In the past, when a priest sexually abused minors reported, the bishop of the diocese often addressed the problem discreetly, such as transferring the priest to another parish, sometimes, with arrangement to another diocese as to be away from the object and the old environment in hope that the problem will be solved.

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This article is the English version of the Vietnamese article on the same subject “Bách hại Giáo Hội dưới hình thức loan tin về việc linh mục lạm dụng tình dục trẻ vị thành niên”, written by the same author, published earlier in www.mucvuvanbut.net on the same section:

https://www.mucvuvanbut.net/bai-viet/bai-viet-cua-tac-gia-trang-chu/5182-bach-h-i-giao-h-i-du-i-hinh-th-c-loan-tin-v-n-d-linh-m-c-l-m-d-ng-tinh-d-c-tr-v-thanh-nien

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On the subject

In early 2002, the Boston Globe exposed sexual abuses in the Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts, United States. Investigations by other newspapers show sexual abuses in some large dioceses in the US, and then in many other US dioceses. Afterwards, victims of sexual abuse in other countries around the world also stood up to denounce.

By this time, American press / media all exposed sexual abusive cases by the clergy, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did not know how to deal with sexual abuses in accordance with the civil laws. Before the annual US bishops' conference in June 2002 in Dallas, Texas, some bishops summoned priests in their dioceses to ask for advice on how to prevent and how to solve the problem.

The influence of the revolutionary of sexual identity to sexual abuse

According to former Pope Benedict XVI, the problem of sexual abuse is due to the influence of the sexual liberation movement in the 1960s of the 20th century. In the United States, it is found that groups of "hippies, feminists, beatniks, long hairs, gay rights" are against traditional behavior of genders and how men and women should behave in public. For example, traditional manners in China during the Confucius period dictated separation between men and women in public. The traditional behaviors affected Confucianism students in Vietnam, and then affected   Vietnamese masses some time later.

The anti-war movement in the United States, shaped by ways of reporting by the press / media on the Vietnam War, also affected attitudes and actions of young people as being against the traditional manners and conduct of society.

The Woodstock Grand Music Festival for 3 days from August 15-18, 1969 was held outdoors at Max Yasgur Farm, 600 acres, raising and producing cow milk, near Bethel, New York, attracting nearly half a million young people from all over the US. Groups of hippies were seen, with long hairs and beards, ragged jeans hanging down to buttocks, shirts un-tuck or no shirts. The band performed 33 concerts day and night even when it was raining. Rain and storm soaked their hairs and bodies to the skin, forcing them to walk in the mud and step on cow dungs, yet they remained to attend, despite lack of food and drink, lack of toilets and medical station. Volunteers with medical supplies had to arrive by helicopter because the roads were jammed, dozens of miles long. There were cases where participants had to pick corns to eat. There were cases of smoking and drug addicts caught by the police and there were two fatal cases. The area reserved for the Great Music Festival was fenced, yet participants broke the fence and made cows enter the camping area without causing problems between people and cows.

With such a huge number of participants exceeding the initial estimate, it was considered as a huge success. Near the end of the last day, the organizers had to let late comers enter for free, instead of having to buy an $ 18 one-off ticket, and also called on the broadcast to ask people not to come. (The news and facts about the Great Woodstock Music Festival in this article are briefly summarized from the Internet.)

Sexual revolution leads to sexual abuse. In the newsstands on the sidewalks of streets, one could find books and magazines of all kinds exposing pornographic images, displayed for sale publicly. At entertainment bars on 42nd Street in New York City, peep show machines could be found. Just putting in the machine a quarter, one person could look at erotic images of all kinds within tens of minutes, for example. Wanting to look more, people could put more coins into the machine. Visitors also could find pimps who were willing to lead the way.

In a certain religious community, due to the changes of the Second Vatican Council, especially on liturgy, some members of the community wanted to try different ways of life. In a magazine of a religious order for men in the United States, one found articles introducing ways to seek sensibility experience among the religious community.

