Saturday, March 7, 2009

For Victims Of Sexual Abuse It's One Step Forward, And Another Step Backward

Here's the step forward:

An Irish Roman Catholic bishop at the centre of a row over his handling of clerical child sex abuse allegations in his diocese has stepped aside, church authorities said on Saturday.

Bishop John Magee of Cloyne, in the south of Ireland, who was private secretary to three successive popes -- Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II -- said in a statement he had asked Pope Benedict XVI on February 4 to appoint an administrator to his diocese.

An apostolic administrator is appointed to govern a diocese temporarily when "special or very serious circumstances warrant" such an appointment, the church says. He governs in the name of the pontiff.

Magee, 72, retains the title of Bishop of Cloyne but Pope Benedict has appointed the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, Dermot Clifford, to assume the powers and duties of the diocese.
Mainly Roman Catholic Ireland has been rocked by recurring scandals involving decades of abuse by Catholic clergy.

Magee has been under pressure since he was criticised in a report last December from the church's own National Board for Safeguarding Children into the handling of two Cloyne priests accused of abusing children.

It found that child protection practices in the Cloyne were "inadequate and in some respects dangerous".

The report said there "was no evidence that risk had been appropriately identified or managed, thereby potentially exposing vulnerable young people to further harm".

This prompted the government to extend a state-backed child sex abuse inquiry into Dublin's archdiocese -- the country's largest -- to also include Cloyne.

The statement from the Cloyne diocese said the appointment of Clifford to run the diocese would allow Magee "to devote the necessary time and energy to cooperating fully" with the government inquiry.

Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said the pope's decision "is an indication of the importance which the Church gives to safeguarding children and caring for the needs of victims".

Pope Benedict's move on Cloyne is the second time Rome has intervened in an Irish sex abuse scandal.

In 1993 a clerical abuse scandal contributed to the collapse of the government and in 1999 former prime minister Bertie Ahern delivered an unprecedented apology to the victims on behalf of the state.

In 1999, Ahern set up the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse which has yet to deliver its final report on scandals dating back to the 1930s in institutions such as schools, orphanages, hospitals and children's homes that were funded by the state but were mainly run by Catholic religious orders.
Running alongside the Commission is a compensation body for victims of abuse.

Some 825 million euros (1.04 billion dollars) has so far been paid out to about 10,800 of over 14,500 people who have sought compensation for physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
The average award was 65,300 euros, with 25 people receiving the maximum compensation award payable of between 200,000 and 300,000 euros.

Compensation has been sought by Irish people now living in more than 30 different countries with 40 percent of applications coming from women.


Here's the step backwards:

A senior Vatican cleric has defended the excommunication in Brazil of the mother and doctors of a young girl who had an abortion with their help.

The nine-year-old had conceived twins after alleged abuse by her stepfather.
Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re told Italian paper La Stampa that the twins "had the right to live" and attacks on Brazil's Catholic Church were unfair.

It comes a day after Brazil's president criticised the Brazilian archbishop who excommunicated the people involved.

Brazil only permits abortions in cases of rape or health risks to the mother.
Doctors said the girl's case met both these conditions, but the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said the law of God was above any human law.

He said the excommunication would apply to the child's mother and the doctors, but not to the girl because of her age.

Cardinal Re, who heads the Roman Catholic Church's Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, told La Stampa that the archbishop had been right to excommunicate the mother and doctors.

"It is a sad case but the real problem is that the twins conceived were two innocent persons, who had the right to live and could not be eliminated," he said.
(And what about the innocent little girl?)
"Life must always be protected, the attack on the Brazilian Church is unjustified."
(Except in the case of innocent little girls.)

The abortion was carried out on Wednesday.

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, himself a Catholic, said on Friday that he regretted what he described as the cleric's deeply conservative attitude.

"The doctors did what had to be done: save the life of a girl of nine years old," he said.

The girl, who lives in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco, was allegedly sexually assaulted over a number of years by her stepfather, possibly since she was six.
(Excuse me, the girl was pregnant, she didn't get that way on her own.)

The fact that she was four months' pregnant with twins was only discovered after she was taken to hospital in Pernambuco complaining of stomach pains.

Her stepfather was arrested last week, allegedly as he tried to escape to another region of the country. He is also suspected of abusing the girl's physically handicapped 14-year-old sister.


