Sexual abuse of minors in Catholic Churches: expelling the demons within the system 70 years too late

During the last couple of decades, the world has evolved at a staggering pace. From technological and economic advancements to diplomatic tensions and pandemics, humans have been witnesses of unprecedented events. These circumstances have affected people in different ways. Despite the scope and effect of different affairs, a large proportion of citizens, regardless of their origin, have sought closure and devoted themselves to living in accordance with religious beliefs. 

The real demons were inside the Churches:

Many institutions collapsed or were revamped as they faced the challenges of modern society, however the Catholic Church has failed to expel the demons which were residing inside their sacred places. Today, it is estimated that 1.3 billion people are Catholic, making Catholicism, as part of Christianity, one of the largest religious populations of the world. Today, the Catholic Church asks for forgiveness of its followers as the nightmares conducted within its structures during the past 70 years come to light. 

The Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (CIASE) has released a report in early October which, in its 2500 pages, reveals how around 216,000 children in France were sexually abused by the members of the French Catholic clergy since 1950. Additionally, the victim number increased to around 330,000 when lay members of the Church were included. The report identifies around 2,900 and 3,200 abusers who worked in the French Catholic Church in the past 70 years. To put it simply and concurrently terrifying, the Catholic Church has been the most dangerous environment for minors in the past 70 years.

The systematic abuse of minors:

The president of the commission, Jean-Marc Sauvé, stated how the Church has covered up these crimes, showing indifference and negligence towards the systemic abuse of minors. Not only that but the state itself, despite its freedom, equality, and fraternity, has proven the political influence the Catholic Church has in France given its decision to abstain in terms of enforcing bills that might have impacted these horrific events. 

The estimation regarding the number of abused children has been based on national surveys in accordance with different national institutes and polling agencies. Also, a public call was set up for victim testimonies through which several thousand people have reported how they have been abused. 

“Sexual abuse in religious institutions was an open secret, but the very scope was unimaginable”

Despite other investigations disclosed in countries such as the United States, Ireland, Germany, Australia, etc, this report comes in as an earthquake because of the sheer number of victims and perpetrators. It could be argued how sexual abuse in religious institutions was a sort of an open secret, but the very scope was unimaginable. The conversation regarding sexual abuse has been ongoing for so long that it feels like old news, and it certainly feels so for the perpetrators who believe they will receive their holy communion. What is even worse, the end product is always the same. The clergy is shocked, citizens are in disbelief. Days go by and the modus operandi remains intact. And the situation is always much worse than what it manifests.

Let us not ignore the bravery of those who have testified against their perpetrators. Some of them have been victims more than half a century ago. Today, they are regular citizens, just like you and I, performing regular citizens’ duties, only with a psychological trauma that scarred them for life. As we have been oblivious to these issues, so have the perpetrators and the members of the Church, conceiving themselves to stand outside of moral boundaries and ignoring the suffering through which the victims are going through to this day. 

The importance of addressing the internal structure of the Church:

Previous investigations have rarely put emphasis on the importance of addressing the internal structure of the Church. It has taken long enough to realize that the veil of silence has spread like a disease throughout all the ranks of its hierarchy, proving how the fundamental pillars of the Church are rotten and in need of revision.

Pope Francis acknowledges that this is a moment of shame for the Catholic Church. It should not stop there, however. Not only does the Church need restructuring, but it also needs to provide answers to its followers. Those who have, as mentioned in the beginning, believed in what the Catholic Church stood for and for the sense of security and affiliation it has consequently provided. 

It is difficult to put on paper the emotions and sense of aversion this kind of news evokes in people. The Church was hiding its systemic sexual abuse of minors, putting the institution in front of the individual. But is not the Christian belief that people are made in the image of God and should possess sacred dignity which must be respected? “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, the sixth commandment states. The question thus arises, how will the abusers and those who have stayed silent atone for their sins?    

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