"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The role of the confessional in the Catholic child abuse scandal

The real scandal of the revelations about pedophile priests abusing children is not so much that it happened, although for the victims it is a personal tragedy, but that the Church so systematically covered for the perpetrators and failed to report cases to the secular authorities. Part of this is the unconscionable arrogance of the Holy See in believing its own cannon law supersedes the law of the countries in which it operates, but also the traditions of secrecy in the confessional will have provided ground cover for those priests who felt guilty enough to confess their transgressions to other priests.
The seal of the confessional is inviolate. No matter how heinous the crime committed by the "penitent", the priest hearing the confession is bound on pain of excommunication to keep the confession a secret. The only obligation on the priest is to seek advice from a superior, whilst still maintaining the anonymity of the penitent.
When the penitent is another priest confessing to fiddling with the altar boys, the "seal" provides an excellent excuse to keep the issue within the church and preserve its reputation. The dodgy priest's confessor need only seek advice and the hierarchy can begin operation cover-up.
In highly catholic countries, no government would question the seal of the confessional, but they should. If anyone has evidence that a serious crime has being committed, especially where circumstances suggest the crime will be repeated they should be legally bound to report this to the secular authorities before they talk to their superiors. It should be an offence for a priest to know about such crimes and not report them.
Pedophiles have a problem. Pedophilia is not of itself a crime, it is a psycho-sexual condition which like all other fetishes that fall outside of "normal" vanilla heterosexual concepts is probably more prevalent than anyone realises. Also, like most sexual orientations it is probably to some extent innate. However, no society is ever going to tolerate the sexual molestation of children, no matter how liberal it becomes and in my opinion rightly so.
I suspect, while offering no evidence whatsoever, that most pedophiles would rather not be attracted to minors so enforced celibacy in the priesthood may seem a good option for them. This will have the effect of concentrating these people within the ranks of the Catholic church and frankly, as long as they keep their vows of celibacy, that can only be a good thing. But if ever once they break those vows and molest children, they need to be exposed. The confessional is where they will go, and the confessional needs to grow up and 'fess up on its own account.

No comments:

Post a Comment