Abuse of minors: why the Church is targeted

Abuse of minors: why the Church is targeted

Michael Gilchrist

It is no surprise that the secular media has been targeting the Catholic Church yet again over the cover-up of child abuse crimes, most of which occurred many years ago.

Condemnation of the manner in which many of these were handled is well merited, but the media has gone overboard in attempting to implicate even the Pope in his earlier capacities as Archbishop of Munich and as a top Vatican official in the culture of cover-ups.

Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, was one of the first church leaders to recognise the gravity and extent of the sexual abuse of minors, and to demand that local churches have effective means of responding to allegations, helping the victims and dealing with offenders.

Of course, when the Church is seen to be hypocritical over moral issues, its credibility as the repository of eternal truth and bastion of traditional values is seriously weakened. For having espoused the highest moral standards, the Church must expect to be judged by those standards.

Admittedly pedophilia is by no means the monopoly of clerical celibates. Its incidence has been greater in other organisations and enterprises - religious or secular - where there is ready access to the young. And married people are by no means exempt from this criminal behaviour.

It is easy, with the advantage of hindsight and a better understanding of the issue to find fault in almost any manner of handling cases in past years, however well-intended. We need to distinguish between the isolated instances of such mishandling - as judged by today's more rigorous standards - and the persistent and deliberate cover-ups that occurred in Ireland and elsewhere, such as Boston and Milwaukee. These deserve the strongest condemnation.

Michael Gilchrist, Editor: Email address available on request.

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