The Catholic Church has forever been a place where people of faith can find comfort from the hectic world that provides them with so much violence and fear. Little do people know that the Catholic Church didn’t always have the people’s best interest in mind. For decades, if not centuries, the Catholic Church has hidden a very horrible secret from the world, which was only brought to light in 2002 when the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team investigated the history and actions of the Catholic Church’s priests. To their surprise and horror, they found that Catholic priests were sexually abusing the children of the church. Not only did the Catholic Church know about these molestations, but they quietly settled the cases and made the victims swear to secrecy. After the cases were settled, the abusive priests would continue working for the church and molesting children. The Catholic Church knowingly and illegally subjected its children to sexual abuse without lifting a finger to prevent it from ever happening again until they were caught.
When Spotlight published the article about the horrible sexual abuse cases of the church in 2002, “the cardinal (Bernard F. Law) asserted several times in January that no priest with a record of abusing children remained in any assignment in the archdiocese… however, he has had to remove 10 priests, including 4 pastors, after evidence of past accusations of sexual abuse surfaced.” Unfortunately, Law was well aware of the remaining abusive priests, for it was discovered that Law had moved abusive priests from parish to parish in the past. Law was removed as the Cardinal and the Vatican sent Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley to Boston in 2003 to take his place.
While Cardinal O’Malley has been in Boston, he “settled hundreds of victims, sold the church’s opulent chancery in Brighton to help pay claims, and repeatedly apologized to the victims and their families for the church’s transgressions.” In one of his apology speeches, he said, “I have been deeply impacted by (victims’) histories and compelled to continue working toward healing and reconciliation while upholding the commitment to do all that is possible to prevent harm to any child in the future.” Cardinal O’Malley is evidently very capable of handling the situation and is the Vatican’s top advisor on sexual abuse.
Other authorities in the Catholic Church have not been as helpful. When Pope Benedict XVI was Archbishop of Munich and Freising in the early 1980s, he was said to have handled an abuse case poorly. He approved therapy for a priest accused of molestation in 1980. The priest quickly returned to his duties, however, and continued molesting children for several more years. Not only does Pope Benedict have a history of involvement in these cases, but his brother, Georg Ratzinger, was drawn into the scandal when members of his Bavarian choir said they had been sexually abused. Franz Wittenbrink, a German singer, said that there was a “widespread system of sadistic punishments and sexual lust” at the church school where Ratzinger’s choir resided. Wittenbrink also stated that it was “unimaginable” that Ratzinger had never heard about the choir boys’ abuse. Because of the accusations aimed at his brother, Pope Benedict XVI “has been unusually and laudably aggressive in dealing with abusers”, as said by David Gibson, the author of a Pope Benedict biography.
Benedict is just one of the examples of sloppy authorities inside the Catholic Church. It is from their sloppiness that priests such as John J. Geoghan were allowed to molest children without consequence in the first place. Geoghan was a former priest who went on a raping spree of mostly grammar school boys through six Boston parishes. Over 130 people have reported being sexually abused by Geoghan. Patrick McSorley remembers Geoghan getting him ice cream after hearing about his father’s suicide. He then went on to sexually molest McSorley. “To find out later that the Catholic Church knew he was a child molester- every day it bothers me more and more,” McSorley said. And yes, the Catholic Church did know about Geoghan being a child molester. According to an archdiocesan record, Geoghan’s “assertion in 1980 that his repeated abuse of seven boys in one extended family was not a ‘serious’ problem.” Not only that but the cardinal, as well as five other bishops, was supervising Geoghan at the time. After Geoghan was released from therapy and resumed his work, Margaret Gallant, the mother of the seven boys that Geoghan molested, wrote to Cardinal Humberto Medeiros: “Regardless of what he says, or the doctor who treated him, I do not believe he is cured; his actions strongly suggest that he is not, and there is no guarantee that persons with this obsession are ever cured.” Despite these pleas, the Catholic Church did nothing. In fact, Cardinal Bernard Law knew about the rapes and sexual abuse of Geoghan in 1984. Even so, Law transferred Geoghan to St. Julia’s parish in Weston, insisting that the transfer was “appropriate and safe.”
Another case of molestation was revealed by 64-year-old Denef from the Baltic coast of north Germany. He recalls being abused as a child for 6 years by his local priest. He took his case to the bishop of Magdeburg in 2003. After being offered 25,000 euros for his silence, he took the case to the Vatican. He then received a letter, saying that Pope John Paul II would pray for Denef to forgive the priest. The complete lack of consideration and sympathy of the Catholic Church was appalling and still is. Victims of this sort are fragile and deserve more than prayers. They deserve justice. Unfortunately, not a lot of justice was dealt out to the priests.
For example, in 1992, 62-year-old Father Mullin was accused of molesting children. He was then taken from his Plainville parish. After five years, however, he was the St. Ann Church’s organist, and after three months was once again Father Mullin.
These kinds of cases don’t just happen in Boston and Germany. Reports of sexual abuse induced by priests have come from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Poland. When the scandals first appeared in Ireland, 4 out of 24 bishops resigned. Even Cardinal Sean Brady admitted that he met and asked two young victims of a priest to remain quiet in writing in 1975.
“John Kelly, one founder of Ireland’s Survivors of Child Abuse group and a former inmate at Dublin’s notorious Artane Industrial School, which was run by the Christian Brothers, said Benedict had resisted their demands to properly investigate and disband religious orders tainted by sexual and physical abuse.” John Kelly went on record and stated that in “our view, we were let down in terms of promises of inquiries, reform and most importantly of all the Vatican continuing not to acknowledge that any priest or religious bodies found guilty of child abuse would face the civil authorities and be tried for their crimes in court”.
Other reactions to the injustice found in the Catholic Church’s system have been calling out for change. Rainer Schiessler, a priest at Munich’s St. Maximilian Church, says that “married priests should be accepted in the Catholic Church”. Others request that priests should no longer remain celibate. Commentators in Germany and Italy suggested it may prevent abuse.
Other reactions have been to stop going to church. Paul Dunbar, a 30-year-old Catholic, was convinced that he no longer belonged to the church after hearing about the horrors of child abuse and the extent of its reign over the church: “What really spurred me on was when the Bishop of Cloyne refused to resign even though he had been criticised for not having proper child protection policies in place.”
In response to these complaints, the “archdiocese spent $3.13 million on abuse prevention and outreach last year, including ongoing psychotherapy and medication for 288 victims”. Also, in “2014, (the Boston church) settled another 32 claims for $2.24 million, according to the church financial statements”. To put a bow on the package, the church now has a no-tolerance policy towards priests molesting children.
Although the church is trying to amend their ways, they only did so because they were caught red-handed. The cases of priests molesting children will never truly be amended because the amount of physical and mental abuse endured by the children of the Catholic Church is unbelievable. The Catholic Church may never be completely trusted again.
Sources: Farragher, Thomas. “Church Cloaked in Culture of Silence- The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. N.p.,n.d.Web.08 Dec. 2015.Spotlight. Dir. Tom McCarthy. Perf. Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, and Rachel McAdams. 2015. Film.