Priests hide behind the altar

By Camilo Echeverri Bernal
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They are beacons of hope. They are vicars of ‘God.’ In America and all over the world, Catholic priests possess almost pop-star status. Their message is of comfort and emotional support. They become a significant, if not pivotal part of a child’s life–children who often attend Catholic schools. Girls who are usually shy, boys who are misunderstood—they find love and guidance in the priest’s arms. But as they wear this semblance of innocence and purity, these high-collar thieves are nothing more than wolves in disguise.

As a reminder, Father Gary Mercure from Pittsfield, Mass. was recently convicted of three cases of rape–two of them were altar boys in the 80’s whom he ordered to pray whilst he abused them sexually. Another boy under 14 years was physically assaulted. Father Mercure will probably receive anywhere from 25 to 100 years in prison. This was after the victims came forward. Many of the victims do not come forth 20 to 30 years after the fact. Like in the James Porter case or the Gauthe case.

In Ghana, the Catholic Church has opposed a bill that would protect rape-victims. Under the allegation that some of these rapes occurred over 20 years ago. This renders the victims helpless. In countries such as these, the authorities and even the courts are afraid of what the Church may do to retaliate—not because it has any actual power, but because of the influence it has over the minds of the masses.

The same dilemma would occur in the United States back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, when families and policemen would refuse to talk for fear of shaming the Church and its officials. Even the parents of those who had been harmed would often times stand up for the priests and blame their children for the attack.

The Church would pay, and still allegedly pays large sums of money so that the case will not reach secular courts. Even when it does, the perpetrators receive no more than a year to three in jail. Sometimes, they even get away with probation.

As our world shifts, institutions such as these are used to the limitless power and sway over the feelings and minds of its adherents. Should we let them go unpunished? When over the past thirty years over 35,000 cases of child rape have taken place and many of these have gone unnoticed, unreported and not dealt with by both secular and ecclesiastic courts.

If they possess such power, what is stopping them from doing what they wish with children under their care? What should we do to stop them? Treat them as the criminals they are, or perpetuate their untouchable status?