Thursday 28 May 2009

Archbishop thought child sexual abuse was not criminal

A moral evil of no criminal import

Just a week ago I wrote about how the trust parents and society reposed in institutions that care for or educate children was betrayed and how children became victims of abuse with no means of being heard out and helped.

The strength of feeling presented in that blog had not begun to ebb when I came across a comment made by a one-time American Catholic Archbishop thus [1], “We all considered sexual abuse of minors as a moral evil, but had no understanding of its criminal nature.”

My blood boiled like I had just unfortunately fallen out of the pincer-grip of a giant man-eating crab into the gaping fire and brimstone of hell and my skin crawled like a million scorpions had awakened under my epidermis.

The clergy beyond the law

Somehow, Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland [2] had weakly found a way of splitting hairs between the moral evil and criminal act of abusing children.

It is strange that if a child were abused by the non-clergy, the abuser would be a paedophile but by this definition as espoused by a person of the Catholic Church hierarchy, it is just a moral evil – if I may add of self-gratification where innocent children are conscripted into pederasty and made catamites for inordinate desire of evil people pretending to be holy and consecrated to the service of God.

Most revered and respected

The Most Reverend Rembert George Weakland who apparently belongs to the Order of Saint Benedict [3] and thereby is a Benedictine monk under the Rule of Saint Benedict [4] “resigned” his Archbishopric in 2002 when it was revealed that he paid $450,000 of diocesan fund to a man who accused him of date rape in 1998, however, that was also the year he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75, the coincidence making his retirement rather ignominious at the time.

Weakland is in the process of writing his memoirs and in it he gives insight into his complicity in reassigning known priest abusers to other parishes without informing parishioners.

In civil society, a known sex offender in the US or the UK would be on a sex offender’s register having probably served time for their offences and key members of the community would know of that offender’s presence in order to prevent a situation where children can be groomed and preyed on.

Growing out of it

Obviously, these are recent developments, in the Catholic Church the archbishop avers without much conviction or empathy but with breathataking naivety that “My general reasoning was that there were probably some kids who 'grew out of it,' and then some who were deeply disturbed for life.

We thank God for those who presumable “grew out of it”, but for those who were deeply disturbed for life, I do wonder for the kind of eternal retribution that awaits the priests who stole their childhoods and sentenced the children to an unimaginably dark life whilst they walked away scot free, free of blame, free of sanction and free to take tribute as holy men.

It beggars belief that this kind of thinking prevailed in the mind of very religious and erudite senior members of the clergy who had the power to change things and ensure the abuse stopped forthwith.

As the Archbishop of Milwaukee for 25 years from 1977 to 2002, he presided over a diocese where a chronicle of 800 pages titled The Sexual Abuse of Children in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee [5] highlights the systematic management, toleration and rotation of child sexual abusers in the diocese.

Rotating the abusers

It would appear that the Catholic Church did know about these abuses and the re-assignment of suspect priests from as far back as 1985 but very little was done as Father Thomas Brundage stated as the beginning of that chronicle – “After 1985, all churches in the United States were on notice that they cannot put priests who have had incidents of having sexual abuse in parishes or any setting where they would have access to children. For the church authorities to have allowed this to happen was sinful, more than negligent, and I believe they should be held accountable.”

The Most Reverend Weakland’s humiliation would have been complete with the deposition [6] he gave on the 5th and 6th of June that ran into 312 pages, fully transcribed and highlighting the activities of 13 named priests.

From America to Ireland

But this is just one diocese in America, in 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Los Angeles paid child abuse claims of $660 million [7] and in the Republic of Ireland where Colm O’Gorman [8] became of the first of many to report abuse to the civil authorities and hold the church and its hierarchy accountable [9] for abuse, he was awarded EUR 300,000 in damages in 2003.

Colm O’Gorman has just published a book, Beyond Belief [10], where he highlights the reality for many an abused child “I was living in a world where a priest who spoke the words of God used me for sex, and there was no-one to tell.”, for “priest who spoke the words of God”, consider father, brother, uncle, sister, mother, aunt, teacher, pastor, person of authority, respected community figure, the list is endless.

Colm O’Gorman was on BBC HardTalk [11] last week where the questions were hard to ask, harder to respond to and almost too hard to comprehend in hearing that any of this could really have happened on God’s own earth and Ireland in particular, but the publication of The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse [12] was a revelation that turned the stomach with unprecedented revulsion.

Is the abuse in Africa too?

The next big question then is, is all this institutionalised child sexual abuse only in America and Ireland or is the current revelation the tip of the iceberg of atrocious moral evils that might be taking place in South America, Africa and Asia?

Places where people in religious authority are held in high esteem, where child sexual abuse could be seen as the collateral taking of spoils for the greater good that these institutions bring to society. Thereby, the end satisfactory justifies the means.

Where the child abused sees it as part of the sacrifice for a better life in the future, where even if parents or the authorities knew of all this abuse the child would be berated, scolded and threatened into absolute silent and pliancy.

Until people start to speak up about familial and institutional abuse in these places rather than allowing the fear of shame to perpetuate an unspeakable evil, the abuse would continue and abusers would congregate to take their sexual favours off our children – IT MUST STOP!, but it can only stop when people start to speak up.


[1] ‘We did not know that child abuse was a crime,’ says retired Catholic archbishop

[2] Rembert Weakland - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] Order of Saint Benedict - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] Rule of Saint Benedict - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[5] The Sexual Abuse of Children in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

[6] Deposition of Archbishop Rembert Weakland

[7] Catholic Church pays off paedophile accusers []

[8] Colm O'Gorman - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[9] BBC NEWS | Programmes | Correspondent | Suing the Pope - Colm's story

[10] Beyond Belief by Colm O’Gorman

[11] BBC iPlayer - HARDtalk: Colm O'Gorman – Only playable for UK residents, this iPlayerList might eventually work sometime in the future, it is under development.

[12] The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

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