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This morning I read an article on-line from CatholicCulture.org on the United Nations probe into torture and the Vatican.  I find it amusing that the UN, the world’s most ineffective organization, is creating theater of the absurd with the Holy See, the world’s most recalcitrant organization.

The piece I was reading, written by Phil Lawler, wanted to express the author’s opinion that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal did not go far enough in their discussion on the legal position that the Vatican is only responsible for sexual abuse by priests that occurs within the territorial limits of Vatican City.     Mr. Lawler wanted to add a few more points on his own.  The first of which is:

“First, while sexual abuse is reprehensible, it isn’t torture, as that term is ordinarily understood. If the UN expands the definition of torture to encompass other forms of cruelty, it could erode support for the existing pact, which is based on an international accord that this one particular form of behavior—torture—should be stopped.”

How nice of him to admit that sexual abuse is “reprehensible”.  Not torture?  That is another matter altogether.  While I may not be a Harvard graduate (I only graduated from a Jesuit University), I can read a dictionary.  Depending on which dictionary you are reading, either online or a more traditional bound volume, torture is defined as “the act of causing severe physical pain as a form of punishment or as a way to force someone to do or say something”[1]; “anguish of body or mind, something that causes anguish or pain, the infliction of intense pain to punish, coerce or afford sadistic pleasure”[2]

Mr. Lawler, I will say that you are completely wrong on the first point.  The sexual abuse I suffered at the hand of Robert Gibson was torture.  Over the nine month period when the sexual crimes were committed against me he was, in fact torturing me for his own perverted pleasure.   He was causing severe pain and violating my 13-year-old body in an effort to coerce my cooperation, my silence and to punish me for rebelling when I did so.  I can assure you, based on my first-hand experience, he derived a great deal of sadistic pleasure from the power he was exerting over me.  He employed both physical abuse and rape (as if there is a difference to anyone but the apologists for these monsters)  as well as threats and psychological tactics to keep me in line and submissive to his actions.   When I fought back, he threatened me with death until death ceased to be an issue with me.  He then resorted to threatening retaliation against my siblings if I did not comply.   Mr. Lawler, does this not fit the definition of torture as it is “ordinarily understood”?  If it does not, please enlighten me with the correct definition.

His second point:

“Critics of the Church charge that sexual abuse by priests was widespread because of Catholic teachings and Vatican policies. But the UN would be setting a bold and dangerous precedent if it claimed that religious beliefs promulgated in one place (in this case the Vatican) were the cause of criminal acts in another.”

Tell me, Mr. Lawler, if the culture of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church did not allow for a blind eye to be turned on the problem of priests raping children and vulnerable adults, what did?  I am waiting for the typical “we did not know it was happening, and when we found out we took action”, “it was gay priests doing these terrible things” or the ever popular “this was all a result of the sexual excesses of the 1960’s societal attitude towards exploring sexuality.”

We know that priests were moved around frequently to avoid prosecution and to keep their activities hidden from parishioners.   The lack of action, other than to conceal the predators, is widely documented.  Sorry, you will lose on that one.  The Catholic Church is amazing in its ability to conjure excuses, blame the innocent and claim aggrieved status because they are being picked on when other institutions are not held to the same standard.  None of these excuses allow the hierarchy of the church to abdicate their accountability for protecting these predators.

Gay priests are not the problem!  Let me say that again.  Gay priests are not the problem!  If they were how do you explain the girls that have been victimized over the years?  Pedophile priests are “the problem”.  They like children because they like the power of their position and they get off on the terror they inflict on the most innocent.  They like torturing them.  (There is that pesky word again) .

As for the alleged issue of the sexual excesses of the 1960’s, that argument seems to ignore the documented cases of clerical abuses for decades prior to the 1960’s.

His final point:

 “Finally, does the UN want to be in the business of deciding which religious doctrines are acceptable, and which encourage anti-social behavior? (Some people consider circumcision a cruel procedure; would the UN commission entertain a claim that it is torture?) The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups pressing the UN for action against the Vatican, argues that the Church engages in “psychological torture” by banning contraception.”

The classic deflection!  Who does the UN think it is judging the Catholic Church?  Mr. Lawler, are you reducing the rape of children and vulnerable adults to “anti-social behavior”?  Really?!  It is criminal, immoral and inhuman.   Anti-social is the least of the descriptors for the kinds of harm done to children by predator priests.  But Catholic apologists have to minimize the most heinous and point at the shortcomings of others to dismiss the torturous behavior of those priests (over 6,000 credibly accused and listed on Bishop Accountability.org).  On top of it all, let’s throw circumcision or the abortion issue on top of this to totally deflect the discussion away from the elephant in the room.  What a lame non-point to be made!  That elephant in the room is the church’s inability to deal with the problem of predator priests raping, almost at will, with the knowledge that the church will do anything to avoid scandal, even if it means that children will be victimized, repeatedly, and the predators will enjoy the protection of the bishops.

I don’t want the UN to go after the Vatican.   It is a fool’s errand.  I want to go after every bishop who turned a blind eye to the torture, rape and beating of children and vulnerable adults.  Those “men” are responsible for the culture of protection that these predators operated within.  The individual dioceses throughout the world who condoned and concealed these predators while vilifying the victims need to be held accountable.

It is not a matter of religious doctrine being acceptable or not.  It is a matter of an institution conspiring to conceal “Roman Collar Crime” in order to keep the funding stream coming in.  And it does not matter if the institution is a Catholic Diocese, a Baptist Church, a Jewish Synagogue, Penn State University, the Boy Scouts of America or any other entity.  We should, as a society, be standing up and saying the rape of children is wrong. (I know that may be a wild idea to some.) We should be saying the institutional protection of pedophiles is wrong.  We should be holding predators and their protectors responsible, criminally and civilly.

We should be in The International Court of Justice in the Hague prosecuting these people for crimes against humanity.  Bernard Law and others like him should be in a cell.   The United Nations is uniquely positioned to make noise and do absolutely nothing.   The Vatican may be embarrassed (although I do not think they understand the concepts of shame or accountability) but all they have to do is wait for the noise to stop.  The UN is only good at making noise.

Mr. Lawler, I would have responded to your article on your site but you have to be a donor to voice an opinion and that pretty much guarantees that you will hear nothing but rave reviews of your “cogent” argument.  Personally, I can’t imagine you getting it any more wrong.

Dear readers, you do not have to make a donation to make a comment to this site, unlike the rules at CatholicCulture.org. I don’t take donations, there is no place on my blog that will enable you to send me money.  I will be honest and say if you are off topic or are spouting vitriol on either side of the argument I will edit or delete.  But I will not charge you a nickel to offer your thoughts.

[1] Merriam Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torture?show=0&t=1399470363

[2] Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition principal copyright 1993

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Michael Baumann


Credit: Michael Baumann at "Off My Knees"

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