A few years ago I had occasion to mention priest abuse of minors to the then pastor of the Catholic church I attend. His response was that a lot of those priests had been falsely accused. I had a distinct sense that by even bringing up the subject I was breaking some unspoken rule dictating that I was out of bounds.
In fact evasion of this subject remains the rule in all Catholic institutions I know of. My fellow parishioners don’t want to talk about it. The hierarchy doesn’t want to talk about it except when forced to by law enforcement or the media. Administrators at the Catholic College where I taught for over forty years want neither to talk about it nor sponsor lectures by specialists on the subject along with public discussions of it.
This silence begins with the abused Catholic minors, understandably reluctant to talk about the abuse to a parent, relative, friend, or school counselor for fear of not being believed. Betrayed trust by the abusing priest, implicitly tolerated by Church silence, extends like an uncoiling snake to everyone in the victim’s world positioned to help. The priest abuser places himself between his victim and the caring authorities in his life, creating a void that often leads to reduced self-regard, loneliness, depression, anxiety and specious remedies for these problems like alcohol, drugs and fabricated “relationships.” In other words, abuse by a priest contributes to the very moral decline in social attitudes lamented by Catholic bishops, religious superiors and expert “researchers” as its main cause.
The bolder but more honest reaction to priest abuse of minors is for the conscience of the Church to be appalled by it and to accept its own role in perpetuating the abuse.