Priests at the pulpit do it.
Catholic apologists do it mindlessly, understanding little.
Cardinals and Bishops exploit their influence to do it to as many people as possible.
The Vatican does little else.
With alarming regularity and very little variation, they all trot out the same set of tired, pathetic old excuses.
To justify some of the most horrific crimes ever committed. To protect some of the worst criminals ever to draw breath. To prevent the refreshing winds of honesty and accountability from tainting their secretive, medieval hierarchy. To suppress and re-abuse the already irreparably damaged victims of these monsters. And to endanger new children.
There is so much consistency in the way these diversions, distractions and obfuscations are used, it is almost as if the Vatican Press publishes a little black book with instructions for how to get away with raping thousands of children and not face any consequences.
But before counting down this lame and overused list, it’s important to understand the rules for trying to excuse the inexcusable, which may go some way towards explaining how on earth the Catholic Church continues to get away with it.
Rule No 1:
Avoid any possibility of intelligent discussion or exchange of opinions. The point is to cut off anything approaching discussion and drown out all other opinions.
Rule No 2:
Guilt is good, as long as it’s someone else’s. When anyone wants to discuss taking responsibility for your own actions, or lack of action, immediately change the subject to anything that enables you to point fingers of guilt, either at your accuser or someone else. The more off-topic the better.
Rule No 3:
Exploit the undeserved respect accorded to religions and religious persons. Quote scriptures, and treat any difficult questions you don’t want to answer as an attack on God, Jesus, charity and all that is good in the world.
Rule No 4:
Manipulate access to the media. The Vatican does this by whipping the media up into a frenzy about whether or not the Pope will issue an apology, meet with victims, or address a particular topic in an upcoming speech. All of which miraculously keeps the focus away from discussions of Vatican inaction and culpability.
Top 10 Catholic Excuses
Excuse No 1. “We’re the victim here!”
Blaming a media conspiracy trying to “get” the Pope, homosexual infiltration and undermining of the “sanctity” of the priesthood, a campaign against priestly celibacy, atheists focusing only on the crimes committed by Catholic officials, a “lack of morality” in modern secular society, the popularity of child pornography, Vatican II, even “money hungry” victims “dwelling angrily on old wounds”, effectively takes the focus off the real crimes, the real victims, and the real guilty parties.
Which is why this little masterpiece of deception is still the Catholic Church’s No 1 excuse for continuing to sacrifice innocent children.
Excuse No 2. “Look Ma, they did it too!”
Whenever someone wants to ask hard questions about what exactly was or is being done to protect children, a quick sidestep into vociferous accusations about other completely unrelated or irrelevant individuals or organisations makes it very easy to avoid the questions you have no intention of answering.
Excuse No 3. “But the teachers/scouts/families/Jews/homosexuals/insert your favourite prejudice here are much worse!”
Here’s where the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2004 investment in the almost universally misquoted John Jay study shows its true worth.
The authors of the study, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, analysed, as well as was possible without themselves collecting the raw data or ensuring its validity, accusations of child sexual abuse that individual US bishops had supplied.
Considering how these same bishops are today still lying about such accusations, are still being proved to be lying by the release of previously secret documents, and the fact that the study methodology allowed bishops to dismiss or ignore any accusations they did not want to acknowledge, with no requirement to justify such deletions, the numbers cannot possibly accurately reflect the true situation.
But on top of the Church’s reluctance to fess up to the full extent of accusations contained in their still secret files, the numbers reported in the study (between 3% and 6% of all priests reliably accused of abusing children) are constantly misrepresented by Catholic officials and apologists as measuring the total incidence of abuse in their organisation. A disgracefully misleading misuse of statistics that is at best arrogantly ignorant and at worst appallingly deceitful.
Which is then made much worse by the despicable and truly dangerous claims that child sexual abuse is more widespread in other organisations, and that the Catholic Church is a safer place for children than almost anywhere else!
A true measure of the incidence of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church would need to allow for both the underreporting of allegations by the Catholic Bishops and the non reporting by victims (it is estimated by most experts in this field that as few as one in ten sexual abuse victims are able to report their abuse). The resulting figures are almost too mind-boggling to consider. Certainly the Catholic Church doesn’t want you to consider them.
The study also focuses on the number of priests accused of abusing children. Not on the enormous number of actual victims per abuser. This is yet another shocking piece of the full picture of abuse within the Catholic Church that Cardinals, Bishops and Popes most definitely do not want the public to see or understand.
But all this focus on the John Jay figures is beside the point. It is irrelevant to victims or endangered children whether more priests or scoutmasters or step fathers are abusers – what matters is what is being done to prevent such sickening abuse ever occurring again.
So far we have seen little change other than excuses, and a cynical encouragement to rely on prayer and sacraments to magically fix everything.
Excuse No 4. “It’s just a few bad apples!”
“What about all the “good” priests who do not abuse?”
