The ‘culture of secrecy’ and blackmail that perpetuates abuse in the Catholic Church

Over the past 70 years, the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania has been systematically covering up child sexual abuse by priests, according to a new report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.

The report includes 1,000 identifiable victims, but the real number is likely much higher, considering victims are often too afraid to come forward and some church records have been destroyed or were otherwise unavailable.

The cases detailed in the report include a priest who collected child porn and would routinely play ‘doctor’ with a young boy; a priest who would befriend children’s parents, get invited to stay the night, then molest the children while their parents slept; and incidents that “involved whips, chains, drugs and alcohol.”

Church leaders were aware of the widespread abuse but covered it up or made insufficient improvements, according to the grand jury.

“Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability,” the grand jury wrote. “Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all. For decades. Monsignors, auxiliary bishops, bishops, archbishops, cardinals have mostly been protected; many, including some named in this report, have been promoted.”

Archdiocese of Pennsylvania
The eight diocese of Pennsylvania. In the six diocese investigated (the other two were the subjects of previous grand juries), the grand jury documented 1,000 child abuse victims at the hands of 300 priests. This is just one state of 50.

The report emphasized the scale and ubiquity of the abuse.

“We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this. We know some of you have heard some of it before,” the grand jury began its report. “There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.”

Catholic Church sexual abuse grand jury report

The report shows how the church neglected to punish or report priests whom it knew to be abusers, choosing instead to relocate them to different parishes or other facilities.

‘Health leave,’ for example, is a euphemism for time in a church-run treatment facility after a sexual abuse scandal. The grand jury reports: “while in treatment, Smith admitted to sexually molesting at least fifteen children. Smith stated that all of his victims were boys, some as young as seven. Smith had raped them anally and orally. This information was provided to [Bishop] Murphy in November 1987. That same month, Smith was discharged from the facility.” Father Thomas Smith was reassigned to different parishes over and over again until his retirement in 2002.

The grand jury suggests the abuse and its coverup by the church is ongoing.

It’s far from the first report to expose the systemic abuse and cover-up of child sexual abuse in the church. The most famous and wide-reaching report in recent history came from the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team, which in 2002 unveiled the systemic child abuse and coverups within the Archdiocese of Boston.

So, why does the Catholic Church’s endemic abuse persist?

One reason seems to be a culture of secrecy and blackmail that emerges from celibacy rules. The culture emerges like this: Priests and bishops sometimes violate their vows of celibacy, whether with men, women or children. When other church leaders discover these violations of celibacy, they would be able to use that information as blackmail to discourage others from revealing their own indiscretions.

Some say removing celibacy rules would be a major step in eradicating systemic abuse in the Catholic Church.

“There are Catholics who study the church and study the sexuality of the priesthood who have been saying this for 20 and 30 years,” Laurie Goodstein, a religion correspondent for The New York Times, said on The Daily podcast.

The new report, which comes during a cultural moment when broader issues of power and sexual abuse are being examined like never before, could usher in a new era of scrutiny on the the Catholic Church.

“The Church has been turning away those questions, has said ‘those are not relevant, that’s not what we need to look at,’” Goodstein said. “But the people calling for that to be examined—that’s getting louder now than I’ve ever heard it before.”

Source: https://bigthink.com/

4 thoughts on “The ‘culture of secrecy’ and blackmail that perpetuates abuse in the Catholic Church

  1. This article is completely missing the point. Child abusers are not normal. Lifting the celibacy rule won’t make a single bit of difference. These Priests and Clergy are not into traditional relationships and what ignorance to assume that celibacy leads to Pedophilia. There is only one explanation why the Church has covered up all of these events because its endemic. I went to ten different Catholic schools and KNOW its just ”normal” for the Catholic Church to move around the Pedo’s. The Pedo’s were nothing. We were more afraid of the bashers. Priests and Brothers who would beat you to a pulp and because your parents signed a waiver they could do what ever they wanted……They would threaten you with expulsion or no high school certificate if you said anything to anyone.. Pedo’s bring em on!

  2. the problem way back years ago was if the child told their parents what was done to them the [good catholic] parents would give the child absolute hell for speaking that way about clergy who could do no wrong.the cult was that strong back then, now it should be cleaned out and given to italy the country for a backpackers hostel , to be a good christian one does not require – church – pope – bible – pulpit earbashers. you only need you.

  3. The Pope must be held accountable for these horrendous crimes. what about the declaration by the Pope that Lucifer is God? YTube has several videos of this ceremonly should you wish to confirm this for yourselves.
    Celebicacy is NOT the heart of the problem in the Catholic religion. The Vatican’s secrets, the Pope’s true agenda and the financial tentacles the Church has in all matters is the problem.

    Pope Benedict was on the Committee of 300 when he was Pope, and he remains there as of this date.
    So much for vows of poverty…

    Hypocricy and secrecy combine to make the Vatican’s “true” religion…

  4. Funny, when the article started out with 70 years I almost thought of the 70 years of the false “Chosen People” meme. While the Catholic Church leadership is truly evil some of the blame must be laid at the feet of the parents. Where were the parents of these children? Why didn’t they step in? Why didn’t someone administer some street justice a few times to put these priests in their place? Why is it that Americans expect “Them” to take care of their problems? The government will do this…the government will do that….What happened to “WE THE PEOPLE”?

    Don’t parents have a responsibility to protect their children?

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