Sex predators of Christian Clergy and The Church Cover-up

via Dr. Babu Suseelan published on March 2, 2009

During the past several years, the mass media in Kerala
has been awash with reports of Catholic priestly pedophilia, sex abuse
of nuns by the clergy, nun suicide, and Church cover-up. The
politically powerful Christian Church
has been reluctant to admit that sexual abuse by the clergy is a
widespread occurrence. Repeated media stories report accounts of both
long-term and situational incidents of nuns being sexually abused by
the clergy, murder of nuns, physical abuse
of children in Christian management schools, sexual abuse of children
in Bible Schools, ragging in colleges and violence against nuns. The
consequences of sexual abuse are traumatic and long lasting. What is
hard to accept is why the Church refuses to accept sex abuse by the
clergy. Sex abuse by the clergy is a harsh reality, and the Church must
understand what it is, know the factors-both physical and
behavioral-that may indicate its existence, and be familiar with
repeated occurrence.

The
general public is becoming more aware of the extent and nature of sex
abuse by the priests. Nationally reported sensational trials of
priestly sex abuse and murder have brought priestly deviance and Church
cover-up into focused attention. The CBI investigation of the nun
Abhaya murder trial, arrest of Catholic priests
and supervisory nuns forced the public to confront sex abuse, murder,
and the Church blame shift and cover-up. Nun Abhaya was murdered
because she had witnessed priestly sex with her supervisory nuns and
she spoke out against sex in the convent. Another nun Anupama had
committed suicide allegedly unable to face sexual harassment by senior
nuns. Another senior nun Jesme has written in detail in her
autobiography about brutal, inhuman sex abuse by priests and nuns. She
has reported experiences with sex abuse, attempted or actual rape,
assault or violence. In spite of repeated cases of sex abuse, murder,
suicide and assault, the Church has attempted “knee-jerk” reaction,
cover-up or quick fixes for this emotionally charged serious problem.
The Church with deep pockets and political muscle has been sabotaging
high-profile cases. The widespread use of Church money and power has
provided increased opportunities to provoke the impression of Christian
prosecution. The political-money power of the Church prevents
government from arresting, prosecuting and punishing dangerous
Christian priests who are sex offenders. As a result, the police, the
Judiciary and the government have been reluctant to investigate arrest
or prosecute sex predators and deviant priests. The Churches are
engaged in media manipulation, blame game and victim abuse. But the
general public claim priestly sex abuse clearly exists and is more
widespread than believed. Sex abuse by the Christian clergy creates
anxiety and apprehension and present serious social problem. Several
nuns have committed suicide and many others have become mentally sick.

Most
disturbing were the obvious predatory offenders who would, in open
defiance, refuse to admit their sex crimes have been transferred to
Europe and America. Several Christian priests from Kerala were arrested
in the US for lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault and are serving long-term prison sentences.

As a further influence towards sexual abuse in the Christian community,
Biblical socio-cultural values that emphasize male dominance,
interpersonal violence, negative values of women, and sexual
exploitation of children influence sex abuse. Christian women have
found that throughout the history of Christianity, the Bible has been used as a Christian scripture for sexual exploitation of women
and children. The Christian scriptures contain story after story of
violence against women (Genesis 34, 2 Samuel 13, Judges 19, and Daniel 13). Sexual discrimination against women is also derived from passages in the New Testament.
“Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a
woman to teach, not to usurp authority over the man but to be in
silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not
deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in child bearing if they continue in
faith with sobriety.” (Timothy 2:11-15). “Righteous man tells horny
neighbors to rape his virgin daughters instead of taking liberties with
his male guests.” (Genesis 19:1-18). “Though shall not suffer a witch
to live.” (Exodus: 18-22).”God Okays captured maidens to be used as
wives on a trial basis.” (Deuteronom 21-10-14). “I will take your wives
before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with
your wives in the light of this sun.” (Bible God-2 Samuel 11-12).
Thomas Paine in his “The Age of Reason” captures the essence of the
Bible when he states; “whenever we read the obscene stories, the
voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and tortuous executions, the
unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is
filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a
demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has
served to corrupt and brutalize mankind and for my part; I sincerely
detest it, as I detest anything that is cruel.”