In fact if you listen to Catholic apologists, these “non abusing” priests who are now subjected to the occasional sideways glance instead of the unquestioning obsequious respect they expect as their inalienable right, are more deserving of your pity than the terrified children brutally violated year after year.
But a more important question for these “non abusing” priests is why did they not have the courage to stand up for the rights of innocent children not to be raped? Why did they ignore all the tell-tale signs? Close their eyes and ears and pretend they saw and heard nothing? Accept that their superiors didn’t want to deal with such issues and so just let it go? Choose their own comfort and career security over the safety of defenceless children?
The numbers of priests and Bishops who must have known or suspected some part of what was going on are huge. The number of morally courageous priests and Bishops in each country who saw what was going on, were told to ignore it and decided that protecting children was more important than protecting the Church’s reputation can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
And the disgraceful manner in which these lonely few are silenced, sidelined, undermined, ostracised, criticised, had their careers destroyed and are otherwise punished for their bravery is a more telling indictment of the culpability of the Church hierarchy than any number of incriminating documents.
One such courageous priest was driven to suicide by the viciously sanctimonious vendetta against his quest for truth and justice for victims.
Excuse No 5. “These are all old claims!”
It’s hard to be sure whether those using this despicably deceitful excuse are simply incredibly poorly informed about this subject (and so should not be commenting on something they patently do not understand), or whether they know it is an abhorrent lie and are malicious enough to use it anyway.
This line is used to support the fallacious and self-serving claim that the abuse was all in the past and is no longer a problem, undermining calls for the Church to introduce desperately needed concrete measures to protect children.
All sexual abuse victims, adult or child, are still so unlikely to receive appropriate support, no matter how or where their abuse occurs, that as few as one in ten are able come forward and report their abuse. Catholic child victims, who by their very existence threaten an all-powerful religious organisation which is dedicated to denying their abuse, are even less likely to report. This is made far worse by parents who are indoctrinated to believe an exalted religious authority figure is incapable of evil, and so are often anything but supportive of their child. No wonder it takes such victims not just years, but usually decades to report.
Even the John Jay study highlights this issue clearly in its executive summary. It records that more than one-quarter of complaints received took 30 years or longer after the abuse started for the victim to come forward. Only a small fraction of complaints reported the abuse in the same year it started.
So the fact that most of the Catholic Church’s current abuse claims are decades old is entirely to be expected and is in no way an indication of whether abuse is declining.
A far better gauge of whether abuse is continuing to flourish and whether victims are intimidated into suffering in silence is if the Church’s protective mantle of secrecy which encourages and even rewards abuse has been dismantled and if victims are treated with sensitivity and respect.
We are still waiting for these changes.
Excuse No 6. “But what about all the Church’s “good works”?”
What about them? Helping a little old lady across the road does not make it okay to rape children.
No amount of “good works” makes it okay to rape children. Never. Ever. Ever.
Yet that is precisely what those using this nasty little sleight of hand want you to accept.
This reprehensible diversion aims to make the survival of the Church hierarchy the key issue. Because that is what is important to the Church hierarchy. Much more important than stopping the systemic rape of children.
And in my personal experience “good works” and abuse of power often go hand in hand.
“Good works” are frequently used by predators to hide, excuse or distract attention from abuses of power.
Or even specifically to gain access to vulnerable victims.
Excuse No 7. Blame the Victims
The Catholic Church has no lack of ways to blame, undermine and sully the reputations of victims in order to deflect attention from their own criminal culpability.
But surely the most appallingly inappropriate such attempt must belong to the Bishop of Tenerife, Bernardo Alvarez, in his Christmas message of 2007, when he claimed about child sexual abuse victims,
‘There are 13-year-old adolescents who are under age and who are perfectly in agreement with, and what’s more wanting it, and if you are careless they will even provoke you’.
Any such child, if they actually exist, must have already been sexually exploited by a powerful adult. (And how morally repugnant is any person capable of further exploiting their vulnerability and previous abuse). But no child is likely to be voluntarily sexually interested in old, fat, predatory bullies with rotten teeth and whiskey breath like the good Bishop and his paedophile mates.
Such deluded comments clearly reveal an acceptance, even approval of the sexual abuse of children and are so eerily, frighteningly similar to the strident denials and blame shifting common to most sexual predators, that authorities really should investigate anyone making such claims.
Excuse No 8. “We are just trying to protect the privacy of victims!”
Victims’ privacy was violated irreparably by their abusers, and the last organisation they can trust to respect their feelings and human rights is the abusive Catholic Church.
Church officials may claim their lack of effective action to stop abusers from continuing to target defenceless children, and their lack of any attempt to help victims, stems from the desire to respect victims’ privacy. But if that is indeed their motivation (and I don’t think anyone is gullible enough to believe that it is), where is the equivalent respect for victims’ other, less convenient, rights?
Their right to see their abusers held accountable. Their right to tell their own stories without being attacked and called liars. Their right to recover from their abuse. Their right to ensure no others are exposed to danger as they were. And their right to demand the system which encourages and supports their abusers in such criminal acts be changed.
