Tuesday 30 March 2010

The Vatican and Generations of Damaged Children

It has taken me some days to write about the Pope's attitude to many years of child abuse within the priesthood. My memory sped back to the 60s when I worked with a lovely Irish woman. We became friends and I was invited to her wedding in Co. Waterford.

During an evening out prior to the wedding her husband-to-be disclosed he was not continuing with his 'conversion' to Catholicism. We were a small group and knew each other well, so he was comfortable enough to say his wife-to-be and himself had decided not to have children. None of us questioned their decision as I suspect we acknowledged they had their own private reasons.

A few days before the bride-to-be set for her family home in Co. Waterford, where she had been brought up with three sisters and two brothers, we had a quiet night out for dinner. Both of us had quite a bit to drink and suddenly the conversation came round to why my friend had decided she didn't want children. The reason was along the lines of "I'm not having any Father interfere with my child if I have a son and I'm not prepared to take the chance to have one."

It seemed, as she was the closest to the younger boy, he had taken her into his confidence not so long before and told her the local Father had interfered with him. My friend immediately told her mother and father only to be rebuked for 'bringing the Father's good name into disrepute'. The consequences for her and her younger brother were severe. This was the 60s remember and to Irish Catholics it was a great sin to speak ill of any of the clergy.

The wedding was as festive as most weddings I've attended although there was a distinct coolness between the bride, the bridegroom and her parents, who appeared quite disinterested in the whole affair.

We kept in touch for quite a few years and often she would mention how badly treated her younger brother was by her family. He was more or less shunned and finally joined the Navy. As far as I know my friends never had children. She couldn't break away from the Catholic church because the religion was so ingrained.

Until the 60s I was quite unaware of the differences between catholics and protestants; I had little interest as religious bigotry didn't exist in the east of Scotland - it still doesn't to any degree.

But the story of one of the Vatican's employees, reputedly said to be the biggest business empire in the world, causing so much pain to one child, made me wonder just how much pain these hundreds of not thousands of children have suffered for decades. These men and women who inflicted unbelievable suffering and hid behind the cloaks of the Vatican are abhorrent, yet the Vatican protects them.

Last week the present Pope said sorry - such an easy word. Generations of children had their childhoods destroyed by perverted adults in the pay of the Catholic church and most have escaped scot free.

It's time the Catholic church did away with mandatory celibacy and permitted its employees to have a normal life. It never ceases to amaze me how priests can advise their flock in all aspects of family life when they've had no experience themselves.

Of course there are men and women within the Catholic church who are good law-abiding people, but there were also far too many used the church to fulfil their sickening objectives. The Vatican has some of the most intellectual brains within its walls. None was able or interested in exposing these disgusting individuals. Like all big business, one couldn't be seen to rock the boat, could one?

Reuters reports a Polish priest is now fingerprinting children when they attend church. The reason given is that if they attend 200 masses they will be free from the obligation of having to pass an exam prior to their confirmation. "It saves standing in a line to get the priest's signature in our confirmation notebooks," said one child. I agree with Michael Baumann, while this all seems harmless enough, it is pretty creepy.

The German Catholic church has set up a help line for those who are concerned about abuse past and present. I don't see Ireland or the UK making, what I consider a long overdue effort to make amends. The whole matter shows how much the Vatican cares for the welfare of their flock. Not one iota. Their flock are there to generate money and for no other reason.

That's why I detest organised religion. It does as much harm as good.


Observer said...

How many of these people were ever charged?

These were criminal offences. The Pope and the Vatican have been accessories.

And yet they are oh so quick to judge everybody else.

Nikostratos said...

Priestly celibacy is a gift, a high-ranking Vatican prelate said Thursday after an Austrian archbishop appeared to suggest the Catholic Church should look at the issue in light of recent sex abuse scandals.

"Priestly celibacy is a gift from the Holy Spirit which...must be lived with fullness and joy," said Cardinal Claudio Hummes, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, which regulates clerical life.

"Christ chooses some people" to be priests and practise celibacy which is part of a "unique and privileged relationship with God," said Hummes

With wierdos who have advocate such bizarre behaviors about small wonder perverts are attracted to the R.C. priestly life.

subrosa said...

Very few have been brought to justice as far as I can see Observer. I did a search to find out the numbers and most have been protected by the Vatican.

subrosa said...

Gift Niko? Aye some gift. What a lot of drivel the Vatican speaks.

