I was raised Roman Catholic. I worked for five years at a Catholic church when I was younger. It was mostly landscaping and janitorial stuff, but what I saw behind the scenes while there was a real eye-opener. There was a lot of alcoholism and homosexual behavior among the clergy. (Nothing, to my knowledge, involving minors, but to a teenager who had been taught to respect the church, it was still quite a revelation.)
What I observed and the public hypocrisy being displayed made me disillusioned with the church so I left. Although I later became an atheist, that, for me, was not caused by my bad experiences with Catholicism; it was simply a matter of reading, studying and thinking about the philosophy of theistic belief and discarding it later in life.
One would have to be willfully avoiding all media not to know about the allegations of child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. (I was going to write “recent” allegations, but that would be incorrect. These allegations have been around for decades. It’s simply a matter of the evidence for it recently becoming so overwhelming that it can no longer be explained away as a series of misunderstandings or isolated incidents.)
Some have claimed that instances of pedophilia among the Catholic priesthood are not significantly higher than they are among the general population. I’m not certain that's accurate, but for the sake of argument, I will concede that point for the present. This pedophilia, as horrible as it is, is only part of the problem. The more sinister aspect of the sex abuse scandal, in my opinion, is what increasingly appears to be a concerted effort to place the reputation of the church above the well-being of the young sexual abuse victims.
Some have raised the point that it is perhaps unfair to single out the Catholic Church as an institution for these incidents since the people who committed these horrible deeds and those complicit in their cover-up and of the enabling of these child predators to strike again were merely human and that their behavior – reprehensible as is was – should not reflect upon the Church as a whole. I wholeheartedly disagree. Here’s why:
If you call a plumbing service, you expect the people there to be better than the average person when it comes to fixing showerheads and drains. If you go to a mechanic, you should expect them to know how to change a spark plug or a head gasket better than the average person. If, therefore, an institution claims to be a beacon of moral behavior, I would reasonably expect their representatives to excel in moral behavior! Simple as that. Claims that the Catholic clergy molest children at a rate equal to that of the general population simply doesn’t cut it for me. I would expect an institution claiming to instill moral behavior in others to have a rate far LOWER than that in the general population! If it didn’t, I would – like a plumbing service that employed people who knew diddly-squat about plumbing – have to question the reason for such an institution’s existence.
If there could possibly be any positive outcome to this tragic situation, it would be that this systematic abuse and cover-up is finally being exposed and the evidence is now out there for all to see. In the past, there were people who respected the clergy so much that anyone making claims of less-than-holy behavior on their part simply would not be believed. I know this for a fact since, when I told others about what I knew to be going on at the local parish, I was surprised at the number of people who simply refused to believe me, even though they knew me to be trustworthy and truthful in my communications with them otherwise. Now that the light of truth has entered the darkened corridors of the rectories, perhaps those who are abused in the future will be more readily believed… at least to the point that further investigation takes place when an allegation is made and swift and proper punitive action takes place in instances where the allegations are verified.