Causes of the Unfathomable Clerical Silence on Clergy Sex Abuse

By Vinnie Nauheimer
National Survivor Advocates Coalition
April 15, 2011

Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” Living proof of this quote comes from the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. The act of raping, sodomizing and molesting children is intrinsically evil. Yet the clergy, as a whole, has remained incredibly silent about these deplorable crimes. In doing so, the evil of sexual abuse has triumphed at all levels of the clergy. There is no better quote to describe the excruciating pain caused by the global silence of the priesthood, bishops and cardinals regarding the vile sexual crimes committed against children. Or is there?

“Show me the leaders and I will show you the troops,” speaks volumes too!

There are one-hundred eighty-five cardinals. Not a single cardinal has ever publicly spoken out about the pope’s woefully inept handling of the clergy abuse scandal. Neither a cardinal nor a pope has ever removed a bishop from office for their sexual abuse of minors or for protecting priests who have sexually abused minors. This is a travesty of justice as well as a mockery of Jesus Christ and his teachings. Not one cardinal out of one-hundred-eighty-five cardinals can be called a survivor’s advocate. This fact alone confirms all-encompassing grip of evil on the higher echelons of the church. The triumph of evil is crystal clear at the cardinal level of the Roman Catholic Church.

Worldwide there are roughly five thousand bishops. Out of the five thousand bishops, there are only two bishops who are vocal critics of the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of the clergy abuse scandal. Both are retired, Bishop Gumbleton of Detroit and Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia. Not only are they critics, but both are advocates for victims of clergy abuse. They have both been banned from speaking in many dioceses as well as suffering numerous other indignities at the hands of cardinals and their fellow bishops. Robinson said the following about clergy abuse, “Sexual abuse is all about power and sex, so to counter abuse, we must be free to ask serious questions about power and sex in the institution of the church. Without this freedom, we would be attempting to respond to abuse while handcuffed and blindfolded.” Noteworthy also is the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin. Not only has he apologized to survivors, but he also demanded the resignations of several bishops steeped in the clergy abuse scandal. Recently, two of the bishops who sent their resignations to Rome had them refused by the pope making the Archbishop look the fool. At the bishop level, evil has triumphed as the troops mimic their leaders. Two retired bishops and one active out of five thousand is an infinitesimal percentage; once again evil triumphs.

However, there is an area of clergy abuse where we can find a larger percentage among bishops. According to in the United States, there are seventeen bishops credibly accused of sexual abuse. Seventeen out of 425 active and retired bishops totals four percent. That number only speaks to the bishops in the United States! Is it any wonder why silence is golden when it comes to bishops in the United States? Not one has ever been laicized and that includes the notorious Bishop Ziemann who was arrested for having oral sex performed on him, in his car, by a priest who wore a pager in order to be summoned by the bishop for sex. Who protected this bishop? None other than Cardinal Levada, the man appointed by the pope to fill his old position as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Once again evil triumphs!

Show me the leaders and I will show you the troops.

The number of priests worldwide is just over four-hundred-thousand. Of these four hundred thousand priests there are only a handful of well known outspoken priests who are survivor advocates. Frs. Tom Doyle and Bob Hoatson are the best known both in the United States and globally. Being overly generous, let’s say there are in fact a hundred vocal priests worldwide. One hundred priests is a miniscule fraction of one percent of the four hundred thousand priests: .00025 to be exact. Sadly, these are the troops.

Any human being with even a thread of humanity understands that the rape, sodomization and molestation of children by clergy or anyone are inherently evil acts. Despite the heinous nature of these crimes, despite the outcry from the victims, despite the outcry from Grand Juries and Special Inquiries, there remains a deafening silence among ninety-nine point nine percent of the Roman Catholic Clergy. There has been a great deal of speculation about the cause or causes of this white collar silence. We will look at three of these causes and the arguments supporting them. They are: The Superiority Complex, The Wet Monkey Mentality and a complete and utter Lack of Faith.