You're right about bizarre behaviours, it bound to attract perverts, especially when they know they'll not be exposed.

Sophia Pangloss said...

Very sensitive topic SR so I won't be flippant, just a wee niggle about this. It seems to me that this sort of abuse has been known about for years, and are we really all so gullible as to have believed the Church knew nothing?

On the telly tonight the newsman referred to 'abuse stretching from the 1950s to the 1990s.'

Since when did it start in the 1950s? And worse, who says it stopped in the 1990s?

subrosa said...

Sophie, it shouldn't be a sensitive issue because when we say that we give it some kind of superiority, like immigration etc.

I agree with you about the 50s being the 'beginning.' It's only the beginning because anyone abused before then is now dead and unable to speak out.

My own view is that it's been going on far longer.

wisnaeme said...

As a child, I was very fortunate to be placed in a children's home where Barnardos were my guardians. I have nothing but gratitude for the care and consideration they bestowed apon me.
My younger brother Grabriel was not so fortunate.One day whilst I was on a supervised visit to my parent's home, I briefly met my brother Gabby. He had run away from his children's home and he was in the process of being unwillingly returned. Present at the time were the police, two local, council children's welfare officers and one of his guardians from the children's home he had absconded from.Gabby was screaming and crying, clinging onto the garden railings,"don't let them take me back, they'll batter me." But off he went back to his children's home and to the tender loving mercies of his attentive guardians.
That scene and what happened to Gabby there after has haunted me sometimes ever since.
Gabby sometimes wet the bed at that time and for his punishment he was given a cold bath
to make him presentable before his guardians abused and buggered him at their leisure,secure in the knowledge that the catholic church would protect and forgive of them, their transgressions. Gabby was an inmate of St Ninians, near Stirling.

Anonymous said...

The trouble is that the Church has its own laws and its own courts, just as the English Church does.

These offences have been seen to be committed under canon law and some (although not all) have been tried in canonical courts. Clearly these courts have no power of imprisonment, except within the confines of the Vatican City State itself. So something that would have you banged away in Scotland for 10 or 15 years, gets you a reprimand, a sending to a retreat, a move from the current post and in the very very worst cases defrocking.

It is only in recent years that the Church in England and Wales has had an inquiry carried out into this by a top lawyer (Nolan I think), and he proposed that in future these things should be reported to the civil authorities. According to the ex- Director of Public Prosecutions, this rarely happens, despite the change in the rules agreed by the Cardinal Archbishop of England and Wales.

Everywhere, the Church's reputation is more important than the lives of its most vulnerable members. it is so sickening because the English and Scottish Governments don't seem to do be able to do anything about it.

All churches, Christian, Jewish Muslim ...whatever MUST be made to get rid of their courts and their laws and subjugate themselves to Scots law or English law, or the law of whatever country they operate in.

This Pope should resign. He let off a priest who had interfered with 200 disabled kids. Two bloody hundred. Clearly the man was a complete monster...inhuman. And as a cardinal, a prince of the Church, he let him off. Not even a defrocking. He wanted to die in the dignity of the priesthood.... What bloody dignity? The Cardinal had the power of forgiveness so he forgave him.

I’ll bet God didn’t.

I imagine Subrosa, that round the world, the figures will come to hundreds of thousands of children who have been tortured by these inhuman pigs. No kid of mine would ever get within touching distance of any of them.

Anonymous said...

What an horrific story wisnaeme.

I type this with tears in my eyes. Evil men.

What kind of church would do that to a kiddie who was so scared he wet the bed...

What the laddie needed was a cuddle.

Good on you for mentioning where it happened.

subrosa said...

Tris, thanks for such an informative comment. I'm not clued up on religious matters as you will realise.

They should come under civil law and perhaps that's something for which blogging can campaign.

subrosa said...

Oh wisnaeme, what can I say. Hellish doesn't describe these perverts. Thankfully Barnardos were a caring organisation. My Dad spent a few years there. He was orphaned at 9 when his father died and his mother committed suicide just a few months later because she couldn't cope with her grief. But I know he was never mistreated.

There was nothing you could have done wisnaeme but knowing someone you loved suffered so much for the pleasure of others never quite deadens the guilt I shouldn't think.

We have to bring these organisations into our civil law system.

cynicalHighlander said...

And we don't need to welcome them with open arms into this country at the bequest of politicians.

subrosa said...

