Sexual abuse and the cover provided by the Church
The latest exposures in Philadelphia, USA of sex offences by members of the clergy and the cover-up of such crimes by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church have resulted in more stinging criticism of that church and even its respected leader, Pope Francis.
When the current Pope was elected, there was much enthusiasm and hope that his refreshing style would bring a cleansing to the sordid corridors which existed in many dioceses of the Church, based on activities of some clergymen. A number of investigations have been conducted which revealed sexual molestations and there have been suspensions and even criminal proceedings brought against offenders.
However as the exposures mount, perceptions are growing that the apologies issued by the Vatican do not go far enough. Faith in the willingness of the Church not just to apologize but to put in place measures to confront, deal with and prevent future occurrences are beginning to wane. Demands have been made for a clear forward policy.
This has proven to be damning for the Catholic church which has over one billion members worldwide. It would however be a grave error to think that sexual offences and the accompanying cover up is confined to the Roman Catholic church. Many other denominations also attempt to cover up the transgressions of their clergy in order to protect the reputation of their churches.
It is this tradition of covering up the crimes of the clergy, especially in relation to matters to do with sex, that has contorted the Church into a place where pedophiles and other sex offenders feel they can run to for refuge and where they would be provided with a cloak of respectability and even a ready source of victims.
Not much has been said in the Caribbean about making abusers within the church pay for their transgressions, but that does not mean that they do not exist. In our small societies, we all know of church leaders at whom fingers have been pointed but who remain untouchable because of the deference normally accorded the Lord’s anointed.
Dealing with this problem is not an easy task especially in the context of our attitudes in the region to religion and to sex. But this is something we also need to speak about and take action for the protection of our people, particularly our children.