By B. John Zavrel
Pope Benedict XVI with priests at a religious ceremony in Rome. Millions of people from all over the world come every year to the 'Eternal City', in order to see the Holy Father and to be blessed by him. Among the believers and tourists are also some people who are mostly curious, but who want to show respect to the representative of the Church.
Rom/Berlin (bpb) The sexual abuse of children in Germany has stirred up the public for several weeks. However, the important public discussion is somehow turning into a hate campaign against the Catholic Church and against Pope Benedict XVI. This is in spite of the fact that the Holy Father of the Christians has repeatedly condemned sex abuse of children as a crime and sin. The administration of the Church will proceed against those priests and others who have brought shame to the Church.
What is the background? In the media, more and more incidents of sex abuse over the past 30 years by priests and others of children, both boys and girls. This discussion should not be directed against the head of the church, but rather it should concentrate on how such incidents can be avoided in the future, or at least reduced.
Instead, the discussion in Germany is taking on hysterical tones. Even some leading politicians are making demands on the Church and especially on the Pope; yheir public comments are essentially propaganda against the Church. At the same time, bishops and priests are being stirred up against one another, and respect for the church hierarchy is rapidly decreasing. But these controversial discussions do not contribute to the solutions of the problems.
The problem of abuse in religious institutions is seen by the critics also as a by-product of the required 'celibacy of the priests'. The church denies this line of thinking. Every man, who wants to become a priest, knows fully well that 'celibacy' belongs to this calling; therefore, no marriage and sexual abstinence are required. These are the 'high values' of priesthood. They outline the position of a Catholic priest. Ultimately, those who cannot live without sex, have to give up thoughts of becoming priests. Naturally, those of the Eastern religions have it simpler. For them, 'no marriage' and 'no sex' are in most instances required only when they are monks, not merely priests.
Young men of the Church come regularly into the center of the Church in Rome, in order to receive directives and blessings of the Pope for their global work. It is more than difficult to discover, within the large body of the priesthood, the few 'black sheep', who through their wrong behavior, condemned by the Pope, have damaged the institution of the Church and continue to do so.
Sexual orientation causes problems in all countries
In the actual controversy, the critics of the Church in Europe argue that it is just this position against marriage of priests that attrats pedophiles to the Church. At the same time, this sexual inclination of people towards children and underage youth for sex with little girls and homosexual dealings with boys can be found in all the various vocational groups of the German society. And it is the same in all the countries of the world! And this sexuality, different from the 'sexually normal behavior' is said to be, in the countries of the Western Christianity, genetically conditioned.
The 'Age of Concsent' with different rules
Sex abuse of children means deliberate sexual acts with, to or by children. Typically, differences in power and knowledge between the perpetrator and his child-age victim play the central role. According to the German law, as 'children' are defined those under the age of 14 years. In Germany, sex abuse of children is punishable by law. The courts must determine, in a very complicated fact-finding proceeding the question of guilt and punishability, and to what degree the sexual contact was a matter of mutual consent. So, for instance, a 15-year old said this about a homosexual contact with a teacher: "I also enjoyed it". Therefore, the teacher was found not guilty.
In the United States, the establishment of the 'age of consent' is a matter of the various states. In most states of the United States, the 'age of consent' is reached at 16 years. Different rules are in effect in some states, for instance in New York, Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico and Texas, where the limit is 17 years. And even stricter are these laws in California, Arizona, Idaho, Florida, Delaware, Utah, North Dakota, Wyoming, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin; in these states the 'age of consent' is set at 18 years.
All are challenged: If you see abuse, do not look aside
The sex abuse of children and youth is unfortunately happening daily. It will not be possible to completely eradicate it. Therefore, all the citizens are called upon to report suspicious matters, and to point out the known offenders, both men and women.
But no one is allowed to 'look aside' when such things happen in one's neighborhood, or even in their own families. When a father, a mother or some other member of the family or relatives abuse their own children, then no family member is allowed to remain quiet about this. And this goes for neighbors and all the citizens as well.
In the meantime, it is well known that sex abuse is happening also outside the Christian institutions. Among them are homes for children and youth, educational institutions, leading schools and dormitories in which people, who have today reached important positions in society, have been raised over the past decades and also sexually abused in them. With all these cases, justice in a civilized country has to be able to find a way to deal with and punish such cases, unless they are past the 30-year statute of limitations.
The big question: how does it look in Asia, Africa and Americas
The good thing about the controversy about this horrible topic is this: it makes society conscious of this problem, and hopefully more watchful. The society in the United States, in the countries of the European Union and in all the wealthy countries has to look also at the entire situation of children and youth in Asia, Africa and Latin America. A policy has to be set up so that especially in those countries, the sex abuse of children caused by poverty, hunger and suffering can be reduced.
The Pope himself, as a 'lightning rod' for all such incidents, is a totally wrong target. The ongoing, obviously masterfully orchestrated negative publicity war on Pope Benedict XVI in the global media originates mainly from the United States and Great Britain. Every day brings new and more and more hysterical personal attacs on the Pope. The motivation and the identity of the forces behind this campaing are not known at this time.
However, the Catholic Church will, after repeated assurances, take all possible actions. The guilty priests will be pointed out, and removed from their offices. On the other hand, the Catholic Church may not allow itself to be forced by enemy groups and individuals to act unjustly. The Church is there to work for the benefit of the people. And it will continue to be confronted with this realization: 'The journey is the destination'.
This discussion also makes clear, what everybody should already know anyway: the world and this Earth is not a paradise. In order to create peace, freedom, justice, human rights, respect and a life without hunger, wars, foreign occupations and exploitation, illness and poverty, much is and more will be required from every single individual. And that is easier said than done. But every man and woman must personally take actions to make a beginning, wherever they happen to live and work.
© PROMETHEUS 154/2010
PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin - News, Politics, Art and Science. Nr. 154, April 2010