Religious Life Without Integrity
The Sexual Abuse Crisis
in the Catholic Church
By Barry M Coldrey
9: THE OPTIONAL EXTRA
The core of this compilation concerns
the five issues of clerical shortcomings, hypocrisy, scandal, sexual networks
and sexual underworlds.
A sexual network is a small group
or circle of priests, Brothers or lay workers who are living at variance
with their vows on sexual matters - two's and three's who support one
another by supportive silence and covering for each other. A sexual underworld
is a larger, more amorphous state-within-a-state inside a diocese of Religious
Congregation, where there is a substantial people who are not living their
vows (or have not for periods in the past) and who co-operate to hide
one another's extracurricular activities.
How do these priests or Brothers come together
? In one way it flows from that most basic principle of human behaviour:
'Birds of a feather flock together.'
Bad apples attract more bad apples. 'I have
secrets about you; you have secrets about me. I won't fink on you; you
won't fink on me.' Blackmail and extortion are the ways things are kept
quiet in the church. They were one way to build trust. It's 'I know this
about you and you know this about me, so I'll take you along with me.'
People go through stages in their lives. They may no longer be active
sexually, but they have a sexual history and have to deal with people
from their past. (Plante, T. 'Bless me Father for I have sinned' Perspectives
on Sexual Abuse committed by Roman Catholic priests' cited in Lattin,
D. 'Sex scandals bare Church's sordid secrets', San Francisco
Chronicle, 14 August 1999, p. 3)
However, there are also rumours investigated...chance
meetings in embarrassing situations; e.g. 'Brother James', the ardent, restless
young priest meets a friend emerging from the brothel as 'James' is striding
towards the door. Unfazed, he remarks: 'Don't you tell on me and I won't
tell on you !'
Of course, this sounds far-fetched...an extreme
case...could it really occur ? Well, in my experience these chance revelations
can happen. The following is a good example. Some years ago in one community
there were rumours that Brother Y had a problem with alcohol. It was only
a rumour. However, early one morning, arriving home after a very late
night, I noticed Brother shovelling empty bottles into a park rubbish
bin. This did tend to confirm the rumours. However, this is not the punch-line.
Brother Y was incredibly unlucky to be "caught" by myself at
such an ungodly hour. I am out that late so rarely, being the 'early to
bed, early to rise' sort of person.
It is an axiom of this essay, that if
one is sick or doing the wrong thing in the clerical or religious life,
the news tends to circulate over time.
Benedictine Abbey, Ampleforth, North Yorkshire
- Monk's suicide.
A monk of Ampleforth committed suicide last
month while being investigated by a newspaper as an alleged paedophile,
an inquest in Malton, North Yorkshire, heard on Monday.
The body of Dom Benjamin O'Sullivan, 34,
was found in the abbey grounds on 2 March 1996. There was a plastic bag
over his head and a note in his habit in which he had written: 'I never
did anything wrong as they accused me. May God forgive them and have mercy
on my soul.' The message was written early the previous evening, soon
after Father O'Sullivan had been confronted by a News of the World reporter
over the claims of a twenty-two-year-old man referred to at the meeting
The inquest heard that Father O'Sullivan
and 'Ashley' met earlier this year and had sex at a flat in London and
the priest admitted to paedophile tendencies. When the two met again,
'Ashley' taped their conversation using a machine supplied by the newspaper.
Recording a verdict of suicide, the coroner, Michael Oakley, described
the News of the World's behaviour as 'underhand and despicable'.
- The Tablet ( London), 27
A reflection from Mao Tse Tung & classic
rural revolutionary theory
In the days of the 'Long March' and his
bid for power in China after the 1920s, Chinese Communist Party chairman,
Mao Tse Tung, planned a rural based revolution. His cadres, drawn in
the main from the peasantry, would dress like the peasants, work alongside
the peasants and blend into the rural masses with the same ease as the
fish swim in the sea.
There is an ironic parallel here with the
sexual underworld in some dioceses of provinces of Religious Congregations.
Priests/Brothers/church workers who abuse minors and commit criminal offences
have been (are ?), able to hide within a sympathetic underworld of other
clergy and church workers who are merely breaking their vows by having
heterosexual or gay sex with consenting adults. All are doing the wrong
thing and have a similar incentive to provide mutual support. They share
an unstated capacity for mutual blackmail. Each has friends.