Heckle: Catholic Immorality: Why the Church doesn't care about victims of sexual assault

By Michael Heckle
Iowa State Daily
March 21, 2016

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Recent comments by high-ranking officials of the Catholic Church have painted a terrifying picture of the attitudes and policies the church holds toward the most atrocious actions committed by its own clergy: the sexual abuse of children. While allegations of sexual assaults have plagued the church since the 1970s, that Vatican has done little to discipline those responsible.

In a recent report published by the Catholic news site, new Catholic bishops are being told they are neither legally nor morally obligated to report sexual abuse by clergy to the proper authorities.

A new church training document for newly ordained bishops created by French Monsignor Tony Anatrella, a consultant for the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, states, “According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds.”

Rather, Anatrella makes it a responsibility of victims and families of victims to report any allegations of sexual abuse.

While sources in the Vatican say that these comments are purely Anatrella’s personal opinion, the church has not released any documentation criticizing or clarifying his statements. Complicating the situation further are fears that reports of sexual abuse in countries with more hostile attitudes toward the church will make a fair trial nearly impossible, especially in the case of false accusations.

However, the amount of allegations considered to be baseless or untrue are dwarfed by the numerous claims that have been proven to be true. Furthermore, reports by the Vatican exclude cases from 2003 — for no apparent reason — and do not give the qualifications from deeming a report not credible.

It’s ironic that an organization has a nomenclature that means “universal” but is so divided on such a morally apparent issue. For a church that claims to be a moral superiority and an example to the world, it has done little to show care or compassion for its most vulnerable and victimized members.

The treatment of these victims as a sort of adversary of the church and the cover-ups conducted by high-ranking members of the church only go to show that the Catholic Church cares little for the children who have been destroyed by the immoral actions of sexually repressed representatives of their own organization.

Even more disturbing are comments made by Pope Francis in September of 2015. In an address to Washington D.C., the pontiff praised Catholic bishops for their “generous commitment to bring healing to victims” and their courage in facing  “difficult moments in the recent history of the church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice.”

These comments were panned by victim groups at the time that believed the pope’s comments were “insulting and hurtful.” Furthermore, Barbra Blane, president of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), criticized the pope for his unwillingness to take any sort of action.

“His remarks today confirm what we’ve long said and suspected: this pope, like his predecessors, is doing and will do little if anything to bring real reform to this continuing crisis,” Blane said in a statement released shortly after the pope's comments. “Those who care about kids must focus on secular authorities, not church figures (however popular they may be).”

It is my personal hope that with these new comments made by the pope and Anatrella, along with the popularity of the award-winning film ”Spotlight,” which chronicles the sex abuse scandals of 2002, that the world will begin to hold the church to the moral responsibility it so vehemently preaches.

The inaction and unwillingness to help victims receive redemption for their hardships is an insult to justice and to the idea of personal responsibility. Any sort of monster who would disgrace a child in such away should face swift and direct punishment no matter their religious affiliation. The attitudes toward the church in defending those who engage in sexual abuse displays just how laughable the idea of Catholic morality is.



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