By Michael Derek Roberts
I am not a Roman Catholic. I did not do First Communion and Confession, but I did go to a Catholic primary (high) school. My memory of that period was one of an unnecessary alacrity to administering corporal punishment for the slightest offence or juvenile infarction. That and an almost fanatical reverence and use of the Roman Catholic catechism – you had to know it, recite it, and make the sign of the cross at each and every turn. The presence of the priests – white mostly Irish priests – was constant, invasive and permanent.
I’d ran afoul of one such smarmy priest, a Father Bowen, and paid the price of a good and proper “benching” – that was the process of bending over a bench with buttocks bared for an angry headmaster wielding a long, thick piece of leather, blackened by years of constant use on the derrieres of many an errant schoolboy, that he “affectionately” called Conqueror – administer “6 of the hottest” lashed on bare backside skin. Of course, today that would be construed as child abuse, and looking back on the near orgasmic use of this method of educational punishment (they deemed it “individual correction”), I guess it was.
During this time it was very common gossip among us boys as to what these revered priests were doing with and to their “alter boys.” We could never tell that to any adult, including our mothers, fathers, aunts or uncles, because these priests were held in such high esteem, awe and wonder that nobody would believe that they were, as we called it back then, “bulling these alter boys.” We used to peep at these priests groping and fondling young boys 12 years and under in the Rectories “after school” where their parents sent them to “learn the Catechism,” and prepare for First Communion. Looking back these parents must have heard the rumors but did not want to believe them. No, Father so and so would never do that. Not this good priest that we gave the best of what he had to and got Holy Communion from every Sunday. Never!
I abandoned all churches, starting with my Secondary School days when I ran into subjects called philosophy, biology and geography. Back then the church, especially Roman Catholic Church, held sway over everything. I soon ran afoul of the priests because I questioned the logic or lack of it in some of the Biblical texts that they held were not subjected to human challenge or interpretation. These literalists rammed this dogmatic credo into largely illiterate and uneducated people each and every Sunday – and I resented and rebelled against that. I could never respect a priest that barged into any bedroom and invaded the privacy of any home without fear of condemnation or retribution. People did not want to challenge the priests. After all they was the representatives of God on earth.
Today, in light of the pedophilia scandals, I look back on the actions and activities of these priests in the Caribbean and without evidence instinctively believe that they practiced it in these less then enlightened “colonies.” My relationship with all churches began with my rejection of their penchant for stoking and creating fear, then that morphed over the years into outright disagreements, then disdain, until I finally landed in a cold puddle of perfect horror at what it is they did and continue to do to the impressionable minds of little children. I became an atheist because I could never comprehend that a perfect being could create such imperfection, and that humankind was and is the result of evolution, and that there is ABSOLUTELY NO PROOF that beyond this life there is any other – period.
And if there was any need for validation that the Church as a collective have given humankind pitifully little or nothing to advance mankind, save the unproven and unsubstantiated allegorical fables of miracles, and an angry, vengeful, unforgiving God who will gleefully punish his own creations by sentencing those who reject his rule to an eternity of constant and unrelenting burning in the “fires of Hell,” then the recent revelations of the Philadelphia Church Scandals validates all of the foregoing.
It is morally indefensible that so-called “men of God,” raped a 7-year-old girl. The horror of this incident is compounded ten-fold when you consider that this child rape was committed while this priest was visiting her in the hospital after she’d had her tonsils removed. Another priest forced a 9-year-old boy into having oral sex, then rinsed out the boy’s mouth with holy water! One boy was forced to say confession to the priest who sexually abused him. Now you know why Michael Roberts is no Christian. You can keep that if the measure of your Christianity is to demonically warp the teaching of Jesus the Christ to “suffer the little children to come on to me.”
Those children are among the victims of roughly 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania who molested more than 1,000 children — and quite possibly many, many more — since the 1940s, according to a sweeping state grand jury report released recently that also accused senior church officials, including a clergyman who is now the archbishop of Washington, DC, of systematically covering up complaints of rapist priests. What hypocrisy and callous disregard for innocent children! From the Vatican ignoring, covering up, and directly complicit in this scandal, top church officials have mostly been protected and many, including some named in the report, have been promoted, the grand jury said, concluding that “it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal.”
Here’s where I stand on this sordid and criminal issue: Padlock every Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Strip them of any tax-exempt status they presently enjoy and any tax breaks they get from state and local governments. Yes, shut the whole damned thing down, until this unfathomable crime spree is fully and completely exposed, adjudicated and those responsible punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Any crime family or criminal organization running an illegal operation of such length and breadth would face RICO charges the likes of which no Mafiosi has ever seen. But instead, all we get is yet another Pope making another lame, vapid and impotent apology (pardon the pun). Hear Pope Francis’s Vatican statement: “Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent. Regarding the report made public in Pennsylvania this week, there are two words that can express the feelings faced with these horrible crimes: shame and sorrow.”
Is that all? Shame and sorrow? Not nearly enough.
Dear Pope Francis here are the FACTS: Priests have been conspiring to harm children under the roofs of churches for generations, and church authorities – over whom you have all power and control – have been covering it up. The problem is systemic, from Boston to Pittsburgh to California and who knows where else. Until the whole and absolute truth of this is determined in broad daylight, every Catholic Church must be considered a possible crime scene and sealed accordingly. The victims deserve nothing less.
Of course I know that this will not happen. The Roman Catholic Church is way to big and too intertwined with powerful political and economic interests to be treated and handled as a criminal organization. And no, I do not believe the government should be in the business of shutting down religious institutions, nor am I pushing a personal agenda or desire to see Catholic parishioners permanently cut off from their houses of worship. However, these are horribly uncommon times, and I offer this radical proposal from a place of indignation, anger filled with revulsion and disdain that an institution sworn to protect children could betray that trust so completely and without thought for the consequences of their actions.
Indeed, every other strategy for confronting the systemic, institutionally enabled mass abuse of children — from concerted activism within the Catholic church, to public shaming, to financial penalties — has failed for decades. The dilemma is as simple as it is horrific: Rapists within the church continue to maintain their access to children, and have not been punished for previous crimes. That must end – now.