It goes without saying that the scandal surrounding the Catholic Church and the spate of 'Paedophile Priest' accusations, of which the Pope has rightly acknowledged and apologised for have sickened me to the core. However, aside from pulling the rug once and for all from under those few remaining overly-loyal head-buriers amongst the Christian/Catholic persuasion, who maintain that somehow all the accusations over the decades were made up and no cuddly caring priest could possibly have managed such vile, immoral acts, an apology, however heartfelt feels like too little too late.
My feelings of ire were heightened still further this week on hearing Radio 4's The Report, which condensed the many issues down to a half hour of research and comment. It's main thrust was the accusation that Pope Benedict knew about the accusations while in positions working up to the top job, but did nothing about it, or even go to lengths to cover it up. Though the programme highlighted concerns from both inside and outside the Vatican from people on the subject, it came up inconclusive, in part due to being flatly ignored when sending questions to the Vatican, the most helpful response being an anonymous redirect to prepared responses on their website.
As I made my tea listening to it through gritted teeth, the most unbelievable part came when they interviewed some people who attended the St John the Evangelist Cathedral at Milwaukee, where Father Lawrence Murphy was one of the priests accused of assaulting young boys in his flock. A selection of choice quotes:
"I sin every day, you sin every day. Are you going to throw stones at somebody? Are you perfect?"
"I think it's been made into a bigger deal than it needs to be.."
"We've learned that they are human just like the rest of us."
Now, I know that it is natural for members of a group to rally behind someone, but surely you would think an act of this gravity would snap them out of it. All three statements above serve to take heat away from the accused and onto the accusers. I can not believe that these people would for one moment consider such a stance if it were their children.
A Christian friend quipped to me a little while ago, that she was surprised that I wasn't all smug and satisfied now that her religion had been dragged through the dirt. After reminding her that it was the church that dragged itself face first through the mud, taking with it the innocence from the lives of thousands of children, now adults, many who will struggle to completely trust anyone in their lives, I say that there is little to be happy or smug about. The people at the top ultimately responsible for placing and replacing priests as soon as things get out of hand, will be protected by the heavily entrenched ideas of papal infallibility, and the church's power as a force aside from the laws that govern the rest of us, that give it the ability to decide for itself if and when to punish its members.
And through all this the victims continue to battle through the courts, the fundamentalist jibes and attacks, and the lingering mental trauma. No, I am not in the least bit happy.
Yet it is after digesting and working through these horrible acts that I believe we as an evolving species have a couple of small saving graces. First, and trivially, those damn door-to-door Jehovas Witnesses haven't been round for ages, probably because their oft-repeated mantra that only religion can bestow morals upon a person can now be utterly refuted and kicked into submission. Secondly, unwittingly, the Paedophiles, in their desire to fulfil their frustrated need for sexual gratification, have proven the non-existence of God.
Sure, there has been plenty of times when we have looked at a major catastrophe and said 'God could not exist or he would not let that happen', but a fundamental worshipper would respond with the 'all part of God's plan' or 'they were not believers' sidesteps. However, this is not possible here. These children were born into Catholic families, and were thus believers before they had chance to grow old enough to properly question the things they were being told. It is a long-standing situation as well (many allegations date back to the 1970's), giving a supreme being plenty of time to mull over the senselessness of any 'plan' he might have in mind that requires a member of his earthly representatives to drop his frock in front of a child and scar them for life.
In short, the way I see it, there are four explanations for how this situation came about:
1. God did not see it happening.
This cannot be the case, since God is meant to be a supreme being, who is omnipotent and omniscient. He sees everything, everywhere, for all time.
2. God did see it happening, but he was powerless to do anything about it.
God is meant to be capable of any act. He is supposed to be the supreme ruler of the cosmos who can fashion planets, make mountains, cause floods, and intricately create all creatures by his hand. Any less and his status as an an all-powerful God comes into question. So why didn't he just have a quiet word with any priest who was starting to turn to the dark side. Some might argue that justice is finally being done, but that is at the hands of human beings and human laws, and a long time after the event, ruining thousands of lives.
3. God did see it happening, and it was something he wanted to happen.
That's right, if you can discount the first two reasons, you arrive naturally at the third. A loving God cannot surely see these acts as part of a larger plan. And a plan for what, exactly? Has he got a bit tired of his earthly experiment and has decided to have a bit of fun with his creation, kind of like unleashing Bowser on Sim City? Otherwise, it would take a huge leap by a very brave theist to suggest that it is all part of the 'big plan'. Either way, no God who would let these things happen deserves worship by anyone.
4. God doesn't exist.
The most plausible of the four possibilities, God has been removed (or at least demoted from a position of deserved of worship) by a process of elimination. The priests had no fear of recrimination; the children were convinced of God's will that they should be 'taught these things', and a long-maintained system of covering up and moving around those who gave in to temptation ensured that the worst from above would be a quiet word and a no-expenses relocation to another church.
I can't see a fifth possibility. If you can, please explain it to me. I would much prefer to consider a possibility of a caring, loving God in the unlikely event he exists, than one that condones kiddy-fiddling.
So there you have it. It's cold comfort that such a proof comes on the back of the suffering of children and the lies of adults, but if I can extract a small silver lining; that of a way to convince people to move away from organised religion and thus remove one major source of using power to exploit the innocent, I will.