I’m not exaggerating. I genuinely believe that.
I am speaking, of course, of religion in the broadest sense, but more specifically about the Catholic Church. I’m willing to bet that there are several of you who know me well enough to wonder whether I was ever going to comment on it, and in a general sense, the answer is no. I have far too much to say and far too little time to say it, besides the fact that most of my audience is comprised of people who just want me to be funny and entertaining, and not to have real opinions about real things. Besides that, Christopher Hitchens, author of God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, has written several articles on the subject for Slate magazine, and he is far more educated and eloquent than I could hope to be. The articles are here, here, and here, and I highly recommend the book. But the generalities of religious evil are not what I am here to write about.
The fact is that the abuse (though in this case, “rape” is a more fitting word) of young children is still, in our desensitized society, regarded as one of the most horrific crimes a man can commit. It repulses us to our very cores, as though there is something primal (as I suspect there is) inside us that sees the abuse of power by the intended protectorates of our offspring as unforgivable. It is common knowledge that even in prison, even among the most violent, brutal and sociopathic criminals this world has seen, child molesters are attacked and killed for what is seen as a crime worse than any other.
Imagine, for the sake of thought, that you receive a panicked phone call from a friend. He’s in some trouble with the law, and he needs you to help him out. If he tells you that he stabbed someone in a fight in the heat of the moment, or was caught with illegal drugs in his car, or that his shoplifting has finally caught up with him, you’ll probably help. You’ll at least give him the benefit of the doubt, as there are always misunderstandings about those kind of things, and you’ll probably be able to remain friends. But if he says to you, “Remember those two kids I used to babysit? They were 8 and 10. Well, I fooled around with those kids a fair bit at the time, had a lot of fun with them, told them not to tell anyone, and now they’re blowing the whistle on the whole damn thing,” you would be immeasurably disgusted. You would banish that person from your life forever, and you would be justified in doing so.
This brings me to my current story, one that I found on CNN on Sunday the 11th. To summarize, there has long been a law in place in the state of Connecticut that gives an abuse victim until 30 years after his or her 18th birthday to report it. Now, given how long ago some of the Catholic abuses took place, Connecticut is proposing the removal of such legislation.
The Catholic bishops of Connecticut, in response, sent a letter around to local parishioners begging them to oppose the bill. Why? Because, they say, the law would put “all Church institutions, including your parish, at risk.” Furthermore, claim the bishops, the law would “undermine the mission of the Catholic Church in Connecticut, threatening our parishes, our schools, and our Catholic Charities.”
I sincerely hope that you can see the implication of that language. If not, I’ll lay it out very simply for you. The only way—literally, the only possible way—that this bill undermines the “mission” of the Catholic Church is if that mission somehow includes either the perpetration or concealment of rape against children. The bill does not specifically mention the Church, nor does any part of it apply more strongly to victims of religious leaders, and yet the Church seems offended. Put another way, the only way that this bill has even a shred of relevance to the Church is if such abuses do exist in its past. If no such offenses occurred, then the bill has no bearing on them. This pathetic, sniveling opposition is a tacit admission of guilt.
Now, I am not an angry person. I spout a lot of indignant bluster about rationality and such, but that’s petty sarcasm, a stubbed-toe level of insult. When I read a story like this, though, what I feel is as profound and powerful as anyone has ever felt. This is beyond anger; this is furious, physical rage. My hands are shaking, even now, from the sheer force of emotion this creates in me.
I am not a perfect citizen. I have run red lights. I drank alcohol before I was 21. I speed when I drive. I had sex with a girl who was not yet 18 when I had already reached that age. I’ve even fired a gun at a stop sign.
But this is fucking sick. There is no gray area. There is no debate left to be had, no “petty gossip,” no diplomatic immunity or delicate treatment deserved. The fact that these men are members of the Catholic Church makes their offenses orders of magnitude worse, not better. For centuries, religion has been treated with kid gloves, as though their actions and opinions are beyond examination or reproach. Usually, this is an annoyance, but no longer. Now it is a threat to the healthy function of human society.
These men are scum of the lowest order, and they do not deserve the hell that they have imagined for themselves and threatened children with for dozens of generations. They deserve far worse.