/* */ Rosa Rubicondior: Religion News - Ignorance and Indifference to Child Abuses in American Catholics

Friday, 6 August 2021

Religion News - Ignorance and Indifference to Child Abuses in American Catholics

Former Cardinal McCarrick
Facing criminal charges for the sexual abuse of minors
National Survey of Adult Catholics | America Magazine (pdf)

As the news broke that former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, has been formally charged with sexual offences against minors, a survey revealed that 62% of American Catholics (52% of men and 69% of women) said they had never heard of him.

Given his former high profile as the senior Catholic cleric in America and the high-profile nature of both his crimes and his public laicisation, this shows an astonishing degree of indifference to the scandal of clerical sexual abuse that has engulfed the Catholic Church in recent decades. It suggests that many American Catholics are Catholic in name only, and have no particular affiliation to the Church or identification with what priests, Catholic school teachers, etc, have been doing under its protective and facilitative cover for decades now.

Similarly, only 47% of those surveyed had heard about the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report detailing the allegations of the sexual abuse of over 1000 children by 301 priests in the state of Pennsylvania over several decades, despite the fact that this was a top news story at the time and led to the instigation of similar investigations in multiple US states. And this despite the fact that 84% of those Catholics surveyed reporting that they paid "a great deal", "quite a bit" or "some" interest in the child sexual abuse scandals.




But this astonishing degree of indifference and disinterest, despite protestations of paying attention to it, in something that has practically destroyed any moral authority the Catholic Church once had in countries like Ireland, is more than matched by the lack of awareness that the senior Catholic Cleric in the USA, who once had the ear of leading politicians, has a history of the sexual abuse of minors and of vulnerable young men at a seminary he once ran.

Not only that, but the scandal touches two Popes: Pope Benedict XVI who was told about him and allegedly restricted his activities, and Pope Francis, who restored his functions and later claimed he did not know about the allegations. This, of course, implies that either his predecessor was lying about having limited McCarrick's powers as a result of his sexual predation, or didn't tell Pope Francis. Or Pope Francis is lying about not being told, and didn't bother to find out why the powers he was restoring to McCarrick had been removed in the first place. Not only do we have the historically unprecedented situation of two living Popes, but they are in effect both accusing the other of lying and being indifferent to the sexual abuse of minors.

Whatever the truth of that is, and there is a code of silence worthy of the Mafia on the subject, it shows a degree of equanimity on the subject of McCarrick's predatory behaviour that belies the Church's claim to be taking the matter seriously. Action was only taken against McCarrick's known sexual predations when the scandal broke and Pope Francis could no longer turn a blind eye to the matter.

And the apparent indifference to it shown by American Catholics, shows that the natural response of defending the church at the expense of its victims has to some extent, paid off. The "Don't talk about it in front of the children", strategy has worked; 51% of respondents say they heard about sexual abuse accusations from local news media and only 32% from their local diocesan news outlets. A further 29% say they heard about them at their local parish. (Multiple responses were allowed, so the totals don't sum to 100%).

The Catholic Church clearly has a great deal more to do if it is going to rehabillitate itself and prevent these abuses continuing. There is an embarrassing bulge developing in the carpet under which so much has been swept.

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