Reflections on recent events, plus the occasional fact
free rant unfiltered by rational argument.
Hardly a day goes by when a Catholic priest is not before the Courts for child related sexual offences. Today, Father Michael Higginbottom was found guilty of the "cruel and sadistic" abuse of a teenage boy at St Joseph's College in Upholland, Lancashire, UK. Convicted at Liverpool Crown Court of four counts, the 74-year-old faces 17 years in jail. Two other deceased priests escaped justice. The Catholic Church paid out a paltry £35,000- to settle a related case at the same institute.
All this begs the question, what is the scale of abuse within the Catholic Church and does it continue today? The first question is difficult to answer, in part, because of the reluctance of the bosses in Rome to share information. Their attitude remains secretive, uncooperative and evasive. In other words, they continue to cover up.
Yet, we are fortunate that the extent of the criminality in the Catholic Church is coming to light. This is proving uncomfortable for the lay faithful, who cannot ignore the scale of deprivation.
A Royal Commission in Australia reporting on 6th February this year revealed a scale of abuse that is staggering. In the six decades since 1950, nation-wide up to 15% of priests were alleged to be involved is sexual abuse. In one order, 40% of the priests were engaged in abusing children, male and female. Across Australia, over 1,900 individual perpetrators were identified, whilst 500 remained unidentified.
And, the toll continues. Between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 alleged incidents of abuse were recorded. The average age of the victim is around 11 years old. This is the data for Australia alone.
In the United States over 3000 civil lawsuits have been filed against the Catholic Church. In one case the Dallas Diocese paid $30.9 million in compensation to twelve victims of a single priest. It is known that by 2009, in the United States a total of US$2.6 billion in settlements for abuse was paid by the Catholic Church.
The scale of the abuse is adduced from this data. It is horrific that the Catholic Church as an institution facilitated, covered up and propagated crime on such a scale. Every ordinary Catholic who donates funds or supports the church played a role in allowing this to continue. Now, I know other organisations have similar issues. But none of the scale of the Catholic Church. None can claim to have permitted or covered up so much child rape and indecent assault. Within the Catholic Church, child rape and abuse took place on an industrial scale.
In the face of this willful criminality, how did Rome respond? With a mix of indifference and concealment. Offending priests got moved on, to spread their depravity to pastures new. In the process, the Catholic Church made the situation worse. Only when the civil lawsuits started hitting the Churches bottom line … its income, did things start to change.
Yet, change is slow. The Catholic Church sought to distance itself from offending priests. Asserting it could not be held responsible for their actions. Moreover, it failed to share information on abuse and obstructed investigations. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, in 2014 held that the Catholic Church had failed to protect children. It noted the Church appeared more concerned about image.
My second question, at the start of this piece … does abuse continue today? Given the predatory nature of pedophiles, the opportunity that religion gives to get close to children plus given the failure of Churches to be transparent, I’m certain it does go on. The reluctance of Catholic Church to address this issue provides cover for the pedophiles and abusers. So, its a resounding yes! I have no doubt that the abuse continues behind the doors of various religious orders.
Even today the Catholic Church appears focused on protecting its reputation rather than addressing the evil at its core. Given it record of cover up, obstruction and denial it is hard to think of a more despicable institution in the modern world. Every Catholic should hang their head in shame. The next thing they should do is stop funding this evil enterprise. Keep your faith, but don’t be party to the funding of child abuse. Then the bosses in Rome will take note and take action.
Walter De Havilland is one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Hong Kong Police.