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Child Sexual Abuse and Pedophilia among Christian Churches Child Sexual Abuse and Pedophilia among Christian Churches
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-08-23 10:41:27
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On the 20th of August 2017 Ovi published an intriguing article titled “Breaking the Seal: Child Abuse and the Confessional” by Dr. Binoy Kampmark. It deals with the issue of law as it applies to the clergy.

While agreeing that justice, to remain real justice, needs to be universal and that pedophiles and child sexual abusers ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, which is universal and applies to all, no matter their position or profession in life, I’d like to take issue with an assumption within that particular article.

I don’t believe the assumption was intended to deceive the readers, but it is there nevertheless. I am left wondering if it is not a by-product of an unconscious bias against Roman Catholicism? Let’s see. The perceived assumption is that in Australia there is only one Church and one clergy from whose ranks issue legions of pedophiles and sexual child abusers. Let’s see. Religion-wise, some 52% of the population happens to be Christian, of which some 30% are Protestants (Anglicans (13%), Orthodox, not strictly Protestants but non-Catholics nevertheless, Lutherans, Unionists, etc.), and some 23% are Roman Catholics, for a total number of 23,401.4 million people as per latest census. It follows, that although the Catholic Church since 1988 is the largest Church, the majority of Christians are non Roman Catholics. So the question arises: are we to understand that child sexual abuse is the predominant monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church and that the Protestant clergy is pure and “Christian” and wholly immune from it?

Here statistics are revealing: most sexual abuse does not happen among celibate clergy but within the family, although it surely takes place among the clergy and non-married laymen too. But, is it only the Catholic clergy (of which 2% or are pedophiliacs or have child abuse patterns) that commits that crime? There is a myth that were the Catholic Church allow priests to get married, the scourge of pedophilia and sexual abuse of children would automatically disappear. Such is not the case. Ask any bona fide psychologist.

The myth persists. To help the readership in grasping it, I ask the reader to try the following internet experiment. Google “Sexual abuse among Protestant clergy” and what you will get is an expose of pictures of Catholic priests, and bishops and even Popes allegedly condoning those acts. No Protestant ministers will be mentioned or appear. Try again under a different heading keeping the word “Protestant” there, and you will get the same results.

And yet the abuse is there, at the very least just as much as the abuse among the Catholic clergy. Could it be an unconscious, or perhaps even conscious, bias? Why does is it exist only in the Catholic Church which has taken and continues to take a well-deserved beating in the courts and the court of public opinion as the victims come forward? Are we neglecting the sympathy and compassion due to victims of Protestant clergy? Surely some of them have come forward too. Why do the same acts among Protestants fail to generate the same level of outrage? One wonders.


Interior of a Protestant Church; distant from
the Gothic or Baroque style of a Catholic Church

You might answer that the problems in the Catholic Church are uniquely widespread, but that would be the wrong answer. The only plausible answer is that the Catholic Church is a more monolithic institution than the rest of the fragmented Protestant Churches; but the fact remains that countries like the US and Australia are predominantly Protestant even when the Catholic Church is the largest single Christian denomination by itself. It stands to reason that the Catholic Church be perceived as the single greatest offender, but it’s only an appearance.


A Baroque style Catholic Church

When the former Australian prime-minister initiated an investigation on this veritable scandal she did not single out the Catholic Church as the main offender but mentioned the problem as pertaining to all the Christian Churches. The fact is that as reported in the US in the first book on sex abuse, Betrayal of Trust (1988) 58% of the clergy guilty of sex abuse were Protestants. Perhaps the problem belongs to human nature and its aberrations more than to a vast conspiracy within the Catholic Church? There is a horrific pattern at work and occurs even outside the Churches in the civil world of the layman.

As far as the problem of the seal of Confession is concerned, as dealt within the above mentioned article, it is not an unsolvable problem, as the same article hints at. Yes, the confessor is bound by confidentiality in the administration of the sacrament of confession (now called “reconciliation”) since the sins are revealed to God and the confessor is there as an intermediary to insure that the confession is sincere and the penitent is willing to make amends for his sins and accept the consequences. The ethereal God one confesses in Protestant denominations (except for the Anglicans who have retained confession) may turn out to be an invented indulgent kind of God convenient to the penitent.  It therefore follows theologically in Catholic doctrine that the confessor can impose as a condition for receiving absolution or forgiveness for one’s sins, and that one of the conditions could be that he reveal them to the proper authorities for proper civil adjudication. Failing that, the confessor is allowed to deny absolution. That would not contradict the conditions for receiving absolution, would not nullify the seal of confession, and would satisfy the conditions of secular temporal justice.

When I wrote an article on the recent movie on Pius XIII (a fictitious future American Pope) and subtitled it “power without moral compass” I pointed out that one of the unethical things the pope was doing was that of eliciting the secrets of confession revealed to his own confessor by the Roman Curia. That was against canon and divine law and the pope knew it and the confessor knew it too.

But to continue with our conundrum, I am not an expert on Australia, but I remain curious on the statistics available there. From what I know about the US I think I can safely deduct those conclusions on what may be happening in Australia and elsewhere on this veritable penchant for focusing on the abuses in the Catholic Church to the exclusion of other Churches and the civic secular layman’s world:  The centralized hierarchy of Catholicism makes Catholic offenders easier to sue and guarantees deep pockets. The lawsuits in turn both generate their own news cycle and bring victims out of the closet. Since most Americans are Protestants, the Catholic sex abuse scandal is a story about “them.”

Protestant Pedophilia is a story about “us,” which makes it less gratifying and more uncomfortable. But the truth, like justice, remains universal if we are to believe Plato and Aristotle, and it applies to everyone. Where is the research on this ethical problem beyond bias and prejudice?


Former Australian Prime Minister Investigating Child Sexual Abuse at Churches

If truth be told, the pattern one discerns today, some 30 years after Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote Betrayal of Trust, is that after years of repeated exposure, Catholics are less likely today to rally to the side of pedophiles, and unfortunately some Protestants remain in denial, the place where Catholics were 20 years ago,” circling the wagons about their “uncorrupt- able” clergy (remember the  internet experiment I suggested above?) thus revealing an unconscious and gratuitous bias toward the Catholic Church in general. Indeed, we as Christians, have a long way to go not only on the issue of child abuse but on that of the universality and objectivity of truth.



Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's NEW BOOK
"The Caligula Presidency: A Satirical Debunking Critique"
is online now and you can download it for FREE HERE!



Check also Dr Emanuel Paparella's other EBOOKS
Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers
& Europe Beyond the Euro
You can download them all for FREE HERE!


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