Posts Tagged “christian brothers”

Bergen Catholic Chapel, via Bergen Catholic High School Web siteThe Catholic child-abuse scandal continues making news. This should be no surprise, given that it went on for decades at the very least (and in fact we have no reason to assume it doesn’t go back centuries), and was worldwide in scope, not to mention pervasive within the R.C. Church. The latest revelations to emerge describe abuse that took place many decades ago, as NJ Advanced Media reports, at a private Catholic school in New Jersey (WebCite cached article):

Eight more former Bergen Catholic High School students have come forward to accuse former staff members at the school of sexual abuse.

The eight have levied their allegations since it was revealed in August that the all-boys high school in Oradell had reached a $1.9 million settlement [cached] with 21 men who said they were sexually abused at the school.

The eight men, who are now between the ages of about 55 to 75 years old, say they were sexually abused when they were teens between the years of 1956 and 1977, said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston lawyer who represented some of the previous alleged victims.

The timeframe of the alleged attacks is similar to the one provided by the other alleged victims who settled with the school. They had said they were abused between 1963 and 1978.

The school itself, not the archdiocese of Newark (in which it’s located) or the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers (the priests who staff it), reached the settlement with the victims. Apparently the archdiocese plays no role in the school’s administration, so — at least for now — they’re not involved.

Note that the Christian Brothers who run this school are part of the worldwide order of Christian Brothers who, back in 2003, filed suit to block the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, and succeeded in preventing that body from releasing the names of abusive priests (cached). Despite that, the Christian Brother order figured prominently in abuse investigations in Ireland, and elsewhere.

At any rate, I expect Catholic apologists will repeat their old rationale for why they don’t think their holy Church or its clergy did anything wrong: The accusers are just in it for the money, and some of them — so far — were paid off. There was no abuse, they’ll say; accusers made it all up long after they left school, just to get some money for themselves and their attorneys.

While I agree money might motivate some accusers, the “profit motive” can’t explain all the accusations that have been leveled, around the world, for decades, nor does it account for the fact that many investigations — again, from all around the world — have substantiated that abuse did, in fact, take place, and moreover, that in a lot of cases the Church hierarchy did, in fact, cover it up and on occasion enable the abusers by moving them around.

I expect to hear more about this. I also expect to hear a lot more whining from Catholic apologists about how terrible it is that accusers are coming forward now and how terrible it is that some have already been paid off. It’s as though the victims somehow owe it to the Holy Mother Church to keep silent — forever — about the abuse they’d endured, because … well! … it’s the Holy Mother Church. Or something. Because for some reason, no one is supposed to say anything bad about the Holy Mother Church. Or something.

Photo credit: Bergen Catholic High School Web site.

Hat tip: Secular Web News Wire.

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Seattle St James - pano 02Another year is almost half over, and that means another Roman Catholic institution has been forced to settle up with “priestly pedophilia” victims. This time, as the Seattle Times reports, it’s the Seattle archdiocese (WebCite cached article):

The Archdiocese of Seattle has agreed to pay $12.125 million to 30?men who say they were sexually abused as students decades ago at Seattle’s O’Dea High School and Briscoe Memorial School in Kent.

In lawsuits filed in King County Superior Court, the men alleged the archdiocese failed to protect them from known abusers, including two former O’Dea teachers who were members of the Roman Catholic Christian Brothers order, which filed for bankruptcy in April 2011.

The Christian Brothers operated O’Dea and Briscoe, a former orphanage and boarding school for boys, but both schools were owned by the Seattle Archdiocese.

“I deeply regret the pain suffered by these victims,” Archbishop J. Peter Sartain said Tuesday in a statement. “Our hope is that this settlement will bring them closure and allow them to continue the process of healing.”

The allegations in these cases dated back as long ago as the 1950s, and documentation from the 1960s indicated that problems were known, at that time:

In court papers, [plaintiffs’ attorney Mike] Pfau and law partner Jason Amala cited a 1966 letter from one of the Christian Brothers at Briscoe to an official at the Catholic order that described a “damaging atmosphere” that had reached “immoral and unethical limits.”

