The Catholic Kingdom and the endangered species

It is now hardly a secret that innocent kids have been for years, victims of pedophile priests, who have ingloriously betrayed their religious duties, moral, and more than anything, the trust many, including their victims, had in them, just to satisfy their naked sexual lust.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” indeed.

The kids definitely came to the clergy, albeit innocently. But rather than offering the virtuous children the spiritual fulfillment, the wolf-priests rather preyed on them, who trusted the clergy fully. The priests used vulnerable children as a Manna to quench their sexual urge and naked desire. They indeed offered the kids something else they neither bargained for nor wanted, leaving the used victims psychologically shattered. Shattered indeed, just like the trust in the Catholic Church and its reputation has recently become due to the scandals.

Initially, it was more or less a taboo to discuss the systematic, complex sexual predatory committed in the Catholic church kingdom. And for those who had the guts to come out openly to narrate their terrible experiences, their rapacious, miserable stories had always been castigated, doubted or dismissed. This is achieved through the effective coverage and protection given to the accused priests by their other religious colleagues, who probably believed it was part of their sacred duties to hide the sins of their fellow clergy and therefore, present the quintessential side of the church – that holier than holy side.

“Blessed are those whose sins are covered!”

Covered they might be, but since the election of the Pope Francis on 13 March 2013, things are no more the same in the Catholic establishment. The era of  Pope Benedict XVI is over. No more the same old story. Not everything is hidden behind the secretive iron curtain of the church. Nor the alleged priests free from prosecution – just like any other criminals in the society. The sexual crime in the church has been, for the first time, openly discussed and condemned. Victims could, for the first time, narrate their heart-breaking abuse stories. The alleged religious leaders have soon recognised that they are, just like any other members of the society, capable of being reprimanded and punished for crimes they may have committed. Who could have imagined that the powerful Cardinal George Pell, the Vatican treasurer and former top adviser to Pope Francis could be convicted of child sexual offenses? In most cases, the innocent victims are destroyed psychologically, while others struggle with depression, loneliness and shame.

The exposure in 2002 of sexual abuse of children in the Roman Catholic Church in Boston and the payment of billions of dollars in settlements is not the end of the sex scandal which has engulfed the Catholic Church. In Pennsylvania (USA) alone, the Roman Catholic Church recorded more than 1,000 identifiable victims of sexual assaults committed by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years. With the culture of suppression of the truth within the Catholic establishment, many strongly believe the present figure is simply a tip of an iceberg. Many more once hidden cases of sexual assaults of kids are coming out, especially, now the Pope has vehemently condemned the criminal act and shown willingness to punish the offenders.   

But thinking that innocent kids are the only victims of sexual molestation in the Roman Catholic church is simply chewing the seed of ignorance. Recently, nuns have started speaking out about the abuses they experienced at the hands of priests as well. Twenty-five years ago, a courageous Irish nun, Maura O’Donohue submitted to the Vatican, a damning report of systematic abuse of nuns in the Catholic church, based on the reports of victims, doctors and priests. As usual, the report was then watered down and never made public. Today, many nuns started speaking up about the terrible experiences of sexual harassments and rape of nuns in the hands of the Catholic priests. Maura O’Donohue is not the only victim. A German theologian Doris Wagner, who estimated that more than 30% of the Catholic nuns have experienced rape and other sexual assaults, equally narrated her own experience. According to her, she was severely raped by a priest. Initially, she was overpowered with fear to report the case to her superiors. When she eventually did, she was, allegedly blamed for the assaults. But the accused priest was neither punished nor removed from his position. Last year, another sexual scandal within the Catholic church in India put the Catholic church once again in a spotlight. Bishop Franco Mulakkal, head of its Jalandhar diocese and a senior member of the Catholic church was accused by five nuns of raping them repeatedly and they demanded his arrest. After his release from arrest, the court, last week gave a green light to commence the trial of  Bishop Franco Mulakkal, 54, who is facing charges of, rape, unnatural sex, illegal confinement, criminal intimidation, and misuse of power. Sadly, instead of condemning the sexual harassment in the church and offering help to the victims, the Catholic Church in Kerala State (India) has warned Sister Lucy Kalapura, a nun activist, who leads protests against rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakal “against (the) principles of religious life”, and “attending channel discussions.”

However, Pope Francis has recently acknowledged openly, for the first time, that many nuns had been persistently sexually abused by the Roman Catholic priests and even bishops. It does not help that a Vatican magazine last week revealed that some nuns had abortions or gave birth to children fathered by priests. That brings one to some questions being asked within and outside the Catholic Church establishment. Is the image of the Catholic Church severely damaged as a result of the persistent sex scandals? Must the Catholic Church encourage reformation within the church establishment? Is it time to change the rules in the Catholic Church, and allow priests to marry?

 Some have argued that such a change would negatively divide the priests’ attention and devotion to the church. Others believe that allowing clergy to get married could encourage them to pay more attention to the earthly lust rather the doctrine of the church. However, looking at the rate of  sexual abuse, exploitation, harassment against both kids and nuns in the hands of the priests and other ordained male members, coupled with the billions of compensations paid to the victims by the Catholic establishment, one wonders what really makes sense – to maintain the status quo or encourage reformation? Whatever the case may be, the one thing is sure, the sex scandals and sexual harassment within the Catholic Church have effectively produced endangered species in its kingdom. Unless something urgently is done, both the image, reputation of the church which have been badly damaged cannot be reversed.

For sure, the Catholic Church needs more than public relations to fix the sex scandals and bring a strong degree of trust – and morality – back to the church.

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