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An Editorial: Subject, Pedophiles

By LC Van Savage

and the Lady on TV

She appeared on an interview in the news about a week ago and I havenít been able to forget her face, or more importantly, her words. She was elderly, well spoken and clearly believed what she was saying. She said this; "There was no need to bring up all that stuff again. It was a long time ago, over thirty years. It should just be forgotten, dead and buried. What good will it do now to stir it all up? Itís just ruining that poor manís life, and for what?"

For what?? She was, of course, referring to the subject of priest abuse of young children, in fact her very own beloved priestís abuse of young children.

How dare she? Why do some of us insist on believing that old clichť, "time heals everything"? It certainly does not. Time, in fact, can intensify horrifying memories. The young, helpless children who suffered at the hands of those sick predators have most definitely not healed because time has passed. Those trusted men, giving in to urges impossible to understand, never controlling them and always being forgiven for them anyway, allowing them to easily continue their fun and games conscience-free, shattered the very lives of those kids. Their behaviors have put children, of whom many are now adults, out into a world where they frequently cannot accomplish, cannot succeed, and cannot make productive lives for themselves. But what they frequently can do is fail all their lives, they can hurt and destroy themselves and others, they can have endless nightmares and they sometimes become abusers themselves. Is this true of all people whoíve been abused as kids? I donít know. Do all priests do this? Hardly. What is true is that the wounded kids cannot forget. Absolutely ever.

This woman, and all people like her with the attitude of, "Get over it. Move on! Grow up!" and worse, "Stop attacking that nice abuser," are, in my opinion, dismissing the pain with which the abused suffer, demeaning them, and damning them with her sage advice by subtly suggesting theyíre responsible for what happened to them, so itís time they were responsible for fixing, or forgetting, it. What this woman on TV doesnít get is that the covering-up of crimes of pedophiles for whatever reason, at any time ever, is an act of absolute cowardice and evil, the end never justifying the means, even if the ends and means is a powerful, enormously wealthy "do good" organization. But then we all know by now that when a powerful image is threatened, cover-ups begin.

I just canít get that womanís words out of my mind. How can she think that way? Because a lot of years have passed since trusted members of the clergy committed those crimes (or who knows? Maybe even continued on with their filthy attacks but only got caught one time all those years ago,) does that mean they should not answer for them today? Does that mean their victims should just straighten up and get on with their lives because those depraved crimes are old depraved crimes?

Oh, and by the way, it was not only boys who were targeted as some news reports would have us believe. Girls also were touched by those righteous hands. These guys were equal opportunity molesters. And can anyone guess what happened when the trusting children tried to tell? Sure you can. They were punished, so they got shot with both barrels---once from the trusted molester and then again from the trusted adult they desperately tried to tell. They were forbidden to ever speak of it, for the "good of the church." (Isnít there an oxymoron in that statement somewhere?) They were discouraged from telling because, they were told, that if in fact that sacred, revered man did do something to them they did not like, it was probably their own fault, or they were probably lying, because after all, "a priest, a saintly man of God, would absolutely never, ever do such a thing." Even if some did believe those kids, many did not help. In general, the terrified but brave whistle-blowers were punished, laughed at, or shunned.

People say we should also forgive and forget the holocaust of World War II. Some say it never happened, that the photographs of the millions of starved humans are just "normal war casualties, not victims of any so-called death camps," that we should let bygones be bygones and ignore the unutterable tortures and horrors people suffered then, because it was "all so long ago." Yeah, it was. Time and space again. Those two infinite durations are all healing, great cosmic Band-Aids covering it all up and making it all better. Wrong.

What will make it a little better for the sufferers will be if those who have ruthlessly smashed the spirits of the powerless are held accountable, and are harshly punished. Showing their victims a little remorse might help too.

Am I comparing the horrors of the holocaust to the horrors of priest abuse? You bet I am. Both occurrences crushed the bodies, minds, hearts and souls of the helpless, didnít they? Both obscenities were "overlooked," werenít they? Authoritarian people who preyed on the vulnerable and terrified are and were then, never held accountable. Until they finally got caught. Many Nazis were able, before that happened, to slime their ways to Argentina. Priests were just re-assigned.

The apologies offered to these wounded humans today are shallow and meaningless. How come theyíre suddenly coming now? Could it be that insurance money is drying up? Could it be because the victims are finally overcoming their fear and shame and are rising up and demanding validation? (And it is an absurd mockery to suggest that all this only just began in the 1960s.) Apologies for these heinous crimes is way too little and way too late. These vicious acts could have been stopped instantly. People knew. Fellow priests knew. Why didnít someone make it stop? I think we know.

But as I ponder this, I conclude that perhaps I do know why the woman on the news said what she said, why she thinks what she thinks. She reacts this way to the "new" news of her priestís pedophilia because her denial is deeply entrenched, her shame unbearable, her faith shaken. She prefers to demand the world forget what is unforgettable.

So lady on TV, shame on you. Forgive and forget? Did any of these things ever happen to you? Tell me they did, and then tell me you are straightening up, moving on, growing up, burying the past, forgiving and forgetting. If you tell me youíre able to do all that, you would be lying, and you know it, I know it and the walking-wounded victims know it.

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Reader Comments

Name: Susa Email:
Comment: I personally am sickened to think that men, considered holy, and the vessels of God, are held to a lower standard than the rest of the country. Any priest that betrays the trust of the people he is supposed to help is disgsting and nothing more than a criminal. The congregations may forgive him but his victims never will. They should be shot, like the dogs they are.



Name: Paul Joseph Leadem Email:
Comment: The recent scandal involving priests in Boston and elsewhere bothers me, for many reasons. I have read a number of opinions and comments on other Message Boards that disturb me by their lack of perspective. One said that priests are prone to pedophilia because of the Church's rule on celibacy. I had to reply to that one, and thought you might be interested: We are all sinners. Pedophilia is a mental illness, an addiction, a progressive disease. The root causes are hard to discern in many cases, but there are patterns of behavior. Priests are not the only ones to suffer from this disorder. Unfortunately, the Church for too many years engaged in a "cover up" policy to avoid scandal. What we see in the press today is the failure of that policy. Estimates vary, but many millions of dollars have been paid to settle claims against priests. Many priests have been "defrocked" and others sent to treatment centers. Celibacy is another matter. There are married priests, but not in the Roman rite. Most protestant ministers and jewish rabbis are married, but this does not stop the incidence of pedophilia among them. There is also a high rate of homosexuality in the clergy (married or otherwise). These problems have been studied, and are of concern to all religions. But the studies have shown that celibacy has very little to do with it. Unfortunately, many priests have given up their vocation because of the rule of celibacy, which can be changed.



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