These men of God spent decades working very hard keep their nasty secrets from leaking out. I’m sure they’re all very proud of their efforts.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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st vitus in hdrThe scandal of child abuse (including, but not limited to, sexual abuse) at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy has flashed around the globe since becoming an issue in the United States in the early 00s. Among the more recent countries where credible allegations are emerging, is Austria. At various points the complaint has been made that the Church’s celibacy requirement may be wholly or partially to blame for what has happened. To date the Church has generally denied that celibacy is an issue, although it has promised to do a better job of reviewing candidates for the priesthood to be sure they don’t have “problems” that might manifest after they are ordained. The New York Times Lede blog writes about some Austrian clergy suggesting that it might be more of a problem than the Church will admit (WebCite cached article):

Austrian Priests Suggest Celibacy May Be a Problem

On Thursday two senior Catholics in Austria, where reports of the sexual abuse of children by priests and nuns have been in the news, suggested that the role of priestly celibacy may need to be discussed as Catholics seek to understand and end scandals that have erupted across Europe and in the United States in recent years.

The Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, wrote in an article for a Catholic magazine that it was time for the Church to undertake an “unflinching examination” of what might be at the root of the problem of celibate clerics sexually abusing children.

As The Guardian’s religious affairs correspondent, Riazat Butt, explained on Thursday, Archbishop Schönborn wrote that the discussion should “include the issue of priest training, as well as the question of what happened in the so-called sexual revolution,” as well as “the issue of priest celibacy and the issue of personality development. It requires a great deal of honesty, both on the part of the church and of society as a whole.”

Note the attempt at deflection here; the Archbishop is suggesting it’s not merely celibacy that’s the problem, but celibacy within the context of “the sexual revolution.” He’s indirectly saying that even if celibacy contributes to the problem, it’s not the Catholic Church nor even the celibacy requirement that are at fault, it’s society as a whole, and the “sexual revolution” that are to blame. He’s not going as far as saying celibacy of Catholic clergy should be ended:

In fact Archbishop Schönborn said on Friday that he was not saying that celibacy caused pedophilia. “If celibacy were the reason for sexual abuse,” he said, “there wouldn’t be any abuse in the rest of society.”

Needless to say, since at least some of the allegations — such as in Ireland — date back to before the “sexual revolution,” it can safely be ruled out as either a cause of the problem or a contributor to it. So Archbishop Schönborn is wrong on that count.

That said, at the risk of appearing to defend the R.C. Church (which I am not actually doing, as you will see), I also do not think celibacy has much, if anything, to do with this problem. Allow me to explain.

First, the Archbishop is correct that, if celibacy were the only cause of sexual abuse, one would never find it outside the celibate … and this is not the case at all. Sex crimes of all sorts are committed by the non-celibate as well as the celibate.

Second, many people in the occidental world think of celibacy as “unusual” or “strange,” especially since there are a lot of churches and religious traditions which don’t require celibacy from their own clergy, leaving Catholicism as one of the few remaining holdouts on that score. The truth is that celibacy as a spiritual ideal, is not at all “strange.” It existed in the pre-Christian Hellenic world e.g. among the Pythagoreans; it existed in the Roman institution of the Vestal virgins; it existed in the Judaic world of Jesus’ own time among the Essenes; it was an ideal that at least some Christians aspired to right from the start of Christianity, persisted through the Middle Ages, and continues today; and it also existed — and still does — in other, non-occidental religious traditions (e.g. among Buddhist monks and many others). If celibacy caused people to be sexual abusers, we’d find it rampant in all of those traditions as well … and we would find it much more often in celibate organizations than we would from non-celibate groups within the same tradition. I’m not sure this is the case either.

Third, not all of the allegations being made about Catholic clerical abuse are sexual in nature; some of the reports are of beatings and other kinds of abuse, where sexual motives appear not to come into play. It’s the sexual allegations that seem to get the most press attention, but they’re not all there is to this scandal.

Fourth, scandals of abuse of children at the hands of clergy and religious institutions who were to care for them, are not even unique to the R.C. Church and its celibate clergy … the Canadian residential-school scandal, which involved Catholic as well as non-Catholic institutions, demonstrate this conclusively.

No, the real cause of this long-running scandal — which again is borne out by comparison to the Canadian residential schools scandal — is not celibacy. It’s something else entirely: Impunity. The sad truth is that the perpetrators of the crimes did what they did, because they knew they would be able to get away with it.

