There is a danger that we become desensitised to the daily, horrific accounts of child sexual abuse, particularly those perpetrated by the clergy. If we are ever to take appropriate action to defend children it is essential that we understand the level of depravity. This blog is offered in an attempt to give a voice to the individuals who have shown such courage in coming forward to tell their stories in order that others will not have to endure the same experiences. One of the most harmful aspects of childhood sexual abuse is of not being heard or of not being believed. The least we can now do is to listen to them.
Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro alleged on CBS that the Vatican knew about a cover-up involving sex abuse allegations against priests. “Priests would go, bishops would go and lie to parishioners, lie to law enforcement, lie to the public but then document all of the abuse in secret archives that they would share oftentimes with the Vatican.” Bringing the perpetrators to justice is paramount but this is dependent upon the catholic church refraining from acting as a feudal monarchy which believes itself to hold a moral ascendency beholden only to its own law.
The 900 page Report accrued accrued half a million pages of evidence. Abbreviated excerpts of testimony below:
- A 10 year old boy confided to his priest that he had been “gang raped” by his older brother and his friends shortly before his seventh birthday. The priest reportedly told the victim he had to provide oral and anal sex to him in order to be saved and go to heaven. Feeling the priest could be trusted due to his position and authority within the church, the victim engaged in anal and oral sex with him for three years until the priest was transferred.
- A 7 year old boy was told by a Sunday school teacher that missing mass could make you die. Concerned for his mother who was missing mass, the victim went to the priest to plead the case of his mother. The priest took him into the rectory office and sat in a chair as he stood before him, sobbing and pleading for his mother’s soul and asked the boy whether he believed that Jesus suffered and died for our sins, in response to which the victim said “of course”. The priest talked about penance and having crosses to bear and asked the boy if he would do anything to save his mother then spoke of secret confessions and penance. He unbuckled the victim’s pants, pulling them down, fondling him and sticking his finger up the victim’s anus. The boy remembered that he had spoken in Latin and described being frozen stiff when the abuse was occurring. He was then instructed to pull up his pants and told that if he told anyone about the secret penance, not only would his mother go to hell, but he [the victim] would burn with her. The priest then gave the victim a nickel and warned him again not to say anything to anyone or his whole family would burn in hell. The victim stated he was in therapy as a result of his abuse but stopped going when his insurance refused to pay for his sessions.
- A 7 year old girl was recovering in hospital after having her tonsils removed, she was raped by her priest when he visited the hospital and repeatedly raped over a three year period. The child’s mother remembered seeing blood in her daughter’s underwear when she was aged 8. A Diocesan summary of all allegations against the perpetrator included being assaulted at catechism class.
- A family of siblings were abused over a six year period by priests who visited their parents who had alcohol issues, the priests drank with them until the parents went to bed when the abuse would take place.Two of the sisters remembered being abused by a priest who wore a red hat. One sister described how he would often attempt to penetrate her with a pool cue and that when she cried out he would use his fingers to digitally penetrate her. The second girl remembered the pool cue but had blocked the memory of what was done to her with it but recalled digital penetration. Their brother testified that two priests would both engage him in oral sex and anally rape him, the abuse occurred at his home and in the rectory. He also stated that he observed both men naked and that he witnessed them sexually assaulting both his sisters. The siblings also believe that their older sister, now deceased was sexually abused by one or both of the named priests as a young girl and that she was abused more often than any of the other family members.
- A boy and his brother were taken in by the Carmelite Order when their house burned down. A priest gave him juice to drink and his next memory was of waking up the following day in his own bed naked with the priest in the room, he was bleeding from the rectum. He was drugged and abused on a further occasion and when he reported the abuse to a different religious brother, stating his intention to go to the police attempts were made to dissuade him. When he insisted he was beaten with a leather belt and threatened with worse beatings if he told.