I am sure that if Jesus was the man the Good Book says he was, he would not just be distressed, he would be outraged. After all it was a relatively small incident, trading in the temple, turning his ‘father’s house’ into a marketplace, that caused him to fly into the only Biblically documented instance of his extreme rage. What would he do then to the many who have over the years abused and misused the power that they claim to possess in his name.
I saw a film a couple of years ago which filled me with anger. Titled ‘Deliver us from Evil‘ the film made by Amy Berg chronicled the deviant life of a self-confessed paedophile Oliver O’Grady, an Irish Roman Catholic priest who admitted to raping and abusing as many as 25 children during his tenure in Northern California, one of his victims a mere infant. What was disturbing even though O’Grady mouthed words of repentance for his acts was the matter of fact attitude with which he looked into the camera and spoke, his expression as hollow as his words, at times a smirk creasing the corners of his mouth. Perhaps I imagined it… but I wouldn’t be surprised if others who have seen the documentary observed the same. I believe it was there, his smirk, his face smug in the belief that having served just seven years in prison for destroying the lives of 25 known victims, he was out and free, living a life paid for by the Vatican, bought by the crushed spirits of his victims and others like them in countries around the globe. It seemed as though in reliving his crimes for the camera he felt a sense of elation, recollecting the power he once exercised over the powerless. His victims, afraid, not just of the horrors they knew awaited them when they were with him, since many of them were abused and raped repeatedly, but helpless, knowing that no one, not even their own would probably believe them.
I was angry for a while at Amy Berg for allowing him those moments of glory, giving him the floor to gloat, to talk about the letters he sent his victims many years later asking them to come and meet him, which they refused to do. But I also realised that it was her initiative in making this film that exposed another paedophile to the world and to me, who had never heard of Oliver O’Grady up until that day. I called my sister who lives in the U.S. and told her to watch the film… I don’t know if she did. I must confess that I cried at various points during the film. I even contemplated turning my back on the church, but then as I always have in life, I chose to take what was good out of my religion and leave aside that which is unwholesome.
My church is Christ after all, not his priests…
O’Grady took refuge in the confessional, claiming that his superiors were aware and did nothing, neither restraining him, or sending him for therapy, nor reporting what ended up being a series of heinous offences to the police. What they did instead was shield him and suppress all evidence of his crimes. It was the persistence of his victims that finally saw him face some form of punishment, not for the offence of rape or sodomy but for performing ‘lewd and lascivious acts’ on two minors, brothers, for which he received a 14 year sentence, serving just 7 before he was deported to Ireland. Since then O’Grady has roamed free, apparently travelling to the Netherlands where he worked in various parishes under an alias, mostly around young children.
The film also focused on the deeper cover up by the church, with O’Grady’s Bishop at the time, Roger Mahoney, playing ringmaster. In fact the film alleges that Mahoney’s attorneys cut a deal for O’Grady’s silence regarding Mahoney’s knowledge of his crimes, in exchange for an undisclosed sum of money to be paid to O’Grady when he turned 65 years (i.e. in 2011).
In 2010 O’Grady was once again in focus when he was arrested in Dublin, Ireland, for possession of child pornography. Some of the photos and videos depicting children as young as 2 years of age.
In fact Pope Benedict XVI (formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) himself came under scrutiny and criticism for suppressing instances of child abuse and transferring priests accused of such offences to other parishes where they continued to abuse helpless victims, a claim many of Ratzinger’s supports refute citing the case of Father Marcial Maciel Degollado who Ratzinger actively pursued against the wishes of Pope John Paul II under whose patronage Maciel thrived. It was only after the last pontiff’s death that Ratzinger in his role as Pope Benedict XVI ordered Maciel to a ‘reserved life of prayer and penitence’… an extremely light sentence by any measure considering that Maciel was then 85 years old and died less than two years later, having fathered six children, some of whom he allegedly also abused.
And now on the heels of so much that’s been a blot on the holy name of Christ, we hear of Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop of New York recanting an apology he made in 2002 to victims of clergy related sexual abuse, stating that he never should have apologised in the first place as he did not think that anything wrong had occurred in Bridgeport Connecticut or New York during his tenure there as Cardinal. His statement to a Connecticut based e-zine, connecticutmag.com while reopening the wounds of many victims of sexual abuse by members of the Roman Catholic Clergy, many unacknowledged and suffering in silence for decades, has also once again brought to the fore the fact that the church even while attempting to sound repentant at times does not really see itself as responsible for shielding criminals. It’s flippancy and irreverence for the harm caused to thousands of victims, most of them children seems out of consonance with the stated teachings of Christ.
What I’d like to know is where on earth, heaven or hell do they get off?