While
the blame must be nightly placed on the individual priests who
committed the heinous sexual acts, society must not forget that it is
the Christian religion that is also generally responsible. Besides the
biggest crime of the silence concerning priestly sex predators,
Christianity is also responsible for many other wrong around the world.

The sex predators in the Church feel more protected since the Christian Churches
have no policy to identify and restrict known sexual offenders among
the clergy. The Churches in India have no policy or guidelines to
identify priests having strong sexual propensities. There are several
instances where Catholic Sunday school teachers, priests and school
officials engaged in pedophile pattern of sexual misconduct in such an
egregious nature that there is a substantial likelihood of serious
physical or mental harm being inflicted on the victims. The Church
holds that predatory sexual behavior does not constitute the kind of
injury, pain, or other evil. The Church’s failure in addressing the
sexual misconduct of the clergy amounts to ignoring substantial
likelihood of serious physical or emotional harm to the victims. There
are no mandatory reporting
guidelines, sex abuse registration, community notification guidelines,
uniform sex abuse reporting requirement, national incident-based
reporting system, or any mechanism for national sex crime victimization
survey in the Church in order to help Christian community feel safer.
Given the criminal and public health significance
of sex offenders among the Christian clergy, it is surprising how
little has been done by the Church to acknowledge or to prevent such
deviant acts. The powerful Churches have no means for measuring sex
violence, assault, rape, attempted murder or murder by the clergy, as
well as collecting data both prevalence rates (number of victims) or
incidence rates (number of incidents). The government is under the
political pressure from the Christian Churches and is unwilling to
enact laws in an effort to restore a sense of safety and security to
the community.

Recently,
the Churches have joined together and have formed several “divine
treatment” centers for indoctrinating and accusing the victims of sex
abuse. The Potta Divine Center near Angamali and the mistreatment of
sex abuse victims has sparked considerable debate among Psychiatrists,
legal experts, human rights activists. Questions have been raised
regarding the legality of such Christian institutions
and illegal and unethical treatment of sex abuse victims by the
predator priests. The Church has detained many nuns who have been
sexually assaulted or raped and labeled them as mentally sick. The
labeling process of the victims is used for intimidation, coercive
treatment, false imprisonment
and to silence the sex abuse victims. These illegal detention centers
operated by the Churches have been used for keeping things quiet in an
attempt to do ‘damage control’. Hundreds of inmates at these centers
have died under mysterious circumstances. Bad publicity has dictated an
atmosphere of hushed voices and outrage against those who dare to speak
out against illegal detention, forced treatment and sudden death of sex
abuse victims.

Law
enforcement’s acknowledgement and response to clergy sex abuse has been
slow in coming in Kerala. Even today, police officers would rather not
get involved in crime, violence, sex abuse in the Church for fear of
retaliation from the powerful Christian lobby.

The
media, professionals and the society in Kerala must accept the fact
that victims of clergy sex abuse and victims of sexual harassment
especially nuns have rights and need. The government must enact
legislation to ensure financial rewards for sex abuse victims and
financial independence from the perpetuators. Freedom of the Church to
run religious schools and illegal treatment centers without government
regulations must be subject to scrutiny.  The
consequences of sex abuse by the priests are traumatic and the
ramifications are serious. Although there is disagreement among the
Church hierarchy, all agree that sex abuse by the clergy is a serious
problem that must be handled by the police and the judiciary
effectively. The media must expose and educate the public against
clergy sex abuse and use of women as sexual trophies or playthings
instead of equals by the Church. Only through ongoing awareness
campaign against the special Church privileges, priestly sex deviance
and exploitation of nuns and such heinous sex crimes can be put to an
end.

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