The Overwhelming Cost of Denial — by Brian Mark Hennessey

The Overwhelming Cost of Denial

The Comboni Survivors know well enough just how much money the Comboni Missionary Order of Verona, Italy, (formerly known as the Verona Fathers), are willing to spend on defending themselves against allegations of child sexual abuse perpetrated at their Mirfield seminary – for it shows up in their annual accounts presented to the Charities Commission. Clearly, they are happy to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal processes to continue the lies of their denial. It begs the question: “Why not take the simple, moral Christian way of admitting the truth that they know fully well, having dialogue with the Survivors of that abuse and apologising as an Order for the destructive impacts with which the Survivors have had to cope for half a century to date – and continue to endure today?” The answer is abundantly clear. They live a life of pretence and self-deceit. They are, simply, not moral Christians. They have no regard for “Truth” – and they do not care one jot for the Survivors.
They are not alone. George Joseph writing for the Guardian says that the US Catholic church has poured millions of dollars over the past decade into opposing accountability measures for the child victims of clerical sexual abuse. The lobbying funds have gone toward opposing bills in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland that would extend statutes of limitations for child sex abuse cases – or grant temporary civil windows for victims whose opportunities for civil action have already passed. Under existing law, child victims sexually abused in New York, for example, have until the age of 23 to press civil charges, but those abused across the border in Connecticut have until the age of 48. In Maryland and Pennsylvania, victims cannot enter into civil suits after turning 25 or 30 respectively, but across the border in Delaware they can do so at any age.
The amounts expended by individual diocesan Bishops on the lobbying exercise are not small. George Joseph says that since 2007, the New York bishops’ lobbying arms have poured more than $1.1m into “issues associated with timelines for commencing certain civil actions related to sex offenses”. It amounts to nearly half of their total compensation for lobbyists in that period on a variety of other issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage etc etc.. During this same time period, other bishops’ conferences spent millions on lobbyists in states where the church is also actively opposing similar legislative proposals regarding statute of limitations for sex offences. Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey spent more than $5.2m, $1.5m and $435,000 respectively on top lobbyists in the state capitols. That’s nearly $8 million for starters in just a few States!
David Clohessy, a director with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests commented, “Many child sex abuse cases are done gradually, under the guise of love or sex education, and so what happens is most victims don’t even realize until literally decades later. The overwhelming majority of us rationalize it. That’s how we as survivors cope with this stunning betrayal. We cope with it by denying and minimizing it.” Despite the momentum stemming from the scandal, local observers expect the Catholic Church will continue to lobby vehemently. “If the bishops continue to win,” says Clohessy, “many victims will “behave in destructive ways because they were violated as kids … And we, as society, tell them ‘tough shit’.”
What appears to be overlooked in these desparate attempts by the princes of the Church to defend themselves from the facts of the depths of depravity that have existed for so long within their sacristies and cloisters is the simple question: “Where does all this money being expended in legal processes to protect themselves from having to admit the truth come from?” The answer is simple. Disproportionately wealthy Corporate Catholicism has derived every panny, cent and peso from its hard-working and obedient Christian followers for centuries. Many of those followers are desparately poor. The Corporation has been able to invest these funds with a stock-broker’s zeal. The success of the clerics of Catholicism in this field has been so great – that with the spirit of agrandisement of a worldwide conglomerate – they have the funds in their bank vaults to throw at this deceitful charade.
Yet, have these corporate clerics ever asked the humble donors of the pennies, cents and pesos if it was OK with them to expend such disproportionate funds in order to avert the possibility of criminal paedophiles being brought to justice? Moreover, is it right to take such measures of gross expenditure, ultimately, to avoid compensating the Survivors of depraved child sexual abuse for their endless wretched years of harmful impacts? In my book, the Bishops and the Superiors of the Religious Orders are entitled to expend those pennies, cents and pesos only on matters relating to Christian values. To spend millions in order to deflect the possibility of having to admit the truth and scandal of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church is not a Christian value. Ultimately, it is not just downright arrogance and gross hypocracy to embark on such an exercise simply in order to perpetuate their own eletist, clerical self-esteem – but it is also, unequivacally, shameful theft from the pockets of the willing, but beguiled poor.