Social Question

Iclamae's avatar

How has the child abuse scandal affected your faith in/opinion of the Catholic church?

Asked by Iclamae (2409points) June 28th, 2010

Pretty straightforward.
If you’re religious and Catholic, I’m especially interested to know how this whole thing has affected your faith or your faith in the establishment of your religion.

If you aren’t religious, how has it affected your opinion of their inner workings and how the world should respond?

Placed in “Social” to allow for discussion but please no fighting. Fighting over religion never gets anywhere.

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46 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It has reaffirmed my belief in its hipocrisy. I’m an atheist. (not that that matters, in this question).

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I have never been a Catholic.

I believe the Church has failed the victims and shows little evidence that they have ceased to protect the abusers.

Qingu's avatar

I can understand why the Church wants to cover it up. For believing Catholics, the Church is the single most important institution in the universe; it is humanity’s one link to a real and judgmental deity. So I can see why they would prioritize protecting that institution over being transparent and trying to adhere to secular norms of justice.

So, I don’t think it’s really affected my opinion of the Church, which has always been negative. We are talking about the organization that repeatedly committed genocide against heretics and nonbelievers, enlisted children to fight its crusades, tortured thousands of people for not believing in the proper fairy tales, fought against scientific advancement, against the advancement of women, and birth control, and is currently the single largest contribution to skyrocketing AIDS in Africa right now. The sexual abuse cover-up doesn’t really stand out too much from their long history of malfeasance and corruption.

What I don’t understand is, why Catholics who clearly don’t believe in any of the nonsense in Catholicism continue to identify as such. Like I said, I can understand why Catholic priests prioritize supporting an institution they think is magical and holy—but if you don’t think it’s magical and holy, why support it?

kevbo's avatar

I’m glad I left the Catholic church well before any of these scandals came to light. I imagine it has caused a lot of trauma for a number of true believers.

The funny thing, though, is that there are still a lot of faithful who rationalize it (i.e. The scandal) as somehow being disconnected from their faith and experience of participating in the church. That it’s merely a few bad apples or that it’s because gays have snuck in and become pedophiles. I’ve heard these very comments on Catholic radio call in shows.

jaytkay's avatar

I’ve known about child abusing priests for 20 years. I’m not Catholic or involved, I simply read the newspaper. The fact that the Pope is expressing outrage at the police raids instead of outrage at child rape just reinforces my belief that criminal conspiracy charges are long overdue.

JLeslie's avatar

No affect. Basically I have always believed that you have to be wary of men in positions with access to children. I know that sucks for all of the good men out there. It does not surprise me that an organization, even a church would try to cover up scandal. My Catholic friends are loving people who never make me feel uncomfortable for not being religious or Cathloic, they are always respectful and accepting, and so I have a high opinion of the Cathloics I know. Pope John Paul many times on high holy days gave messages of hope and peace, and I like that. I have not really listened to this new Pope much. Other religions are spreading fear and hate, which pisses me off. Not that I agree with the Catholic church all of the time. It annoys me that they are against birth control, I think a majority of priests are gay (not to be confused with pedophiles) and I don’t like that women can’t be priests.

Iclamae's avatar

@Qingu you said “it is humanity’s one link to a real and judgmental deity”

Even when I was Christian, I always thought the link to God didn’t require the middle man. I went to Sunday school and church to learn about the gospels and such but when it came down to praying or connecting to God, I thought that was a private matter and didn’t require priests or confessionals.

I still feel that way, though I am not religiously affiliated. I find it interesting that others find church and other such locations necessary. Which is partially why I asked this question. I feel like if you really believe in God and the teachings of the Bible, this scandal won’t have affected your faith in God, but it will have affected faith in its institution. That institution is responsible for mass murders and tortures as you said, and I never understood how people who support a message of peace can be comfortable with the blood that’s on their (the institution not the follower’s) hands.

Qingu's avatar

@Iclamae, were you a Catholic? What you describe sounds more a protestant position.

Iclamae's avatar

@Qingu Not Catholic, no. I went to a Catholic school briefly and was surprised at the level of severity. The sunday school and church I attended regularly was a Salvation Army church. To be honest, I never learned all the sects of Christianity.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Yes, it has affected my faith…faith in the Pope as a human who should care about humanity and devotes his life to encouraging others to become Christians. If I were Catholic, it would make me consider moving on to another denomination.

