This week saw the publication of the Criminal Justice report by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. It calls for sweeping change to the Catholic Church’s seal of confession.
The confessional seal can be hideous: it has been proven to be so in the case of former Catholic priest Michael McArdle and shows emphatically why change is needed.
This case is not from some far-away Third World country; it is from here in Australia, in Queensland. It is an expose of blatant criminal behaviour that can be hidden by the confessional seal — a noxious secret between a priest and a pedophile colleague that facilitates and enables heinous crimes to continue and be swept under the carpet at the expense of children, their lives and their wellbeing, all of which neither sinner nor holy forgiver give a damn about.
It is rare to obtain powerful insight into a pedophile’s private, secret confessions because the “good” priest will not tell and neither will the criminal priest … usually. That’s what makes the McArdle case gold; this one example we have needs careful examination because it exposes what happens behind the private and closed seal of the confessional for criminal child clergy rapists.
McArdle, after pleading guilty in a Queensland court to sexually abusing children, made an affidavit in 2004 stating that he had confessed 1500 times to molesting children to 30 priests across 25 years.
After being forgiven 1500 times for his regular criminal offending in face-to-face confessions with his fellow 30 priests, he was told to “go home and pray”.
Apart from the utter disgrace of this behaviour, we need to analyse this rare look into a pedophile priest’s confession.
In his affidavit McArdle stated this about his crimes: “I was devastated after the assaults, every one of them. So distressed would I become that I would attend confessions weekly.” After each confession, he said, “it was like a magic wand had been waved over me”. The confessional forgiveness gave him a clean slate that allowed him, within the week, to reoffend — a cycle that lasted for several decades.
The problem was not just the offender but the priests supporting a system that was profoundly flawed and catered to and protected priests who should have been reported to the police, not forgiven and just sent home.
In McArdle’s 1500 face-to-face confessions the identity of the offender priest is revealed — and we have 30 “good” priests who heard that these sins and crimes were happening week after week, month after month, year after year for many years. What did they do? En masse they forgave him and, as if of one mind, they told him to “go home and pray”.
During my 32 years of confession I was never once told to go home and pray. Is this something priests are taught at the seminary to say to fellow priests under such circumstances? How else could they all say the same quite curious thing?
Why did not one of those non-offending “good” priests protect the children? When they saw McArdle’s face yet again, why didn’t they say, “Before I can forgive you, you must get help” or “You have to stop this” or “I cannot forgive you”, instead of enabling him to go off and reoffend for decade after decade? Did not one of those ordained and ontologically changed men, those good and godly priests, feel anything for the children who were being endlessly assaulted and tormented?
In 2011, when senator Nick Xenophon released a press statement headlined “Confession of Child Abuse Must be Reported to Police”, one priest defended the confessional seal saying: “The proposed change could scare offenders away from confession, which otherwise could be a first step towards seeking treatment or surrendering to police”.
Where is the evidence of such noble intent in the 30 priests? Where is the encouragement for the pedophile priest McArdle from his fellow 30 priests to surrender to the police? It wasn’t there. All 30 said “go home and pray”. And that is all.
If McArdle had not been forgiven perhaps his guilt would have compelled him to get help or surrender himself to authorities. McArdle’s weekly cycle of confession and forgiveness aided and abetted him in his crimes.
Mandatory reporting would have stopped him 25 years earlier at his first confession. The subsequent effect would have been generations of children saved from the lifelong affliction of childhood sexual assault.
Instead, we have heartbreaking lives of pain and suicide.
McArdle received a six-year jail sentence for his uncountable crimes against innocent children. Perhaps the 30 priests he made his confession to should have volunteered to accompany him to jail.
The church and the 30 “good” priests did nothing to help the children. The children had to grow into adults and become brave enough to speak of their trauma. The children speaking out have lessened the carnage when the priests and their hierarchy chose to do nothing but protect each other and church assets.
The royal commission is right to call for the removal of the seal of confession for priests in instances of child sexual assault because we know what members of the priesthood have done with the trust bestowed upon them by society. And it has to stop.
If the confessional seal prevails over the demand for child protection by civil authorities, what precedent is being set when mandatory reporting of child sex crimes cannot be enforced because of a foreign sovereign state’s (the Vatican) religious law?
The government must be brave and follow the royal commission’s informed recommendations.
The Catholic Church priesthood says confession is sacrosanct. I say the bodies of children are sacrosanct.
Chrissie Foster is co-author with Paul Kennedy of Hell on the Way to Heaven
(Source: TheAustralian.com.au – “Evil hid behind handy seal of confession”)
Institutionalized child sexual abuse by Christian clergy is one of the greatest tragedies of the modern world. These cases have been reported right across the world – North America (US etc), Europe, Australia, Asia, South America, Africa. The deep-rooted problem first came to international attention after a comprehensive and damning 2002 expose by the “Spotlight” team at The Boston Globe of how for over three decades, numerous clergymen sexually exploited underage boys in the Roman Catholic Church in the Boston area
And the problem is even worse in developing countries like Bharat where most such crimes don’t even see the light of day due to the global clout of the Vatican and other Western-backed Christian denominations. The dominant anti-Hindu nexus of Secularists-Missionaries-Islamists-Marxists-Liberals in Bharat means that our law & order machinery rarely takes decisive action against such criminal priests. Any action could trigger international outrage under the rubric of “Christian Persecution”, and lead to finger wagging by US State Department’s USCIRF.
But rise of social media has ensured that paedophile and rapists priests in Bharat too are now getting exposed. HinduPost has been regularly reporting these cases.
And even in Bharat, we have seen the same pattern of Church higher-ups ‘forgiving’ criminal priests, of giving precedence to the Vatican’s religious law over Bharat’s laws. Three such damning incidents are listed below –
- Catholic priest ‘Father’ Arockiaraj (36) was arrested for allegedly sexually abusing and murdering Fathima Sophia (17) in Kerala’s Palakkad district. Four other clergymen, including a bishop were arrested for allegedly covering up the case. All this happened because the victim’s mother, Roselin, took on the powerful Catholic Church and fought for justice.
- Priest Joseph Jeypaul was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor girl in USA, yet the Ooty Diocese (TN) covered up for him for a long time, and finally the suspension against him was lifted at the direction of the Vatican.
- In 2015, Rev. Jose Varkey Palimattom was transferred by the Church in India to Florida, USA despite past sexual abuse of children in Bharat – the priest was found guilty of showing pornographic material to a minor in US and sentenced to 6 months of jail.
What the investigation by Royal Commission in Australia has revealed is not surprising. In an article last year, we had stated –
“Given the spate of such crimes happening frequently in Christian institutions, the politically incorrect question must be asked – is the core Christian theological belief of faith in Jesus as the basis of salvation, not any action of our own, creating an enabling environment for such crimes?
Christian missionaries preach that accepting Jesus Christ as one’s saviors assures heaven after death, irrespective of the good or bad deeds one might have done. Christianity promise forgiveness of all sinsand everlasting salvation by belief in Jesus. It says that Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and the original sin of Adam and Eve, which his blood washed away.
With such a ‘clean chit’ (belief in Jesus) available to them whatever their deeds, it is plausible that many authority figures in Christian institutions like pastors, priests and teachers believe they can do anything and later beg forgiveness from Jesus…their dictum being – to sin is human, to forgive divine.”
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