As I watched the repeat of NZ TVONE News Friday morning, the sex abuse charges against Cardinal George Pell of Australia was the leading news. No question may be in all media outlet throughout the world. And the reason is obvious.
Cardinal George Pell is one of the most senior advisors to Pope Francis and he is in the top of the Catholic Church Hierarchy. The breaking news has prompted me to write and share this piece.
As a Catholic myself and thinking not to be on the defensive about the sickening reality my dear Catholic Church faces for years and could never get away with it, I would like to share the following story I have kept in secret for some 25 years ago and the main reason why I never write against such sexual incidences about the Church in the media. I just let it go and pray for the alleged accuser, the victim and the Church.
In 1992, representing the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly of Samoa; I was appointed the Secretary of the Samoan Parliamentary Delegation to the Bahamas with the late Speaker of Parliament and four other Members of Parliament for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference.
When we arrived at the lobby of the hotel in Nassau around 3.00pm, we checked in and MPs retired to rooms for a two-hour nap before the welcoming drinks which was 3 hours away. I shortly returned to the foyer to get briefing from the host officials, confirm all the week’s conference programs, presentation dates and times and a bit of a look around.
As I sat there watching delegations coming in and hotel visitors walking around; a young black man named Max came over to me and said, hi, how are you? Good, I replied. He sat down on the opposite side of the table and was holding a writing pad, a pen, a voice recorder and a US newspaper. I would have thought he was a journalist covering the conference. He introduced himself a Bahamian and he was a freelance reporter for a US weekly newspaper and a Catholic. He said; I believed you are a Catholic also sir. How do you know? I enquired.
Don’t Catholics wear Rosaries around their necks, he answered. Oh! yes I said; it’s my personal daily Catholic tradition. In the corner of my right eye, I could read the heading on the newspaper Max was holding in the biggest typescript ever seen before with these words’ SEX SCANDAL - CATHOLIC PRIEST’ I got hold of the paper with a quick glimpse; I read the first sentence only and then turned over the page I found out the US Super Bowl news; the sport which is dear to the hearts of the Americans and Mike Tyson boxing; another American top sport on the second and third pages.
Without saying anything, I threw the paper back to him as my temper began to flare. Please leave; I told him. He replied back; I am so sorry brother if the report on the paper has caused you any ill feelings; but I just wanted to interview you as a Catholic about your thoughts. I am not prepared to give you any views about this. Go interview your local priest or go to Rome and interview the Pope; I demanded. But the Reporter tried to calm things down and insisted for an interview which we finally both agreed to.
I read the newspaper and went to sleep. I picked it up at dawn and re-read it. The alleged priest was under investigation but the news in the paper as I read and re-read it sounded that he was proved guilty. Just two short paragraphs related to the alleged crime but the full page story was about other past allegations being dragged into this news.
The important news on the devastating tropical cyclone in the Bahamian group just recently [2 months earlier] hit the group which caused deaths and damaged electric lines, roads and bridges; the Bahamas’ infrastructure was in the middle towards the back of the newspaper. To me; this news should have been in the front page rather than the priest sex scandal article; it was all defaming the Catholic Church was the way I thought.
Loving my dear Catholic Church and making some defense tactics, I began to write down questions of my own big one after another. I was thinking instead of Max asking me in the first place for an opinion, I should be prepared to launch an attack on him. He came back at 4.00pm the next day as we agreed to and my first comments were. Max, why is the media hate my Catholic Church? Why Catholic Church Sex Scandals of the priests? What is so interesting in the Catholic Church that the media pursue?
Why don’t you go to other institutions and denominations as sex abuse is everywhere in families, in offices, in governments, in stores, in schools, in all type of camps, in other denominations and every where and why the Catholic Church? I continued; if there is a sex allegation from any other places; the media would always put the story in the second or third or other pages. But for the Catholics the media always put it in large letters in the front page why? In addition you are a Catholic why don’t you protect the Church and report on other things rather than sex in the Church?
I continued..I am a proud Catholic despite all these allegations from past centuries about the popes and the corruption within the Church administration, schisms and so on and so forth; I would never bow down to those critics because most of them are made up unfounded stories and total lies…. Why not other denominations?
