Trento DuomoThe sad parade of Roman Catholic Church officials who blames the “priestly pedophilia” scandal on anything and everything other than the Church’s own personnel, just keeps on going. Clearly the Church is having difficulty accepting responsibility for its own actions, or inactions as the case may be. The latest example of this phenomenon comes from an Italian priest who — like several other clergy before him — blamed pedophilia on the child victims themselves. Religion News Service reports on what Fr Gino Flaim said about what he thinks caused the scandal (WebCite cached version):

A priest has lost his post in northern Italy after saying he can “understand” pedophilia within the church. The priest appeared to blame children for sexual abuse and described homosexuality as a sickness.

“Pedophilia I can understand, homosexuality I don’t understand,” the Rev. Gino Flaim, a priest in Trento, told Italy’s La7 channel [cached]. “Unfortunately there are children that look for affection, because they don’t have it at home. And perhaps if they find a priest, he could also give in.”

Asked if the accusations against pedophiles were justified, Flaim said: “It’s a sin, and as with all sins they also become accepted.”

These remarks echo those of the late Fr Benedict Groeschel of EWTN three years ago, and of Archbishop Jozef Michalik of Przemyśl, Poland some two years ago. And they also echo the excuse-making, reported by an Irish abuse victim, of an abusive priest himself decades ago, and more recently by an Ecuadorian priest who’d worked in Newark.

What all of this means, is that Fr Flaim’s victim-blaming is not a unique phenomenon. It can’t, therefore, be taken as just one guy mouthing off like an idiot on his own. No, quite the opposite must be the case: If the same idea has been expressed over the course of years by Catholic personnel in various parts of the world, it must reflect some deeper philosophy simmering deep within the bowels of the Church.

The RNS reports that Fr Flaim has been removed from his post, but this hardly means much in light of how pervasive this expressed trope is. If there are more Catholic personnel who think as he does … as I suspect is the case … then there must be many more firings and a lot more reform. The only way this will happen is if Catholics make it happen … but I doubt they will. I mean, the priestly-pedophile scandal has been a worldwide phenomenon for some 15 years now. If the laity hasn’t figured out they need to force their own Church to change, in that time, they’re not going to figure it out at all.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Cecilia burke

    Fr. Flaim was fired from his parish post, but was he defrocked? I think not. Let's see if Francis really will punish protectors of pedophiles.

    • Defrocked? They never do that. Not willingly, anyway. First, it's a curial process that can take years if the priest contests it at all (and most of them do because once they're defrocked they have to go make a living for themselves somewhere else). Defrockings usually happen only when significant external pressure can be applied both to the priest and his diocese, enough to make the diocese begin the process and to make the priest want to concede (such as a criminal case in which he ends up in jail, which unfortunately doesn't happen often enough).

      Second, defrocking a priest flies in the face of R.C. doctrine, especially about the clergy as a result of Rome's response to the Donatist schism. The Church's official position, opposite the Donatists', is that there's literally nothing any priest can do which can invalidate his ordination. The Donatists, you see, taught that clergy who'd given in to Roman persecution and renounced Christ could not return to the Church as priests once Christianity was made legal in the Empire. (They could return as laymen, but couldn't get their clerical status back.) Rome, and most of the rest of the Church in fact, considered this too extreme a doctrine and said that lapsed clergy could return as such after doing penance. This sounded all well and good back in the 4th century, but in the 21st it's a problem, because saying a man can no longer remain a priest in light of something he did, no matter how terrible it was, contradicts the anti-Donatist position. Yes, it's true … a 4th-6th century schism sill imposes dysfunction on the Church in the 21st century. Few Catholic clerics will ever admit what I just said, but that's how it is. And that's why the defrocking process is the laborious curial procedure that it is.

  • anna

    One way in which the laity is reacting to this clerical intransigence is simply to dump the Church altogether. This is particularly so of Ireland, once an oppressed theocracy, where church attendance has dropped dramatically – down to 2% of the population in some areas of Dublin. Maynooth College, which once produced priests in their hundreds, had no ordinations at all last year. With its hypocrisy, lies and self-deceit, the Church is killing itself.