After Pope Francis‘ disastrous trip to Ireland, where it was clear how far the Catholic Church has fallen in the minds of citizens in a matter of decades, The Guardian‘s Polly Toynbee notes that Church-based abuse will never change as long as they maintain outdated, bizarre rules about sex and sex-adjacent ideas.
… for as long as this church is perverted by warped dogma on sexuality, abuse will be rife and secretive. The fetishism of a celibate priesthood will attract abusers and paedophiles. Expect no real change while morbid obsession with sex, contraception and abortion still perpetuate St Paul’s founding sexual disgust.
But don’t assume she’s just picking on Catholics. Toynbee says plenty of religions are guilty of sheltering abuse due to their shared desire for “purity.”
Cases abound: the imam imprisoned for 13 years for abusing young girls in his Qur’an class or the BBC’s exposé of more than 400 children abused in madrassas. Despite plentiful cases among Jehovah’s Witnesses, their rules still insist on two witnesses before a victim is believed. A Plymouth Brethren case reflects the same pressure on all these communities — a 12-year-old raped by a senior elder was forced by her mother to write a letter denying her own allegation. Riots by Sikhs who forced the Birmingham Rep to cancel a play about rape in a temple warned anyone exposing their faith to expect retribution. Buddhism is rife with cases — the leader of Shambhala International, the west’s largest organisation, resigned last year following abuse claims.
In Australia, a royal commission found 853 young children abused by Christian Brothers. Fear of ostracism by a tight-knit community has led to cover-ups in ultra-orthodox Jewish groups. Dr Samuel Heilman, a professor of Jewish studies at Queens College, told the New York Times: “They are more afraid of the outside world than the deviants within their own community.” Rabbinical authorities, to maintain control, resist outside scrutiny that could erode their power — as with all these faiths.
It’s not so much that the rules create abusers. Rather, they create an environment where abusers can thrive. Victims are afraid to come forward, in some cases, because admitting they were assaulted means admitting they had sex. The latter, for many religions, is somehow treated as the bigger crime.
What we’ve learned in the past several years is that abusers in religious leadership aren’t anomalies. They’re everywhere — and the people with the power to have a sudden “revelation” about how to punish them or prevent them from getting away with it refuse to act. It’s a very convenient time to not have a direct line to God.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)