Sexual abuse: Let’s get real

Sex abuse let's get real by Chris McCloughen

The victims of clergy and religious sexual abuse are not historical cases they are people who, as it were, were abused by God himself.

Some of these victims perceive that both humanity and God abandoned them in the formative parts of their lives.

Most of those who haven’t committed suicide or died at the end of their life are now adults, some of whom the Church has sought to make restitution to and to help aid in their recovery from this pernicious violence.

Others have turned their back on the Church for good or did so, after the Church gave them inadequate responses.

In some ways, the Church’s overall response is still inadequate.

There are still bishops and cardinals who moved pedophile priests around dioceses, who ignored complaints from parents and concerned citizens, who sought to cover up such actions with cash payments to victims, who are still in positions of power within the Church.

The Church has made significant efforts to address this overall issue; many priests, bishops, some cardinals, and religious, were reprimanded, defrocked, or ordered to leave their religious orders.

Some however escaped accounting for their deeds, or who were moved sideways to some other position.

And some victims know this.

Many of the victims were the poor, the marginalised, the orphaned, those with solo parents, the quiet and the vulnerable.

These are very ones that the Church is called to minister to and to demonstrate the love of God.

The very ones that perpetrators knew would make ideal victims.

It is the Church’s great tragedy that secular organisations had to shine light into the Roman Catholic Church because of this issue, to expose the sin, to seek justice and accountability for those so despicably preyed upon.

Whatever happened to the Church’s call to shine light into the world (Matt 5:14)?

Let’s get real with this issue. It’s not about

  • arguing re how accurate the Australian Royal Commission’s statistics are,
  • placing blame on homosexual priests or religious,
  • arguing whether or not priests should be celibate or unmarried,
  • arguing if women should be allowed to be priests,
  • not about the patriarchal power of the Church (though some validity can be given to this argument).

It’s about examining the climate that allowed such things to happen in the first place, about ensuring that such things don’t happen again, and most of all, seeking to bring justice, healing and restoration to those who were abused.

If the Church had to sell every asset that she has to enable healing and justice to those abused, it would not be too great a price to pay (Matt 18:6).

Regardless of the statistics, those sexual abuse incidences within the Roman Catholic Church were so significant that many civil investigations around the world found systemic rot within parts of the Church and institutions.

The vast majority of straight or gay men or women choose to have sexual relationships with adults.

Most perpetrators were males whose sexual orientation was or is a paedophilic disorder.

Many of the offenders appear to have been groomed into their roles by those religious or priests who taught them in Catholic schools, particularly those who were in High School type seminaries.

These were or are men who in their teenage years were not allowed to mature into their own sexuality but had their sexuality perverted by the so called men of God that taught them

While the incidence of sexual abuse from female religious with the Church is small in comparison to that by males, it should be stressed that there is plenty of historical evidence of physical violence administered cruelly under the guise of discipline by Roman Catholic Nuns.

I don’t see celibacy in itself as significant in this issue.

There have always been those who in many different faiths or causes who have embraced celibacy because of their calling or cause.

The key is that such a commitment should be made as an adult, when the person is sure of their sexuality and relationship with God and their willingness to remain celibate.

There is definitely a place for women to be more involved in priestly formation, and priests and religious need to be encouraged to have good platonic relationships with men and women they can trust and are comfortable with.

This includes appropriate and non-sexual hugging and touch. All well-functioning human’s need appropriate touch with others to function well. 

As I see it the patriarchy in the Roman Catholic Church is a problem, a problem to be remedied by greater participation by the Laity in the regional, national and global structures of the Church.

The traits demonstrated by the Blessed Virgin Mary, humble service, meekness, gentleness, patience, and purity, need to be embraced authentically by all clergy and Religious, so that the excesses of clericalism are curbed, so that none in positions of power in the Church would even consider harming one hair on a child’s head.

I write this article as a registered psychiatric nurse with a Master of Nursing (Mental Health) and with a Graduate Diploma of Theology from Good Shepherd College.

I write, because I’ve witness the damage that Clerical and Religious sexual abuse on children can have in my nursing career, and because in many of the comments made on both the Australian Royal Commission’s findings and on the occurrence of historical sexual abuse that has occurred in the context of the Roman Catholic Church in New Zealand.

The impact on the victims is often secondary to other statements that are made.

  • Chris McCloughen, RPN, MN, GradDip Theo.
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