Friday, 19 March 2010

Catholic church: denial rules on child abuse

A great and nicely balanced article in The Economist yesterday reflects on the recent revelations in Ireland, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. It's clearly not intended as an anti-religious message, and certainly tries to acknowledge the good works that the Church has done and the current guidelines for priests which do much to stamp out ongoing abuse.

However, if the Catholic Church had been a public institution, run by the state in any of these countries, let's face it - it would probably have been shut down by now (it does, of course, get some state funding in some countries, but that's another matter). And the continuing denial in some sections of the Church is further damaging its name in Europe, probably already the most secular of continents, where it really could be the final nail in its coffin as regards maintaining the faith among young people.

Moreover, the torrent of revelations, it seems to me, has only just started. There's another country I know very well, on which surprisingly few revelations have come out as yet, and that's Spain. As the article points out, children's institutions under authoritarian regimes (which, let's not forget, Spain was until 1976) are particularly susceptible to child abuse. And after Italy, Spain probably is the most important country in Europe for the Pope in terms of numbers of practising Catholics. And many Spaniards - especially younger ones, or those who suffered under Franco - have none of the religious reservations that you might find in, say, the US or Italy about respect for the clergy.

I'm inclined to think that in the next year or two, Spain will be the next country to reveal its awful secrets. And this time it could well be not a torrent, but a flood.
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