IT IS POSSIBLE TO CONVICT SOMEBODY WITH A WORD
FR. JANUSZ GORAJ SDB
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin who, in November 1993, was accused of sexual harassment of a former cleric of a seminary, confessed: ‘The simple truth was included in a few words: I have never done what I have been accused of’. However, it turned out that the archbishop of Chicago fell a victim of a deliberate allegation.
A false allegation
Steven Cook, an inhabitant of Philadelphia, accused Bernardin of sexual harassment. Cook, suffering from AIDS at that time, stated that as a cleric studying in the Seminary of St. Gregory in Cincinnati was brought to Bernardin’s room, the archbishop of the city at that time, and was forced to have sex. After about 100 days from submitting the accusations it turned out that it had been invented by the former cleric of the seminary. On 28 February 1994 Steven Cook publicly withdrew from the earlier accusations.
On 14 November 1996 cardinal Bernardin died. A dozen days before his death he also wrote these words: ‘When we are filled with inner peace, we find freedom in order to be fully ourselves, even in the most difficult moments of our life’.
Swept under a carpet
In the last months we have perceived a general interest in the topic of pedophilia in the Church. As a reason for this problem I would like to say about an event.
In the year 2002 in Warsaw a gang of pedophiles was found, who had sexually abused children running away from orphanages. Among them there were people highly-positioned: politicians, prosecutors, policemen, so people having their families and children. Orphaned children, mostly from dysfunctional families, were sleeping in railway stations, which became the best places of pedophiles for the criminal actions. In the beginning, in media a big scandal was announced. A film-director Sylwester Latkowski made a film on this issue at that time, entitled: ‘Pedophiles’. And here note: What happened? The issue was swept under a carpet – as it was done with similar scandals at that time in Belgium and Lithuania!
I suggest journalists who are so actively attacking the Church today investigate this issue as well, why there was no rain out of such a big cloud. They should investigate how many pedophiles there are today among politicians, sportsmen, artists, teachers and in their own journalistic group. Journalists should write about it and give titles onto the first pages of newspapers – if they want to maintain elementary principles of honesty. Otherwise we will be dealing with hypocrisy to which I want to oppose definitely.
What about journalistic objectivism
I do not want to defend priests from this point, who committed acts of pedophilia. But I oppose to showing the community of the Church as the only institution in which such wicked cases happen. Unfortunately, at present media (newspapers, television, internet) show priests as the only ones who commit such acts. And this is culpable because it does not go together with the objective state of things. What is more, it is the Church which was and is one of institutions defending against pedophilia.
In Poland there appeared a dangerous trend which shows pedophilia as a problem belonging only to the Church. This way of thinking is deprived of any basis, and is completely unjustified and uncritical. Pedophilia outside the Church is much wider phenomenon, but in media this pathology is shown in a completely marginal way.
If a priest in Poland did what the film-maker Roman Polański had done, he would be lynched and excluded from the public life anew. But nobody postulates to give Polański into the hands of the American Administration of Justice. What is more, some Polish actors, publicists, politicians decided to defend him! They decided to defend the man who committed a culpable harassment a 13-year-old girl. Is there any consistency here?
Surveys in USA in the years 1991 – 2000 showed that more act of pedophilia (40-60 per cent) were committed in pathological families, 10 per cent in state schools, and only a fraction of the percentage among priests.
So, why do the contemporary media express their interest in the cases of pedophilia only among priests? When acts of pedophilia are committed in a health centre, at school or a sports centre, we do not hear about this phenomenon.
So: the phenomenon of pedophilia concerns, unfortunately, nearly all modern groups of the society, not only the community of the Church and priests. Whereas there is no excuse for pedophiles no matter whoever they would be. A pedophile priest is surely an offender as well as any other pedophile who can be a politician, doctor, teacher or a sportsman.
No tolerance for pedophilia
In 2001, during the pontificate of John Paul II, the prefect of the Faith Teaching Congregation cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at that time and the later pope Benedict XVI, wrote a letter to all bishops in the world, expressing a clear attitude in this issue: ‘There is no consent in the Roman-Catholic Church to pedophilia, there is no consent to justify it, there is no consent to close eyes to this issue’. So, it is in the interest of the Church to explain every case completely. In 2002 pope John Paul II called all American cardinals to Vatican and he said: ‘No tolerance for pedophilia in the Church’.
The phenomenon of pedophilia has its reasons
So much is said about pedophilia among priests, but in the archdiocese of Cracow among 2200 priests only one priest was legally convicted for pedophilia. I do not have any illusions in this issue – this pathology may affect also others. But does it prove that pedophilia is a universal phenomenon among priests? In the last 10 years in Poland about 6000 people from various social groups were convicted of pedophilia, including 27 priests. It is less than a half of a permil! Throughout the last decade in Poland there were about 35 thousand priests in the Catholic Church. So, one priests per over a thousand of priests was convicted of this act. Is it a lot? It must be said: it is very few. But considering the fact that the harm concerns children, and it was done by priests, it is a lot anyway.
If media speak so much about pedophilia among priests, it is necessary to speak proportionally about other social groups. There is no relation between life in celibacy and pedophilia. Committing pedophilia is a sign of serious emotional disorders and a result of a pathological upbringing and ill inter-human relations.
Sexual sins of people who commit crimes against children and the youth, often hide deep emotional and moral problems which are going on for years. Those people, unable to solve these problems, often find their escape in pedophilia. So, the phenomenon of pedophilia does not come from nowhere.
I ask the question again: Why is the problem of pedophilia perceived mostly only among priests? Why is it rarely perceived in other social groups? And I give a diagnosis.
1. Well, there is elimination of everyday supernatural dimension from life, including the elimination of God. If God is unnecessary, then God’s principles are unnecessary. And because moral principles are proclaimed by priests, so priests are guilty of everything.
2. There is a self-justification of one’s own lifestyle marked more or less with a serious sin. This style bases only on a subjective way of understanding the truth. In other words – what I consider as the truth is objectively real. And because the teaching of the Church irritates me, it awakens my remorse, so I am consequently rejecting it, looking for my justification in sins and falls among clergy. In this situation the Church and its teaching become an obstacle on the road of my life (the so-called free couples, abortion, homosexual couples). It would be better if the Church did not speak anything or would be in conspiracy at all. Then it would completely stop irritate human consciences.
3. The result of an attack on priests also seems to be a practical departure from the community of the Church by people who were, in fact, outside the Church long time ago, through their lifestyle. These are people who have claims to everybody but not themselves – in their opinion, they are ideal, modern, progressing. Those people, feeling insulted by the Church which does not want to sanction their ‘morality’ and lifestyle, find a convenient way of justifying themselves in a practical departure from the community of the Church.
The community of the Church is like a square of continuous construction: its form has not been finished yet. So, on earth we have a sinful Church. The saint and glorious Church will be when Lord Jesus comes onto earth and does judgment. For now, we have an imperfect Church: sanity and sinfulness are within it and we will have such priests as our prayers for them are like.
Finally, I will ask: What do you, the reader, brings to Christ’s Church, so that it would be better and more saint? The very criticism of the Church without a personal devotion of life or engagement in everything which makes the Church, is not enough. What do you give from yourself so that the Church would be better?