JLeslie's avatar

@kevbo Why do you consider it connected? What some horrible priests did and Catholicism? Unless Catholics actually think Preists are God I think it is disconnected. It would be like saying an uncle you trusted wound up being a murderous criminal so everyone and everything every taught by the family is to be shunned.

Qingu's avatar

@Iclamae, fyi… one of the main reasons the protestants “protested” the Catholics is for the interpretation of religion which you stated. i.e. they were pissed they had to go through church intermediaries to interpret their Bible/worship their deity, so they formed their own sects. Sola Scriptura is sort of an extreme example of this.

Of course, these sects also have their own appalling histories.

JLeslie's avatar

I think of Mary and the Saints as kind of like Presidents and Vice Presidents of a corporation. The CEO, also known as God, is very busy, so the people in His company can go to experts in each field to help out. One saint for health, another for travel, another for fertility, if they can handle the problem it leaves God freed up for the bigger things.

Iclamae's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t know much about the way the church infrastructure works but there have been comments that the church’s policy of priestly chastity may be affecting this amount of abuse. I have no real opinion on that since I think it depends on the priest but that’s how I took @kevbo ‘s response.

@Qingu That’s very interesting. I haven’t looked into the histories of the sects (or even what all of them are). Thanks for the info. Would have been interesting to have known all that 10 years ago. (not sure if it would have changed anything but we’ll never know)

Iclamae's avatar

@JLeslie I find that kind of system understandable but I don’t understand why the church preaches monotheism so heavily when it is actually not…

JLeslie's avatar

@Iclamae So you see that as multiple Gods? I don’t see that at all. I’m and atheist Jew by the way, I am not speaking for Catholics, just how I perceive the religion.

Somehow I doubt that is where Kevbo was coming from, but I guess we will have to wait for his comment. I don’t see what chastity has to do with being a pedophile? If I am not giving my husband sex, I hope he does not go and find a 12 year old to cheat on me with. However, some of the pedophile cases I think are actually more like statutory rape cases, where the priests were quite young, teens themselves, and the “abused” were teens as well. I have wondered what percentage of the cases are actually that situation. Especially many years ago when confused very young gay men went into the priesthood as teens, and in my opinion found a little bit of a haven for gay sex and relationships. But, I am not trying to diminish the horrible and systematic true pedophilia that went on in some parishes.

Iclamae's avatar

@JLeslie Well, specifically, the act of prayer to them specifically seems like multiple gods to me. I mean, a lot of the religions that have been denounced for their polytheism are in a similar setup: 1 major god, and then a number of minor deities that cover something specific.

Incidentally, I don’t know much about sects… what does being an Atheist Jew entail?

I agree with you that it doesn’t at all justify it. I’ve just heard the argument and am putting it out there. I think the idea is that they’re exposed to the young boys at a higher level and thus… somehow decide to go from there…. I don’t know. It’s just one of the many theories I’ve heard. I do find it odd that it’s always young boys… not young girls… I would think if it was “straightforward” pedophilia, there’d be less preference for one gender.

JLeslie's avatar

@Iclamae Well, I think it might be access. I don’t know how the church works really, but alter boys are around the priests I would guess and I have a feeling girls generally are with the nuns. It’s very common for the sexes to be separated in strict religious settings, not just Catholic.

Many Jews are atheists/agnostic, percentages seem to range from a minimum of 30% on up, depending what estimate you read. Basically we feel culturally, or ethnically, Jewish, but are not religious.

Iclamae's avatar

@JLeslie yeah, that’s true.

Ah, ok. That makes sense.

tranquilsea's avatar

I’m not Catholic nor a Christian (any longer). I thought I would mention that this problem is not just with Catholic churches. As @JLeslie pointed out you have to be wary of any organization that has programmes for children.

When I was attending church (Protestant) I was appalled to hear the youth leader say to the leader’s group (we were leading a large group of about 150 kids in a children’s ministry) that the men needed to be careful about being alone in a room with children with the door closed because you know how children will make up stories . My jaw was on the floor as men’s heads started to nod in agreement. I finished that year and then left the church and faith.

evandad's avatar

As long as the church insists that people deny their sexuality these kind of problems will persist.

judochop's avatar

I felt totally left out. It crushed my self image. I was raised Catholic and I was in church several times a week. Even had a sleep over in the church a few times and nothing ever happened to me or my brother.
I left and joined the Christen church. It’s better to not eat the body of Christ and not drink his blood really plus I don’t have to worry about the father hitting on me. I’m older now and it would just be a little weird.

judochop's avatar

@Iclamae
I think of the Catholic Church the same way I think of Wal*Mart.