There was an Irish priest on TV the other week CH who was a pervert but was given 'help'. He lived in Europe somewhere, Spain or the like. The programme producers even provided the church with his address yet they took no immediate action. Even though he was an older bloke he was still free to roam the streets of that town - and others of course.

Conan the Librarian™ said...

I went to a Catholic school.
I'm a really good atheist now...
I remember a mad fucker called "Father" Gallagher who hit a lassie across the face with his belt(a tawse, we called it the belt)...No charges against him, he went to Ireland to escape being lynched by the older ones amongst us...what did he do there?

subrosa said...

I know quite a few good atheists Conan yet I know others who still believe in every word uttered. When I visited the Vatican a couple of years ago I was astounded by the amount of cash they glean from their believers. We didn't stay long, I found it sickening and the lapsed catholic with me did too.

wisnaeme said...

Aye, Gabby and I were quite close at one time but as we were apart,we became apart though time and circumstances. It didn't help when Gabby grew up a bit twisted and disfunctional.


A good few years ago when I hadn't seen or heard anything of my brother for years, I received a letter from Brighton and Hove council informing me of the fact that Gabby had died of a type of pneumonia in a dirty and neglected DHSS bedsit in Brighton.

. . . and could I kindly reinburse them for the expense of his funeral costs.

Gabby was a drug addict and I learned later that he had in actual fact died of an AIDS related illness.

So you will understand why I don't exactly have shiny patches on the knees of my trousers from godbothering.
Barnardos were good folk,Subrosa. They taught me how to think for myself and not have others thinking and diktating for me on my behalf without me asking, why so?

The best thing since slice bread was invented is the internet, the bloggers, the researchers and other informative folk on the web who are of the opinion that just because some folk say so,particularly politicians,folk in authority and others with an agenda to pursue;

...that what they say or act on in their sometimes perverse and harmful presumptions is not necessarily so

...and won't be so if reason and truth are to prevail.

subrosa said...

What a sad story wisnaeme. I can understand why you don't have sore knees, I certainly wouldn't.

It is hard word trying to ensure reason and truth prevail but as you say, with the internet and the amazing intellect shared in it, many do their best to bring truth and reason to arguments/discussions.

It's taught me more than any university.

Unknown said...

Here's an article re child abuse numbers and how they were dealt with by Benedict, or Ratzinger as he was then;

Here’s some info about Archbishop Weakland, who was accusing Benedict of refusing to act
As an archbishop, Weakland did not need to appeal to the Vatican to remove Fr Murphy from ministry. He had the authority to do it himself and should have done at the time Fr Murphy was accused of abuse in 1974. However after civil charges were dropped against Fr Murphy, Archbishop Weakland inexplicably left the accusations unexamined for 20 years until 1996. He’s now trying to pin the blame on Benedict for his own inaction.
Can I make it clear that I am not excusing the church for the appalling abuse and even more appalling cover up that went on. I am posting here, because Benedict is one of the few in the church who has taken this problem seriously and done all that he can to root it out. As a result he has made a lot of enemies who are trying to bring him down and the media has unwittingly joined in line with them. If Benedict goes, it’s going to be a very dim outlook for victims of clergy abusers and I for one do not want to go back to the dark days when the church protected its clergy first and children last. Please have a look at these articles and do some research on this. It’s not as it appears.

subrosa said...

I'll have a look right now notdimjustthinking.

What concerns me though, from what Tris and yourself have written, is why didn't Benedict move the church to accepting civil law? He has the authority to do that with enough backing surely.

Would the Vatican vote against it because then civilian law may be able to pry into their business affairs?

John Pickworth said...

"I agree with you about the 50s being the 'beginning.' It's only the beginning because anyone abused before then is now dead and unable to speak out."

And also rather sadly, its around that time that the abuse of children was first recognised as a serious issue in the modern age. Prior to that, I don't believe society really cared and in some cases it was almost an accepted reality.

Remember, little more than a hundred years ago the age of consent was just 13 years. Unfortunately back then, children younger than this were also not permitted to give evidence in court. I say children; the laws that did exist were to protect girls and almost always those from rich families. Boys were routinely abused and unless physically harmed the authorities took little interest.

As the Victorian era came to an end more protection was afforded to children and the age of consent was raised. Schools, the church and children's homes were pretty much left to look after the welfare of the vulnerable while Government concentrated upon the wars, social unrest and other pressing matters during the first half of the last century.

