Chipping away at the Rock
By Alisa Craddock
News of a New Hampshire bill (House Bill 1127) being reintroduced (it was voted down once already) to compel priests to report instances of suspected child abuse to the authorities (allowing for no exemption for the confessional) greets war weary Catholics this week, along with efforts in Massachusetts to force religious institutions to submit their financial records to the state, and Colorado's bill to suspend the statute of limitation s for child sexual abuse lawsuits (apparently not criminal prosecutions) for two years, including the possibility of suing some institutions for vicarious liability. This bill, however, would not include public schools where, next to the family, the greatest number of sexual abuse cases occurs. They have something called "sovereign immunity". So, let's face it, it's another effort to go after the Catholic Church and strip her of her money and her power, and to keep alive the image of her as a corrupt institution full of pedophiles in sheeps clothing so that they can justify further attacks on her.
This requires a bit of perspective. A study of child sexual abuse compiled from the Children's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Human Services, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a number of independent surveys reveals that although 64 per cent of Americans believe that child sexual abuse is a frequent occurance among Catholic clergy, the fact is that, compared with the general public, the public schools, and abuse within the family, the Church has the best track record. In fact, most of the Church's cases happened 15-20 years ago, while most of the abuse in other sectors is still going on. Whether those legislators targeting the Catholic Church are aware of this discrepancy or not (and I'm inclined to believe they are), the injustice of targeting the Church in this way is compounded by the hypocrisy.
The sexual abuse of children is, first and foremost, a moral outrage and a profoundly criminal offense -- the most egregious offense there is. I am in no way opposed to removing statutes of limitations on criminal prosecutions, or even lawsuits against those who go after children. Having experienced abuse myself, and having done much research on the subject, I observe that it often takes many years for the deep emotional and psychological impact of childhood sexual abuse to surface and be recognized. In addition, the conspiracy of silence surrounding the abuse often persists well into adulthood, whereas the shame and fear of rejection cause many to remain silent. There is a very real feeling of being "damaged goods", but the damage is a deep, interior kind that disfigures the soul, the wellspring within, the very source of love from which so much of our identity and feeling of wholeness comes. It robs children in a way that no other abuse does. Over 70 per cent of homosexuals themselves (of both sexes) report childhood sexual abuse (see Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth ). The numbers of children abused each year is staggering, and is increasing. Many children are resilient and manage to compartmentalize it, going on to fulfilling lives and relationships. Many are not so fortunate. But due to that resiliency, the onset of symptoms may be suspended many years.
Yet, the Catholic Bishops of Colorado ask, "why can a victim of teacher or clergy abuse in a Catholic school or parish wait a lifetime before initiating such litigation, while the victim of exactly the same and even more frequent abuse in a public school setting loses his or her claim by waiting 181 days?"…"Why should a Catholic institution that is sued for such conduct be liable for massive, community-crippling damages, while guilty public institutions -- even if sovereign immunity were waived -- would face a mere $150,000 damages?"
The apparent concern for the welfare of sexually abused children is as selective as the laws being promoted to "protect" them. In the last two weeks, three convicted child molesters were given a tap on the wrist (or less) as punishment by three judges whose apparent concern for justice and the welfare of children took a backseat to the usual liberal agenda. The judge in the first of these three cases gave the perpetrator, a man who had repeatedly raped a little girl from the time she was six until she was ten, a mere 60 days in jail. His reason was that he didn't believe in punishment anymore. He wanted the man to get psychiatric treatment, which could not begin until he was out of prison.
Now if we didn't learn anything else from the case of Fr. John Geoghan, the Boston priest moved from parish to parish to molest again and again, it's that treatment doesn't work for pedophilia. But the worst aspect is the lack of justice. It tells the little girl that what the man did to her was "no big deal" in the eyes of the adults who were supposed to defend her and give her justice. It is outrageous. Conversely, meanwhile, anti-Catholic legislators (some of whom may merely be well-meaning but misinformed) target the Catholic Church trying to find ways of cracking the Rock that's standing in the way of their highway to liberal heaven, while denying the elephant in the living room -- the homosexual nature of the overwhelming majority of priest sexual abuse cases. This particular hypocrisy is the biggest evidence of all that the real target is the church, and not child molesters.
Homosexual priests have complained loudly that they are being "scapegoated", but it's as absurd to deny the link between the aggressive effort of homosexuals in the 70s to infiltrate the Catholic Church, aided and abetted by their feminist and liberal allies (see Michael Rose's book, Goodbye, Good Men ) and the incidence of adolescent boys sexually molested during those years, as it is to deny the link between premarital sex and abortion. Eighty-five percent of the victims of the priest abuse scandal were post-pubescent boys. That's not pedophilia. It's pederasty. It's homosexuality. In Boston , where homosexuality is enshrined in the culture, the figure was as high as 95 per cent of the cases. Where only a tiny percentage of priests have actually molested children, the lack of fidelity to church teaching on sexual matters creates an atmosphere that certainly enables it.
It is not homosexuals who are being scapegoated. It's Catholic priests. It's celibacy and priestly chastity that is being reviled. It's the sanctity of the confessional that must be cracked open. It's Church authority and autonomy that is being attacked. It's the things that make her an impenetrable fortress to shelter her flock from the tempest of liberal indoctrination outside that gall and enrage her enemies from without, and yes, from within.
The priest-penitent privilege has always been treated the same as lawyer-client privilege, doctor-patient privilege, or reporter-source privilege, and rightly so, enjoying, in addition, the benefit of the First Amendment, which these other privileged confidentialities do not enjoy. Attempts by the state to invade the confessional are a direct violation of the First Amendment, and priests will go to jail before violating the seal of the confessional. But then the only way anyone would be likely to learn that a priest failed to report a case of suspected child abuse was if someone made a phony confession in order to trap him. But no one would dream of doing such a thing, would they?
In his 1986 book, The Assault on Religion, Russell Kirk describes how the government is eroding our First Amendment rights. "The massive apparatus of state and federal governments, in many ways, is being employed to bring religious organizations…within the government's jurisdiction. Militant secularists with political influence have been advancing proposals to reduce the privileges and immunities of church bodies – most notably, for taxing the real property and the incomes of churches. The Internal Revenue Service even has endeavored to tamper with the freedom of the religious press…not to express their editorial preferences upon certain political questions which involve religious convictions…lest tax exemptions be cancelled."
He goes on to say that the American understanding of separation of church and state may give way to the assertion of political supremacy over spiritual concerns (as in Sweden). Of course this could not be proclaimed openly or accomplished overnight, he says. A blatant coup would "rasp American sensibilities…Instead, a gradual, irregular, piecemeal succession of administrative orders, court decisions, and perhaps legislative revision of statutes would accomplish this aim…If these actions end in defeats for churches, church schools, and religious people generally, immense mischief will be done, in the long run, to American society…If the state -- and within the state, the judiciary particularly -- harasses and undermines the Church, in any society the state undoes itself."
Alisa Craddock is a Library Technical Assistant at a state university, a convert to Catholicism, and describes herself as a Christian Libertarian. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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