â€˜They are not at any riskâ€™
Those, believe it or not, were the words spoken by the Bishop of Gozo,Mario Grech, about the children in the home he visited when questionedby reporters about the outcome of the investigation by the Commissionhe himself appointed to look into alleged abuse in the Church run homesin Gozo.
Now, since this is a super sensitive country I want tobe clear that none of the criticism I am making in this article ispersonal, (this bishop like the new archbishop seems like a very goodperson, but to be honest that is to be expected from a member of theChurch, not something we should feel grateful for). However, if theChurch wants to rise in the publicâ€™s esteem, it has to stoppussyfooting around this subject of abuse of children by the clergy. Ithas to send out a strong zero tolerance message, and also has torefrain, as the Bishop of Gozo probably inadvertently did, fromcommenting in a way that in my view could easily be interpreted asperverting the course of justice.
This whole area of dealingwith abuse of minors by men and women of the cloth also came out in asurvey following the appointment of the new archbishop, where a fullthird regarded this as a priority area; in fact the second mostimportant area after safeguarding the family. So pretending it isnâ€™t areal problem is not the way to show the public you are going to treatthis with the utmost seriousness, including expelling those who abuseand turning them over to the police and the courts for immediateinvestigation and trial.
First of all it is totally wrong thatallegations of abuse are not picked up right away by the police. Icannot see why abuse in a private home is reported to the police but ina Church home not as promptly. The Church should not, must not, andshould not even want to police itself. Yet it seems that in these casesthey are still being allowed to do so. Why? Members of the clergy haveno right to be treated differently to other citizens, particularly inthe area of child abuse, alleged or otherwise, and if legislation isrequired then our parliamentarians must legislate. Or enshrine theright not to be abused by anyone, including a nun or a priest in ourConstitution. And what has happened about the alleged abuse in theHamrun home? How long is this going to take to come to trial? As longas it appears to be taking to bring the judges to trial? That shouldhave been dealt with quicker than quickly, since those being chargedinclude the former Chief Justice himself.
Are they hoping orthinking people have forgotten, or will forget? If anything it makes itworse because it gives the wrong impression that there are some peoplewe do not want to bring to trial, be they judges or members of theclergy. Prostitutes and Arabs, East European dancers, they are theeasy, soft targets and the trial happens amazingly quickly insuperficial cases donâ€™ t they.
So while I think this Commissionthat the Bishop appointed has a very tough task, they are notdetectives, they are not police and I would have far greater faith inthe system if the police, without any interference from politicians orpriests, were allowed to carry out a full and thorough investigationwhen these allegations surface. Besides anything else, the Bishopshould not be allowed to choose the people who investigate the Churchor its members. The Church should be totally removed from thesituation. Would you ask a criminal to choose his own jury? Would youask an organisation under suspicion to investigate itself? Of coursenot. None of this makes any sense and the Church will not win back therespect of many if it persists in cover-ups.
The Catholic Churchall over the world has dealt with this area by covering it up. Theyonly started changing a little when there was such an outcry when thefew brave ones made the claims, which were almost always true! Pleasebear that statistic in mind. There is very little pretence in childabuse cases, though the Church seems to want to fob us off with thisidea. We now know that in the States abusive clergy were simply movedto another parish, to abuse again as it turned out!
I know it isnormal for a profession to close ranks. Doctors often defend otherdoctors. Lawyers other lawyers. Architects hate being in a positionwhere they have to check the work of another architect. But the Churchis different. It is not a professional entity. It is a spiritual entityof supposedly, and in many cases I would like to believe, good peoplewho have supposedly given their lives to God, so the standards weexpect are super mortal, and definitely not sub mortal which is whatchild abuse is. But I am almost more bothered by those who cover up theabuse than I am by the abusers, who may have been victims of abusethemselves. How can anyone whose mind is in the right place cover upfor a bully
and a paedophile? The psychologists can excuse or explain the paedophilia but why do others persist in cover-ups?
I wonder how the comments of the Bishop of Gozo made the Commission feel.
Firsthe lambasted them for being a bit slow because he was anxious to hearthe result. Then he basically, inadvertently or otherwise, impliednothing was wrong because the children look loved. I mean do you thinkany kind of a paedophile or abuser who is under investigation goes onbullying and abusing if they know they are being investigated. Pitythose children who made those allegations. They have the whole force ofthose who look after them not wanting any abuse to be found. Not onlythe meek are silent in Malta, so too are all or most of the childrenwho are abused in Church homes.
Would you talk if you saw with what little seriousness the society you lived in treated these allegations?
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