Needs to Facilitate Discussion To Battle History of Abuse
The recent news that Casey Affleck has withdrawn as an Academy Awards presenter over accusations that he has engaged in sexual violence is yet another example of the power of #metoo movement. The movement has been called a “silence breaker” and was awarded the 2017 TIME Magazine Person of the Year.
As we see the changes the campaign has brought to the entertainment and business industry we should be looking to religion as the next social institute that needs to reflect and modify their stance in order to espouse the morality that is dictated in their theology.
The Catholic Church began to take measures in 2002 as a reaction to the global scandals that were occurring because of widespread abuse and subsequent cover-up of perpetrators. Dialogue and openness were promoted, including the creation of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” to give clear guidelines to parishes and officials.
Yet that is not enough. Pope Francis recently visited South America, where he did not speak out about the appointment of a bishop who had close ties to a famous abuser. He also implied that the accusers could be lying before a large-scale backlash possibility caused him to change his stance and ask for forgiveness. But the Catholic Church needs to be more consistent.
There are two levels of the potential of abuse in the Catholic Church. First, is the well-documented history of abuse, mostly toward younger people, that have been conducted by priests and church officials. Instead of asking forgiveness, the Catholic Church should be excommunicating anyone that has been found to be guilty of sexual abuse. This sends a clear message. Abusing the body made in God’s image is like an abuse on God Himself and will not be tolerated.
The second level is the trust that of being a Catholic can cause abuse. There are stories of women that trusted men who engaged in abuse because they were Catholic. The Catholic Church needs to be more upfront in attacking this abuse by individuals and to describe the difference between faithful Catholics and those that claim to but are actually lying. Members of the #metoo movement have stated that those that do not actively fight abuse become complicit.
Experts have stated that individuals are less tolerant of the Church talking about sexual violence than they are about other issues like global warming. This may be because of the tension between being a moral institution openly talking about sex. However, the Catholic Church regularly speaks out against abortion or gay marriage and so sexual issues are willing to be talked about.
The #meeto movement has proven the power of open discussion in being able to affect change. Imagine if the Catholic Church, with all of it’s power and moral authority took that same active stance? As the Bible says “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” Pope Francis should be dictating a clear message. Abuse is wrong and must be stopped. It is the only option.