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“JESUS said: ‘Suffer the little children and forbid them not to come unto me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Mathew 19:14) This beautiful biblical passage was meant to allow the lambs into the fold of the shepherd, the Christian Church. But many Catholic priests took this passage too literally, enticing the innocents into their toxic predatory embrace. Thus, the presence of a morally deviant underclass and an evil adjunct to the Holy Mother Church. Diabolically, the Bible’s guidance became the conceptual defense of many pedophile priests who may have assuaged their conscience, as a pretext for this aberration.

It pains me to write about this subject matter, having been born in the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), though not a fanatically practicing one, and an ex-seminarian and tutored for years by the Jesuits. The magnitude of the problem is simply too egregious that it requires public exposure for it to wither and eventually be purged against the light of truth. To many Filipinos, 70 to 80 percent reared in the Catholic faith, discussions on this subject is still taboo, which exacerbates the dastardly deeds. But the greater tragedy is that the RCC hierarchy itself has one eye closed — “pa-dedma” in the vernacular — on this despicable abnormality. It is through this culture of silence and denial where evil proliferates.

The Australian Church
To put this in perspective, this is not a local problem. The pedophile priests have been a running scandal in the Church for generations. It has come into public consciousness lately with the incarceration of the third most powerful cardinal in Christendom, Australian George Cardinal Pell. Prior to his conviction, he served as head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy and was a respected member of the Council for Cardinal Advisers. His crimes of child sexual assault on two 13-year-old boys was taken to court in early 1990 while he was still Archbishop of Melbourne. It was only in March last year that Pell was sentenced to prison. He denied his crimes and maintained his innocence, but his appeal was denied by proper Australian courts. The Holy See’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is currently conducting its own investigation of the charges against the Cardinal, which could lead to his being defrocked as a priest. But these sexual predatory acts by Catholic priests are just the tip of the iceberg.

Horror stories abound in all the major archdioceses of the Australian RCC. Hundreds of priests were brought to court and many convicted of sexual assault against underage boys and girls even in orphanages run by the Church. As an example, in the Archdiocese of Sydney a pedophile priest, Fr. Roger Flaherty had been molesting three altar boys since the 1970s and 1980s. He pleaded guilty in 2016 and was sentenced to prison. It turned out that two princes of the Church, James Cardinal Freeman, while Sydney Archbishop and Auxiliary Bishop Edward Kelly were shielding Flaherty from prosecution when these sex acts were committed. It is reported too that the Australian hierarchy secretly paid $276 million to thousands of children sexually abused by pedophile priests.

The American Church
Which brings us to the despicable practice that reached its apex in the Archdiocese of Boston in the United States, which brought the downfall of the powerful and feared Bernard Cardinal Law. He had knowledge of the extent of pedophile priests in his domain sexually abusing thousands of children over several decades. The pedophile priests were simply transferred to other parishes where they were left free to reprise their deeds.

Had it not been for the exposé of the Boston Globe, the city’s leading newspaper, which was the subject of the movie “Spotlight,” an Oscar-winning film in 2015, the extent of the scandal within the RCC would have been buried in the archives and forever lost to memory. The cardinal was the central dramatis personae in this criminal abuse and cover-up that encompassed the Boston archdiocese. It is estimated that the archdiocese and the Catholic Church in America spent $4 billion in settlements and payouts for sex abuse cases. Skeptics now look with jaundiced eye upon their Sunday Mass contributions to the collection plates of local parishes.

It is perhaps a measure of the Vatican’s conceit that the Cardinal, upon his resignation from his position in Boston, was instead appointed by Pope John Paul 2nd to a sinecure in Rome in 2004 as archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, where he remained influential in the Vatican. He died in 2017 and never paid with corporal punishment for his acts.

The Philippine Church
It is now established that the RCC in many countries has reluctantly kept pace with the demands of modern concepts of justice and the rule of law. It is not so in the Philippines. Arrests much less prosecution of pedophile priests are rarely initiated. According to Bishop Buenaventura Famadico of San Pablo, interviewed by the Catholic newspaper La Croix, no priest in the Philippines had ever been convicted of child sexual abuse. (Though there may have been one or two in recent years.) In contrast, the Australian and American Catholic Churches have convicted hundreds of pedophile priests within the past two decades.

This disparity could be attributed to the special role of the RCC in the country. Going back to the Spanish colonial period, the RCC has always held a pre-eminent position. It is the richest conglomerate in the country, constitutionally exempted from paying most taxes. It is a divine oligarchy unto itself, despotic in its internal governance and has always comfortably worked hand in glove with its counterpart among the “chosen few” in the civilian world — the oligarchy and the elite.

This unholy alliance between these conservative groups has a huge impact in the political environment. And thus, the RCC hierarchy’s political clout and its influence and implicit intimidating control over the faithful allow it certain liberties unique to the Philippine Church. It is perceived to operate beyond the ambit of the law. It is no surprise, then, that it has the effrontery to protect its own, preventing conviction and incarceration of pedophile priests.

These crimes are kept in the shadows; the miscreants are simply reassigned to other parishes where the cycle of sexual predatory acts continue. Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the archbishop of Manila until his recent appointment to high office in the Vatican, declared to Catholic site UCAN that “…it is often better for such cases to be handled quietly, inside the Church.” Until about 2013, the Church’s own guidelines insisted that bishops need not report sexually abusive priests to police and civil authorities, saying they had “a relationship of trust analogous to that between father and son.” No, Your Excellency, this aggravates this travesty. It is high time you reverse your position.

President Rodrigo Duterte, himself a victim of a pedophile priest as a student, has derided the Catholic bishops, calling them “sons of b*****s.” His attacks have been gaining traction, eroding the patina of piety and invincibility of the Church hierarchy. If there is anything good to come out of this barrage, Duterte is succeeding in making the Church less intimidating to the hordes of its faithful. On this, many support this populist president.000
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