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  • Bonnie Chapman

Posing As God: Protecting Children from Harmful Clergy

Written by Bonnie Chapman

Photo from Breaking Through

The Pew Research Center reports that seven in 10 Americans identify with some branch of the Christian faith. If your family is anything like mine (five American families, according to Chinese), then you were brought up to be religious and follow the rules of the Bible. We see more and more people turning away from religion. “Nearly one in five U.S. adults (18%) grew up religious and now do not identify with any religion.

There are some opposite shifts, too: 9% of U.S. adults say they grew up religious, and almost half of people (4.3 percent of all U.S. adults) now practice some kind of religion." You may be wondering why distance yourself from a religion? Why are more and more young people moving away from religious groups? To answer this question, we must address a major problem in the Christian Catholic community, one that is known but still unsolved.

Like most communities, the Church has secrets that she tries to cover up as much as possible. Some secrets are taken to the grave to protect the whole image, but the soil of these lies begins to infect the whole tree. We're not dealing with a bad apple, we're dealing with a bad tree. Since 1950, some 216,000 children, mostly boys, have been sexually abused by clergy in the French Catholic Church, according to the BBC. Like most kids, we trust the adults around us to tell us what's wrong and what's right. We are taught that we must be on good terms with and obey the man in uniform. It is a position of power that is often exploited in cases of abuse and grooming.

Rainn has undergone grooming in different forms and patterns. Starting with victim selection, most people probably don't know it, but according to Hannah E. Walker, Jennifer S. Freud, and Laura C. Wilson, 47.9 percent of children who have been sexually abused in the past will be sexually abused in the future. In one case highlighted in the Netflix documentary "The Guardian," a high school student became a victim again after speaking out about her childhood sexual assault. She goes to the confessional to ask for forgiveness, feeling ashamed and guilty about the attack that happened to her.

Armed with this information, the perpetrator taps into the child's guilt—a common symptom of sexual abuse among victims is that they feel they did something that encouraged violence. In this case, the victim was re-victimized and exploited because she had been the victim of a sexual assault.

Next, enter and isolate your chosen victim. Victims of abuse by church members have similar experiences and feelings when priests come to them: They feel as though God has called them. Under the guise of faith, children are lured into isolation and used by so-called God-sent men. Cultivating trust and keeping secrets is another hallmark of care, so why not those who trust God and keep His secrets? It's as if God came to you and asked for your help.

Unfortunately, this problem has been prevalent in the church for longer than anyone cares to admit, but it's time for us to accept the hard, hard truth: We cannot protect our child. In January 2022, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Clearly and admitted that he attended a meeting where child sexual abuse was discussed. The Pope spoke out against clergy sexual abuse as early as 2008, and in 2010 new sexual abuse cases in Germany and the US came to light based on reported cases alone (estimated at less than 30% in 2018). case). The incident caused public outrage.

Anderson Advocates reports: "In response to media scrutiny of Benedict, the Vatican blamed him for covering up child sexual abuse. Now, more than 40 years later, Benedict has finally admitted to knowing about child sexual abuse allegations."

One factor that is thought to be less is that there are a considerable number of male victims. Although the reporting rate is already below 30%, the likelihood of being reported is even lower if the victim is male. John Jay's research shows that 80% of clerical abuse is committed by boys. The men who reported it were scrutinized because of the stigma attached to men not being able to be victims of sexual assault. RAINN reports: "By 1998, 2.78 million men in the United States were victims of attempted or attempted rape. About 3 percent of American men, or 1 in 33, had experienced an attempted or attempted rape in their lifetime. 1 out of 10 rape victims is male.”

Breaking Through interviewed Antwon Suiter, a survivor of sexual abuse who has worked hard to get justice for his abuser, about his case in the August County Circuit Civil Court (CL18000997-00, CL20000355-00). "The hardest thing about reporting sexual abuse as a young person is being seen as weak. Being judged because the world makes you believe that you should physically protect yourself from your attackers. The hardest part is those closest to you People found out and don't know if they're going to support you through it all. I think the biggest fear is coming forward and being alone."

Anthhon's abuser is a Catholic who identifies with the Church. Suiter wants others who have experienced sexual abuse to know that "you shouldn't feel alone, even if you think you are or actually are. This may seem harsh, but if you don't act, it will keep happening, even to other people. In a way, you create consciousness. Realize that the predator will get caught, and realize that the victim will speak out. ’” Suiter talked about the stigma of being a man who speaks out about sexual abuse.

He’s reluctant to speak out because he doesn’t know if people will believe him or actually care. much harder. After discussing those harrowing experiences, you keep asking yourself if the person you were talking to saw what happened to you, treated you differently, or if they told anyone.

The Catholic Church has a lot to do in its own congregations. There will always be bad apples, but rather than treating them within your own community, report them to the authorities and strip them of their priesthood. A slap in the face is never enough for child sex offenders. They are a threat to the community and our children. Priests who violate the trust of our youth should be punished like other sex offenders. Their faces should be on every neighborhood and block to warn those around them.

If the church continues to cover this up, nothing will change. Hundreds of thousands of children have been exploited by adults they could have trusted, causing irreparable harm.

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