Belgium identifies 500 abuse victims

I must confess to have taken some perverse pleasure in watching the Catholic Church crumble under the weight of its own evil. Any organization that has this much power, abuses its influence this egregiously, and then gets caught fills me with both an appreciation for hubris and a feeling of schadenfreude. This has definitely stopped being fun:

Hundreds of sex abuse victims have come forward in Belgium with harrowing accounts of molestation by Catholic clergy that reportedly led to at least 13 suicides and affected children as young as two, an independent Belgian commission said Friday. Prof. Peter Adriaenssens, chair of the commission, said the abuse in Belgium may have been even more rampant than the 200-page report suggests, because his panel’s work was interrupted and all its files seized in a June 24 raid by Belgian judicial authorities who are conducting their own probe.

All of a sudden the jokes about priests touching kids simply turn to ashes in my mouth. This is a level of evil certainly within the same ballpark of the slave trade or the atrocities of the Nazi party. There’s nothing particularly amusing about this:

Friday’s report lists 507 witnesses who came forward with stories of molestation at the hands of clergy over the past decades. It says those abused included children who were two, four, five and six years old.

Or this:

The number of those coming forward with their stories and testimonies, however, could be only a fraction of those actually abused, Adriaenssens said. “We saw how priests, called up by the commission and asked to help seek the truth, were willing to set up the list of 10, 15, 20 victims they abused during boarding school while the commission knew only of one.”

I am ultimately at a loss for words (which is bad news for a blogger) to describe both my deep revulsion at this systematic abuse, and my resulting bafflement at how it could be so widespread. Are there that many pedophiles in the population at large, failing to abuse children simply out of the lack of access? Does the priesthood provide a siren call to those who have a particular attraction to children? We know that power corrupts, but is it the power itself that causes otherwise normal people to become child-rapists? Are these forms of abuse simply the resurrected ghosts of old cases of abuse that these grown priests experienced as children?

These questions all have several broad implications – if there are pedophiles in the population at large, should we be more concerned about any organization (the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers, Boy Scouts/Girl Guides) that attracts adults to work closely with children? If the priesthood attracts pedophiles, should we be cracking down on seminarians (side note: I used to want to be a priest; am I a latent pedophile)? If it’s merely an issue of power and access, why are we not more concerned about CEOs and politicians? If this is the result of past abuse, don’t we owe a duty of care to the perpetrators as well?

The Belgian church is struggling with these questions as well:

The Belgian Roman Catholic church on Monday acknowledged widespread sexual abuse over years by its clergy and pleaded for time to set up a system to punish abusers and provide closure for victims. The comments were in response to a report Friday in which hundreds of sex abuse victims revealed harrowing accounts of molestation by Catholic clergy throughout the country over the past 50 years…

“The challenge is so big and touches on so many emotions, it seems impossible to us to present a new proposal in all its details [now],” (Archbishop) Leonard said of hotly anticipated church plans to go after the abusers and protect the victims. The church also called on all abusers to come forward.

In the face of the accusations, I am quickly losing both my taste for this story and my patience with the unremitting arrogance and disgusting lack of human decency being championed by the Vatican. Pope Ratzinger, upon arriving in England, decided to place the blame for society’s ills on the quasi-Nazi forces of secularism – a brazenly assholish move from a man who lived in Nazi Germany, and who subsequently helped orchestrate a major crime against humanity even before taking the reins of the corrupt organization he now leads. His ignorance, maleficence and utter disregard for his own hypocrisy anger me in ways I can barely describe.

It is a family tradition to attend Christmas mass, and I will be home with my family in December. I don’t think I can bring myself to accompany them this year, or ever again.

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  1. says

    How the hell does the Church have the right to punish those abusers when they should be promptly arrested and placed in jail, without bail, to await trial.

  2. Funkydebunker says

    I am curious as to whether it is only the Catholic church that has been doing this, or if it is a disease that affects all religions. I have not heard much abuse scandals from the rest. I also wonder (if there have indeed been abuses) if there is any correlation between abusive religious leaders and their marital status. I know that it is okay for a rabbi to be married (encouraged even), and I have not heard of any abuses from that direction.

  3. says

    That’s a good question, Funkydebunker. I’m curious about that too, because there’s nothing in Catholic theology that specifically leads anyone to abuse children, so far as I know. It seems like all religions would have the same proportion of potential abusers. Part of it, I’m sure, is knowing that the Church has incredible secular power that will shield them from prosecution. There’s also a potential for feed-forward from past abuse. I think it’s an important question to find an answer for.

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