There are 4,392 priests and deacons in the U.S. Catholic Church alone who have been charged with allegations of sexual abuse from 1950-2002. As of last week, the Vatican has attempted, at my count, six different public-relations campaigns to deflect any blame away from Pope Benedict XVI on the stonewalling of the church regarding priest sexual abuse. Then came the smoking gun: A letter surfaced, signed personally by Pope Benedict when he was a cardinal, refusing to take action against a pedophile priest. The church’s latest attempt is to blame “gay priests.” In other words, try and blame it on those gays, who we all know abuse little boys. That’s the hidden message, a hate campaign just like the ones we’ve seen from the Republicans. If you are having this conversation with those defending the church, here’s your strategy.
First, do not try to explain why blaming “gay priests” is wrong. If you do, then you are taking the bait and allowing them to keep the focus on gays rather than child abuse, which will delight them since it deflects from the church scandal.
Rather, keep the focus on them — where it belongs. When they use that line, immediately take it back to the church by saying: The church should be protecting children rather than the priests who sexually abuse them. Regardless of what sexual orientation the priest is, he should be dealt with as a man who has raped/abused a child. Instead, the church hides the abusing priest behind bishops, cardinals and, now it has been proven, even the (future) pope.
As you will see, this approach will leave the church apologist in a rush to defend the organization. After he or she does, you should give the figures.
Allegations of sexual abuse have been made against 4,392 priests and deacons in the U.S. [Pictured: Denver’s Father Mel Thompson, removed this week after allegations of abuse from the 70s surfaced.] This distinguishes the church as the No. 1 child sexual abuser in the nation. Shame on you. If a major corporation, like ExxonMobil, had 4,392 employees abusing children, what do you expect the reaction would be?
By this point, you’ve already won the argument with the child-rapist apologizer. Sounds like a tough line, but that’s what he is. It’s time to make the populace aware of how it’s affecting them.
Have you told your parishioners that the money they put into the Sunday plate that has gone to settle lawsuits and legal fees has climbed to $1.5 billion, and that was only until 2006? Until the church stands with morality and takes responsibility rather than blaming the media, dead clerics and now, shame on you, even the victims themselves, the price will continue to climb and, unfortunately, good schools and churches will continue to be shuttered. Not only have you ruined children’s lives by continuing to not take responsibility, you are destroying the very Catholic communities you serve.
At some point in this debate, your opponent will attempt to say you are anti-Catholic. Just tell the truth: No, I’m anti-child abuse and organizations that cover it up. Look at your debating partner and say, “Let me ask you, hypothetically, if 4,392 employees of ExxonMobil abused children and the CEO of ExxonMobil covered it up, I’m sure you’d expect him to answer to at least his stockholders, if not law enforcement.” It’s not about how much money the company makes or how good the product is, it’s about those 4,392 abusing employees and the CEO who is covering the abuse up.
In the case of the Catholic Church, the CEO is Pope Benedict.