The Superiority Complex

Medieval Kings operated on the principle of Divine Right, which is defined as: “the doctrine that kings derive their right to rule directly from God and are not accountable to their subjects; rebellion is the worst of political crimes.” Other definitions add this phrase, “any attempt to depose a monarch or to restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God.” Welcome to the centuries old philosophy of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Nowhere is this false ideology of Divine Right more clearly stated than in Vehementer Nos an encyclical promulgated by Pious X in 1905.

“It follows that the Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of persons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful. So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.”

However, Pious X was not alone in his assumption that priests are on a higher level than the laity. Consider the arrogance of this name: Conference of Major Superiors of Men. Who but arrogant, self-serving, elitists would give themselves a name that proclaims them superiors of men? Not to worry, Mother Superior has her organization too, The Conference of Major Superiors of Women Religious. These groups are made up of all the “Superiors” of the various groups of orders that comprise the religious community other than diocesan priests. One might ask this reasonable question, “Does using the word superior in their title really make them feel superior?” The answer is clear in this passage written about the sexual abuse scandal several years ago by then director of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Fr. Ted Keating.

“The days of the pass or station house adjustment for Father or Brother by the Irish cop or prosecutor are over. Either we will learn to become more comfortable in the gaze of the rude and scoffing multitude (depending on our attitude) or we will be dragged kicking and screaming into a new future for religion and religious life”

There are two things to note in this statement. The first is the unequivocal admission by Fr. Keating that priests, who committed crimes, were not arrested by police. The second is Keating’s use of the term “the rude and scoffing multitude.” Using these words to describe the laity is his tacit acknowledgement of Pious X’s statement on superiority. This too is an admission that there are those in the priesthood who believe they are superior to mere mortals. This is the height of arrogance and one has to wonder how the laity would react to knowing they were referred to as the “the rude and scoffing multitude.” The director of the Conference of the Major Superiors of Men has demonstrated by his words that their superiority complex is real.

The irony of the superiority over the rude and scoffing multitude is that is that the believer of this warped philosophy looses touch with his humanity. This one sentence “the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock,” explains the utter contempt heaped upon victims of clergy abuse and their families by priests, bishops, cardinals, and yes, even popes. This attitude made it easy to transfer sexual felons from one parish to another with because they had contempt for children. This attitude made it easy for bishops to lie to authorities because civil authorities were beneath them. This ingrained cultural flaw allowed them to withhold evidence from the courts. Slavery can not exist unless one group believes they are superior to another group. The act of believing superiority then makes it okay and even easy to use those “less than” however they see fit and treat with utter contempt anyone who would question their decisions. Welcome to the philosophy that has perpetuated clergy sexual abuse over the years.

This fallacious thinking along with the culture that perpetuates it must cease. It will when people realize, of their own accord, that God made them in his image and likeness: Intelligent beings capable of loving, thinking and creating. We were not created to be a “docile flock” led around by our noses by those who purport to speak for God, but who reject his teachings every time the teachings either interfere with or threaten their money and power.

The Wet Monkey Mentality

This theory is often used to describe outdated cultural practices, customs or traditions and the experiment was carried out like this.

Inside a cage containing five monkeys, a banana was hung from the ceiling and a set of stairs was put under the banana. When one of the monkeys tried to go up the stairs towards the banana the remaining monkeys were sprayed with ice water.

Then another monkey went for the banana with same result: the other monkeys were sprayed with ice cold water. After a while when any monkey tried to climb the stairs, the remaining monkeys prevented him from going to the banana by beating him.

Once this behavior was established, the cold water was stopped and still any monkey going for the banana was beaten by the other monkeys. The one monkey was removed from the cage and replaced with a new one. The new monkey upon seeing the banana wants to climb the stairs and eat it. To his shock, the rest of the monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

Each of the five original monkeys were removed one at a time and replaced with a new one. As the newcomer went to the stairs he was attacked. The previous newcomer then took part in the punishment of the next newcomer with as much enthusiasm as the original monkeys. Every time the newest monkey touched the stairs he was viciously attacked.