It totally sucks.

Qingu's avatar

@Iclamae, re: monotheism/polytheism, I don’t think there’s actually a clear-cut line between them. They sort of exist on a spectrum.

On the “polytheist” side, you have the ancient Greeks, Egyptians, Babylonians, and Hindus (not modern). They had pantheons of multiple gods, each of whom would accept your prayers for various things.

But then, in most of these religions, there was usually a head god/king of the gods (Zeus, Re, Marduk, and Indra, respectively). As these religions develop, sometimes the head god is the only one people care about (in Babylonian mythology, Marduk absorbs all the names of the other gods). This is where these religions start to verge into monotheism, with only one god actually being worshiped. The fancy word for this is henotheism.

Modern Hinduism is henotheistic. Hindus usually worship one of two “head deities”—Shiva or Vishnu. In Vishnu’s case, one of his avatars (Krishna or Rama) accepts prayers (sort of like how Christians pray to Jesus.)

In henotheism, the religion acknowledges the existence of other gods—sometimes it casts the other gods as “aspects” of a supreme god or something like that. This isn’t all that different than all three major monotheistic traditions. Both Yahweh and Allah, in their associated religions, have heavenly hosts—angels. Angels are similar to many pagan gods. They often act like “aspects” of Yahweh, if not entirely separate entities. There is an entire community of these named entities. So, are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam really “monotheistic”?

And then, of course, the Catholics have their magical saints. Shi’ite Muslims also have magical saints, and the Jews have magical rabbis. Not pure monotheism either.

I actually can’t think of a “purely” monotheistic religion, with only a single supernatural being. Even Unitarianisn and Baha’i have their magic prophets.

Qingu's avatar

@judochop, to be fair, Walmart hasn’t recently (or ever) engaged in a cover-up of numerous cases of child rape among its employees, nor does it have a history of torture and genocide.

Perhaps you should say Walmart sucks less than the Catholic Church?

ipso's avatar

I’m reminded of the movie Deliver Us From Evil (2006) (Netflix instant play). It is absolutely bone chilling; documenting the shameless shuttling of a priest across various parishes for 30 years because of his raging, uncontrollable, and unapologetic sexual abuse of small children – including a 9-month old baby. It’s just unbelievable. Some of his interviews, looking at the camera, explaining his rationale…

There was a section though that was unique; it explored the notion that the clinical mental disposition of a pedophile/pederast was similar to that of a priest, the conclusion being that we should not at all be surprised if these people naturally find there way into the clergy – as it was more or less systematically designed for just such personality types. It had to do with clergy wanting to be a child, or revert back to the period in which they were hurt, or something. I don’t remember the details but I remember having a big “wow” moment.

I have always thought of the clergy, by very definition, as a collection pool for parasitic charlatans, but I didn’t see the natural fit for pedophiles as well.

Catholicism/Christianity will never be vanquished until there is something to replace it, just like Zeus/Thor/etc.

mattbrowne's avatar

I was always disappointed about the Vatican. Now I’m totally shocked and angry. There’s still no apology for installing a system of exclusive internal investigations protecting criminal priests. Apologizing to the victims is not good enough.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@mattbrowne I visited the Vatican in January and felt a bit guilty about financially supporting it, but the desire to experience historical works of art won out.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer – I had high hopes when the new Pope came to power. He’s German and therefore comes from a country which is about half Protestant and half Catholic. I was hoping for progress for example allowing joint communion (my wife is Catholic and I’m Protestant). Nothing. Just arrogance. Ratzinger even said, the Protestant Church is not really a church. Or look at issues like contraception or AIDS. And ridiculous mandatory celibacy and denying women priesthood. I’ve got this feeling that the Vatican is run by Stone Age cavemen totally out of touch with the real world. The Italians seem to love Benedict while enjoying the pill and condoms having the lowest birth rate in Europe. It’s just some kind of weird personality cult. Like the Pope is a powerful alien from a distant planet.

