Imagine a multinational corporation, Apple, if you will. A global entity, one that can reach far and wide with a strong following. It has a language that only its followers can truly understand, a public face who is the gateway between the higher-ups and the public, and an image that has made it both highly adored and loathed.
And then, out of the blue, you hear that for the past year and a half, Apple Geniuses all across the state of Pennsylvania have sexually abused children, with not only management within those stores knowing, but also, potentially, Apple’s executives in the know. And what did they choose to do? Nothing.
In the corporate world, Apple’s stock would have taken a nosedive, gone out of business, the Geniuses and the executives would be prosecuted, and both accountability and action would be taken on both the parts of the executives and the corporate world as well. That’s what should happen. And yet, it doesn’t. Why? Because Apple is the Catholic Church.
Yes, I’m referring to the massive revelation in August that, within Pennsylvania, there had been child sexual abuse cases reported, and quietly handled by the Catholic Church that had gone as far back as the 1940s. Not only that, but there was evidence that even the Popes at that time (Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis) knew about it and chose to do nothing.
Even worse, followers and priests who knew also chose to do nothing, essentially becoming accomplices in their silence.
Now, that isn’t to say that people have been silent on this issue, and this isn’t to say that some action has not been taken. Far from it. In 1992, singer Sinead O’Connor ripped a picture of Pope John Paul II during a performance on Saturday Night Live, screaming “fight the real enemy” as a direct attack to the Catholic Church for covering up child sexual abuse.
In 2003, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team officially put a light on the issue that has persisted over 15 years, uncovering the stories of multiple priests in the Boston area who had committed those acts, leading the Archdiocese of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law, to resign his position.
Even after this current set of revelations, there has been some action taken, with Pope Francis even calling a meeting of Catholic officials to discuss the issue in Vatican City next February.
However, much of the action taken has not done much, and, in reality, hasn’t truly destroyed the problem. With O’Connor’s performance, as strong as it was, and as powerful as it was, the act of ripping up Pope John Paul II’s picture would ruin her career due to the message that a beloved figure was evil, which, turns out, was true.
While the Boston Globe has done a lot, and nothing should be taken away from them, Cardinal Law, upon his resignation, was essentially promoted to Rome’s Santa Maria Maggiore, the second most prestigious in Rome, and therefore, the Catholic world, retaining his status as Cardinal until his death in 2017.
Even Pope Francis’ actions have been said by many to be too little, too late, with his popularity amongst not only American Catholics, but also Catholics in general taking a massive nosedive, with many calling for him to resign.
However, resignation would not change anything, nor would a meeting or any current solution offered.
There’s a saying that I use a lot when I discuss acknowledging a problem and trying to fix it, but not doing enough to do so: putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm. If anything, there needs to be a higher amount of accountability in not only the Catholic Church, including the Pope, Cardinals, Bishops, priests, etc., but also among Catholics who knew about these abuses and did nothing.
In fact, it is my belief that the system should be amended, for example, celibacy should no longer be a requirement for both priests and nuns. There has been evidence that proves that half of the clergy are not celibate anyway, and of that half, 7 percent sexually abuse children. If the celibacy requirement is removed, it could mean greater exposure, forcing the pedophile priests out of parishes and into jails.
However, as an atheist, it is not my duty or responsibility to make these changes. In Philadelphia, approximately one-quarter of the population is Catholic, according to the Pew Research Center. If you are part of that population, what happens next is up to you. Make noise and bring up these concerns to your local priests and parishes. Try to find out if your local priest has committed such crimes. If you know of cases of child sexual abuse, notify the police. If there is one Bible quote that stands out to me, it’s Proverbs 12:17, “He who speaks truth tells what is right, But a false witness, deceit.”
In other words, if you say something, you can help end the suffering. With so much silence, noise is the agent of change. For, without silence, we are all painfully aware of the consequences of what will happen.