Church in a whirlpool of sin, guilt and immorality
by R L Francis on 09 Jul 2010 2 Comments

The last decade has been painful and disturbing for the Vatican as it has been mired in various controversies concerning the immoral behaviour of priests and accusations of sex abuse inside the confines of the church. These accusations have bogged down the Vatican to such an extent that despite much squirming it has failed to come out of the mess. In the year 2000 Vatican first officially acknowledged that many priests had indulged in the sexual abuse of minors and youth. According to the Vatican, this is not an entirely new problem and is confined to certain geographical area. But it then issued a list of 23 affected countries which includes America, Brazil, Philippines, India, Ireland and Italy (which have the highest recorded cases, according to a secret survey by a senior sister superior). 


Two years ago, Pope Benedict XVI released an official list of sins in order to salvage the plummeting prestige of priests found to have over-indulged in ‘sin’. Polluting environment, genetic manipulation, obscene wealth, creating poverty, drug-trafficking, immoral scientific experiments and violation of fundamental human rights were included in the list seven modern day sins.


The irony is that the deeply blemished representatives of the Vatican are sinking ever deeper in the quagmire of sin. After America, the episode in Ireland shocked the Catholic churches all over the world. This is the second biggest blow for Vatican. Even those who believe in the Church have started taking legal recourse against Bishops and other priests. Victim families have demanded US$ 1.37 billion as compensation. On the other hand, those victimised by priests are demanding that the Vatican make those secret files public which contain details of sex abuse inside the Roman Catholic Church.


Victim families have accused the Vatican of concealing and suppressing the truth instead of protecting children, youth, and women. The Vatican and its higher officials are more concerned to save their own skin (and purse), and there is hardly an instance of tough action against priestly misdemeanours in its long history. But this time the victims are in no mood to relent and they are demanding the prompt removal of any and every priest or Bishop or Cardinal who has done wrong to children or has concealed the crime.


A case pending in the Supreme Court of America is very important in two respects. First, the Supreme Court will decide if legal recourse can be taken against the Vatican itself, which claims sovereign immunity, in United States courts? The victims have released some documentary evidences that suggests that despite repeated complaints against guilty priests to Pope John Paul II and the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican and church authorities helped guilty church officials to save their skin and did not take punitive measures on behalf of the victims.


At the time of appointment, Cardinals take an oath before the Pope that they will not divulge anything that brings a bad name or disgrace to the church. Hence Cardinals try to suppress the truth even after cases of sex abuse erupts it’s the dioceses. Such priests select their victims from the highest level of devotees. These people are indoctrinated to respect the church at any cost. However, during the last decade or so, many victim families have publicly come out against the sinful activities of church officials. Television channels and newspapers have played a pivotal role in publicising these sins of the church. This is the chief reason that the Vatican and the European Catholic Church are on the defensive.


The Vatican is very upset that due to sexual frustration priests are not taking genuine interest in the compulsory services of the church. The impact can be seen as rising irritation and anger among Catholics. Devotees are constantly urging the church to maintain its dignity and the drive for purity has assumed an international dimension. Catholic youth are playing an important role in this movement.


Indian priests face no threat from this movement as the majority of catholic population in the country is wretched and has hardly any time to understand these grave issues. Even if some ‘Reformist voices’ erupt, they are suppressed shrewdly. Priests and Bishops have a huge organised army of slaves to help them. They have the support of big political parties, media and those in power.


Many instances of the rot in the church have come into light in our country. But most cases remain under the carpet due to highly God-fearing nature of Indian Christians. Even if a case erupts, it soon withers away due to the strong influence wielded by the church in the corridors of power and in the media.


In August 2008, the suicide of two nuns came to light. The father of 22-year-old Anupa Mary alleged that his daughter committed suicide due to sex abuse in the convent. It transpired that his daughter had complained to her mother of such things. Anupa Mary’s father said his daughter was very scared. The father of the deceased nun used to work as chef to the Bishop in Kollam Catholic diocese. The Christian population in Kerala is 25 percent and 35,000 nuns in Catholic churches alone come from Kerala. The CPM government tried to take some action to stop the sex abuse in convents and churches, but the church ensured a backlash and the CPM had to suffer humiliating defeat in the Lok Sabha elections of 2009.


Last year, Sister Jesme’s book, Amen, Autobiography of a Nun Oru Kanyasthreeyude Atmakatha – rocked the Catholic Church in Kerala. Sister Jesme gave a chronological sequence of the injustice being meted out to nuns, the sex abuse and the torture. Initially, the Indian media took cognizance of the book, but very soon planted stories appeared that Sister Jesme is ‘mentally ill’ and the media frenzy died out. Now nobody knows where Sister Jesme is. Incidents of suicide are not confined to nuns but catholic priests are also ending their lives out of desperation. Many priests are deserting the church. Recently, a priest in the Delhi Catholic Seminary committed suicide. 


The Vatican appears highly distressed at the growing sense of sexual frustration and even desperation among priests. Some officials reportedly mooted the idea of allowing priests to marry. British Catholic Bishop Malcolm McMahon opined that there was no genuine reason to stop priests from marrying. McMahon is being touted as heir to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.


Jesus himself never advocated celibacy. Most of his apostles were married and had children. Had Jesus planned to make his followers celibate, why he would have selected married disciples? He should have selected only bachelors and spinsters. In fact the egalitarianism propounded by Lord Jesus took the form of imperialism of state and exploitative capitalism under church administration. To protect this, Pope Gregory VII in the eleventh century made it mandatory for priests of the Roman Catholic Church to remain celibate.


The authoritarian mentality of the church can be gauged from the level of its faith in the holy Bible. In the first chapter, ‘Creation,’ the Lord God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” And the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought to the man to fulfill bodily needs and in order to continue the ‘creation’.


Ignoring this truth, the Pope/Catholic church has been running an authoritarian regime. This has been opposed off and on but nothing concrete has come out. Due to the fastidiousness of the church, most Catholic priests have been forced to live in desperation and sexual frustration. And when a matter of sex abuse comes to light, the church, instead of accepting the reality, tries to suppress it with its immense power and wealth. It resorts to the Hindu practices of saama (the concept of pacifying), dama (concept of paying/bribing), danda (punishment) and bheda (discrimination/dividing) to bury the matter under the carpet.


The author is national president, Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM)

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