Church and child abuse

It’s Easter and presumably for most Christian people a time of celebration….and yet a quick trip around the BBC News Website will show that it seems that the Catholic Church is using it as an opportunity to address claims of child abuse by it’s clergy.

For once I don’t want to get into a big debate about the rights and the wrongs of what went on. In my view it’s simple really. Child abuse is wrong; people in positions of authority should not abuse the trust that they hold; clergy that do so should be treated in the same way as any other abuser.

What I find shocking is the behaviour of senior members of the Catholic Church. One cardinal is reported as saying that Roman Catholics will not be swayed by “petty gossip” ; the Pope’s personal preacher compared criticism of the Catholic Church’s response to child abuse to “collective violence suffered by the Jews” ….come on; get real.

So I was delighted to hear Archbishop Rowan Williams, the head of the Church of England, taking a stand and talking some sense on the topic. Speaking in a recording for BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week, he said “I was speaking to an Irish friend recently who was saying that it’s quite difficult in some parts of Ireland to go down the street wearing a clerical collar now. And an institution so deeply bound into the life of a society, suddenly becoming, suddenly losing all credibility – that’s not just a problem for the church, it is a problem for everybody in Ireland.”

A month after the Pope wrote to the people of Ireland apologising for 16 years of clerical cover ups that involved at least 15,000 children. I was glad to hear someone take ownership, to face up to what has happened and to bring up the impact it has to have on credibility and trust and the deeper affect that has on society.

Which is why I found it particularly sad that Rowan Williams felt the need to apologise for making the comments less than 24hours later? Why should he? It just feels like another spineless response to the power imbalance.

*Photo by Bambino Images III

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One thought on “Church and child abuse

  1. You’re right: the abuse of vulnerable people by the people who have power over them is as near as you get to a black and white issue nowadays. My early life was touched by the awfulness of the Catholic Church, and I applauded Rowan Williams for what he said.

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