Thursday, September 3, 2015

Why Was the Archdiocese of Santa Fe So Secretive About Child Sexual Abuse by Priests?

Thank you to a very well-informed fellow survivor for giving me a quick lesson on Catholic Canon law relating to the oath of secrecy that essentially forbids anyone in the Catholic Church from talking publicly about a priest accused of child sex abuse. Given my research, I have come to the conclusion that the fundamental reason that priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals have not been able to effectively address the issue of sexual abuse of children is because they were commanded to maintain all aspects of sexual deviance of priests a secret, unless they wanted to be excommunicated almost instantaneously. Crimen Solicitationis is the name of a document that was issued by the Vatican to all bishops that was supposed to explain the process of dealing with the sexual deviance of priests inside and outside of the confessional. Unfortunately, the majority of the discussion in the document focuses on the mandate to maintain all information relating to the sexual deviance of a priest absolutely secret. This means that it would be highly unlikely for this information to be shared with civil authorities, and therefore highly unlikely that any priest be charged criminally. Crimen Solicitationis also mentions that victims, investigators, family members, or anyone who knows anything about the abuse also need to hide, bury, destroy, and forget everything about it and essentially never speak of it again, or also face the consequence of instantaneous excommunication. This very formal and engrained "culture of secrecy" has been the norm for almost two millennia in the Catholic Church, so it is not surprising that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe followed in the dogma of its mother church and never exposed its errant priests, at least not voluntarily. 

Think of an analogous situation in current secular life. A recently hired assistant superintendent for the Albuquerque Public Schools was found to be facing charges for sexual assault of a child. This story was circulated quickly by the media and within days he was fired. Within about a week of that, the superintendent who hired the accused pedophile was also gone. If all of this information would have been kept private, it is unlikely that the powers at be would have been so motivated to act so swiftly and decisively. They may have opted to quietly move the beleaguered employees into other positions so as to preserve the reputation of the school district, as a whole. Although the ramifications are not over for the school district itself, it has demonstrated a level of transparency that will allow them to move on with finding replacements and there is no doubt that the vetting process for the replacements will be quite rigorous because of the public scrutiny that the process is sure to receive. On the other hand for many decades, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has kept anything that might damage their reputation, like priest abuse of children, completely buried, even when public disclosure of the information might have stopped future abuse from occurring. Given what I know about my perpetrator priest and his multitude of victims before me, I honestly believe that if there would have been just one courageous soul who would have publicly disclosed the level of abuse that was occurring at the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, my abuse may have never happened, which makes me both very sad and very angry.

What did all of this mean to an altar boy who had aspirations to become a priest and possibly even the Archbishop some day? It meant that a perpetrator priest knew all about the "culture of secrecy" and used it to cloak his deviant compulsions. This priest thought that these evil secrets would remain buried in the psyche of his victim, perhaps forever, and by exercising the sacrament of confession and absolution with other priests who were bound by the seal of confession, he was able to clear his own conscience. This leaves the altar boy having to deal with the complete collapse his faith which up until the time of his abuse was simple, pure and child-like. As a consequence, the abuse leads to a lifetime of rage and self-loathing which would eventually manifest itself in various types of self-harm and the inability to lead a normal life. No amount of confession and absolution cured these ills for the the altar boy and unfortunately there was not a section in Crimen Solicitationis that dealt with fixing broken children. It's main focus was on protecting the image, sanctity, and purity of the Catholic Church, whatever the cost, including altar boys.

For those of you who want to learn more about the document Crimen Solicitationis, here is a link to a more academic explanation: Crimen Solicitationis.

No comments:

Post a Comment