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The chutzpah of the Catholic Church

By Asher Lipner - posted Friday, 21 August 2009

In the State of New York the Catholic Church has been fighting against the passage of the Child Victims Act of Assemblywoman Margaret Markey “with all their hearts, with all their souls and with all their might”. The proposed legislation extends the statute of limitations on sex crimes against children and opens a one-year window for adult victims to sue their childhood perpetrators with no statute of limitation at all. Aside from granting the victims the opportunity to receive justice and some level of compensation for their suffering, similar window legislation has proven to be the best way to help identify scores of sexual predators that were unknown to law enforcement in both California and Delaware.

The Church has postulated a conspiracy theory that sees the sole purpose of allowing adult survivors of child sexual abuse to sue their molesters as a way for enemies of the Church to do it harm.

The Church should be ashamed of itself after the publicly humiliating exposure of its tolerance of perverted behaviour by pedophile priests, and its cynical cover up and intimidation of victims it has perpetrated on a system-wide level. It truly gives a new definition to the word “Chutzpah”, for the Catholic Church to speak out in any but a humble and apologetic tone.


A grand jury in Long Island, New York, for example charged the Archdiocese there of stalling victims of abuse from pressing charges until the statute of limitations was up, so that the Church would not have to answer for the molestation perpetrated by their priests. In Los Angeles, Archbishop Mahony is being investigated by the FBI for the crime of placing priests who were known to have molested children in the past in positions of authority over children without notifying the children’s parents.

Aside from the audacity of an organisation claiming to speak for God placing their financial concerns over the welfare of victims, the tactics used in defending their “assets” by the Church have been extremely “un-Christian”. In Brooklyn, Bishop Nicholas Dimarzio has, in a Machiavellian threat, warned legislators that if the Child Victims Act passes, he will shut down churches in the precincts of those who voted against it.

Ironically, given the Church’s record of aiding and abetting pedophile priests, legislators who care for the safety of the children in their precinct would do well to view this outcome as a positive promise and not as an unwanted threat.

Child sexual abuse, however, knows no religion and is certainly not a plague that is limited to the Catholic Church, and therefore the Church is hurting children of all faiths when they use their considerable political power in New York to deny justice to survivors who have been abused. While the bill was in fact never intended originally by anyone to be “anti-Catholic”, once the Catholic Church has shamefully turned anti-children, they have made it so, because they have once again become actively pro-molesters and the bill is most definitely anti-molesters.

As a Jew, I cannot say I am totally shocked at the lack of concern by representatives of the Catholic Church over the past several decades (and indeed centuries) about the brutalising of innocent children by adults in power.

After all, this is a religious institution that only 60 years ago turned a blind eye to the wanton murder of one million innocent Jewish children in countries that were mostly dominated by practitioners of the Catholic religion.


Although the last Pope did “apologise” to Jewish survivors (the children are not with us to have heard it), not so much has really changed in the Church's sense of morality or sensitivity for child victims. This was recently on display by Pope Benedict’s appointing as a bishop a priest who openly denies that the Holocaust even happened and that Jewish children were gassed to death, and by his pursuing “sainthood” for Pope Pius XII, labeled by historians as “Hitler’s Pope”.

For those children who survived the death camps to have the Church once again treat their feelings like so much political nuisance, reminds them of how little they can trust their Catholic “friends” at a time of need.

But adding insult to injury, in New York, home to many Jewish children as well as Catholic, the Church now seeks to deny all children the right to their day in court when they suffer their own private Holocaust-like trauma of rape, sodomy and sexual molestation. It has been shown repeatedly by psychologists that for many victims of childhood sexual trauma, it often takes growing up into adulthood to even remember, yet alone understand the nature of the harm inflicted on them. Sometimes symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder are only manifested once the victim has children of his or her own. And even for those who have suffered from symptoms for years and have had their lives forever damaged, many need years of professional help to regain the emotional strength it takes to confront their victimisers.

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About the Author

Rabbi Dr Asher Lipner, PhD is an ordained Orthodox Rabbi with a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. He is the Vice President of the Jewish Board of Advocates for Children. The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author only, and do not necessarily reflect the position of any organisation.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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