Monday, October 5, 2009

Facing naked truths, or not

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in September, an activist for secularism accused the Roman Catholic Church of covering-up and perpetuating child abuse. Keith Porteous Wood said that young victims were further abused when senior Church officials accused them of lying – even in the face of strong evidence.

Mr. Wood told the Council: “Clerics implicated in concealment have been permitted to remain in office.” He cited Bernard Law, former Archbishop of Boston, who still enjoys papal support as archpriest of a papal basilica in Rome and is still a cardinal. Mr. Wood also accused the Church of trying to minimize criminal sanctions and the compensation paid to victims.

In what the Guardian newspaper called a defiant and provocative statement, the Vatican lashed out at criticism over its handling of the abuse crisis, saying the Catholic church was "busy cleaning its own house" and that the problems with clerical sex abuse in other churches were as big, if not bigger.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican's permanent UN representative, claimed that fewer than 5% of priests were involved in child sex abuse and that abuse was far more likely to be committed by family members, babysitters, friends, relatives or neighbors, and said male children were quite often guilty of sexual molestation of other children. He also said that Protestants and Jewish communities too were quite often guilty of sexual molestation of children.

Coincident with the UN controversy, Roman Catholic Bishop Raymond Lahey was charged Sept. 25 with possessing child pornography, allegedly not the first time his odd fascination had been noticed. He announced his sudden retirement as bishop in the diocese of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, on Sept. 26, saying he was stepping down "for personal renewal."

In August, Lahey oversaw a $15 million dollar out-of-court settlement of abuse allegations in the diocese dating back to the 1950s. At the time, he apologized on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church, saying he hoped "to never again have to deal with such reprehensible behavior."

The charges of importing and possessing child pornography stem from images found during a random search of Bishop Lahey's laptop by border agents as he returned to Canada from a trip abroad.
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