Pedophilia and Responsibility
The Roman Catholic Church has been embroiled in a pedophilia scandal since the late 1990s. Since at least the 1980s, the Church has actively hidden cases of pedophilia by clergy, often by relocating the perpetrators to other cities and paying hush money to the victims that have been so bold as to make accusations. More often, however, the victims and their families have been subject to intimidation and denial, which has only added to their emotional injury and sense of shame. Victims of this tragedy may number into the tens of thousands when its full scope is revealed.

In recent months, the Church’s tact of hiding their dirty little secret has come to an abrupt end. Sadly, the Church was unable to deal with this moral problem itself, despite its claims of moral authority. Instead, law suits against the Church have been the driving force behind the Church’s change of course. Isn’t it ironic that various twelve-member juries can solve problems that the omnipotent Christian god and his massive holy hierarchy couldn’t handle? Perhaps this is why Christians are so fond of the phrase “thou shalt not judge.”

The motivation for change has not been the judgments against the Church, but more from the associated financial penalties. The Catholic Church has often claimed autonomy in its dealings. The papacy is its own nation; subject to its own laws. The lawsuits have crippled several dioceses, forcing them to borrow money from others. The dioceses are financially independent and independent of the papacy, in much the same way a corporation is financially independent from its subsidiaries. So while the papacy exerts control over its dioceses, it is insulated from the (financial) responsibility of its decisions; money only flows to the papacy. Pope John Paul II has recently quelled a discussion about changing to the celibacy policy for priests, for example. The issue is not up for discussion. Thus, the Pope has full authority with almost no responsibility.

Consider how the United States’ responded to the September 2001 terrorist attacks, by going after those who have helped to fund the terrorists’ efforts. The moral principle here is that those that funded the terrorists’ actions are partially responsible for the terrorists’ actions. Similarly, when you give money to an organization, you become partially responsible for what that organization does—good or bad. Charities recognize this principle and they account for their spending in reports to donors. Charities are judged, in part by their efficiency, or the amount of good they do per dollar donated.

Let’s now contrast this to how Christian churches operate. Christian churches work hard to promote the idea that all money is God’s money. So it’s only natural that you should give it to your church. This is the concept of a tithe—the idea that a substantial fraction of your money (“tithe” means tenth) should go to the church as part of your path to grace. Also, since it’s God’s money, you have no responsibility for it once you give it to the church. To ask how they spend it is discouraged; it’s like asking God for his reasons or questioning moral leaders about their supposedly pure motives. The illusion is that the money goes to promote goodness in wonderful and mysterious ways and most people buy that shaky line of reasoning. A related stratagem is that God is the only power in the Universe and he has the ultimate responsibility. You are just a bit player and your power is insignificant.

Even if they are fully accountable on their spending, churches spend only a fraction of their take on true charitable projects. Churches claim to be charities, when they are mostly in a different business entirely—the indoctri-tainment (indoctrination / entertainment) business. The majority of the budget goes to this end. This may take the form of building and maintaining grand church buildings and grounds. Sometimes, Churches are in other businesses, as well, such as politics and education. Christian churches are also known to spend money on rather questionable things including junkets to foreign countries, political campaigns, prostitutes, munitions (in the case of the Branch Davidians), and yes, even the hiding of a festering pedophilia problem.

Each person has a moral responsible for the money they give. You do have power. If you doubt that, look at what havoc the al Qaeda has wrought with only a few hundred thousand dollars. You are morally responsible for using your power wisely. Check out the organizations to whom you give money. Make sure they’re doing what you think they are. If they aren’t, make an effort to get your money back. At the very least, stop your giving. I’m willing to bet that if you try to maximize the good that your charity dollars can do, giving to a Christian church won’t even be a consideration.

The love of the Catholic Church is quite strong and some people have recently said that the thought of leaving the church is like walking away from your mother. Consider that, at this time, tithing to the Catholic Church is a lot like buying your alcoholic mother a drink. If you really want to help her, you need to get her into rehab. She won’t like it and she’ll hate you for it in the short run, but in the long run it’s what’s best. At this time, you’re better off withholding your tithe until the Catholic Church has truly solved its problem.

