There have been scandals of child sexual abuses over the past fifteen years which opened a dramatic crisis among the Catholic faithful, turning the spotlight on a terrible plague and undermining the credibility of the Catholic Church itself.
The scandal came to light in 2001 in the Archdiocese of Boston (USA) thanks to the complaints and the Boston Globe journalist called “Il Caso Spotlight” (The Spotlight case). After the inquiry, about seventy priests were accused of abuses committed over the course of several decades in Boston. In other countries such as Ireland, Australia, Chile, dramatic fronts have been opened up against priests and religious about this scourge caused by men from 2001 to today. Even other nations, though in a minor tone, have been touched by the wickedness of the sacred ministers.
Sexual abuse within the Church has opened up more reflections. The first issue we face is related to the formation of candidates for the priesthood and the ongoing formation of the priests themselves. The second question he has dealt with is the relationship between civil and canonical justice.
Unfortunately, paedophilia is not a new problem in the society, nor can it be said that it affects only the Church (even if this is not excusable). The history of humanity is marked by this crime. The paedophile conceives the other as a sexual object. The lack of meaningful relationships is filled with a need that turns into sexual domination, justified by disordered affection.
Today we run the risk, as are many mass media or power lobbies in search of Pharaonic compensation, to criminalize all educational institutions including Catholic ones in a special way. In the church there are paedophiles, but we cannot say that all priests or religious are paedophiles. Paedophiles must be dismissed, relieved of their ecclesial duties and also judged in civil proceedings.
In a dramatic way, two Pontiffs, in their letters, denounced the paedophilia scandal and took unprecedented measures. Pope Benedict XVI, with a letter addressed in 2010 to the Catholics of Ireland, demanded penance and protection in the future towards the little ones; the second letter is from Pope Francis to the bishops of Chile, where he refers to “many victims of serious abuses of conscience and power” and to “sexual abuse committed against minors by several consecrated persons in your country, who were denied at the time and who have stolen their innocence”. The same mass discharge of the Chilean hierarchy is a unique fact in the Church that will have consequences over the next decades on the whole governance of the Catholic Church.
The Holy See is fighting with all its strength this scourge by lifting from its responsibilities all those who have stained this crime and forcefully intervening in the structures of power and educational fallacy to protect the weakest. Will the civil society be able to carry out the same process with its structures of power and education? Not enough to denounce the abuser but also build a mentality that always protects the weakest from the abuses of the strongest.
Alfonso V. Amarante, CSsR