world religion to at least follow their own preachings. Or else wouldn’t they be awful hypocrites and wouldn’t their parishioners lose faith in them? But perhaps we should just cut the Church some slack and believe it’s doing its best to get to the bottom of this unfortunate affair. After all, the Church now has exemplary child-protection rules, which are in cases so strict as to stifle normal affectionate behavior. Right now, it’s all past scandals that are coming to light. In the past, Church hierarchy often saw pedophilia not as a crime but as a sin that endangered the perpetrator’s soul. Pedophilia was like alcoholism or embezzlement, and a priest who “erred” was only rebuked, given pastoral help, and a fresh start. In addition, a sexual relationship between a priest and a young boy was regarded as wrong only in the sense that it was a homosexual relationship that involved a supposedly celibate priest; it wasn’t looked upon as a repulsive abuse of trust. However, the Vatican’s stance on child abuse allegations isn‘t doing it any favors. The Pope’s personal preacher recently likened child abuse cover-up critics to Anti-Semites (he later apologized). At Easter mass, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of the Cardinals, dismissed abuse claims as “petty gossip of the times.” The Vatican’s attempts to protect Pope Benedict and the Church are, to many, sending the wrong message – that the Church is more interested in covering up its black history than in addressing that history and reforming itself. As a sexually-charged society, we see inappropriate sexual conduct almost everywhere that it doesn’t even shock us anymore and we will readily pardon offenders. Married public figures having affairs is readily forgivable (see golf star Tiger Woods). People who having flings with their subordinates is slightly more morally repulsive, but just as forgivable (see Late Night host David Letterman). Pedophilia, just about the most morally offensive type of sexual misconduct, is also forgivable, depending on the person (see noted Polish director Roman Polanski). Yet, it’s important to note that to most humans, erring by itself is pardonable, but coupled with hypocrisy and cover-up attempts, it becomes an enduring tarnish. John Edwards, who publicly professed his commitment to his terminally ill with breast cancer wife Elizabeth only to have an affair with a campaign staffer, won’t be receiving sympathy anytime soon. John Ensign’s affair was all the more despicable since he always portrayed himself as a family-values guy. The Watergate scandal enraged people all the more due to Nixon’s efforts to conceal the affair. Likewise, the Catholic Church isn’t doing itself any favors by focusing on cover ups and trivializing the sex abuse allegations. As a society, we should recognize that the abuse, though widespread, was perpetrated by only a few deviant priests, and not condemn the Catholic Church as an institution. The Catholic Church needs to take a long, hard look at itself and identify its problems, persecute those who need to be persecuted, and institute reforms that will protect against future child abuse. The Church doesn’t need me to tell it that, if it doesn’t take positive measures soon, these swirls of “petty gossip” will do lasting damage to its reputation.