It is a difficult time for the Catholic Church as allegations of sexual abuse within the church are revealed. Those religious who are guilty of sexual abuse should be and are being called to account for their terrible crimes against the young. Truly paedophilia can never be justified and should always be condemned and those guilty of it rightly must face the full force of the law.
However, there is also a high price being paid by some priests who are falsely accused but this draws little attention from the media or the public. Often as soon as an allegation is made some believe it to be true and hold onto this belief regardless of the facts. The media at times seems to have the attitude of never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Some have their own agenda in attacking the church even using distortions of the truth to do so.
Recently I was in a country where on the news one of the major stories was about a priest accused of abusing two young people. The news story went into great depth explaining the allegations making it appear as if the priest was guilty. At the end of the story there was just a short sentence saying that one of the young people had withdrawn the allegation and that the court found that the priest had no case to answer in the other. Yet listening to the news story a person would be left with the impression the priest was guilty.
Where I live in Australia a wonderful old Irish priest was accused of sexually abusing a young person. The police launched an investigation and the priest was treated by the media as if he was guilty. The parents of the young person stated that the priest could not have done the alleged events as at the times they were supposed to have happened their teenage child was with them. The young person was also known to have some other problems in life. The priest had his ministry restricted during the long investigation and was very upset that he could not freely perform his duties. These accusations bore heavily upon the priest causing him a large amount of stress. After some time the allegations were found to be untrue, as many knew they would be. About three months later the priest died. Some, like I, believe it was from the stress he was put under.
In another country a very well known priest with a high profile including appearing often on television was accused of molesting a young man. The priest denied it but was removed from public duties only being allowed to say mass in private as investigations got underway. All the work he was doing which was bringing many to the church or to a stronger faith came to a halt. Over a period of many years in 3 different courts the priest was found innocent of the charges. After such a long time his priesthood has been damaged severely and he has been tarnished unfairly. The good work he was doing has ended.
These are just three of many cases I know of where the priest was innocent but because of false allegations they have had their ministry destroyed or brought to a standstill.
I do not hear the media apologising for or correcting their unbalanced reports when a priest is found innocent.
Some of the media and those who dislike the Catholic Church highlight even accusations that obviously have no foundation so as to hurt the church. Often they judge before a court has.
Listening at times to the news or reading some newspapers people would get the impression that the church is full of paedophiles and that the church actively hides or protects them. Little is said about how the Catholic Church in comparison to other organisations has a low rate of sexual abuse of minors.
So little is said about the openness of the church in these matters, an openness which rightly has some protection for those who are not yet proven guilty of anything.
Isn’t the right of those who are not yet proven to have committed a crime to be considered innocent until proven guilty?
Sadly this does not seem to apply to the priests as any allegation against a priest seems to be enough for many.
Of course if there are allegations of sexual abuse a priest should be placed under strict controls until the truth, whatever it is, comes to light but he should also not be at the mercy of the lynch mob in the media until the truth is known.
Does not each person deserve a fair trial where the facts are presented and the judges or juries decide the truth?
I expect most people would want that for themselves or their loved ones if they were accused. Shouldn’t it be the same for all?
Paedophilia is terrible crime that is one of the scourges of society. Sadly it happens in all walks of life and it seems to be a cancer of society that is hard to eradicate. We must pray for this evil to be destroyed and pray that it is done in the right way, so that no innocents are hurt whether they be young or old, the abused or the accused.
Let us pray for true justice.
I also encourage that each person adopts a priest in prayer and prays daily for their priesthood to be good, holy and strong.
God bless you all,