Sunday, July 10, 2011

Deliver us from Evil Priests: On Cases of Child Abuse in the Catholic Church

Poster of documentary "Deliver us from Evil" on pedophilia in the Catholic church
Deliver us From Evil
When the documentary Deliver us from Evil came out, I shunned it at first for two reasons. I knew that it would affect me emotionally, so I was reluctant to go through it. Child abuse is a touchy subject and especially in a documentary you cannot pretend it did not happen or that it is a work of fiction. My second reason was that I did not want the documentary to stain the image and respect I have for the institution of the Catholic Church. Despite its various shortcomings, I could not help feeling admiration for its traditions that have managed to exist and last for about two thousand years.

Needless to say, I was in a state of shock and torpor after watching the documentary. No, I do not believe it is merely a “witch hunt” or propaganda against the Church, since those were real children affected by the horrific actions of various priests. I was mainly appalled by the statements of Father O'Grady. He took everything so lightly and did not seem to realize the gravity of his actions and its devastating effects on the lives of the children and their family who had put their whole trust in this man. How can a man of religion breach the trust of sincere believers and commit acts so shameful in the eyes of God, especially since they involve the most pure and innocent of His creatures, children?

Evidently, such people are not only disturbed but mentally ill. The documentary gave a glimpse of possible reasons for such deeds. The priest himself had dealt with sexual abuse in his family. He was delusional and dissociated himself from certain events. He believed that he was showing children affection, perhaps even doing them a favor, through his sexual acts. He lacked any real sense of their feelings and devastation.

But what infuriated me much more was not only the actions of this priest. It was the cover-up of the church authorities that made me most angry. The first reaction was denial and that it was all mere fabrication or exaggeration on the part of the children. Then once there was irrefutable evidence, all the authorities did was to send this troubled priest not to counseling but to different parishes. He was moved several times as a result and hence continued committing horrendous acts with the full knowledge and support of the authorities.

This became especially clear in the statements and depositions. The church authorities in charge all either refused to comment through objections raised by their hired lawyers or they feigned dementia. They simply did not remember what had exactly occurred. The most startling statement was that they did not connect the dots between two incidents of child molestation by Father O' Grady because one involved a girl and another a boy and that usually priests abuse only one or the other gender!

Now if the Church would have acted with urgency and authority and taken this issue seriously, they would have managed to redeem themselves in my eyes. But instead they offered immunity to their own who have committed serious legal crimes. Father O'Grady could not escape fully since his crimes brought him seven years behind bars, but he was told that the authorities were still behind him, and he is to my knowledge receiving generous pensions living freely in Ireland.

One of the most shocking pieces of information was that the issue of child abuse, something so prevalent and so damaging to the reputation of the church (it is estimated that about 10 % of new members or graduates commit sexual acts on children) was not even raised during the conferences of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, the person involved for overseeing such claims was no other than the current Pope Ratzinger. When faced with the possibility of legal action in the States, George W. Bush officially pardoned him, so there have been absolutely no legal proceedings against someone who is fully aware of the wrongdoings of his flock.

It is a very sad and unfortunate state of affairs. A lot of the problems may stem from the tradition of not allowing sexual activity for priests. They are human beings after all with sexual desire and often they enter priesthood at a young age. Thus, they misplace their sexual desires on those who are most unsuspecting and most innocent, the children in their grasp.

I am not a Catholic, but even if I were, I would never hand over the care of my son to church authorities. In fact, I would not want them anywhere close to my child. It may be an exaggeration or even prejudice, but it is one supported by evidence and by the fact that these crimes are taken silently and go by unpunished to this day.


Nelson said...

I don't have a lot to add to this, except an indirect comparison. I went to a couple of English boys' boarding schools. From hints here and there, I think the score was this. If a teacher was suspected of what was considered a minor sexual offence ("interfering" with a pupil, it might be called, or "getting rather too friendly") then he would be encouraged to leave, as it were, without jeopardising his chances of getting another job elsewhere. But if the next school asked pointedly for a reference from his previous headmaster, including "was there any circumstance which prompted his leaving?", then I think a coded reply might be given.

If the interference was a more serious kind of offence, I would expect the police to have been informed.

But I think the priority would have been to keep the whole thing extremely quiet. The school's good name must not be impaired.

The only such instance I encountered was when a particular teacher took a small group of boys to Switzerland in the holidays It was an unofficial school trip, arranged through the school with the boys' parents. The teacher in question was married & took his wife on the trip. But he didn't show up next term, & I only know from a vague rumour that a boy had complained to his parents.

I think such incidents were very minor compared with some of those caused by priests. But my point is that these things were always covered up as far as possible. What else would one expect? From the management's point of view that is the main thing, analogous to the death of a guest in a hotel: you make sure no one knows, and get the body out secretively.

It would not be conceivable for the Catholic church to have behaved otherwise than to try and conceal such things. Culpability, in my view, lies not in that secrecy, but in any failure to take steps to prevent repetition of the offences against children.

Anonymous said...

Well, to say all...I am afraid that in an attempt toheal the wounds,we are goinge to corrupt the needed espace for a natural love between adult and child. It was my case, at eleven years, when I was separated from my adult tutor. Still I cannot forget him, in all senses. I advert here that any brutal behaviour was in our reciprocal company; because other's spoiled thoughts, we were injurioed for a whole life. Vice calls for vice. virtue often paying for it.

Arash Farzaneh said...

Thank you for your comments! In fact, I am expressing some of my impressions here and I would never assume to know the complex and painful feelings that would stem and result from such actions. I can only speak from the point of view of a concerned parent.

Vincent, I would like to build on the metaphor of corpses in hotels and point out that there are indeed many skeletons in their closet.

Of course, I understand the need for cover-ups. But when it keeps recurring, I would grow concerned if I were sitting in the management position. And I would deal with the situation with swift seriousness. I would want to ensure that it never happens again and take the necessary steps.

But unfortunately, I haven't seen any real action in that direction (yet). It is a case where tradition overrules everything and nobody seems to be in power as scandals continue to grow like cancer; in the meantime, innocent people's lives are being destroyed.

Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

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Unknown said...

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