CONFESSIONS OF SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE CHURCH
One of the sacraments of the Roman Catholic religion is the confession. Before you could go to mass, the symbol of participating in the religion community and Highlight of the week, your heart had to be pure and you needed for that reason to go to confession first and be absolved from your sins.
From a young age on, I envied my friends who were Catholic. They could go to confession and when they came out, had to pray a few hail Maries and then were free to live the rest of their life with a clean slate, while I and my Protestant peers had to live for the rest of our lives with the sins we knew we had committed. We were taught that as Protestants were had our conscience we had to consult before we did something wrong. You might hope for forgiveness, but there was no guarantee.
At my Christian high school, our philosophy class teacher went through all the major philosophies of the world with us, explaining what the dogmas or principles were of each philosophy and religion, and how it would be applied in everyday life. The knowledge from that class and how I came to interpret the information made me think I belonged to the school of Nietzsche: only belief what you see, there is no life after this one on earth, and you have only oneself to set your standards and direction of life, the truth is not objective and is “in the eyes of the beholder”, to be seen in context, dogmas and religions are to keep the followers from thinking. I was thirteen when I soaked up this kind of information that widened my horizons; I was already convinced that there was no god, or God, or Gods. Yes, I experienced my family’s religion as well as the Catholic belief system as a system to prevent people from thinking. I was hell-bent to do my own thinking.
In my life as a child I was told a set of rules that I had to follow. No need existed for working out what was acceptable, wrong, or good. Our religion’s beliefs were: no sex before marriage; no lying; no stealing; no swearing; no killing people. Our dogmas: no statutes or pictures could be a focus for praying; all three parts of God were invisible and equal (God the father, God the son, and god the Holy Ghost). It was too hard to understand. If you didn’t know something you could ask the minister and he would tell you. (There were no females in the leadership then). Or your parents would tell you, to which you had to be obedient; if you were not, you were committing a sin. How convenient for parents!
However, the rules were rough and global and did not tell us everything you could be doing wrong. When you were playing with a bunch of neighborhood friends outside and you needed to defecate urgently, were you sinning when you did it in a bush or ditch, instead of running home? Were you supposed to play doctor as a child, just like you played hide and seek, and house, or was that a sin? Just in case you would get heck, you would not tell your parent. Many acts went unnoticed and untold. We did not confess, and that was a good thing; we could have plugged up the confession box with our minor “sins” had we been Catholics. As we grew up, each went their own way and lived their lives mostly as our parents did anyway.
I heard a discussion on CBC Tapestry that some pope, Pius X in the early 20th century, (according to John Cornwell) changed the rules in the RC religion: all kids had to go to confession as well. From seven years old on, kids had to confess, otherwise no mass and no place in the community’s warm embrace.
The British author, John Cornwell, wrote an in-depth study of the many dogmas in the Roman Catholic religion that conspired to keep sexual abuse of children by priests a secret. Those rules within the church in fact facilitated continuation of the abuse for many decades, ruining the lives of many children. Confession is one of those dogmas.
Imagine, the abusing priest has absolute protection.Then, for the other priests that heard the confession, to break the confidentiality of confession, would be another sin. For priests who abused, confession absolved them and the receiving priest had to forgive them. No informing the police took place. I wondered how that would be if someone committed a murder or beat up his wife every saturday, or one who commits fraud, or sexually abused his step daughter.
Then imagine, the priest who was looking for a child to abuse, he would go after one of these little ones who confessed having sinful thoughts, or did sinful deeds, like playing doctor, the child would fall in their laps as ripe fruit. Often the abuse took place after confession, in the priests’ territory. Talk about predatory behavior!
And still,this new pope and the priests who took the confessions and knew, those who moved the sex offender to a new parish, those that accepted him knowing what went on, all of them not doing anything different, still condemning it, but not reporting those priests to the police for persecution. No, the victims have to do that themselves, if they survived and if they have enough stamina to go through it. It is disgraceful.
Some individual priests confessed thousands of incidents of sexual abuse, one person with that many offenses. It is in my view the biggest rationale for leaving religion behind, when it protects the destroyers of the most vulnerable and offers nothing to the many, many victims.
I hope that every Roman Catholic buys this book and takes action. What anybody could do is:
1. insist with their local priests verbally, send a letter to their bishop, and to their MLA and MP requesting that the RC clergy hands over their offending child molesters that they are hiding now to the police for appropriate prosecution.
2. As well, the Catholic confession dogma contravenes our Canadian Charter of Rights that states that every one is equal for the law, as children apparently are not. In British Columbia the public is by law required to report child abuse. No clergy is exempt from that. They should be prosecuted. You can state that also in your letter.
3. It is time that all clergy taking confessions start reporting the parishioners that abused children to the police. Religion CANNOT and MUST NOT condone the breaking of our country’s and province’s laws. Not Muslim practices, not Mormon church laws, not sharia law, not Catholic dogmas, not ANY religion can go against the law of the land. You could add that as well to your letter to your MLA and your MP.
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