Buried memories of clerical sexual abuse revealed, 1

Panay News [Iloilo, Phillipines]

May 11, 2023

By Fr. Shay Cullen

A CATHOLIC Church Commission has concluded after only six months investigating child sexual abuse by priests in Portugal that only 4,815 victims were identified but said that it was the tip of a great iceberg of abuse that has yet to be revealed.

The report of the Commission was published on Feb. 13, 2023. Critics and supporters of clerical child abuse victims said that there were many thousands more victims not given the opportunity to come forward. The victims were mostly boys 10 to 14 years old. 

Several bishops and priests who have been accused of child abuse are still in their church duties and positions and allegedly flout the Vatican law supported by Pope Francis whereby the civil authorities should investigate and prosecute such allegations. A shocking report in France in January 2022 found approximately 3,000 Catholic priests and religious authorities had sexually abused over 200,000 children since the 1960s.

Most of the victims had hidden away the history of their abuse by priests who are 77 percent of the abusers because of the stigma attached to victims and fear of not being believed, being rejected, criticized and excluded from the community by going against the authorities. That is how it is in the Philippines today. No priest has been convicted of child sexual abuse. 

The Catholic Church hierarchy has built up a false culture of impunity whereby all priests are considered sacred and can do no wrong. Seldom, if ever, is any priest convicted of crimes since cover up and pay-offs to the victims to drop their complaints is common practice by church authorities.

The teenage victim in Cagayan called Angelica (not her real name) was offered a full scholarship to college by another priest from the diocese if she dropped her complaint of multiple rape and sexual assault by a priest.

It is good news and a good day for child victims of abuse and human trafficking when there are court promulgations by a judge and the traffickers and abusers are convicted and sentenced to long prison terms.

This is what happened recently in Angeles City, Pampanga when the Family Court Judge declared in separate cases two female human traffickers guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of the human trafficking law and sentenced them to life in prison.

Likewise, another six-year old child, call her Rica, who was raped by her biological father and bravely told her story to the judge, found justice when her father was pronounced guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

Days of justice are coming to the victims as they are being increasingly believed against the denials of the abusers of children. The rapists and traffickers will not abuse or traffic children ever again and repent and do penance in jail.

It is also a stern warning to all in society who know now that a crime of child abuse, once reported, will bring swift judgment. Sadly, very few children have the trusting person to whom they can report abuse. They hide it for a lifetime because of fear and the stigma that goes with victims of abuse but that is now changing. 

The psychological trauma that a child suffers will be never understood unless one has experienced it. Most people can only imagine it. Prosecutors and judges can witness it when the child, with great difficulty, bravely confronts her rapist in court with the truth. She tells her tragic story of being raped or sexually assaulted by a grown adult that has moral ascendency and authority over her. (To be continued)/PN