The enablers of child abuse in families and the Church

Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) [Hong Kong]

January 10, 2022

By Fr. Shay Cullen

We need to understand that some bishops and senior clergy are enabling child abuse when they allow abusers to continue

After months of trial and deliberation by a jury in New York, wealthy British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell has been convicted of crimes related to human trafficking, grooming and enabling the sexual abuse of minors by her wealthy American boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell, 60, was the recruiter and pimp for Epstein and is facing up to 65 years behind bars. This conviction focuses attention on persons who are enablers. They are the cover-up agents of crimes committed against children. They fail to help, protect and report the sexual abuse of children.

Parents and relatives, even some teachers and social workers, are guilty of crimes of omission and failure in their mandated duty to act to protect sexually or physically abused children.

A school principal in Zambales, Philippines, received a report of child sexual abuse but instead of referring the child victim — let’s call her Amber — for help, the principal summoned Amber’s mother to the office and informed her of the girl’s disclosure. The mother did not believe her husband could abuse their daughter but promised she would better protect her.

Months later, Amber was abused again by her father and sought the assistance of her teacher, who referred her to the municipal social worker and police. The social worker referred the child to the protection and care of the Preda Foundation home for abused girls.

The father will be charged in court but the principal must also be held to account and resign. The education department must investigate. Amber is healing and recovering and studying continually.

Another child victim — call her Beth — was raped by her half-brother, who is a religious pastor, when she was 14. She was raped again by her adult nephew in the provincial town of San Marcelino. She complained to her parents and begged help. They knew of the abuse but ignored her and it happened again.

They considered their daughter to be their property and enabled the abuse and covered it up because the abusers were her half-brother and nephew. The abusers and parents should be brought to justice. They knew about the abuse and allowed it.

It was only when Beth, in total desperation from rejection and trauma, tried to commit suicide that her parents brought her to the authorities in San Marcelino. The authorities did the right thing and referred Beth to the Preda home, where she was welcomed and given support, understanding and a warm welcome in the family of children recovering from heinous crimes.

She immediately felt secure and free from the pain she suffered from rejection and the abuse she endured. Beth disclosed all her hardships and suffering and is now healing and recovering from her trauma.

Catholic Church authorities are also enablers by hiding and covering up heinous crimes of child sexual abuse by clerics. This practice is repugnant and privately deplored and rejected by thousands of good, honorable dedicated priests and religious clerics. They rightly feel their sacred vocation is sullied by the few pedophile priests that are coddled and protected by church authorities.

That is not enough. They have to take a stand for their own vocation, profession, priesthood and dignity and work for justice even if it goes against the bishop and the powerful clerics protecting the pedophile priests.

In the Diocese of Naval, Biliran, Father Kenneth Pius Hendricks, according to reports, is walking free, celebrating Mass, protected and supported by the diocese. Some church officials are allegedly in cahoots with the local judiciary, persuading them not to pursue the case against Hendricks after several altar boys accused him of sexually abusing them.

A court in Ohio has issued an arrest warrant for Hendricks to stand trial in the United States for alleged child abuse committed in Biliran.

The alleged crimes in Naval are also criminal acts in the US as Hendricks is a US citizen. It is believed the parents of the altar boys have been paid off by the church authorities not to pursue their complaints against Hendricks.

We need to understand that some bishops and senior clergy, having enabled child abuse by failing to act against a pedophile priest and allowing him to continue abusing children, live in fear of exposure.

They apparently feel no anguish for the suffering of the child victims. The practice of sending a child-abuser priest to a monastery or retreat house or abroad, as happens in the Philippines, and paying off the parents of child victims is their solution, all done by their intermediaries and by corrupt lawyers obstructing the course of justice for children.

As Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said, the Philippine Church deals with clerical child abuse internally. Pope Francis said that clerical child abuse must be reported to the civil authorities. They, too, can be complicit in cover-ups.

Some church authorities cannot face the truth of their mistakes or endure the loss of face, shame, disgrace, loss of status, honor and prestige that they enjoy basking in the respect of public adulation and reverence.

They can expect the loss of huge donations from the Catholic community. There would likely be large monetary compensation to be paid to the victims if there was a conviction of one of their priests or themselves in a court of law. The French bishops said they will sell church property to pay compensation due to the child abuse victims of priests in France.

Jesus of Nazareth, who always has the first and last say in the lives of all who claim to be his followers, said, “Whoever receives a child in my name receives me.” Demanding accountability and justice for child abusers, a millstone should be tied around the neck of a child abuser and he be thrown into the deep sea. (Matthew 18:1-7)

Father Shay Cullen is an Irish Columban missionary who has worked in the Philippines since 1969. In 1974, he founded the Preda Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and children and campaigning for freedom from sex slavery and human trafficking.

* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.