Yesterday, I realized that we were rapidly approaching our 300th post and I got nervous that it wouldn't be anything special. Luckily, loyal blog reader Geoffrey Cunningham bailed me out. So our 300th post is also our first reader submitted post. I hope this will encourage more reader submissions as we look to expand the blog and topics covered.
By: Geoffrey Cunningham
I would like to preface this post by saying that I’ve never been affiliated with a church, and I’ve only been inside one a handful of times. You can just call me an agnostic, or a pussy-atheist, whichever you prefer. I’ve never been able to call myself an atheist because I do believe that there must be something out there that’s greater than us. What I don’t believe in is organized religion. Now, I’m not going to spend time explaining why, and I’m certainly not going to condemn people for their beliefs. All I’ll say is that with organized religion comes a great deal of baggage.
Recently, it was made public that an American priest named Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy was accused of molesting 200 boys during his time at (get ready for this) St. John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin from 1950-1974. And what did top Vatican officials, including Pope Benedict XVI himself, do when they learned this? Nothing! Do you know why? Because the reverend said he had already repented about it, and he’s old and in poor health.
This happens far too often within the Catholic Church and if that’s not ridiculous enough, I came across an article in the New York Times the other day that discussed how the church plans to change its image after this revelation: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/10/world/europe/10church.html?hp
Upon reading the headline “Vatican Outlines Path to Restoring Faith in Church,” I was instantly intrigued. I thought to myself ‘Good! They’re going to put this reverend and anyone else involved on trial and send them to jail, right?’ Wrong. The Vatican’s plan is to have the pope, as he has done a few times before, meet with the victims. If I were a victim of clerical sexual abuse, I wouldn’t want the pope to come anywhere near me, and it’s my hope that these victims don’t want any part of that either. Does the church actually believe that this will alleviate the traumatizing effects of sexual abuse?
It’s very clear to me how the church should go about cleaning up their image and helping bring closure to these people: punishment to the offenders. It’s not organic chemistry. It’s justice. If you break the law, you should be punished. The church has its own court system and decides whether to put their clergymen who commit atrocious acts on trial. That’s outrageous and it’s not justice! Whenever possible, because international law is a difficult concept, they should be tried by a legitimate institution of law because no one is above the law. I’m sorry, but I don’t care how close you think you are to God. You are not above human law because you are just that, human. Praying to an entity that may exist and thinking you’ve received forgiveness from said entity doesn’t erase what you’ve done.
What bewilders me is that there never seems to be too much public outrage about these incidents. It’s well known that in prisons, child molesters are ostracized and attacked by other prisoners. They are the lowest of the low, and even hardened criminals are disgusted by them. So, what makes a clergyman different? As I said, I didn’t grow up going to church, so I don’t know how I would feel if I were Catholic right now. My hope is that I would leave the church upon learning of the lack of justice within.
Rev. Federico Lombardi of Vatican Radio was the main source for quotes in the article from a recent radio address, and he did say that the church should cooperate with civil justice systems. Hallelujah! Of course, he also said a few things that boggled my mind. For example, Father Lombardi said that “pedophilia in the church should be seen in the context of a broader problem in society.” Now that just doesn’t make sense. Yes, pedophilia is certainly a problem in society, but if it’s a problem within an organization you take part in, it is your problem and your problem alone. He was also quoted as saying that in 2008, 62,000 cases of child abuse were reported in the U.S., “while the group of Catholic priests is so small as not to be taken into consideration as such.” Does that quote confuse you as much as it confused me? I’ll just say it again Father Lombardi, it’s still a huge problem.
In regard to Rev. Murphy, I hope that the U.S. justice system can do something about the despicable things he’s done. Of course, the realist in me doubts that anything will come of it. I won’t lie, when I heard about this incident and the pope being indicated in it, I was hopeful because I thought that the church would finally reevaluate itself in a serious manner and change for the better.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that the church will survive this though. After all, it survived the Spanish Inquisition.