Well at least we have finally had one bishop held accountable for protecting abusive priests. This story was a huge controversy in Ireland in December which I wrote about at the time. Bishop Magee had been steadfast in his refusal to step down. It appears he had a change of heart. Perhaps the Vatican encouraged his change of heart, but in any event it's great to see that the Vatican is finally acting in the case of a bishop who patently blew it with clerical sexual abuse.

However, those abusive priests have not been excommunicated and so we come to the step backward.

Cardinal Battista Re wishes us to believe that there is an ontological difference between the innocence of four month old fetuses and nine year old girls. Nine year old girls can die for the sake of the innocence of twin fetuses because I guess nine year old girls are actually born and must have original sin or something. In fact, the unborn are so innocent that self defense can not be invoked as a moral justification for abortion, even in the case of a nine year old.

For the church, the unborn have taken on a right to life that supersedes the born. There is no justification that I've been able to find in scripture or tradition for this point of view. In fact the tradition frequently makes the opposite case. Church practice long held that baptism was necessary for consideration for burial in consecrated grounds. It was baptism, in erasing the stain of original sin, which qualified one for entrance into the kingdom. Things have radically changed or been re translated or something.

It seems to me that if there's absolutely no justification for abortion, when there are numerous loop holes for the taking of born life, then we have placed the unborn in a theological category beyond the merely human. To base this special status on a definition of innocence which is not extended to any other stage of life seems to me to be arbitrary. What it says is that when a person takes their first unassisted breath, they have somehow also degraded their special innocence. They become eligible for all sorts of other forms of the taking of their lives.

In this story the nine year old girl has had her innocence debased by a pervert for three years and yet there is dead silence from ecclesial authorities about that issue. "It's sad" doesn't come close to the truth. It also does nothing for the thousands of other little pregnant girls, who are also victims of forcible rape and incest.

The truth is there is a big double standard when it comes to the sexual abuse of children. Somehow, for some reason, girls get the short end of the stick, and yet they are the children who get pregnant. In the field of pedophilia, professionals know that victims are not victims because of the perpetrators orientation, they are victims because of their availability. That too is a fact that the church can't or won't deal with and so homosexual priests are also given their own special theological status--not ordainable, not persona christi, not innocent.

In my mind these two stories truly are linked in that ultimately they both deal with the sexual abuse of children. One bishop is 'retired' in order to deal with his sexual abuse mess, and one girl, her mother, and her doctors are put through more victimization by the same Church. There's something fundamentally wrong with this picture and not just because it's too black and white.


  1. I am so happy to read your comments - as I was so disturbed by the case in Brazil for exactly the reasons you cite. Yet I saw little comment about this on other blogs. It seems as if the Church has become so obsessed with the abortion issue they do not recognize other forms of evil - as if abortion is now the only evil.

    While the Church busies itself excomunicating any and all who disagree with their teaching on abortion - the hierarchy fail utterly to understand that Catholics are horrified by the continuing cavalier attitude the hierarchy of the Church displays towards the welfare of our children. Yes - the rights of the unborn are so important - but no rights for those innocent children abused by PRIESTS. This will destroy the Church.

    In my own parish , just days after the diocesan newspaper printed the new rules to assure protection of children from clergy (WHAT A THING TO HAVE TO SAY) our pastor - was hugging and kissing little children after mass - in clear violation of the newly published rules. Guess he figures they dont apply to him. An utter lack of awareness on his part about how Catholics see the clergy nowadays.

  2. Anonymous, it already has destroyed the church. What we are witnessing now is the crumbling of the rotted and decaying structure.

  3. And our parish, anonymous, has just started insisting that servers wear robes. I was told that it was because some female servers wore "seductive" clothing. Just another case of a victim "asking for it"?

  4. Thanks for this excellent post and allowing it to be included in The Blog Carnival Against Sexual Violence. It would also be a wonderful addition to THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE. We have another edition of this carnival coming up in April. Details are at my blog. Thanks for considering it!

  5. Marj, I had no idea that this post had been added to the Blog Carnival Against Sexual Violence, but I'm gratified that it was. Feel free to use this in the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse and thanks for the heads up.

  6. why is it that the govt is protecting the Church t... why is it that the govt is protecting the Church that has allowed a predator roam free for the last 35 years ruining the lives of his victims, He is still at large in the community and is living in Castlemagner, The DPP in my opinion is in cahoots with the church and this bastard should be dragged in to Mallow Gardai in shackles and show the victims that there is justice in this world, Are they waiting for the bastard to die. The four who were abused is just the tip of the iceberg,

    This comment was originally posted by 'friend of abuse survivor. I accidently deleted it from my main editing page.