Qingu's avatar

@mattbrowne, that would explain his resemblance to a certain Sith from a distant galaxy

partyparty's avatar

I have discussed this matter with my family. I am from a large Irish catholic family, but I am not catholic. The rest of my family are catholic.
My viewpoint is that unless, and until, the catholic church is brought up to date, and in the real world, then these atrocious sexual acts upon children will continue.
When I challenged my uncle about this issue his answer was ‘these things happen in all religions. It is only publicised because it is the catholic faith’.
All I can say is he has ‘blinkered vision’. He will never change. Too indoctrinated to think any other way.

mattbrowne's avatar

@partyparty – Abuse happens in families and institutions. The abuse rate of priests is not higher than that of other professions. The problem is that the official law enforcement authorities don’t learn about the crimes and the Vatican simply assigns known abusers to new posts where they sometimes continue abusing more children. That’s the second scandal. Not just the abuse itself. The Pope should get arrested for this management practice.

partyparty's avatar

@mattbrowne Yes I totally agree with you. Why should the church be ‘above the law’?
As for the Pope, he should spend 24/7 in the confessional for allowing this abuse to continue, by assigning abusers to new posts.
He is the ‘manager’ and therefore responsible for the Catholic church. Doesn’t he have any sense of shame?

JLeslie's avatar

I sometimes wonder how the church really thought about this abuse. Like how schools in MS are just fine with corporal punishment. When I found out it is still legal and practiced in several states I was shocked. It seemed impossible to me. I could not fathom that there are people who think it is appropriate. I also wonder how many of the pedophilic priests were molested or raped as children themselves by priests.

mattbrowne's avatar

@partyparty – I think he is ashamed about the abuses. But he doesn’t seem to be ashamed about policies put in place by the Vatican. Probably because he really thinks popes are infallible.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – Slaps in the face were considered normal by many in the 1950 and 60ies. But not rape. I can well imagine that pedophilic priests were molested or raped as children themselves by priests.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne I had read somewhere, wish I could find it, that many years ago young priests were excused for such behavior because they were not really given guidance on sexuality or even what being celebate really means. Supposedly some men used to go into the priesthood as young as the age of 15, and society years ago was much more closed and secretive when it came to sex, so these young men were quite clueless. Even peers of mine, I am 42, who attended Catholic school through secondary education admit to having been fairly clueless about sex and their bodies. Another part of the information I have looked at mentioned that the priests rationalized that sex with young children is not sex and so they were keeping their committment to the church. I guess what I am really wondering is when the church paid off families to keep their mouths shut, did the church really think what was done to the children was a horrible travesty? Or, did they just think that the outside world would judge it harshly so they paid hush money.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JLeslie – I think there are some new plans to deal with the cluelessness of the past.

JLeslie's avatar

@mattbrowne I don’t doubt it. Still, if what I said above is true, that means that the church was not systematically hiding a crime in their minds, they disagreed with the outside publics view of it.

partyparty's avatar

@mattbrowne I think he is ashamed about the abuses
Do you mean he is ashamed that they actually happened, or the fact they have been brought to public attention?
If he was really and truly ashamed, then these priests would be excommunicated. It is not happening. So the way I see it he must be condoning their behaviour.

mattbrowne's avatar

@partyparty – I totally dislike Mr. Ratzinger and disagree with almost everything he says, but I cannot imagine that he isn’t ashamed that the abuse actually happened. But maybe I am wrong.

Iclamae's avatar

I think one can only hope he’s actually ashamed. While his actions do not suggest it, there is still a long history of all this happening under another pope as well. While Ratzinger was in a different and still important role at the time, there was another pope for all that, wasn’t there?

Edit: It still boils down to it being his job to clean it up right now and that he should have done something about it in his previous position. But in terms of popeness, this is relatively new.

Qingu's avatar

I don’t think Ratzinger or much of anyone powerful in the church hierarchy saw the abuse as a priority since many of them actively covered it up, and their main response to the revelations has been to cry about being persecuted.

Ratzinger (and others) only moved and got outraged about the child rape when it became politically necessary.

I’m not saying Ratzinger, et all are inhuman monsters; I think they are probably just cynical and uncaring about what they see as mundane, annoying problems.

shf84's avatar

It surprised me some. I knew the catholic church was evil like all religions but this kind of surprised me even for a church.

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