1950. The world has changed. What was once accepted, ignored or denied, is at last being recognised as a problem. But even then many still trusted the 'institutions' and it was very difficult for the victims to speak out - for others, the shame of abuse would ensure their silence for many years to come. Throughout the 50's, 60's and 70's the schools (mostly boarding), children's homes, youth groups (like the scouts) and churches were still closed societies that allowed abuse to flourish unseen and rarely reported.

Gradually, these institutions were opened up to scrutiny and the guilty sent to court as they were discovered. All except the church and particularly the catholic church, which was largely allowed to put its own house in order. Its only quite recently that we learn that instead of dealing with the problem the church decided simply to move the bad apples to other baskets. Few have had to face actual real justice. The victims were merely compensated and the architects of the cover-up are now occupying positions of great power.

It takes a long time to change a society. What was relatively common and accepted a hundred years ago is now almost universally considered the evil it surely is. I say we finish the job and deal with those who allowed the suffering to continue much longer than was necessary.

subrosa said...

Thanks so much for your contribution John and it very accurate from my generation's view.

The job does need finishing. Have you read notdimjustthinking's links? They take a wee while but worth it. Whoever was the author certainly feels today's Pope has done much to bring the matter to the fore.

Dark Lochnagar said...

Rosie, As far as your last statement in your post is concerned. Amen to that.

banned said...

wisnaeme A sad and moving story. Likewise I spent my early years in a childrens home (non-Catholic, non-Council)) but saw no inkling of abuse and was succesfully adopted.

As the horrors of this story emerge I consider myself to have been lucky not to have been in an institution staffed by perverts as depicted in this 'true-life' 1991 movie which story starts in the 1970's
"...in Canada; priests in charge of the orphanage were sexually and physically abusing their young charges. When several of the boys go to the police, their complaints are buried - as the chief of police, government officials, and senior clergy of the Catholic church quietly conspire to shut down the investigation and transfer the offending priests to other parishes..."

Amazon 'The boys Of St. Vincent'
In this film the perpetrators eventually come to some form of justice

John Pickworth It was my understanding that the age of consent was raised, in part, to help prevent the sons of the wealthy from aquiring STDs from child prostitutes in Soho and eleswhere.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

The God concept is a moveable feast. But for all of it's failings and excuses I've never blamed it for the failings of religions.

To do that would be as naive as expecting commitment and truth from politics.

Anonymous said...

wisnaeme's account is very moving.

- Aangirfan

subrosa said...

I've no objection to anyone having faith in whatever RA, after all that's part and parcel of human nature. I have a form of belief myself yet it's quite impossible to define.

You're right enough of course. Any organisation which polices itself and is closed to public scrutiny of any kind lends itself to internal corruption.

subrosa said...

Yes Aangirfan, it was indeed. A true account of the suffering and how it's not only the abuser who is affected.

Unknown said...

Hi Subrosa,
You asked (I think) why the Catholic church didn’t just hand over these cases to the civil authorities. They would now, because it’s part of church policy since 2001; they didn’t back then. They were covering their backs of course, but even if they had, the chances are that the civil authorities would have done very little with it. In the case of Fr Murphy for example, he was first shopped to the police in 1974, but the charges were dropped. Child abuse as we understand it now, was viewed completely differently then and I think that we have forgotten how paedophilia was regarded in the 70s and 80s. It was seen as an illness or an alternative orientation by some. At that time for example the Paedophile Information Exchange was on the go and had affiliated itself with the National Council for Civil Liberties. Amongst the office bearers for NCCL at that time were Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman. Even in the mid eighties, Daniel Cohn Bendit of the Greens in Germany was calling for ‘non –violent sexuality’ between adults and minors to be decriminalised.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and in 1980 sending someone for therapy instead of calling the police was the right-on thing to do.

However, that is obviously not the whole story. As attitudes changed and paedophilia was seen rightly as a crime, then the question of compensation for victims arose. In America especially, where one victim could receive between $1 -2 million, this was no small consideration. It was easier to ‘pass the trash’ and shift the offender on somewhere else , hoping that they would not be discovered. This became an issue in Scotland as well after the Nazareth House cases. Jack McConnell introduced a time bar on cases prior to 1964 and was quite open about the fact that he did it to prevent Quarriers, Barnados and local authorities going bankrupt through abuse claims. There is also a twenty year time bar in general on abuse cases, which the Former Girls and Boys Abused of Quarriers are campaigning against.

