Last night, Kirsti and I watched a documentary called Deliver us from Evil. It interviews Oliver O'Grady, a Catholic priest who molested as many as 25 children in California alone (he probably molested even more in his native Ireland). It also interviews some of his victims, and various experts on clergy abuse. Actually, to say that he molested them is too tame - the film makes it clear that he raped those kids, both little boys and girls, one of them as young as nine months if I remember correctly.
It's quite a powerful piece of work, and I was brought to tears a couple of times. The hardest part for me was watching the father of one of the victims as he cried when he talked about how he felt that the church betrayed him. He also told about how he found out that the reason why his daughter never told him what O'Grady did was because she was afraid that her father would kill O'Grady and then go to jail. (He had said that if anybody had ever hurt her, that he'd kill that person.) In a cruel irony, her love for her father allowed the abuse to continue. And of course, the father felt some guilt over having made that statement - but hey, what father doesn't say things like that? (And what father wouldn't feel guilty all the same?)
The really disturbing thing that gets revealed in the documentary is how the higher-ups in the church knew about what was going on and allowed it to continue. When he would be reported, then they'd just move him on to another town to start the abuse again. And of course, for anybody who ever pays attention to the news would know, this kind of coverup has occured throughout the Catholic Church. One thing that really got me is that even the current Pope is under suspicion as being part of the cover-up. Our President (and honestly, I don't pin this on W. specifically - because I imagine that any President would do the same thing) granted the Pope immunity from any possible prosecution.
Why are things like this even able to occur in the first place? I don't want to necessarily put the blame on religious faith in general, but if people didn't just blindly accept the notion that certain individuals speak for an all-powerful creator, then I can't imagine that this sort of thing could occur at this level.
After all, one of the reasons why people are hesitant to go after these guys is because they are "men of God". They can't even imagine that somebody with the title of priest, pastor, pope, cardinal, grand-poobah, whatever could do something so evil. What other profession in this world creates that sort of blind spot? Could you imagine somebody saying, "Man, hard to believe that guy molested kids - after all, he was a plumber!" Shoot, I'm an atheist, but if some prominent atheist turned out to be molesting kids, I wouldn't show shock at the notion that an atheist could molest kids. They're just as likely as anybody else - including priests!
Personally, I think that the time has come when we start looking at anybody who claims to speak for a higher power as being immediately suspect. I realize that the majority of people in this country believe in a god, and I don't think that there's much chance that I can convince them otherwise. However, this might be a fight with the possibility of winning. If you want to believe in some higher force out there, then fine. Just don't immediately trust anybody who claims to speak for it. Better yet, be suspicious of that person and his or her motives. After all, maybe (probably) they're telling you what THEY want you to do and believe.
So, to hell with men of God. If a priest, pastor, imam, rabbi, pope, lama, whatever wants my respect, they have to earn it the same way everybody else does. (And I should point out that there was a Catholic priest in the movie, whose name escapes me and I can't seem to connect to the Internet Movie Database, who has devoted much of his time and energy into exposing this scandal - so much so that he's gotten in a lot of trouble with his own church. While I obviously disagree with his theology, I have the utmost respect for anybody who is willing to point out the truth - no matter how painful it might be.)