With this in mind, in research that Bayside Church conducted last year, one of the “words” that we asked people to comment on was the word “priest.” Fortunately many people still view priests in a positive light using adjectives like wisdom, good person, values, guiding, dedicated and devoted. I dare say this describes the vast majority of priests. But others used words like suffocation, rules, cover-ups and molestation. How sad that any man or woman “of God” should ever be viewed in this light. But that is the sad reality and the Roman Catholic Church worldwide now has to face the fallout from decades of abuse and cover-ups.
Sexual abuse of any kind is a great offense, but the abuse of children by those who are in a place of religious authority and trust has got to be the worst of the worst. My heart goes out to the victims and their families and I can only begin to understand their pain and frustration with the church for their lack of justice with these criminals.
Decades of quietly moving abusing priests to another parish where they reoffend has finally caught up with the Catholic Church, and now it’s time to face up to the wrongs, apologise, admit fault, cooperate with authorities – do everything to try and right the wrongs and heal the hurts.
According to The Age newspaper, Professor Des Cahill, the intercultural studies professor at RMIT, told the current inquiry that the Catholic Church was incapable of reforming itself because of its internal culture. He said the Church's Melbourne response abuse protocol had to go, and the state would have to intervene to achieve it.
In other key testimony, Professor Cahill:
• Called for priests to be allowed to marry.
• Described the Church as "a holy and unholy mess, except where religious Sisters or laypeople are in charge.
• Called for an "eminent Catholic task force" of lay people to work with the Church on reform and transparency.
Professor Cahill said child sex abuse had existed in all ages, cultures and religions, shrouded in secrecy and poorly responded to by religious authorities. He said a church council in 309 AD was concerned about child sex abuse in monasteries.
And other religions are not immune from child sex abuse, including credible evidence of two incidents within Melbourne's Hindu community where the offending monks were "shipped back to the home country". In Sri Lanka, child sex abuse is rampant in Buddhist monasteries, and more than 100 monks have been charged in the past decade. Child sex abuse has been called "India's time bomb", especially the plight of street children, while many Muslim communities are in denial. Melbourne Jewish groups are making their own submission to the inquiry.
The tragic thing about all of this – other than the lifelong pain that is inflicted on precious people – is that this behaviour gives people an excuse to think less, or not at all, about God. “If that’s the way God’s people act then I don’t want to have anything to do with Him.” The Bible addresses this in Romans 2:24, “No wonder the Scriptures say that the world speaks evil of God because of you.”
No one is perfect, not even the religious, but the sexual abuse of children is never acceptable and those who commit such heinous crimes need to experience the full force of justice – with no cover ups from the church or anyone else.