This one hurts me because I’m a huge fan of Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church in general. Some people are saying the Catholic Church fell prey to “touchy feely Liberalism” by not calling the cops on those pedo priests. Maybe so, but I also think this one has the foul stench of False Compassion to it. This particular brand of pseudo morality is to Christianity what Political Correctness is to Liberalism– a scourge. It appears that it may have led the Church to disregard Canon Law in dealing with pedophile priests, in favor of “forgiveness” and THERAPY. In other words, false compassion for a pathology that has no cure.
The Church in Ireland has been embroiled by sex abuse scandals since last Summer. Just this week, in fact, Cardinal Sean Brady has been under intense pressure to resign after it was revealed that he did not inform police about the abuse of children by one of Ireland’s most notorious child abusers, Fr Brendan Smyth.
Of course, the Church has actually been rocked by these scandals since the mid-1990s, but the publication of two official reports investigating abuse by priests and religious have been published since last summer and as a result the saga of clerical sex abuse has rarely been out of the Irish headlines since then.
The Catholic Church in Ireland now operates arguably the most robust child protection system in the country, something that is rarely acknowledged. The public still appears to believe that the Church has learned nothing, and done nothing. This is simply not true.
Canon law, or Church law, has been blamed for forcing bishops to cover up the allegations, to hide them, and certainly it is true that anyone taking part in a canonical investigation is required to swear an oath of secrecy, or confidentiality. But the Murphy report itself is very interesting about canon law. It points out that a big problem with this law isn’t that it was used, but that it wasn’t used.
It says: “The Church authorities failed to implement most of their own canon law rules on dealing with child sex abuse…canon law appears to have fallen into disuse and disrespect during the mid 20th century. In particular, there was little or no experience of operating the penal (that is, the criminal) provision of that law… for many years offenders were neither prosecuted nor made accountable within the Church.”
Why did it fall into disuse and disrespect? It was because priests and bishops began to regard it as being overly legalistic and too focused on punishment. They decided it lacked compassion.
Therefore, they stopped using it. No longer did priests accused of child abuse face a canonical trial and the possibility of “defrocking”. Instead, and with disastrous consequences, they were sent for therapy and then, “cured”, they were reassigned to ministry.
The bottom line is that if canon law had been used properly, fewer children would have been abused. Civil authorities would still not have been informed, but priests found guilty of child abuse under Church law would have been punished and likely removed from ministry making it more difficult for them to offend again.
False compassion is something we’ve touched upon briefly at CCHQ when Governor Huckabee pardoned a felon who then proceeded to go on a murder spree across the country. Huckabee had no moral right to pardon that felon because his actual victims still lived in terror of him. The Governor pardoned the felon anyway, who then went on to murder four police officers. False compassion got those cops killed. It seems the Catholic Church may also have fallen prey to this brand of pseudo morality.
False compassion is when someone who has absolutely no right to do so extends forgiveness for crimes committed against a third party. In other words, it’s when you forgive someone for something he did to another person. If you aren’t the person actually harmed, but assume for yourself the right to show “forgiveness” toward the perpetrator, you’re guilty of the false compassion. It makes you feel terrific, like God is smiling on you because you’re some kind of Mother Theresa reincarnate. But it’s all in your head because forgiving someone for something he did to somebody else is no skin off your back. Your piety is a fraud because the right to forgive wasn’t yours; you stole that prerogative from the actual owner of that right– the victim.
Here, the Catholic Church extended forgiveness to pedophile priests where forgiveness wasn’t theirs to extend. That prerogative belonged only to the victims. Their duty, as guardians of those children, was to report the pedophile priests for arrest and prosecution, and allow the legal system to take it’s course. Only later should there have been any talk of forgiveness. But they fell victim to the pseudo morality of false compassion, just as Governor Huckabee did, with similarly disastrous consequences. With tears in his eyes, this is what Pope Benedict was repenting from– the Church’s sin of cheap, easy piety– false compassion.