Policy of Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Abuse of the US Bishops’ Conference

Due to pressures from the press / media, the Conference of American Bishops, whose President at that time was black, allowed the press / media to attend a session of the annual meeting of the Bishops’ Conference, discussing how to solve the sexual abuse of minors by priests. Since then, to address the clerical problem of sexual abuse, the US Bishops, instituted the Charter for the protection of children and young people to prevent and cure sexual abuse of minors by Church staff members including priests. The protection of children and young people has been reviewed since then by a review board made up of lay people not employed by the diocese. The document is called ‘The Dallas Charter”.

After the meeting, President of the USCCB flew to Rome to report the matter to Pope Francis and ask for a resolution. The resolution of the issue of sexual abuse in the US Church later had an effect on the issue of sexual abuse in other dioceses of other countries of the world.

Assuming the issue of sexual abuse is dealt with at a different time by a different president of the USCCB, the clerical issue of sexual abuse by priests, might be resolved in a different way, not much influenced by the review board of lay people and not widely exposed by the press / media.

In investigating and adjudicating the clerical sexual abuse, cultural and psychological factors have been ignored according to the author of this article. In certain countries, it is normal for two persons of the same sex and of different ages to hold hands together or one person to put an arm on the shoulder of another person while sitting, standing, or walking. The ways that people think of "sexual abuse" for psychological reasons such as loneliness, boredom, underestimation, under-appreciation and confusion of gender identity are not really in the sense of sexual abuse to satisfy physiological needs. The so-called sexual abuse in this case may be just cuddling and affectionate gestures to fill the emotional deprivations of the accused as to seek comfort. Such cuddling and affectionate gestures can be a way of showing a desire to be a father, signifying a feeling of a father and  expressing his affection for a child.

Touching of the adolescent's private parts may also be due to curiosity, rather than sexual abuse. This curiosity is even found in children. There are little girls when realizing their father's private bodily parts, different form theirs, tend to play with their father's private parts innocently.

In addition, when investigating and accusing a priest of sexual abuse in the diocesan "court", the defendant usually did not have a lawyer to defend and defy the accuser. If there was a lawyer provided by the diocese, the lawyer only sat there and listened in a formal manner because the accuser did not attend the trial. Also when investigating and accusing a priest of sexual abuse who has died, the dead person cannot show up to defend himself.

Why the issue of sexual abuse only brought to light recently?

The problem of sexual abuse has existed since ancient times in the human society, between adults in general and children, between fathers and children, and sometimes between mothers and children. Previously, society and religion have not been well aware of the psychological and emotional harms to victims of sexual abuse, so this issue has been taken lightly. The laws in society as well as religion against sexual abuse were also lax. In addition, the victim also wanted to keep the sexual abuse secret, so he/she did not want to let anyone know about it, including his/her parents. There have been cases where victims were bribed to keep quiet, not wanting to disclose their being sexually abused. In other cases, the victims of sexual abuse have been threatened with life, if disclosing it, so they kept this issue quiet. After a while, victims of sexual abuse for a while, have revealed to a person they trusted such as a priest for instance and said they felt humiliated and guilty because of being abused, causing their emotional life not to develop normally.

When the issue of sexual abuse was exposed by the press / media, the news was quickly accessed by people in the information technology age. At school, students are taught to prevent sexual abuse. People who work with minors must report that they have never been accused and tried on sexual abuse in order to work with children. Then, lawyers took part by suggesting lawsuit for the victim. The lawyers think that the Catholic Church is wealthy because it has facilities such as schools and large churches with ancient architecture, and museums with valuable art treasures, they demand big compensation price for the lawsuit. As a result of lawsuits, some dioceses had to file for bankruptcy. The tendency to litigate also spread to other areas such as the practice of medical doctors whom the petitioner considered careless. A number of new graduate lawyers who are unemployed, offer free legal aid to clients to gain experience. Therefore, there was a time when doctors expressed their hostile attitude towards lawyers.

