What has made a bad situation worse, as the eminent QC Geoffrey Robertson argues in this coolly devastating inquiry, is canon law – the church’s own arcane, highly secretive legal system, which deals with alleged child abusers in a dismayingly mild manner rather than handing them over to the police. Its “penalties” for raping children include such draconian measures as warnings, rebukes, extra prayers, counselling and a few months on retreat. It is even possible to interpret canon law as claiming that a valid defence for paedophile offences is paedophilia.
Since child abusers are supposedly incapable of controlling their sexual urges, this can be used in their defence. It is rather like pleading not guilty to stealing from Tesco’s on the grounds that one is a shoplifter. One blindingly simple reason for the huge amount of child abuse in the Catholic church (on one estimate, up to 9% of clerics are implicated) is that the perpetrators know they will almost certainly get away with it.
The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuses by Geoffrey Robertson
Terry Eagleton welcomes a coolly devastating inquiry into the Vatican’s handling of child abuse
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