The Catholic Church confronts the twenty-first century just as it began the twentieth century - as a Church divided. At that time, the fractious debates surrounding the historicity and meaning of the Christian scriptures and the Vatican's controversial response to the "threat" of modernism left the Church ill prepared to respond to the seismic cultural, economic and political changes that would accompany the post-war reconstruction efforts.
The Council also embraced freedom of religion. Established religion was abandoned and the secular state blessed as normative. The last great declaration of the Council was that the Catholic Church was to live in, love and provide service for the modern world. Entrenched obscurantism seemed to be dispelled. http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/12/01/3381137.htm
In order to eradicate sexual abuse from the church, three things must be done: identify and remove all offenders, reach out to and assist victim/survivors, and identify and overcome the more fundamental causes of both abuse and the poor response to it.
Firstly, there are some causal factors that are common to all offenders and others that are particular to each individual offender. In between these two, there are unhealthy factors within particular societies or organisations that can foster a culture in which abuse will more easily occur, or can compound the problem by contributing to a poor response. Needless to say, the church must look at broader factors in modern society that may have contributed to abuse, but this must never be to the exclusion of factors internal to the church. Indeed, because the church can change the latter in a way it cannot change the former, it must give particular attention to the internal factors.
Secondly, abuse is most likely to occur when the three elements of unhealthy psychology, unhealthy ideas and unhealthy living environment come together. Many studies have been done concerning unhealthy psychological elements, but much remains to be done concerning unhealthy ideas and unhealthy living environment. A poor response is most likely whenever anything within the culture causes the good of people to be subjected to the good, not so much of the community, but of the institution.
Thirdly, I suggest that the major fault of the church in this field is that it refuses to look at any teaching, law, practice or even attitude of the church itself as in any way contributing. In studying abuse, we must be free to follow the argument wherever it leads rather than impose in advance the limitation that our study must not demand change in any teaching or law. We must admit that there might be elements of the "Catholic culture" that have contributed either to abuse or to the poor response to abuse.
So let me suggest some elements in that culture that deserve serious consideration.
1. The Angry God
In any religion, everything without exception depends on the kind of God that is being worshipped. It is the single most important fact about any religious system, for every aspect of the system will flow from it. And there has been a long history of "the angry god" in the Catholic Church, with the Inquisition being merely the most glaring example. This conception of "God" created a church in which, despite the talk of love, practice was based too much on fear rather than love, and authorities always had the support of the angry God for their words and actions. Spirituality was too often seen in the negative terms of self-denial, self-abasement and rejection of the "world," and the Christian life was too often seen as consisting overwhelmingly in right behaviour before a judgemental God. A constricting guilt played too large a part. These are unhealthy ideas that have contributed to unhealthy actions. 2. Moral Immaturity
Before a judgemental God, with the constant threat of hellfire, the all-important consideration is that we avoid wrong actions. But if human beings are to grow, two things...
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