Pope Francis: Child Abuse Like a Satanic Mass
In an hour long question and answer session with journalists on the way home from his visit to the Holy Land, Pope Francis has described the crime of child abuse as a betrayal of the Lord’s body:
"Sexual abuse is such an ugly crime ... because a priest who does this betrays the body of the Lord. It is like a satanic Mass,"At a briefing in the Vatican on Tuesday, Father Lombardi discussed some of the highlights of Pope Francis’ interview and explained that for a believer, equating the crime of sexually abusing a child with the sacrilege of celebrating a satanic mass, is arguably the strongest possible condemnation.
I agree and I think his turn of phrase here articulates a basic truth about this sort of crime: it is diametrically opposed to everything the Church holds and teaches. Abuse does so much harm, literally destroying lives. This is true in any context, but surely more especially in the context of love and trust which constitutes the relationship of a priest or bishop to his flock. The idea of a spiritual father abusing his children sickens me and makes me feel like crying for the agony caused. I often think it is a crime that loving parents have to even be aware that such behaviour is possible, let alone goes on, still the facts are that the majority of perpetrators sexually assault children known to them, with about 80% of offences taking place in the home of either the offender or the victim (source).
Such an act of course, is fundamentally at odds with the teaching of the Church and everything the priesthood stands for, and this is true of any such sinful act. The fact that such things are perpetrated by some people who purport to be Catholics does not invalidate the teaching of the Church, but rather demonstrates that these individuals are not living by the teaching of the Church. Rather such behaviour stands in direct contradiction to it. These are people who are acting out the will of Satan, have no doubt. Where would the best place be to bring down Christ's Church? Surely acting from within the Church to divide and erode faith. And God knows the scandal of abuse by people who claim to hold and teach the faith has eroded faith. For me, the question always remains, how could such people live with themselves? Purporting to hold and teach one standard of behaviour whilst all the time carrying out the most vile betrayal of innocent lives which they, as educated and religious people, must know is wholly at odds with who and what they have chosen to tell the world they are and represent?
And the damage is more than to individuals, as the Pope states, it is to the whole body of the Church. It may seem late in coming that the Pope then is announcing a "zero tolerance" policy with regard to this. The fact has to be conceded that there has always been zero tolerance of this sort of behaviour in the Church and in Catholic society. If anything, I think most of us would rather think that such evil to a child is impossible.
So how has it happened? I can't help but wonder if a culture of "tolerance" and what passes for mercy (i.e. a lack of adherence to the code of canon law and a general relativisation of the truth) these days has created an environment which has allowed this to go on. There is a creeping kind of relativism present in Catholic society which says that realistically, we have to compromise on what we believe about truth and morality when it comes to "the real world". It's not realistic to hold to Catholic models of morality.
The answer is conversion and for each one of us to recognise that God is calling us to personal holiness. Yes Catholic morality is heroic morality, it's tough, and we fall down, but when we fall down, we have the Sacrament of God's forgiveness to help us get back up, to strengthen us. We are individually challenged to overcome the darkness which resides within each one of us and to turn to the light. Catholic morality is necessarily heroic in this way and constitutes a struggle in the way life constitutes a struggle. However the more we travel with God's grace, the easier we find it to suffer the vicissitudes we face each day.