It doesn’t surprise me that the Roman Catholic child sex abuse crimes and cover-ups go all the way up to the Pope. That seems to be how child sex abuse works in so many dysfunctional families, communities, and institutions. The entire community (or family, or institution) folds in on itself to cover and protect its most powerful members, even if that means throwing its most vulnerable members to the wolves. The more sinful the secret, the more taboo the transgression, the more likely it is that the abuser will garner protection from the people both above and below him in his institution’s hierarchy. The people above him will protect him because they’re protecting the reputation of the institution (or the reputation of the family or the community), and the people below him will protect him because they need to stay in the good graces of the institution’s more powerful members.
Child sexual abuse victims tend to lack power, and rank pretty low on the hierarchy of credibility. It’s easier to silence such a child by calling him a liar than it is to make a pedophile stop abusing children.
I used to have a friend who spent several years of his childhood in the Alfred Reformatory, under the control of the Christian Brothers. He told me some chilling stories.
“Why didn’t you tell anyone?” I asked.
“I did.” he replied. “Most people already knew.”
I think about that sometimes. An institution full of kids being physically and sexually abused, while their families and communities pretended not to know. I think about that same scenario playing itself out in communities and churches and residential schools and families across the country and around the world.
I don’t know how we let things get this bad, but I agree with Milan about what needs to be done about it.