Excuse No 9. “You misunderstood!”
Whenever documentary proof is produced of the Church’s detailed knowledge of the crimes committed in its name, and the almost universal conspiracy to cover-up these crimes and allow the criminals to continue offending unhindered, one of the most predictable excuses is the claim the document has been “misunderstood”.
Certainly canon law is designed to be impenetrable to all but the initiated, but once again this is just a distraction from the real issue.
How hard is it to understand that criminal child rapists should be handed over to the police, not feted as heroes, and certainly not moved to new and unsuspecting parishes where it is easier to abuse unhindered?
How hard is it to understand that victims should be helped to heal, not bullied into silence?
How hard is it to understand that children should be protected, not sacrificed for the “universal good of the Church”?
And how hard is it to understand that an organisation that is riddled with child rape yet does nothing to prevent further rapes or to help victims, is part of the problem and not “doing everything possible”?
Excuse No 10. “Why are you so full of hate?”
When all other attempts at diverting attention from the Catholic Church’s culpability fails, the final tactic of the deceitful is always to attack the speaker. Once again claiming an undeserved religious respect for a hierarchy obsessed with protecting their secular power, prestige and wealth, this excuse paints any criticism of the Church’s inaction and cover-up as a fictitious hate filled anti Church sentiment festering in the speaker/writer’s heart.
But wait, there’s more.
The above list is not exhaustive. It is just the top ten.
There’s the one about needing to protect the confidentiality of the confessional. Why? No really, what public good does the confidentiality of the confessional serve that is more important than preventing defenceless children from being raped by priestly predators? It doesn’t help anyone except the Church and the rapists they protect. It certainly harms innocent children. It gives criminal priests the benefit of “divine” forgiveness without having to face the consequences of their crimes, and as with all these excuses, protects the reputation of the Catholic Church from being besmirched with something so unimportant as the horrific suffering of thousands of raped children.
There’s the utter nonsense implying that this issue is not about sexual exploitation of the powerless by the powerful, but simply a result of the “evil” of homosexuality. Which leaves the widespread abuse of female victims, like myself, ignored and dismissed.
And there’s the attempts to paint victims as only interested in money, resulting, in extreme cases, in blaming victims for the bankruptcy of parishes. When in fact any bankruptcy is a direct result of the Church allowing known rapists to continue raping additional children, often for decades. And any parish that declares bankruptcy should be immediately investigated for the common Catholic tactic of asset stripping Church entities so that nothing is left with which to compensate victims.
Or the attempts to pretend the Church didn’t really understand child sexual abuse in the past and so made some understandable and forgivable mistakes. They knew all too well about child sexual abuse. They’ve been doing it for at least 1,500 years and there are plenty of internal Church pronouncements and laws throughout the centuries to prove it. The only mistake that has been made is that their dirty little secret is out and they are no longer able to keep a lid on this issue through their conspiracy of silence. And if their past actions were the result of incompetence instead of policy, why have the people involved been promoted instead of removed from positions of authority, and why has nothing actually changed?
The worst lie of all: “Doing everything possible”
Worst of all is the increasingly common claim to be “doing everything possible” to help victims, bring offenders to justice, and put child safety first. This is the most harmful of all the Catholic Church lies. This is what every victim longs to see become a reality. This is what would help us heal and become survivors, not victims. And this is what the Catholic Church claims to be doing, while putting every possible resource into resisting efforts to force it to make even tiny changes towards this end.
And every time we read or hear this particular lie we die a little more inside.
This reprehensible list, when viewed together, gives some insight into the appalling re-abuse dumped on every victim of child sexual exploitation at the hands of the “compassionate” and “loving” Catholic Church.
Through no fault of our own, we, not the vicious criminals who preyed upon our vulnerability, are seen as a threat by the world’s most powerful and power obsessed organisation. Our very existence is denied, our traumatic experiences are minimised or dismissed, we are treated as the guilty party while the loathsome monsters who violated our tiny, defenceless bodies and brutally wiped out our potential to live happy or rewarding or “normal” lives are honoured as beyond reproach. Then for the rest of our lives we are bullied, ostracised, ignored and neglected into suffering in painful silence.
We are the living embodiment of an inconvenient truth. One that the Catholic Church spares none of its obscene wealth and resources to deny.
So to summarise, the Catholic Church snatches the role of victim from the real victims, tries to normalise child rape, blames others, blames the victims themselves, hides behind good works, minimises the scope and nature of the problem, and generally confuses, distracts and misleads. And when all else fails it can be relied upon to attack those who try to hold it responsible for its own actions.
What the Church really should be doing is admitting the problem, stopping the abuse, helping victims, and protecting children.
Before any of these other issues are addressed His Wealthiness needs to answer just two simple questions:
When are we going to see real action on this issue?
When is the system which supports child rape going to undergo real change?
And every time any one of you accept or repeat one of these offensive lies, remember the children whose suffering you are talking about so glibly, and adding to so callously.