By Laura Armenian for The New York Times
One could be mistaken for assuming that society has turned back the hands of time and vanquished itself to the medieval epoch when Church and State were once combined. The almighty power of spiritual leaders is once again subject to the careful eye of the government. The days of a separation have been usurped – for valid reason.
The Church had the opportunity to govern themselves, their laws, systems and hierarchy. However with great power comes great responsibility, and when the hierarchy starts protecting its own criminals, prioritising its reputation above those of victims, then the moral authorities – better known as the State – must intervene. These men of the clergy were spiritual leaders, held up before the children around them as wise and righteous and right. So they had special access to those kids. Special sway.
And when they exploited it by sexually abusing the children, they were protected by their lofty stations and by the caretakers of their faith. The children’s accusations were met with skepticism. The community of the faithful either couldn’t believe what had happened or didn’t want it exposed to public view: why give outsiders a fresh cause to be critical? So the unpleasantness was bound in a dark and sacred corner of the Church, never to the see light of day. They invoke an aloof patriarchy, an insularity verging on superiority and a disinclination to get secular officials involved.
Dicey once alleged that no man is above the law – alas, he failed to have the foresight that the Catholic Church places them on a moral pedestal that surmounts the rest of society. Tensions are escalating as the Church is hiding behind antiquated canonical laws and jurisdictional error of the ICC. However, on the initial day of hearings the prosecution have raised significant material to send Pope Benedict and the Catholic Church into disrepute. There’s undeniably no doubt that this court has a low tolerance for sexual abuse and a moral disgust. However the increasingly irksome claim that has thrown some judges into a rage is that of “but how was the Pope supposed to control every cardinal and official under the Catholicism branch”. The question answered simply by: accountability. It is not a question of whether he did know but whether he should have known. As a spiritual leader of one of the largest growing religions in the world, you must make it a personal priority to ensure that your employees are model practitioners of said religion.
The ICC are currently in a position of tarnishing the name of Catholicism but simultaneously seeking revenge on those children in history that have suffered and borne the psychological damage created by the proponents of the Church. The scales of justice are in their hands.