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Thoughts on the Unthinkable: The Catholic Church Scandal

The latest Catholic Church rape scandal has been compared to the British “grooming gangs” stories. They're both equally horrible, equally evil.

There's a big difference, though. The priests who have raped kids, and the bishops and popes who have protected them, have betrayed the spirit of Christianity -- the spirit of the gospels -- even if the engineers of the cover-ups have, technically, acted in accordance with the precepts and priorities of their own Church. Indeed, nothing could be a more thorough betrayal of the spirit of the gospels than the sexual abuse of a helpless child.

By contrast, the grooming gangs have not betrayed Islam. Their sexual abuse of infidel children is thoroughly in line with the teachings of the Koran and the lesson of their religion's founder. First, sex with a child? No big deal. The Prophet himself wed a six-year-old girl, although he waited until she was nine to consummate the marriage. Second, rape? “The seizure of Infidel girls and their use as sex slaves,” Robert Spencer has noted, “is sanctioned in the Qur’an.”

There are other differences. The grooming gangs, while obeying their holy books, operate independently from any central authority. Islam has no Vatican, no Pope, no Magisterium. By contrast, the priests and bishops and pope are part of a human institution that makes the most monumental claim imaginable: it purports to be the only true Church of the only true God. In reality, the Catholic Church has proven to be a deeply corrupt institution. And its corruption is deeply intertwined with its extraordinary claims for itself.


When a child is raped by an ordinary citizen, the situation is simple. A monstrous crime has been committed. Period. When a child is raped by a priest, the situation, in the eyes of the leaders of the Church, is equally simple. Yes, a child has been harmed. That's unfortunate. But to acknowledge it publicly would be to bring disrepute upon God's Own Church. And bringing the Church into disrepute is, in their eyes, a far greater calamity than the abuse of a single child. Or, for that matter, ten children. Or a hundred. Or a thousand. Or ten thousand.

Because the Church, which you or I may see as just another human institution, is in their eyes something infinitely greater. It is eternal. It is mystical. It is the sole link between God and his Creation. It is -- and this is the heart of the whole business -- every human being's only hope for salvation. And nothing that happens on this earth is as important as salvation. Earthly life is finite. Salvation is forever. The view of bishops and priests who are authentic believers is that if you truly care about children who have been sexually abused by priests, you'll support efforts -- however insensitive and even wicked they may seem -- to cover up these abuses in order to protect the Church from scandal. For the more the Church is touched by scandal, the more that scandal will drive the faithful away -- and rob them of eternity.