Two weeks ago another Catholic clergyman admitted he had sexually abused a little child. He was due to face a jury at the District Court in Auckland last week but pleaded guilty, saving the family the ordeal of a trial.
Just two years ago a Catholic priest was convicted and jailed for 15 months in the District Court at Hamilton for molesting young boys in the 1970s. He later admitted further historic offending while he was the parish priest at St Mary's Church in Hamilton, at the time of the offences. There have been several others as far back as 1897. Their victims may have asked themselves many times what they had ever done to warrant such betrayal? The rest of us have an even bigger question to address.
In a recent gathering of senior Catholic clergymen in the Vatican to again discuss the rot within the church Pope Francis took the next step in a predictable pattern. First there were strenuous denials and secrecy, then there were cover ups and the final desperate ploy of all guilty parties when cornered, blame someone else. The Pope has suggested these offences were “the tools of Satan”. No they were not! Nor were they the result of celibacy. Many people live celibate lives without becoming sexual predators. These offences are the tools of evil priests and no one else. Even Taliban leaders commit their atrocities in public not behind closed doors.
In my teenage years I met two people who had been abused by their parish priests. Their innocence was snatched away, their self-esteem irreparably damaged and their lives thereafter a time of misery, mistrust, crime and loneliness. They trusted no one and were unable to form lasting relationships with anyone ever again. Such betrayal demands full retribution by the secular state alone. It is not a matter for the church to resolve.
This reprehensible offending in the Catholic Church is not new. Todays paedophile priests have done nothing bishops and priests have not done for the past 1600 years in every part of the world they have invaded. From the very inception of Christianity, those who led the early church intruded into, controlled and manipulated the private lives of their congregation. Playing on the superstitious fear of most people in the known world of the time, the Roman Church morphed into one of the most influential, corrupt, wealthy and dangerous organisations known to man. Using that influence, the Popes pitted nation against nation, brother against brother, father against son in an attempt to meld all the nations of early Europe into a single Catholic Commonwealth commanded and controlled from Rome in a similar ambitious plan to that of the Roman legions of a few centuries earlier but using fear and enforced observance instead of spears and swords.
Millions died in the wars between the incestuous royal families of Europe in their campaigns to ensconce a Catholic or Protestant king on the various thrones of Europe. All of that bloodshed could have been prevented by any of the many Popes who actively encouraged the carnage in pursuit of their own ambitions. None of this had anything whatever to do with the teachings of a gentle man from Nazareth.
In spite of the genuine efforts of many in the Catholic Church little has changed. While modern society and secular law no longer allow heretics to be burned or butchered, the abuse of the weak and vulnerable by Catholic clergy, and those of the many sects and cults which have sprung from the Church of Rome in the past 1000 years, is much more subtle but just as cruel and unconscionable as it ever was.
Secular law today has supremacy over canon law and the Catholic Church cannot, and must not ever again, be allowed to decide the guilt or innocence of its own clergymen.
Not all Catholics or their clergymen are evil people, but there is no way of sorting the goats from the sheep, as it were. The many decent clergymen of all denominations and the current Pope have been as much betrayed by their evil brothers as their victims. Honourable churchmen the world over have done a great many good works but their efforts are more than eclipsed by the immense harm many have done to those who trusted them with their most intimate and private thoughts and aspirations.
The question for the rest of us then is how longer can we risk having this dangerous organisation in our midst when so many of them pose a threat to our children and grandchildren? Perhaps the Catholic Church should be excommunicated from civilised society until it can demonstrate it is trust worthy. That may take some time.