The controversy surrounding child abuse by Catholic priests took a complex twist recently when it was revealed not only that the Vatican ignored requests by an Irish commission for reports on abuse investigations, but also that Irish police officers played a role in covering up evidence. A closer look at the issue shows that the church has uncannily similar interests to those of local officials.
The inquiry charged church leaders with concealing decades of abuse—a period from 1975 to 2004—by clergy of the Archdiocese of Dublin. While the Papal Nuncio—the Vatican’s ambassador—ignored the request itself, Vatican officials did inform the Irish Foreign Affairs ministry that the request had failed to follow diplomatic protocol for negotiations between the Irish Republic and the Holy See. The commission, however, argued that it was independent of the government and was therefore exempt from following diplomatic procedures in their request for information. According to BBC News, “Earlier [in 2009], the commission again failed to receive a reply after sending the Papal Nuncio extracts from its draft report which referred to him and his office, as it was required to do”, while “The Vatican told The Irish Times it ‘was a matter for the local church involved’ “. Nevertheless, according to the same source, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, as well as Cardinal Sean Brady, apologised for the alleged child abuse as well as its concealment.
Perhaps even more disconcerting than the Vatican’s “blind eye” to child exploitation is the allegation that Irish police officials participated in the obfuscation of child abuse by local priests: “The report also found that on occasion senior police officers colluded in the cover-up”. The purported co-conspiracy between senior local officials and a presiding religious institution echoes the savage murder of 19-year-old Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, the gay teenager who was stabbed to death, decapitated, dismembered, partially burned, and found in Cayey, Puerto Rico, in 2009. Mercado was supposedly dressed as a woman and seeking employment as a prostitute. Boston’s Edge records former police investigator Angel Rodriguez as stating, “When these [sic] type of people get into this and go out into the streets like this, they know this can happen to them,” after which statement the Puerto Rico Police Department removed Rodriguez from the case.
According to Laura Gonzalez, “the majority of Puerto Ricans are Catholic and/or Christian”, while according to DeCarlo, et al, “cultural influences such as machismo, familismo, and homophobia may be internalized by Latino gay men”. Like those who seek to obscure the reality of child abuse in the Catholic church, people like Rodriguez often seek refuge in religion and tradition in order to justify violence, even when most Catholics condemn it as horrific. Evidently, the most provincial forces often ally with the most powerful to attack the innocent for their own benefit.
Local police forces have sometimes played significant roles, alongside the church, in the continued exploitation of children and oppression of sexual minorities. It is time for non-denominational churches such as United Life Church to stand up for the rights of children—an under-recognised minority. As adults, we claim that we can speak for children; if so, then we should remember who we were (or who we should have been) as children, and ensure that each child has the right to a childhood full of innocence and loving stability. Whether or not this is what a given religion believes, it is what our local, religiously neutral police unit should be enforcing—the safety of children.
DeCarlo, et al