(“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)
We are appalled and shocked, although sadly not completely unsurprised. The Royal Commission yesterday released statistics relating to child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church of Australia, and the read is sickening.
The Royal Commission disclosed that a survey conducted by the Australian Catholic Church found 4,500 alleged cases of child abuse within their organisations. This number reflects claims made between January 1, 1980 and February 28, 2015, and it also excludes cases that were not investigated.
There are few significant organisations in the country that have not discovered someone who has abused a child; my own Baptist denomination is not without known cases. Jesus warns us about the log in our own eye, and the Scriptures also call Church leaders not to treat gross sin lightly. We anticipate people will try to infiltrate all kinds of organisations in order to scope and prey on innocence; this is not to excuse due organisational diligence, but this world holds insidious individuals who will attempt to circumvent the highest standards. Having said all that, this new data communicates what we perhaps already knew, and that there is a major flaw in Roman Catholic attitudes, brought about in part by flawed theological belief and practice. While any instance of child abuse is repugnant, there is a difference between isolated cases of abuse and a culture of abuse.
7% of catholic priests serving between 1950-2009 have been identified as alleged perpetrators. The current known number is 1,880 men. Among some Catholic organisations the percentage is considerably higher: 22% of ‘Christian Brothers’, and 40.4% of those belonging to the order of ‘the Brother of St John of God’ are known to be sex offenders.
The issue extends beyond the fact that thousands of children have been abused by priests, but that Catholic Dioceses (and other denominations) have also failed to properly address allegations and the clergy in question.
This is a national catastrophe.
Abusing children is unacceptable for any person belonging to any community group or society, and sadly it is occurring even now in many family homes across our suburbs and towns; it should not be. The Royal Commission has disclosed child abuse in schools, sporting clubs, Government organisations, and across religious groups. There is however something particularly evil about the presence of such sin among communities who profess Jesus Christ.
It would be unwise for me to speak to many of the points that are being made at the Royal Commission, not because one doesn’t have strong reactions, but one needs to recognise that there are complexities being addressed, for example, issues relating to reporting processes and investigations. Without reading all the material and having due knowledge of many legal affairs, it would be imprudent to comment on many particulars. The last thing one wants to do is add confusion or cause further pain for people involved in the Royal Commission, especially to the victims.
And yet, something needs to be said. Is this not one of the cries being levelled at institutions, that for too long they have remained silent and ignored the extent of the issue?
As a parent with three children I can imagine what many Aussie parents are thinking about these revelations, and these thoughts are not cordial. There are feelings of disgust toward the perpetrators and toward ecclesial authorities who have repeatedly failed to investigate and protect. There are feelings of sorrow for those whose childhood was snatched from them.
As a Christian and as a Church minister, I am angered that men would betray children under their care and that they would so disdain the name of Jesus by their gross sin. It is beyond reprehensible.
“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4)
As much as we may point out that these priestly behaviours are irreconcilable with authentic Christianity, for they certainly contravene the person and teaching of Jesus Christ in every way, and yet we must appreciate that this issue has understandably tainted peoples trust in Churches. I can also see how many Australians don’t differentiate between Roman Catholicism and Christian Churches, for their are correlations, but there are also stark differences, which pertain to deeply held theological views that are proving to be unbiblical and untenable, such as Rome’s view of the priesthood.
Christians mustn’t give up being like Jesus, we need to become more like him. In the same short New Testament letter of Jude, where Christians are urged to look out for potential abusers in our churches, a few verses later we are also encouraged to ‘be merciful to those who doubt’. This is not a time for defensiveness, but repentance, public repentance.
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Lifeline 13 11 14