Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Expediency trumps accountability and compassion.

There was a demonstration outside Saint-Paul University today. Theology, canon law, pastoral studies and other related academic disciplines are taught there. Saint-Paul is part of the University of Ottawa.
Placards carried by the protesters claimed that the respected learning institution had become a sanctioned refuge for a Roman Catholic priest who was charged, and found guilty of sexual assault on an eight year old girl and making inappropriate gestures towards another.
Montreal Simon blogged about this here. This priest, who was awarded a scholarship by the Montreal diocese has become a lightning rod for the unresolved and contentious relationship the Roman Catholic Church has with adult survivors who suffered sexual abuse as children at the hands of priests. The attitude and actions of clergy who hold high positions in the Church does much to trivialize the harm, injury and trauma done to families whose trust in the justice system was often betrayed (and their children re-victimized), and little to advance healing.
With their characteristic arrogance, the Fathers of the Church persevere in believing that they have the power to forgive the criminal transgressions of priests (in the rare cases where they are forced to acknowledge the facts before them) and to chose the form of rehabilitation that they deem suitable. And so they continue to evade responsibility for the systemic sexual violence that the Church tolerates.
These members of the higher clergy - bishops, arch-bishops, cardinals, theological scholars, even the Pope - are wrong. Only the victims - girls and boys then, adults now - have the the moral and spiritual authority to forgive their abusers.
Note: Saint-Paul is affiliated to the University of Ottawa and thus retains some autonomy, such as its Catholic ascendancy.

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