There was a recent article in the Guardian, entitled “How long can the cognitive dissonance between my faith the Catholic church last?” It’s rare to get a follower of Christ to admit they are battling with cognitive dissonance. In the article the author celebrated the magnanimity and shining charisma of The Pope who recently visited Poland for World Youth Day. The author declared that such events charm cities with the attendee’s faith, generosity and joy.
Then the author went on to declare that Ireland and Australia have recently been savaged by paedophilic scandals by these very clerics, whom have ruined not only their victim’s lives but also whole communities. It’s courageous to to grapple with such a sincere question; how can I retain my faith when my very faith commits such evil? It’s a question many people have wrestled with. How can the gospel preach such loving wisdom to the youthful whilst at same time Catholics Bishops are raping and torturing the same children in cities across the world?
Faith, it seems, does not instantly equate to the magnanimity and joy that followers maintain. For a long time we have been reminded of the crimes committed by the Catholic Church. The crimes that have been levied against them are as woefully corrupt as they are heinous. When reports started to filter in to the public consciousness of the mass rape of children by bishops and clergymen, the Vatican’s response was first dismissal and second cover up.
Joseph Ratzinger held the Vatican’s papal throne when the scandals were first being uncovered. His response was to cover-up the crimes and then protect those that had committed them. In the initial phases nobody was arrested or charged, and the Vatican instead had on several occasions simply moved clerics from one congregation to another.
In 2002 Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, who oversaw the chronic institutional rape and maltreatment of their most youthful members, eventually resigned, but not before the revolting scandal was revealed to the world and his own congregation turned against him. The Boston Globe, which uncovered the scandal through resilient and courageous journalism, said Cardinal Law was the “central figure in a scandal of criminal abuse, denial, payoff and cover-up that resonates around the world.”
Despite this, in 2005 under the command of Ratzinger, the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law was appointed Archpriest of the Basilica of St Mary Major in the Vatican, given the protection of a Nation State and shielded from the calls for justice from the victims of the crimes he had casually tried to conceal.
In 2010 Belgium realised the scandal was not a Northern American phenomenon. An independent Belgian commission released a report detailing the occurrence of hundreds of cases of sexual abuse against children. The report revealed that Belgian Cardinal Goldfried Daneels had systematically (and with much effort) tried to cover up the issue. The main culprit was his colleague Bishop Bruges Roger Vangheluwe
Soon after the scandal broke Bishop Bruges Roger Vangheluwe bought the whole affair to a new cruel and wicked low, and declared without any remorse, that he had also raped and abused his own Nephew over a prolonged period of time. As he confessed for his unforgivable sins, the Cardinal said it was no more than ‘a little piece of intimacy.” This intimacy would occur when the Cardinal’s nephew was 5 and would continue for 13 years. When the Bishop revealed the abuse in an interview he was seen smiling.
More recently there has been the scandal of Australian Cardinal George Pell. Accused of not only molesting children at a swimming baths, but also of covering up the incidents, he is now, as to be expected, under the protection of the Vatican. The scandal in Australia revealed that 5 priests were abusing children in the town that Cardinal George Pell oversaw. When asked about it, he dismissed it as just ‘a disastrous coincidence.’
At this stage we can surely dispense with further embellishments and call it precisely what it is: the systemic mistreatment of children on a global scale, that is compounded by the Vatican’s refusal of it’s own responsibility.
To give further reliance to this, Cardinal George Pell, despite the accusations of abuse, was granted the privilege to continue as prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy in the Vatican, despite recently reaching retirement age. This appointment was granted by our new ‘liberal’ Pope Francis, who continues the legacy of Ratzinger, by undermining the role of criminal law in bringing these people to justice. Pope Francis has been hailed as liberal champion, popular with secularists and liberal westerners, but he’s statement that he ‘cannot judge’ George Pell and his allegations of sexual abuse, (a crime that cries out for punishment), shows how incredulous we must be in holding true to such reviews of Pope Francis.
When we talk of cognitive dissonance and the Catholic Church, I hope those struggling to reconcile their faith with such wickedness, remind themselves of the sinister depth that these crimes go. Imagine how the victims must have begged their attackers. Imagine how they must have beseeched them, pleaded and cried for them to stop. Imagine their pain that has likely caused emotional scars that will never be healed, no matter the amount of psychological therapy.
I am not surprised, given these circumstances, that many Catholics feel bewildered and betrayed by the Vatican. To supress the opposing sense of morality and judgement against the crimes of Catholic Bishops and Priests, is to do an injustice to our innate humanity.
The question that many catholics have had to deal with following these scandals is how to marry the cognitive dissonance between their catholic faith and catholic child abuse. The only position of thought that leaves people with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. Those who follow faith commit the error that morality and good deeds are linked to their belief in the divine. Human decency precedes religious superstition. To engage in free thought, to uphold science and philosophy over belief, is to permit a world of opportunity in truth happiness and beauty without credence in the celestial.
I would invite Catholics suffering with cognitive-dissonance to commit an experiment for me: to find a single person of non-belief that could not do the good deeds that a person of Catholic belief does. I would predict with certainty that this is a difficult task. However, if they want to find me a religious person that commits wickedness in the name of their God they may not have far to look.
I might suggest they first look to congregations of churches across the globe, ruined by sex scandals that continue to repulse the world, a result of the malice of modern Catholicism.