Persecuting the Church in the form of reporting clerical abuse

Regarding the issue of clerics sexually abusing minors, Catholic priests have many opportunities to be tempted about the problem of sexual abuse of minors because priests often interact with children daily in a church and parochial school.

If one finds out and reads about the issue in the press and the media, one can see spiritual leaders, or religious people, married or single in other religions and denominations,  also have problems of sexual abuse, including incest. This means that the law of celibacy for single Catholic priests is not the reason for sexual abuse.

The issue of a religious person living alone or having a family, sexually abusing minors occurs in all religions and denominations. However, because the Catholic Church is an organized, hierarchical and influential entity, the press finds it easy to investigate. Therefore, sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is easily pointed at. Asking about a sexual abuse case in the Catholic Church in Europe and the US is too easy. The press / media may ask a priest or bishop or even a pope questions about a sexual abuse somewhere. To ask the pope about a sexual abuse case happening somewhere in the world is just a question. How can a pope know all the sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church, where there is a local authority to take care of it. As for the question of sexual abuse in other religions and denominations in Europe and the US, often one does not know where to ask, so one does not see reports in the press / media.

When the press / media reports and criticizes issues of sexual abuse in a religion, whose members react adversely to the narrator and critic, then the narrator and critic may also be concerned for its safety in narrative and criticism to be published in the future. If so, what can scare the press / media when reporting and criticizing the issue of sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church?

The same act of law violation, which journalists report is inclined to aversion, or opposition to Catholicism, makes their writing biased. Journalists who have no sympathy for Catholicism also affect their ideas on Catholicism and the words they use when writing about Catholicism. The same story of sexual abuse, which the writer opposes to the Church, the story might make readers have aversion to the Catholic Church.

The press / media explores the problem of minor sexual abuse thoroughly. They reported clerical sexual abuse even in dioceses of foreign countries. They exposed the issue of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the distant past that the law to report and investigate  sexual abuse, have been beyond the statute of limitations. Under the penalty of being exposed to sexual abuse, there are priests who had to end their lives as a way to punish themselves. Priests who have died, also been accused of sexual abuse. Under the press / media pressure, some dioceses still had to report.

Vatican experts on the issue of sexual abuse

Female journalist Inés San Martín of Crux magazine, recently published an article on December 14, 2019, published by translator Vu Van An in vietcatholic  news December 14, 2019 with the title: “Superior expert of the Holy See: the law of celibacy and homosexuality does not cause a crisis of sexual abuse ”. The expert "superior" against the sexual abuse mentioned by Vu Van An is Father Jordi Bertomeu [01].

Using data provided by other Christian and non-Christian Churches, Father Bertomeu wrote: “He cited the Unified Church in Australia, a Church of about 240,000 members, no hierarchy and only men and women clergy married”. In recent months, this Church has gained a lot of attention due to 2,500 cases of child abuse. He reasoned that "such data contradicts the data of the Catholic Church, with 466,000 priests and 6,000 cases reported to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" [02].

Father Bertomeu also said: “Although the Church should be ashamed of the number of priests who have committed crimes of abuse, he noted that it is only a small percentage of the clergy, compared to the number of abusers in society in general ”[03].

Reverend Bertomeu also argued: "The law of celibacy originates from the Gospel, as demonstrated by historical studies, rather than something that appeared in the 12th century to" better control the economy of dioceses ”, from falling into the situation of having“ clerical families ”. [04].

The problem of sexual abuse also occurs with those who are not clerical but married. In this regard, Father Bertomeu wrote, "Rather, the majority of abusers are married men." [05]

Father Bertomeu said, "Some media outlets have treated irresponsibly the phenomenon of criminal violations of minors, to the point of encouraging" the indiscriminate persecution of clerical social class or not trusting any priest just because he is a priest "[06].