Do you want to see our Church being mocked? I continued; popes, bishops and priests are all human beings like us; they are like any other pastor in any denomination. Being duly ordained does not remove their human nature from within; priest are no angels; they have feelings and that is why we; the church people should pray for them to live out of temptations…. I assured and he nodded his head.
He stood up, took hold of two small cokes and returned from a small shop in the foyer. He sipped his drink and slowly began to speak to me; he started..’’ All comments you said have been recorded and my replies would be recorded as well.
Here is what he had to say as he shared something I would always remember and cling to whenever sex scandals, corruption and sad news of the Catholic Church explode. He said ‘’I would include your concerns in our newspaper in my articles. This is not the first time I receive similar views from the Catholic perspective but you are such a devout Catholic who loves the Church I have ever talked to.
That’s good and you sounded never back down kind of Catholic…Max continued … As I am also a Catholic we share the same feeling of ‘Shame’ in my heart and the same load I am carrying on my shoulders’’ the Max assured…. but that won’t stop me from reporting on sex scandals and other injustices scandals that burst out from within the Catholic Church’’.
If our Catholic Church is the Mother Church and an advocate of justice it should always be seen to do justice; and to uphold justice in everything it does and therefore; I encourage you brother to be strong and do not give up faith; let the world see it done within the Church barriers first; he whispered. He continued; I have met survivors who would prefer never to speak of it.
But many more find salvation in telling their stories. It is not simply catharsis but they want to be assured that their abusers are known to the world and can never hurt another child. They want to know if their abusers had other victims. They want other victims to know that they were not alone, and that it was not their fault.
They want to put their trauma to some use. Only then can they rest but they often wait years before they are ready to speak. They are too ashamed, or confused, or afraid of not being believed. But eventually they tell someone, and once they start speaking, some cannot stop. That’s why the sexual abuse story has emerged so slowly over years, in waves.
Of course, child sexual abuse is an issue everywhere, not just in the Catholic Church. When other denominations do it its ok but if the Catholic clergy does it; it’s worse because the Catholic Church everyone knows it takes up nearly two third of the world population. The Church has enemies; for sure everywhere.. So be patient and pray and have faith. Jesus said ‘they hate you as they first hate me…’
He said....You mentioned the pope and past scandals yes of course; the Church should have learnt numerous lessons from those past things but you know as you put it; we are all human beings; we do bad things sometimes - good deeds but mostly we fail.. That is why our Lord taught us through his apostles in the Bible “Thou shall not judge or you will be judged’’… “do you remember the story about the alleged adulteress in the Bible he asked me then continued….’’
Jesus said to the Pharisees and those Jews something like this ’’Let anyone of you without a sin cast the first stone at this woman’’…. What happened do you remember? He asked me. I nodded my head and he continued what happened ….. They ALL left without a stone being thrown…brother he said of me “it is not the end of the world for the Church and it still continues with its pilgrimage of faith with unending problems specifically the sex abuses by the clergy.”
God created us in His Likeness to give back glory to Him and to obey his simple commandments. No one on this earth is perfect the clergy as well….Adam and Eve sinned and the gate of heaven was closed. He sent His Only Son to break the blocked-gate of heaven and Jesus won the battle for us for the Glory of His Father. Do not be discouraged and got angry easily about these things brother….he stood up and tapped on my shoulder and said…. with these things the Catholics should never end praying the Rosary. He reached into his pocket and showed me his own Rosary.
He said …I pray the Rosary when I am about to conduct interviews into these allegations within our Catholic Church and assured my boss that I would never be biased…With all these scandals, injustices as alleged; the Catholic Church cannot be brought down to its knees due to the weaknesses of the priest’s human nature…..Why?
Our Lord assured St Peter and the apostles that He would be with the Church until the end of times and he would sent the Holy Spirit to help with these weaknesses and to guide the Church; the pillar of all truth according with the Bible and we the laity must pray the Rosary for the Pope and the clergy’’ our interviewed ended and by the time our delegation left Bahamas the newspaper was not available.
So for Cardinal George Pell’s case; he has denied all charges which means he is innocent until he is proven guilty in court. As human beings we always feel for the accused and pray for him if we are related to or know him personally.
We think about ourselves “Ua maua latou ae le’i maua lava tatou’’ But all opposite feelings if the alleged is an enemy of us. A ea? Fai aku ai fo’i! Praying for HE Cardinal George Pell. God bless Samoa.