HomeCommentaryTrue faith stands strong despite clerical child abuse

True faith stands strong despite clerical child abuse

Followers of Jesus of Nazareth have true faith in his teaching that goodness, truth, justice, and love of neighbor and human and children’s rights will one day overcome and defeat evil. Their faith, that of the People of God, will not be shaken. They will stand firm and welcome the truth- even the shocking truth of clerical child abuse- that is being revealed and challenged. It is a process that is cleansing the Institutional Church of complicity in crimes against children.

These investigations into clerical child abuse by the authorities in several nations, like in the Catholic Diocese of Baltimore in the US, where investigators are independent of the hierarchy revealed wide clerical child sex abuse and the cover-up by bishops. In the Diocese of Baltimore, over 150 priests were found to have sexually abused at least 600 children and many more cases were covered up by church officials. That is just the tip of the iceberg of clerical child abuse in Baltimore.

In the Philippines, no such investigations have ever happened as authorities, save for one or two brave prosecutors, seem to lack the courage and determination to pursue justice on behalf of child victims. Yet true Christians realize that God is inspiring people to cleanse their community of evil. True faith is always found in the minds and hearts of the People of God even if not always present in all the clergy in the Institutional Church.

True faith comes from belief and action following the words and actions and example of Jesus of Nazareth. It will find life in the actions of a person of absolute integrity and will motivate the many thousands of good priests and laypeople and truthful bishops to take social action to implement the Gospel values. When will they act to protect children and report any of the child-abusing priests to the authorities and support child victims to get justice and stop more abuse?

The real faith of laypeople and true Christians will not be shaken no matter what scandal of child abuse by corrupt clergy is revealed. Many may fall away from the church and stop attending mass and the sacraments having lost trust in the Institutional Church. Yet, as true believers, they will not lose trust in Jesus of Nazareth, will believe in him and continue to help their needy neighbor, the victims of abuse and exploitation. That is the Faith that flows into action for children’s rights and dignity and will empower true Christians of integrity to speak the truth, fight for the truth and welcome the truth, painful as it may be.

Pope Francis has such faith and has condemned every act of child abuse and says the victims are the most important in the Kingdom as Jesus said (Matt.18:1-7) and abusers must be held accountable before the civil law and church law and, as Jesus said, a millstone be tied around the child abusers’ necks and they be thrown into the deep sea.(Matthew:18:7) What message is more direct, stronger, and clearer than that?

The hierarchy must change and defend the victims and bring clerical child abusers to justice. Some cover up for abusers and transfer them or send them to “rest houses” may be harboring alleged criminals. They likely don’t believe that a priest can sexually abuse children or that it is a serious crime. The first case of a priest being jailed for alleged child rape and sexual assault in the Philippines happened in Cagayan province.

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The bishops must never condone, tolerate or cover up child abuse among their clergy. In the Philippines, it is likely none have ever done it. Many try to pay off the victim’s families to drop charges. That priest will feel above the law, protected by the church and bishop, and will abuse more children.

Prosecutors must be independent, strong, and determined to never give in to pressure and steadfastly uphold the law equally. The judges must deliver justice without fear or favor nor be intimidated by anyone in power, moral or civil, and deliver justice for the abused children.

While some cases of child abuse against priests in the Philippines have seemingly been frozen by some unworthy prosecutors and judges, not so in cases filed against non-clerical abusers. Many dedicated prosecutors and judges are actively doing that. The brave and determined prosecutor in Zambales elevated the complaint of statutory rape against the abuser Orlando Flores Jr of an orphaned 10-year-old child in 2021, Mika (not her real name). He was convicted of rape on 22nd May 2023 by a just judge, Judge Gemma Theresa Hilario-Logronio, of the Regional Trial Court in Olongapo City.

Mika was saved by social workers and therapists at the Preda Foundation’s home for abused children and became empowered and self-confident to give her clear testimony. The Emotional Release Therapy is where she screamed out her anger, and hatred and punched the cushions as if punching her rapist.

She released all the pent-up pain she was enduring and was healed. She became self-confident and strong in mind and heart. With the conviction of Flores, she is now free of her abuser forever. Many more children will be safe from the serial rapist jailed for life.

The experienced and wise judge wrote, “Mika’s testimony on how she was raped by the accused remained consistent, and was able to describe with all accuracy and truthfulness. She did not sway a bit through cross-examination, instead, her testimony remained consistent in all material points.” The evidence of the medico-legal examination of the 10-year-old showed healed lacerations and added weight to the child’s testimony. The clear straightforward testimony of an immature child told with frankness and honesty won the conviction.

The truth is plain to see and the truth is what brings justice. The priests and bishops and lay people have to cleanse the church of this “filth” as Pope Benedict called clerical child abuse before his death. Pope Francis demands child abusing priests be tried by the civil authorities. Bishops are called to protect the children, the people, their priests, and their church by ridding their diocese of child-abusing priests. They may wrongly think that the priest can be forgiven right away bypassing the needed steps of confession of guilt, repentance, and acceptance of penance behind bars where he will abuse children no more.

For this to be done Pope Francis set up in June 2015 a Vatican tribunal to put clergy priests and bishops on trial for child abuse or for failing to stop and prevent abuse of children and for covering up an act of child abuse. That is the absolute conviction and belief that goodness, truth, justice, and love of neighbor and protecting children will overcome and triumph over evil.

They are the most important. “Whoever will accept one child as this is accepts me”, (Matthew 18:5-6) Jesus said. What more encouragement do we need to stand for the victims?

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse. The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.

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