Christian persecution in general and Catholic in particular

The persecution of the Church in the form of reporting clerical sexual abuse is just one part of general Christian persecution around the world as in the report of Hồng Thuỷ titled: "International Conference on Christian persecution ”, published in Vaticannews.va  November 29, 2019. The conference took place from November 26-28, with 650 participants from 40 countries, including many Christian leaders from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon. In opening the Conference, Mr. Tristan Azbej, General Secretary of the persecuted Christian Committee of Hungary, said: “We have 245 million reasons to be here. (245 million is the number of Christians worldwide persecuted). This is how many people are persecuted daily for their Christian beliefs. " [07].

As for Hồng Thuỷ's report with another title: "Pope Francis: Many Christians are persecuted and sacrificed for their faith" in Vaticannews.va  on December 11, 2019, in which Pope Francis told 8000 pilgrims: “Today, in the world, in Europe, many Christians are persecuted and sacrificed their lives for the faith, or persecuted by those who wear white gloves, that is to be excluded, cast aside. Martyrdom is the atmosphere of the Christian life, of the Christian community. There are always martyrs among us: this is a sign that we are walking the way of Jesus. It is a blessing of God to have someone in the community of God’s people, witness to this martyrdom. ” [08]. According to the Fides news agency, issued on December 30, 2019, there are 29 murdered missionaries in the world in 2019, including the majority of priests, religious and lay people.

Even in the United States, Catholics have been discriminated against for centuries. According to Wikipedia in 2012, "The atmosphere of Catholic discrimination is deeply rooted in the anti-Catholic attitude brought by Anglican Protestants to the American colonies" [09].

Over the centuries, anti-Catholic prejudices have been found in American literature and media. Thus, author Robert P Lockwood wrote, "Actually, though not always recognized, there is an anti-Catholic bias in the press / media in general. Many reporters are aware of a culture filled with secular and rational "[10].

That is why the US government only established a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican in 1984 under President Reagan, when domestic resistance forces such as the Congress, courts and Protestant groups were no longer opposing the establishment of relationship as vigorously as before.

Recently when reading or listening to news on social, political issues .., American press / media have been accused of reporting false, fabricated and  "fake news" . During the second half of the second decade and the early  third decade of the 21st century, most Vietnamese-American commentators have labelled the liberal leftist press / media as “thổ tả”. Leftist means thiên tả in Vietnamese; thiên tả is derivatively read as thổ tả in Vietnamese; literal meaning of thổ tả is vomiting; its figurative meaning of thổ tả is fabricated, fake with intention of tricking public opinion. The problem of unreliability and also of fabrication of news report as such about the Vietnam War by the liberal leftist press / media also started since then.

Conclusion

The problem of cleric sexual abuses of minors must be the sadness of Catholics. This must remind Catholics to pray for victims of sexual abuses, for clerics of sexual abuses and for the press / media on how they reported sexual abuses by clerics. Christians - including Catholics - do not forget to pray for Christians persecuted around the world for their faith and for persecuted individuals and organizations. Christians also pray for those who oppose themselves, as Christ taught: "Pray for those who persecute you" (Mt 5:44) and "Pray for those who slander you"  (Lk 6:28).

Gia Phap

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 [01]. Vu Van An. Superior expert of the Holy See: the law of celibacy and homosexuality causing the crisis of sexual abuse: www.vietcatholic.net: News of the Universal Church. 14 / Dec / 2019.

[02]. Ibid as [1]

[03]. Ibid as [1]

[04]. Ibid as [1]

[05]. Ibid as [1]

[06]. Ibid as [1]

[07]. Hồng Thuỷ. International Conference on Christian Persecution: www.vaticannews.va: World. November 29, 2019, 14:43

[08]. Hồng Thuỷ. Pope Francis: Many Christians are persecuted and sacrificed for their faith:

        www.vaticannews.va. The pope. December 11, 2019, 11:36.

[09]. Wikipedia. Anti-Catholicism in the United States. Ed. May 2012

[10]. Robert P. Lockwood. Anti-Catholicism in the media. Catholic League. https://www.catholicleague.org/anti-catholicism-in-the-media/ Mar 20, 2017

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