Details were revealed this week about the Vatican “taking action” last year against a Dutch Catholic Bishop working in Kenya, who had raped a 14-year-old Masai boy some years earlier while still a priest.
So here we have an example of just exactly what the new, recently improved Vatican response to child sexual abuse really does, and how different it is from the bad old days of the last 1,500 years.
There have been so many claims that the Vatican has changed, is taking strong action, didn’t really understand about child sexual abuse before, that surely we can finally expect modern, civilised, compassionate, effective, strong action which will achieve results and consist of something other than cynical PR spin.
We have been led to expect by Ratso himself that children will be protected, victims will be helped to recover, and criminals will face justice.
So surely the Vatican response involved first and foremost reporting this serious crime to the police? A crime had clearly been committed and in his letter of apology to Irish Catholics in 2010, Ratso claimed to “answer … before properly constituted tribunals.”
No, this crime was not reported to the police.
Okay, that’s not good, but surely at least the Vatican took effective action to prevent this criminal from continuing to rape children?
He received early retirement, supposedly for reasons of ill-health.
Okay, so they are hiding the fact he is a rapist, and possibly mentally ill. Or is the ill-health line just a straight out lie, sorry “mental reservation”?
But, since these criminals have such high levels of recidivism, and can be expected to continue to abuse unless physically prevented from accessing new victims, surely he is in a secure facility receiving an appropriate level of supervision?
He is in an ordinary retirement home catering for the elderly. Where, one supposes, it is usual for grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the residents to visit and play in the grounds. And where residents are probably happy for the relatively youthful, probably very charming, eminent retired bishop to chat with their littlies, give them lollies, and take them for walks.
So he could have access to any number of children and it is highly likely nobody has the slightest idea he is a dangerous child rapist.
Did the Vatican actually do anything at all?
There has been no mention of providing any assistance to the victim, and my personal experience would suggest that such any support will only be provided grudgingly and under duress, at a cost to the victim of considerable additional suffering.
As for the rapist Bishop, the full extent of Vatican intervention was to restrict him from saying Mass in public and from any pastoral duties. But since he is “retired” anyway, surely it makes little real difference, especially since the information about his crime and “punishment” was kept secret.
And this is not actually a change, since canon law has for many, many years provided the power to do this. Of course, in the past such powers were either not used or were delayed by so many years pondering “the good of the universal Church” that many rapists only faced canon law trials on their deathbeds, and were promptly excused and allowed to die with undeservedly unblemished reputations. While countless additional children’s lives were ruined as a direct result of Vatican inaction.
But the Vatican seems to believe that removing rapists’ ability to say Mass is sufficient punishment and sufficient restriction. This completely misses the point that they are not special “godlike” beings for whom the removal of their badge of specialness is the ultimate punishment only to be used in extreme cases.
They are dangerous criminals who need to be prevented from raping additional children. The undeserved and unquestioning respect accorded to priests and other Church officials is exploited by these criminals to gain easy access to victims. And is a key element in making these crimes both more damaging and more widespread than other rapes.
If I were marking the Vatican on their response to this latest crime I would struggle to give them 1/10. However it is an improvement on the 0/10 or even negative score they previously earned.
But much, much more attention is needed to vitally important gaps in their response.
And a huge improvement is required before Ratso can be considered anything other than a contemptible liar on this subject.