Apr 18, 2010

Grasping at straws - Tarcisio Bertone latest defense of child abuse

I have a new post up on GlobalComment

It is commonly said that the best defence is a good offence, but just because it works in football does not mean that it should be a universal strategy. Someone should mention this to Tarcisio Bertone. If you have not heard, he is a big cheese at the Vatican (technically the Vatican’s secretary of state). In a determined effort to once more abdicate responsibility for clerical sexual abuse and the ensuring cover up, Bertone stated last week that:

“Many psychologists and psychiatrists have demonstrated that there is no relation between celibacy and pedophilia. But many others have demonstrated, I have been told recently, that there is a relation between homosexuality and pedophilia. That is true… That is the problem.”

Truth it is not. Offensive defensiveness might be closer to the mark. The Catholic Church has always demonstrated a certain level of misogyny but in making this statement, Bertone has erased the experiences and trauma of the thousands of female survivors of clerical abuse. Some passages of the Irish Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse from the section dealing with female experiences:

The forms of physical abuse reported by witnesses ranged from being smacked on the hand to being beaten naked in front of others. They described being hit, slapped, beaten, kicked, pushed, pinched, burned, bitten, shaken violently, physically restrained, and force fed. The Committee also heard reports of witnesses having their heads knocked against walls, desks and window ledges, being beaten on the soles of their feet, the backs of their hands, around their heads and ears, having their hair pulled, being swung off the ground by their hair, and made to perform tasks that they stated put them at risk of harm and danger. The locations where physical abuse was most frequently reported to have occurred included dormitories, refectories, landings, corridors, classrooms, churches, offices, kitchens, work areas and recreation halls.

Witnesses reported sexual assaults in the forms of vaginal and anal rape, oral/genital contact, digital penetration, penetration by an object, masturbation and other forms of inappropriate contact, including molestation and kissing. Witnesses also reported several forms of non-contact sexual abuse including indecent exposure, inappropriate sexual talk, voyeurism and forced public nudity. Witnesses gave accounts of being sexually abused both within the Schools and in other locations while in the care of the authorities in charge of the particular institution. They reported being sexually abused in many locations, including: dormitories, schools, motor vehicles, bathrooms, staff bedrooms, churches, sacristies, fields, parlours, the residences of clergy, holiday locations and while with godparents and employers. [source]

This is only a selection of the experience of Irish female survivors from residential institutions run by the Catholic Church. They do not cover the laundries – once a girl was placed in a Magdalen laundry, she spent the rest of her life as a slave – or sexual abuse that took place in non industrial schools, churches and elsewhere.

In addition to silencing women, Bertone equates homosexuality with paedophila, presumably because a greater number of boys were abused by men. However, there are a number of issues here to be considered.

Firstly, there is no evidence of a link between homosexuality and child abuse. No scientific explanation to justify the hate. No sociological quantitative analysis with even a tenuous link. Try as he might, Bertone and his ilk are responding to their own homophobia and the institutionalised prejudice in Roman Catholicism. The RCC spells out its homophobia and misogyny in one paragraph of its official catechism:

…Tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. [source]

Basically, the Church’s position is that any sex not leading to babies is contrary to natural law. The path from “love the sinner but not the sin” to “intrinsically evil” is a short one, especially for the pompous elite in the Vatican.

Another argument put forward to attempt to justify the unjustifiable is that greater numbers of boys are abused. There may be a number of explanations why this is so but I put forward the theory of access.

Finish reading at GlobalComment

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