Sex abuse NCR Editorial: Clergy culture sustains sex abuse scandal

NCR Editorial Staff  |  Mar. 3, 2017


Cover Photo : Irish abuse victim Marie Collins looks at Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley during the first briefing of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors at the Vatican May 3, 2016. (CNS/Reuters/Alessandro Bianchi)

James kottoor(Note:  Indian Catholic church, especially the  Syromalabar Variety, has shown itself beyond any doubt to be secretive, arrogant and corrupt to the core. Secretive: You hide because you have something shameful to hide. On this point the Syromalabar is the worst variety. It holds any number of synods but none of them is opene to the laity or to the press, which means it has too many dirty things to hide. Last Latin bishops’ meet was far better

                      Arrogant: They hand down Diktats to be obeyed (thinking sections just ignore these) but  never take or answer questions addressed to them. They never  obey papal instructions. Syromalabar never conducted a Survey ordered by Pope, they have not  set up Parish or Financial commission ordered already by Vatican II. So the thinking sections of the Laity, therefore,  just ignore these one-sided Orders from Bishops and never bother to discuss these with bishops, since all know it is sheer waste of  their precious time.

                   Corrupt: The Church in India  is now stinking with   routine  sex abuse by any number of womanizing priests,  this time it produced a child for the whole world to see, which forced Cardinal  Alancherry  utter a few routine manufactured words of outrage, since it came in all secular papers.  He did that when he was forced to bless the Rs 50 crore (Rupees Fifty Crore) Edappally Church, condemning affluent  display. The fact was, he and his predecessor were presiding over its construction  and more such constructions in different places are going on with his blessings. Even so many more womanizing priests will be indulging in their pastime and the  Archiepiscopal team will continue to protect culprits impregnating  minors to escape from the scene or from the country.

            This time their efforts to transport the priest to Canada failed miserably.  Now we will have to wait till another priestly child pops up, to hear a similar routine statement from the Cardinal. Of course what can a Cardinal alone do when there is the Mandatory-celibacy-stupid created by the Vatican is there to stay forever? This NCR editorial is all about that. So be sure nothing is going to change in the increasing incidents of womanizing priests.

                Taking lessons from the Kottiyoor incident stud bulls in the priestly fraternity will become doubly cautious and secretive. Diocesan network of covering up, protecting, transferring and imposing these incorrigible bulls on some unsuspecting village parish will be made impeccable. Stud bulls will continue to find way to meet cows to relieve themselves. And the church will continue to sing the glories of enforced celibacy as the shining jewel of Catholic priesthood.

                  Where a Pontifical Commission of Francis Papa has failed  on the global level with resignation of Marie Collins (see picture above) what can a solitary half-hearted  Cardinal Alancherry of the Syro-Malabar or the Latin Church or the CBCI  achieve on a national level? For any improvement one has wait for the dawn of optional celibacy or married priesthood or the total abolition of an unbiblical priesthood which divides the people of God into two incompatible classes or castes? Equality of all humans as brothers and sisters of one family has to come if there is any basis in the belief of a God who is the Father figure of all. That hope should drive us all forward. james kottoor, editor).


                         The resignation of Marie Collins from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors is a turning point in Pope Francis’ pontificate. It cannot be seen any other way. For all the hope and promise that we find in Francis and his vision for the church, we believe his pontificate teeters on the brink of failure on the issue of sexual abuse by the clergy.

For three and a half years, Francis has promised to take real action to bring accountability to the highest structures of the church and to help heal survivors. Now the commission he created to do that must confront serious questions about its credibility.

For his part, Francis must take some decisive, public action here. He must empower the commission with authority — a fully functioning commission cannot operate without a budget, permanent staff and the power to hire outside expertise. Beyond that, Francis must act to guarantee that the Vatican dicasteries and their personnel cooperate fully with the commission. Those who deliberately frustrate the commission’s work, no matter what level of the Curia they represent, must be replaced with personnel who will claim the eradication of this scandal as part of their mission.

But something deeper is at play here. If all we get are stronger managerial presences and dedicated staff and office space, we may not get the full reform of structures this issue calls out for. A resistance to change that is planted deep within the all-male clerical culture is the largely unaddressed issue at the heart of the scandal and has been since the first major story about it appeared in these pages more than 30 years ago.


Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen states this clearly, but Australia has been through three years of public soul-searching that others in the church have avoided. Francis’ urgent task is to change this elite, clerical culture. He has been outspoken on this, but now is the time for action.

We should stipulate a few points here for those who might still think that calling out the clerical culture once again is overstating the matter. It is clear that sexual abuse of children does not happen solely, or even primarily, within the confines of the Catholic priesthood. In fact, most abuse occurs in the wider society and in family settings among those whom children are taught to trust. Abuse within the Catholic church, however, is a unique crime — and sin — for several reasons having to do with the clerical culture.

First, the perpetrators claim, by dint of ordination, an ontological difference from the rest of humanity, a separateness expressed in the belief that they stand “in persona Christi,” specially anointed channels of God’s grace and forgiveness.

Second, the perpetrators belong to a closed and exclusive culture, with its own archaic laws and largely hidden legal proceedings, a culture that enjoyed enormous deference from law enforcement and the courts as well as from ordinary Catholics.

Finally, the culture was long led by men who, it has been shown beyond any dispute, looked first to the preservation of their privileged status and the reputation of their culture before taking into consideration the deep destruction occurring to the most vulnerable in the community.

What we know now is that all of the emotional and intellectual investment of victims, all the lofty words and intentions of countless bishops forced to acknowledge the deep corruption of the institution, all of the straining for some manner of justice by those in the wider, secular culture, mean nothing inside the community if the clergy culture continues to refuse to confront itself and its entrenched and unyielding role in sustaining the sexual abuse scandal.

There is no denying the progress — and Collins herself gives high marks to Francis for dealing forcefully with the problem at the top level of the church. But if, as she reports, his efforts are consistently frustrated at lower levels, nothing will change.

We are at a crucial point when it comes to the issue of clergy sex abuse. Yes, the buck stops with Francis, but the burden is not just on the pope but also on everyone inside the Vatican to forcefully address the repercussions of past abuses and wipe out the atmosphere that has allowed this crime, and this sin, to occur for centuries.

What is necessary to finally put this scandal behind us is a chorus of clerical voices demanding reform of their own culture, demanding that the all-male clerical caste engage in the painful work of understanding what their culture has become, how it could be so deformed that it was able to justify what some have termed the “soul-killing” of the community’s children.

It is that culture that thwarts the work of the pontifical commission and that led to Marie Collins’ resignation. And until that culture changes, children will remain in harm’s way within this church.

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