As regular readers will be aware I try to meet up with my good friend Prospero every week or so over breakfast in the Vecina Bar in Jimena to chew the cud. Last week our conversation turned to the Catholic Church and the sex abuse scandal. Both of us were raised Catholics, both of us are now well lapsed but as they say, once a Catholic always a Catholic, and whilst that is far from true in our cases we have a shared experience of being educated within the Church.
Whilst my experiences were from England and Prospero’s from Argentina we were both interested in knowing how the church in Spain would tackle the issue. Therefore I was interested to read a recent blog on Voto en Blanco from my ‘compañero’ in the media Francisco Rubiales.
Francisco believes that the Spanish church should as a matter of urgency follow the example of the Archbishop of Vienna and president of the Episcopal Conference, Christoph Schönborn. He is top dog collar in the Austrian Church and has made a public apology whilst praising the victims who have broken their silence by coming forward to denounce the cases of abuse.
Francisco has called for the Spanish Church to also seek the faithfull’s pardon and that of the victims. He would also like to see an office opened as a matter of urgency where the thousands of Spanish victims of paedophile priests, monks and brothers can report the abuse and seek justice. He writes: “The epoch of forced silence has passed and justice demands that the cancer of paedophilia, that corrodes the heart of the Catholic Church and affects thousands of Christians of the church, is brought to light and treated with urgency.
The signs are not promising. The Bishop of Tenerife, Bernardo Álvarez, has given an interview with Radio Club Tenerife in which he said that some of the abuse cases in Spain were committed 50 years ago and are only now being aired in a “diabolical” attempt to harm the church.
Yet Francisco urges the Catholic Church in Spain to seize the opportunity to open the office to accept reports of abuse because if it doesn’t then he believes the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero will. He also argues that Zapatero will be motivated not by a desire to seek justice for the crimes of paedophilia (whether committed 50 years ago or not) but because of his hatred for the church. He believes the sections of the media that support the socialist cause will have a field day putting the boot in on the church and in the process taking some of the economic heat off the government.
He also writes of the complicity of the Franco era where the abuses of the clergy in the dark decades of the 50s and 60s were covered up by the power of the church. It was only in the 1970s that these cases started to emerge but even then to denounce the church came at a very high personal price.
I have been horrified by the attempts of certain Catholic spokesmen for the Pope who have come forward over the Easter period to suggest, like Bishop Álvarez, that the paedophile scandal is nothing more than an attempt to harm the church. I suspect many Catholics present in Rome for the Easter services were stunned that the Pope took no opportunity to speak out on this issue.
Until such time as all the abuse cases are uncovered, until justice is handed down in courts of law to both to the offending clergy and those who helped cover these crimes up, until the Catholic Church accepts the terrible wrongs that have been carried by its priests, monks and brothers – then those who are enemies of the church will have an open target. Furthermore those Catholic spokesmen who attempt to defend the indefensible will be treated with the utter contempt they deserve.