Friday, May 29, 2009

Organized religion and child abuse, Part 3

We're equal-opportunity opponents of inadequate institutional responses to child abuse, so here you go:

According to the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, imams were not taking their duty to protect children seriously and were exposing young girls and boys to lasting damage.

It said that failure to tackle this taboo and implement a transparent, co-ordinated child protection scheme could leave the community open to “an avalanche of child sex-abuse scandals” similar to those of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1990s.

The MPGB revealed that up to 40 per cent of teachers in madrassas hit or scold their children and that between 15 and 20 cases of sex abuse occur each year.

There is an important point to be made, however, before we all go further down this road. The difference between the Roman Catholic Church and other organized religions is this: it's one organization, not many, under a centralized authority and a rigid hierarchy. Given that we have been discussing institutional responses to child abuse, not child abuse per se, the RCC's sordid history of enabling, cover-up, prevarication and resistance to victim claims is frankly in a class by itself. It's taken place, not to put too fine a point upon it, on a frankly industrial scale.

Individual mosques, synagogues, Chassidic organizations, etc., no doubt have much to answer for with respect to child abuse, as do secular institutions like public schools and the Boy Scouts. But I do see a difference between outrageous acts here and there in highly decentralized organizations and what has been going on within the Catholic ecclesia, whose hierarchy rules over every single Catholic Church in the world, and which, therefore, is the accountable body when things go haywire.

If we were to move beyond defensive reactions by outraged Catholics (who too often appear to care more about the reputation of their institution than about its tens of thousands of child victims) to a consideration of massive institutional failure, we might all get further ahead. Simply attempting to make moral equivalences won't excuse the violation of a single child's innocence, much less the well-documented, disgraceful actions of the Church when these violations become known.

[H/t commenter Peter, whose use of an atheist website does surprise me a little.]

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