The truth about cover-ups:
So how and why does a group get itself into a position where it tries to hide something like sexual abuse? I talked about this a little before in a previous blog..
I think that there are various elements that propel a cover-up, sort of a mixture of our good and bad natures, so let`s lay a few out in the open!
Certainly group loyalties will mean that a priest will be under pressure to cover up sexual abuse. We know from a basic understanding of group symbiosis that groups hold and dissipate and discharge guilt for the whole. Then there is a sense that it would be difficult for colleagues to believe, in a conscious way, that a fellow priest would be doing these things, and a feeling that to raise the alarm falsely would bring trouble on the priest in question, possibly someone innocent, and upon friends and colleagues.
But I wonder if there is something else going on here.....What if the Catholic church knows that it is so guilty, both of abuse and concealment, that the very scale and magnitude of its guilt is something that no one dare speak about. The proverbial can of worms. Would this "knowledge" of child abuse..and I am careful with the word knowledge here because I am aware that things can be so easily at once known and banished from our minds........be in some part an unconscious guilt that is carried by the church as a whole, rather like society carries all peoples' guilt within itself?
We discussed a while back that persecution and victimisation is, for individuals and for groups, a pretty useful way of discharging the guilt we have. Guilt has to be landed on those weaker or more vulnerable or hapless than ourselves, like children for example. Oh! that`s strange, "children" did I say? Well, what a coincidence !!!
So children would be the most likely victims for a priest to use in order to, how shall we put it? find a focus for his frustrations. I am thinking, though, that it is not just that children (or teenagers) are very vulnerable, suggestible and manipulable, prime targets for someone who doesn`t want to get found out. I think it is also that they are, as innocents, purer repositories for the guilt of a priest with sexual problems ....and guilt about homosexuality is indeed a serious problem. Maybe with a child he can more easily convince himself that he is innocent too. Whatever the case, "opposites attract", as they say.
There is often coupling of opposites, for good or for bad, in other relationships. On the negative side, domineering people often look for easygoing folks, bullies look for weakness, an astute bully will certainly feed from someone naive !!!! On the positive side, folks with little confidence will like someone confident, shyness seeks extroversion, dullness craves charisma. Of course, this is a little simplistic, yet there are clear evidential extremes here that are relevant to the moral polarity of priest versus child.
If we think about fairly average relationships, that is without ongoing extremes, we see that one person`s characteristics, perhaps a little argumentativeness, maybe a quick temper, a little stubbornness, will be balanced by someone else`s moderateness, perhaps greater balance, and these roles will reverse too. When we see greater....and even greatest, extremes, such as bullying for example, any sort of behaviour accommodation or exchange within that relationship, becomes impossible. In other words, people with extreme personalities need a greater facilitating extreme from the person that they are in relationship with. This is why a serious bully will need an extreme victim, and a priest with sexual problems will need a victim of the greatest purity. An extreme of sexual need cannot find release in a normal or moderate context, it HAS to have its antithesis.
The priest in difficulty with celibacy has, though, got himself into a trap. Of course he is entering the priesthood upon the seduction of religious virtue, but he is not different in general terms from men in society who abuse children; his religious seduction to achieve virtue in celibacy, though, means that there is set up an ever increasing contrary drive to be virtuous and to be a sinner. The compartmental conscience is used at its most extreme here and virtue against guilt becomes the priest's entire energy, pulling him apart and making one aspect more and more desperate for the other. The problem is that he needs the priesthood to make himself good, so he cannot leave it to take up a heterosexual or homosexual relationship in the real world. He is desperate to be innocent and to feel good about himself, so he clings onto his desire to be good whilst succumbing to his counter-need to be bad. The more he feels guilty, the more he wants/needs to remain a priest, and the more he is likely to need children.
Well, this is quite a journey of exploration !!!!!!! I think that it is important to examine these things because we need to know why such things happen in order to try to protect children.
Finally, after some testing thought, I believe that the Catholic church as a whole is guilty in regard to child abuse. Why? Well, not all priests have committed child abuse, of course, but the entire church is guilty to varying degrees, not just because of its cover-up, but because the leaders of the church know that only a very few men are capable of the highest spiritual level required, a spiritual quality that includes celibacy.