Diana Penhale examines recent developments in the Catholic child abuse scandal.
The FET, Tuesday 11th May
The pope has today made significant concessions to the anti-molestation wing of society by admitting for the first time that the Catholic church is to blame for the child abuse scandal. A great amount of support for these comments has already been voiced by the more liberal members of the Catholic hierarchy. However, there are suspicions that discontent may be brewing among traditionalists in the Vatican.
For months the Catholic church has been forced to deal with mounting cases of sexual abuse from across the globe. In small numbers these instances proved manageable, with the church authorities able to resolve such conflagrations through the relocation of priests to different parishes. However, as more and more parishes became occupied by abusive priests, the church has been forced to seek alternative solutions.
In recent weeks the church has been leaning towards a radical policy of attempting to eliminate child abuse altogther. Many influencial Catholics have fiercly opposed this change, calling it an unreasonable encroachment upon their personal freedom. However, its supporters have emphasised that it may be the only practical solution to problem of priest-child infatuations interfering with parochial duties.
The pope’s words have escalated this conflict by accepting moral responsibility for the issue of clerical child abuse. Up until now, the church was able to remain coy about any courses of action that it might take. The previous policy of placing the blame with secular society, the media and the children themselves afforded the church the option of cancelling efforts to eliminate child abuse should an alternative solution be found. Traditionalists now fear that the pope has irreversably committed the church to hardline abolishonism.
However, supporters of this decision have emphasised that the pope’s words were carefully crafted to suggest a path forward that is very positive for the Catholic church. The scandal, said Pope Benedict, is the result of “sin within the church”. The conceptualisation of the abuse scandal as sin may indicate that the pope intends to tackle the problem with an increase in strict religious observance rather than a decrease in sexual encounters with adolescent boys.