Barry Soper: Catholic Church has itself to blame

Photo / iStock
Photo / iStock

Growing up in New Zealand in the 1950s and 60s, things were nothing like they are today.

There was no television or, for that matter, very much else to stimulate the senses. A new music sheet for the piano in our household was seen as something of a highlight. The other high point of the week was on Monday nights when Life with Dexter, a long running family serial was broadcast, which saw the family gathered around the valve radio.

Church on Sundays was obligatory, not to go was seen as a venial sin, which had to be confessed to at the monthly confessional with the priest behind a curtain at St Marys. It seemed strange because you always knew who the priest was anyway, but it was presumably to hide the blushes as you fessed up to things like taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain, or even worse still, disobeying your parents.

Life was, well pretty dull.

You were taught respect though, to elevate those in positions or power to another level. If you were one of our teachers, a Sister of Mercy, who had to show a fair amount of it to teach me, you were on a pedestal just as you were if you were a priest, who in our innocent mind's eye, was even closer to The Almighty.

So for those of us who were educated in such an era, some would say indoctrinated, it's with horror that we've come to realise that in some quarters all was not what it seemed to be, not helped by the ignorance of the Vatican that as youngsters we were taught was as close to Heaven on earth as you could get to.

The Catholic Church, even though the vast majority of its clergy strictly adhere to their selfless vows, has itself to blame for the opprobrium that's heaped on it for turning a blind eye to the abusers within it.

Two cases within the past few weeks bear testament to that.

A woman complained to the Palmerston North Catholic Diocese that a priest had raped and sexually abused her over several months in the mid eighties. She knew the church would sweep it under the carpet and exploited that by extorting almost $200,000 in false medical bills out of it. She'll be appearing in court shortly for sentencing.

On the other side of the coin, a former Lower Hutt priest's just been sent to jail for more than six and a half years for historic rape and indecency charges involving a girl then aged between 12 and 16.

The 60 year old victim wants a Royal Commission of Inquiry into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. She says the Government has to order it before the victims die.

At the very least, if the Church knows of an offence, they should be obliged by law to report it.

Debate on this article is now closed.


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