Clerical sexual abuse, 1

Panay News [Iloilo, Phillipines]

March 5, 2024

By Shay Cullen

EXPOSÉS of clerical sexual abuse against children around the world – in the United States, Ireland, Australia, Poland, Germany, Austria and the latest in France – are shocking and there are more to come. It is just a matter of time.

The cover up of clerical sexual abuse of children by some church authorities in cahoots with some civil authorities never seems to end. It has brought shame, embarrassment and loss of respect to dedicated, innocent priests and clerics and laypeople.

The institutional church leaders in some places are still striving to prevent shame and embarrassment by hiding away the abusers and the records of their crimes against children. The days are fast approaching when clerical abuse of children cannot be covered up and hidden. The perpetrators where there is credible evidence will have to face trial in civil courts, according to Pope Francis in his various instructions and in his Apostolic Letter “Vos Estis Lux Mundi,” meaning You are the Light of the World.

This papal instruction combats child sexual abuse in the church by clerics and holds bishops and religious superiors responsible for their actions and inaction in bringing clerical child abusers to accountability and justice. In the Philippines, this has very seldom been done, if ever. The priest suspects are reassigned or on permanent bail.       

The hiding of crimes of clerical abuse against children is criminal behavior by church officials, priests who knew and said nothing and their lawyers. They are ignoring the suffering and pain of the victims, paying off the parents or guardians and prosecutors not to pursue a criminal case. They must realize protecting the abuser is a criminal offence. He has to be brought to justice to stop more abuse, protect children and give justice to his victims.  Yet, cover up still continues in the Philippines.

No true Christian, priest or bishop should cower in shame and embarrassment because of the heinous crimes of the few. The priesthood has been and continues to be tarnished only to the degree that bishops, priests and laypeople remain silent, inactive and indifferent to reporting child sexual abuse done by clerics. The biggest sin is not helping the victims to get protection, healing, empowerment, justice, closure and compensation.

There are 1.329 billion Catholics in the world today and 414,582 priests. The majority of bishops and priests are good, caring people and dedicated pastors. Most are truly faithful to their vows of celibacy, although not all.  In the Philippines, there are 86 dioceses and 5,037 priests. There is a culture of face saving and cover up of child sexual abuse.

As Cardinal Antonio Tagle said in television interviews, “We deal with it internally.” Pope Francis says the child rapist must be brought to a civil court to face justice.

Most bishops, priests and deacons everywhere are committed Christians and they serve the poor, comfort the sick, guide the lost, support the lonely, educate the unlearned. They are led by the most committed of all, Pope Francis, who has spoken for justice, compassion, and solidarity with child victims and enacted new laws to protect them. (To be continued)