If the Catholic Church pursued child abusers with the same vigour it opposes
#equalmarriage, we might pay attention to them now.
— Andy Shaw (@RedAndy54) August 26, 2012
Yesterday, all Catholic Churches in Scotland were directed to read out a “Pastoral Message on Marriage and Family Life” from the Bishops of Scotland on Marriage and Family Life from the Bishops of Scotland which was explicitly intended to let LGBT people in Scotland know that our families, and our marriages, are considered by the Catholic bishops to be unworthy and wrong. It announced a new Commission to “promote the true nature of marriage as both a human institution and a union blessed by Jesus” from which everyone not cisgendered and heterosexual is banned.
Cardinal O’Brien showed little faith in it, arguing that if same-sex couples can marry legally, this will “alter or destroy” the marriages of people to whom the Catholic Church is willing to provide pastoral support. (He doesn’t explain how.)
“The church’s teaching on marriage is unequivocal, it is uniquely, the union of a man and a woman and it is wrong that governments, politicians or parliaments should seek to alter or destroy that reality.”
“With this letter we will announce the creation of a National Commission for Marriage and the Family, a body which will be charged with promoting the true nature of marriage, it will develop an online prescence and produce materials and organise events which will help Catholic families to support and sustain marriage. While we pray that our elected leaders will sustain rather than subvert marriage, we promise to continue to do everything we can to convince them that redefining marriage would be wrong for society.”
From the Herald, May 2010:
While Bishop Devine claims Scotland has been “luckier” than Ireland and America in terms of abuse levels, the Church in Scotland has been found guilty by association. “People know abuse did happen. It happened all over in Ireland and America,” he said. “They say if it was happening there, it must be here to the same extent. That is not true.”
With one in 200 of the clergy in Scotland having faced allegations of sexual abuse in the last 40 years, critics of the Church have “taken something minimal and made it look maximal,” he adds.
He believes this is partially malicious. “Sectarianism is far from dead in this land. The Government calls it that, but it is wrong. The proper name is anti-Catholicism. It is constant all the time, and a thing like this is grist to the mill.”
Survivors of clerical abuse reacted angrily to the bishop’s comments. Helen Holland, who experienced physical and sexual abuse in Nazareth House in Kilmarnock, dismissed the comments as a stunt.
“They’ve had plenty of opportunities to meet survivors of abuse and listen over the last 10 years. Why are they only talking about it now?” she said.
Referring to Devine’s comments that most abuse occurred within the family, Holland said: “It is a social problem, and in any other part of society it is dealt with by alerting the police. The Church’s response was to move priests from one place to another.”
Time to be Heard is an important project which aims to help those involved come to terms with their past as well as shaping future policy affecting children in care. Shaw is due to complete his report in early 2011.
It is also a timely one following a large number of abuse scandals to emerge in the past few months – many of which have embroiled the Catholic Church. But this is one aspect where the pilot has come in for criticism. Former residents of Catholic care homes can’t take part. The current forum is only for children who grew up in homes run by Quarriers.
The Scottish Government maintains Quarriers was selected because it was the largest provider of residential childcare in the 1980s with homes all over Scotland. Another reason the Government has given is that Quarriers has admitted that abuse took place in its homes.
Helen Holland, 52, from Alexandria, near Glasgow, is among those who say the decision not to include former residents from all homes is a huge blow to them, adding to the hurt they suffered years ago as children. Holland was sexually and physically abused as a young girl at Nazareth House in Kilmarnock.
Time To Be Heard was always meant to be a pilot programme, Quarriers chosen “as a large national provider of child care in Scotland (30,000 people between 1878 and 1983), which has acknowledged that some children in its care were abused”. Funding for such programmes – and funding to compensate the survivors of abuse – is always an issue.
Instead of raising money for a Commission to attack some families and privilege others, why not raise money for Survivor Scotland to extend Time To Be Heard for all survivors of abuse, especially those who were abused in Catholic care homes?
Why prioritise attacking the freedom of same-sex couples to marry legally in registrar’s offices, and the freedom of celebrants and people from other faiths to wed couples who want to marry in religion, over the welfare of abuse survivors?
In March 2013 it was revealed that for decades Cardinal O’Brien had repeatedly had abusive relationships with other men. Initially he and the Church denied everything: within a few days O’Brien admitted he was guilty and the Catholic Church removed him from his post and banished him from Scotland.