When all of the original monkeys had been replaced, the new ones having never been punished with ice water continued to beat up any newcomer that went for the banana. Also after receiving a beating for going for the banana, they became active participants in beating up any subsequent monkey introduced to the cage that went for the banana. No monkey ever again got a banana because as soon as he approached the stairs, he was set upon. Why? Because as far as they knew, that was the way it had always been done in there.

If you substitute truth for the banana, this theory could account for the almost universal silence by the vast majority of the clergy on the subject of the clergy abuse scandal. Speak the truth in public and you were viciously beaten. Could this theory explain the incredible lack of support for clergy abuse survivors by all but a miniscule number of clergy? Yes! Does the Wet Monkey Mentality account for the personal attacks on the person of Fr. Tom Doyle, the first outspoken advocate of clergy abuse survivors, who was accused of heresy, fired from his job as an Air Force Chaplain and declared persona non-grata by any number of fellow priests and bishops? Yes! Can it explain why a Pennsylvania bishop went through extraordinary machinations to find the nun behind the non-de-plume Sr. Immaculata; whose letters to the editor chastising bishops and cardinals were carried in newspapers around the United States. Does it account for the terrible things said about and done to Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, when after retiring; he spoke out against the church and condemned its role in the cover-up of the clergy abuse scandal? Does it account for Bishop Geoffrey Robinson being forbidden from speaking in any Catholic Church or on any Catholic Church property by bishops and cardinals across the United States?

Unfortunately, the Wet Monkey Mentality explains all of these actions taken by the church against these few and those unnamed who dared to challenge the prevailing norms by speaking the truth about the clerical sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church. These stand-up clergy members were pounded by those with the monkey mentality as a lesson for the rest of the worldwide clergy.

Loss of Faith

Some twenty years ago, while attending a meeting, a young woman told this story. “I have two constant companions, I call them my pets. One is called fear and the other is called faith whichever one I feed is the one that grows.” I never saw her again, but I have survived and thrived remembering her words and while looking at causes for deafening silence of good men about such an evil issue as child abuse her words came back to me yet again. The silence of the clergy is due to their lack of faith in God. The clergy of the Roman Catholic Church is feeding their fear and not their faith! They fear scandal as if scandal could hurt God. Scandal can only hurt men. They fear being found out for the despicable acts they’ve committed, witnessed and concealed; they fear for their material possessions, their power, their wealth and their false superiority.

If priests, bishops and cardinals had unquestioning faith in God, they would not be afraid to speak out against the evil that has triumphed because of their silence. They would not be afraid of losing their jobs, their pensions, their cushy parish, their shot at purple or red buttons and the biggest prize of all, the white hat. In other words, they would lose their fear of naming evil whether that evil is called bishop, cardinal or pope. Their faith would sustain them if they would just feed it. Fear has frozen the voices of the good men in the priesthood because they have lost their faith in the God. A crash course in the Acts of the Apostles might help the remaining good members of the clergy, who wish to serve God and not their superiors, to find their tongues. We can all pray that the Holy Spirit will once again ignite the flame of faith in Jesus and his teachings.

Only men steeped in fear can keep silent about the travesty of justice and the horrors of sexual abuse that are and have occurred in the Roman Catholic Church. It is impossible to believe that out of five thousand bishops worldwide that there are none who remember who they represent. Equally implausible is that there are none who are not appalled by the actions of their fellow bishops, cardinals and the pope relative to the sexual abuse of children by clergy members. The same can be said for the four-hundred-thousand priests. There must be more than a handful who want to drive these despoilers of children and those who protect them from the church.

Those in power have brought the church to the brink of collapse; the triumph of evil. Those that have remained silent have encouraged it! Now is the time to oppose it! Get some gumption from your boss; the one who died on the cross. Let he who has ears hear!


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