Within the Catholic Church itself, the chief culprit here is the secrecy with which it operates, as well as the principle, long held by the R.C. Church, that it generally does not allow its priesthood to be prosecuted by secular authorities. Yes, there have been times where abuser-priests were prosecuted; in the US one of the most famous examples is that of the late defrocked Fr John Geoghan. But these prosecutions usually happen in spite of the Church and its hierarchy, not because of them. In fact, the various dioceses involved in individual cases usually spend a great deal of legal effort in attempting to block and/or derail such prosecutions. (The order of Christian Brothers in Ireland, for example, sued in court to shut down that government’s lengthy and extensive investigation, and almost succeeded.) Generally speaking, the Catholic Church does not believe its clergy should be subject to secular criminal prosecution, no matter the priest’s crime.

But the impunity also exists independently of the Church’s own secrecy policy and assumption of clerical privilege. In the examples of both Canada and Ireland, one of the discoveries has been that the abuses were actually known by secular officials — and in some cases by society at large — but were allowed to happen anyway. In other words, secular authorities generally looked the other way, without regard to the Church’s efforts to prevent prosecutions.

The cold truth of all this is that celibacy is the least of the worries here. Even if the Church were to repeal its celibacy policy, its secrecy and demand of immunity to prosecution still would get in the way of secular authorities holding priests accountable for anything they do. This means priests would still have incentive to commit crimes — of whatever type, whether sexual or not, or abuse of children or other things — because they know the Church will at least attempt to shield them from prosecution. That is what must change … celibacy is largely insignificant by comparison.

Photo credit: james_clear.

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After the release of the devastating report on the abuse of tens of thousands of Irish children in their care over a period of decades, the Roman Catholic Church has done everything in its power not to accept responsibility for what it did; not to own up to the the actions of abusers and inaction of others; and to date it has refused to order the abusers still in their ranks to plead guilty to their crimes.

They have expressed sympathy for victims, yes … but words are meaningless. Anyone can mouth words. Real contrition, as demanded by Catholic morality, is harder than that, and much more concrete. They have failed to offer any.

What they have done, is dodge and swerve all over the place trying to avoid offering anything concrete. A great example of this can be found in the new Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, head of the RC Church in Britain (not Ireland). He made some remarks on British television (ITV) which are, in a word, inexplicable. The Irish Times reports on it:

The new head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has courted controversy after describing members of the clergy who admitted abusing children in their care as courageous for facing up to their past.

“It’s very distressing and very disturbing and my heart goes out today first of all to those people who will find that their stories are now told in public… Secondly, I think of those in religious orders and some of the clergy in Dublin who have to face these facts from their past which instinctively and quite naturally they’d rather not look at.”

Where, exactly, may I find the “courage” in a bunch of people who sniveled, whined, cried, rationalized, and — when all else failed — filed a lawsuit in order to stop the report?

That’s not “courage.” No way. Not even close.

If any of these people had any true courage, they’d be turning themselves in to Irish authorities and confessing to their crimes. That they are not doing so tells me there is no courage whatever, anywhere in the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church.

The brand-new Archbishop’s remarks haven’t gone unnoticed. Even so, rather than admit he might have stuck his foot in his mouth, Nichols insists he said nothing wrong (as reported by the BBC):

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live before his installation he defended his comments as “perfectly sensible” and insisted that perpetrators must confront what they did and be held to account.

“It is a tough road to take, to face up to our own weaknesses,” he said.

“That is certainly true of anyone who’s deceived themselves that all they’ve been doing is taking a bit of comfort from children.”

The next time anyone who’s part of the Roman Catholic Church offers you any advice on morality or ethics, ask him/her what s/he’s doing to get the Church to own up to its abuse of children in Ireland and call for the abusers to confess to their crimes and do jail time for them.

Go ahead. Ask. I guarantee you won’t get an answer, other than something like, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” That, unfortunately, is not a moral answer. Morality demands more than just swerving out of the way of the matter. What’s absolutely immoral is to give perpetrators credit for having done something that they haven’t, done and will never do. Archbishop Nichols has done this. It tells me everything I need to know about his character … which is that he has none.

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