Tag Archives: child abuse

Catholic theology facilitated the child abuse

This article was commissioned for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and is reproduced here.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has been hauling the Vatican over the coals regarding its record of systematically covering up the sexual abuse of children by its priests. Hearings in Geneva this week are the first time that senior Vatican officials have been confronted in public about the ongoing scandal. Despite UN requests, the Vatican still refuses to open its archives containing records of every instance of abuse reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, long presided over by Cardinal (later Pope) Ratzinger. It also tried to argue that it was responsible only for abuse that took place in the tiny enclave of the Vatican City, not by Catholic priests worldwide.

The story is now all too familiar. Time after time priestly child abuse was hushed up by the Church, the victims sworn to secrecy, the files sealed in the Vatican vaults, and the priest not turned over to secular authorities but instead quietly moved to a new parish. There the abuse would continue with a new set of victims. If the Church did apply “punishments” they tended to be a requirement for “penitence and prayer”.

The pattern was worldwide, from Ireland to Australia to Germany to Mexico and the US and … we still don’t know about many Third World countries where the Catholic Church is still powerful enough to continue its cover-up. Power corrupts, and the fact that the Catholic Church regarded itself as morally answerable only to itself, coupled with the excessive deference paid to it by others, enabled the ongoing corruption that has now shredded the Vatican’s claim to any moral authority. Continue reading

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Children matter as children: why Dawkins did not say that child abuse is “zero bad”

In his new autobiography and and in interviews Dawkins has been recalling his childhood. He recounts one episode, when aged about 10, of what he described as “mild” sexual abuse by a school teacher, and said that others in the class had suffered the same. Based on his many conversations with his classmates back then, especially after that teacher committed suicide, Dawkins suggested: “I don’t think he did any of us lasting damage”. The wording here is tentative, but he has since accepted that he was somewhat presumptuous, and that he can’t fully know the long-term outcome for his class mates. Continue reading