What would it take to solve the pedophilia problem? The most obvious thing is to confront the problem head-on and solve it openly. Thankfully, the Church is largely beginning to do this. Various dioceses have begun cooperating with law enforcement agencies to prosecute suspected pedophiles. This is part of a complete solution, but not all of it.

The second aspect of the pedophilia problem is that the Catholic Church has played a part in actually creating pedophiles. Catholic priests must take a vow of celibacy. Celibacy is not normal human behavior, regardless of the motives for adopting it. Abnormal behavior is an inevitable consequence of being put in an abnormal situation. Consider how prisoners prey on the weak among their ranks for sexual gratification. Also, consider how the harsh religious laws of many Muslim countries against fraternization between men and women has lead the use of boys for sexual gratification. The vow of celibacy and the strict sexual taboos in the Catholic Church will result in pedophilia. Further religious indoctrination will not solve the problem, as the Catholic Church has so aptly demonstrated. Sadly, the Pope John Paul II has said that the policy will not change and has acted to ban further discourse on the matter. Clearly, the Church has not adopted an attitude that will truly solve the problem. Rehab is in order.

Additionally, the Church has long promoted the idea that religious brainwashing will overcome any human problem. Such an idea actually attracts deviates to the priesthood. Celebacy will presumably be the mechanism by which thier sexuality will be suppressed. The reasoning is that their problems would be best cured by a complete and total immersion in Church doctrination. When incidents of molestation have been exposed, the Church has tried to use religious brainwashing to solve the problem. This solution has clearly failed.

A deeper problem with the Catholic Church is their promotion of confession. Confession is the mechanism by which people are washed of their sins which the Catholic Church promotes as a form of atonement for eternal responsibility for the offending act. The institution leads to some moral contradictions that have played out in the pedophilia scandal. Let’s assume that confession removes responsibility as the Church seems to promote. One might imagine that most or all of the pedophile priests confessed their sins. Presumably, then, the Church has somehow made the responsibility for their actions go away. But where did it go? The Church itself has scrupulously denied any responsibility in the scandal (to the point of ridiculousness). The only conclusion that one can draw from the scandal is that everything was perfectly holy and nobody should have any complaint. In reality, nobody can assume your responsibility—whether they claim to be holy or not. The institution of confession is just an immoral con game to make people subservient to the church. Lest you think that this ploy is specific to the Catholic Church, note that if you believe that “Jesus died for your sins,” as most Christians do, you are a dupe to a similar con game. (The Christianity Meme benefits greatly from these con games at the expense of the victims of the perpetrators. Of course, the Christianity Meme reaps more benefits the more things that are considered sins.)

Finally, the root cause of this and other problems of the Catholic Church is the myth that it is infallible. The Church actively dodges responsibility through asserting that all problems of the Church are due to the sins of the individuals involved. The Church has used this argument in the pedophilia issue. During an address when the Pope spoke for the first time on the scandal (March, 2002), the Pope placed responsibility for the scandal squarely on the pedophile priests. These priests were further called to shame by the dark cloud of suspicion they left over the Church. Of course, there was no mention of the systematic cover-up by the hierarchy. When the Pope has been cornered on issues where the Church itself has been to blame, such as the treatment of Galileo or its questionable involvement with the Nazi’s, it has apologized. Unfortunately, these apologies have been rather thin. In them, the Church has expressed a regret for the harm it caused, but has never admitted wrongdoing. It has rarely taken direct responsibility for its mistakes. The Catholic Church has never changed policies as a result of some scandal. It has only changed slowly over time as the result of large public outcry at its actions. One such example is that the Church no longer (openly) sells indulgences.

If the Catholic Church wants to set a proper moral example, it had better start taking actual responsibility for its actions. The legal judgments against the Church have been a powerful force in making the Church more responsible. This can only be a good thing. Continue the good by sending the Catholic Church to rehab and donating your charitable dollars elsewhere. Assert your moral responsibility and use it wisely.