Grand jury alleges: Hundreds of Catholic priests abused thousands of children in Pennsylvania: here.
‘They abuse children, they abuse their power’
Thousands of United States American children in Pennsylvania abused by 300 priests. All Chilean bishops offering their resignations because of abuse scandals. And the archbishop of Adelaide in Australia who did not report that a priest had committed abuse.
This year alone, various abuse scandals within the Catholic Church have come out. But similar revelations have actually come to light for years. How is it that within the church abuse takes place so often?
The abuse is often committed against minors. Ton Leerschool was 13 years old when a monk asked him to sit on his lap. “You feel that something is not right”, says Leerschool. Shortly afterwards he was abused.
Leerschool now helps people with abuse experiences as a trauma therapist and has been doing voluntary research on the subject for fifteen years. “It is really a power situation: if you are in a youth center, a boarding school, a care institution or even a youth organization, then you are dependent on the cleric”, explains Leerschool. “In that way, the indoctrination of the belief that you think the clergyman stands above all else makes you do everything he asks of you.”
Sex is a difficult subject within the church, says Leerschool. “Clergy are not allowed to have sex and homosexuality is not allowed at all, yet … there are cases of child abuse, so there is a double standard in the church and the outside world.”
“This double morality also exists among those children. For example, according to children, a priest is really a holy man, so they do not oppose it, even though they feel that what happens to them is not good”, says Leerschool. “I too thought that the father who abused me was a man who was above all else.”
In addition, Leerschool thinks that many of the perpetrators themselves have been victims at some time. “By abusing other children, they go back to the moment things went wrong, to put it right again.”
Within the Catholic Church there are regulations, the so-called ‘crimen sollicitationis‘, which say that a clergyman is not allowed to report a colleague to the police if he is guilty of sexual abuse. If a clergyman does so nevertheless, then he is expelled from the church.
“If you know that your colleagues will not report you anyway, you can easily go ahead. In some cases it is reported internally, but the punishments within the church are never in proportion to what a child has suffered”, says Leerschool. “The reputation of the church prevails over the well-being of human beings.”
It is also concealed within families, according to Leerschool. When families know about the scandals, they dare not say anything. “The moment they would do that, the village would turn against the family, and not against the clergyman.”
Here again, the priest abuses his power, says Leerschool. “I know cases where a girl is being abused by the priest while the mother is waiting downstairs with a cup of coffee.”
Leerschool does not think that the abuse of children by clergy is a form of pedophilia, but that it is always a question of abuse of power. According to Leerschool, these clergymen are not about love for children, but about indulging in their own sexual frustration. “They have the opportunity and they want to use that opportunity.”
They have much less chance with adults. “The child really thinks that the man is a saint, and that child can be overwhelmed much more easily than a parent who is more aware”, says Leerschool.
There are more cases known where abuse has been committed on boys than on girls. This is because clergymen often work in the boys’ environments, such as at boys’ boarding schools.
In the Netherlands, interest in Catholicism is declining. There are almost no Catholic institutions such as boarding schools left anymore. In countries like Belgium, Italy and France, they still exist, but across the board the power and influence of the Catholic Church in Europe is waning.
Leerschool: “Because the power is reduced, it is noticeable that the priests’ prestige is also reduced, making it more difficult to abuse children.” In countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, the Roman Catholic Church still has absolute power, where clergymen can do what they want.”
“The fact that there are not so many boarding schools in the Netherlands any more does not mean that children are no longer being abused.” Some clergy still believe that they are a kind of superman. All abuses must come to light. “In America there is now a second big wave, with abuse cases being revealed after a wave of abuse had come out in the early nineties, so we are on the right track.”