Anyway, to get back to the Catholic church. As I said in my previous post, cases of abuse were dealt with at a diocesan level up until 2001. When the scandals broke in America, JPII lost patience and made it mandatory that cases of this nature should in future be dealt with centrally. This was outlined in a letter that Ratzinger sent entitled ‘De Delictis Gravioribus (on more serious crimes). This was the start of the clear out that I have already mentioned.
I’ve been thinking about what has happened and how we should respond to child abuse. It seems to me that compensation claims are a major obstacle to institutions fessing up when a paedophile is amongst them and I wonder if justice would be better served if institutions were granted immunity from a compensation claim, provided that they shopped the person immediately. I also wonder if there should be a temporary amnesty on cases prior to 1980 re compensation, just to allow everyone to clear their abusers out. Last year the National Register for Children reported that a quarter of girls leaving local authority care at 16 were pregnant. That is the kind of figure that should be setting off alarm bells, but very little has been said about it. Things are very painful for the Catholic church just now, but we will be – are a better church for it, and Benedict has been at the forefront of that. I really don’t want him to go and neither does anyone who takes child abuse seriously.

John Pickworth said...

banned said...

"It was my understanding that the age of consent was raised, in part, to help prevent the sons of the wealthy from aquiring STDs from child prostitutes in Soho and eleswhere."

The problem is most of the Acts from the early 19th century to the 1950s singled out women (or girls) for protection. Boys (in respect of sexual abuse) being protected under the buggery laws: Offences against the Person Act 1828, Offences against the Person Act 1861 and Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 (protection for minors and re-criminalisation of homosexuality).

Its actually quite difficult to nail down the age of consent for boys at any given point until quite recently. Its all mixed up with civil law, common law, ecclesiastical law, marriage laws and the age of majority. Looking at the subject from a historical perspective its almost understandable why the abusers felt they had an unofficial license to prey on children - and particularly so with boys.

Anyone interested in the wider subject should search for "The Maiden Tribute" articles.

Other links:
Jennifer Payne's The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 and Sexual Assault on Minors
The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon
Offences against the Person Act 1828
Offences against the Person Act 1861
Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885
Sexual Offences Act 1956

John Pickworth said...

notdimjustthinking said...

"Hindsight is a wonderful thing and in 1980 sending someone for therapy instead of calling the police was the right-on thing to do."

Actually that's good point. Context is everything, although perhaps it shouldn't, but its the way it is (or was).

To underline it further; the production, showing and distribution of child pornography was only made illegal in 1978. Prior to that I believe such matters were covered under indecent publications and other less specific acts. But even then, in 1978, the possession of child pornography was still legal. That's something that will surprise a lot of people today but indicates the way the world was then.

We've come a long way in a relatively short time. And that's a good thing.

subrosa said...

Notdimjusthinking. How good of you to take the trouble to give such insight into the problem.

I can see why compensation claims would hold up organisations being transparent and perhaps a time-immunity would be beneficial, though perhaps many would not come forward if they were not to be financially rewarded.

The figure of 16 year old pregnancies is appalling. I must look further into that.

To be honest, I very much doubt if the Catholic church is the only organisation affected by this style of child abuse, but the fact it's perhaps the wealthiest religious business in the world may attract those with another agenda.

subrosa said...

John, thank you too for the time and trouble you've taken to inform us more. I also appreciate the links and can see why your of the opinion that abusers felt they were free to abuse boys.

banned said...

John Pickworth I bow to your superior understanding and thank you for your research.

subrosa said...

I must thank all of you who contributed here for your touching and knowledgeable contributions.

My understanding of the situation is now much wider than it was when I wrote the post.

Amusing Bunni said...

Your post and the comments were most moving, Subrosa. I can't stand the roman catholics, esp. now that I know how they REALLY operate. They abuse everyone, and lie and cover up. I'm put off organized religion too, The Bible is the best, just read that, or watch some good shows on TBN.

subrosa said...

Thanks Bunni. It's my readers who have made this post what it is, not me.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

The question to be asked is, are the perpetrators of the abuse nurtured into it by the institutions of their religion?

Or is it in their nature and they choose to enter the authority of the religion in order to practice it?

Either way you have to question the naivete of humans to subvert their conscience to the rituals of the institutions as either perpetrator or victim.

subrosa said...

A difficult question to answer RA, but six of one and half a dozen of the other?

Indeed you do, but most humans are trusting -initially anyway.

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