When does a religious institution become a criminal organisation?

A BBC story and Royal Commission inquiry from Australia touched my heart this week.  It’s worth sharing in another format to make people aware of the full scale of the horrendous problem. Also to raise awareness of how importance it is to listen to children who have the courage to come forward and talk about difficult or harrowing experiences.

The Commission shows the religious institutions involved in alleged child abuse and the percentage of church figures behind the abuse. It’s a sad reflection on the sexual health and spirituality of the nation’s Catholic priests. And it’s a global problem and not just confined to Australia.

Percentage of church figures behind alleged abuse, 1950-2010
Religious institution Percentage
St John of God Brothers 40.4
Christian Brothers 22.0
Salesians of Don Bosco 21.9
Marist Brothers 20.4
De La Salle Brothers 13.8
Patrician Brothers 12.4
Society of Jesus 4.8
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart 3.3
Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart 0.6
Sisters of Mercy (Brisbane) 0.3
Source: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Although a lot of the stories, which took on average 33 years to surface, are depressingly similar one survivor story stuck out for me. A survivor told reporters that it was drummed into his head by the four men who abused him, over a long period of time that he was the one who had “done wrong.” I find that very disturbing and cruel, psychologically.

Bob Goff, is a New York Times Bestseller (Love Does) and a hero of mine. He speaks regularly in my Church. He is always encouraging and inspiring, and loved by many. He has a great sense of humor, witnessed by the fact that he has an office on Treasure Island in Disneyland.  Recently he encouraged us to “hold people close, not accountable” and I felt that was a lovely sentiment but in the back of my mind, it also struck me as a bit naive. I’m looking forward to sharing with him how that principle just doesn’t fit here. The findings of this inquiry prove that oftentimes we need to hold people accountable and not close. There are 3 points I’d like us to ponder from this inquiry;

  1. There was a massive failure by the Church to protect children.
  2. The Catholic Church has a history of actively hiding perpetrators.
  3. The average age of the victims was 10.5 for girls and 11.5 for boys.

I hope the survivors continue to seek and receive the healing they need. I support survivors of Clergy childhood sexual abuse. This is just one simple way of honoring their lives and suffering so they are not forgotten.

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