Fr. Shay Cullen
February 14, 2015
Working for peace in the world is a thankless task. Peace is elusive, as violence seems to grow despite all the great work of so many peacemakers. The terrible violence with unbridled savagery that we see today on our television screens shows humans descending to the lowest depths of horror.
The ISIS terrorists burnt a Jordan airman alive in a cage. Hundreds if not thousands have been beheaded, mutilated and budgeted to death and video taped for the world to see. More recently Philippine soldiers wounded on a mission to capture a terrorist in Mindanao were brutally tortured and executed. In Africa Boko Haram killers destroy villages and rape and pillage and mutilate civilians and in the Ukraine the killing goes on as a fragile ceasefire has yet to take hold.
The so-called “magnificent human,” the rational intelligent pinnacle of evolution is the most destructive and violent creature on the planet. From where comes such savagery, we ask, and blood dripping violence? One place to start looking for the roots of human violence is in childhood abuse.
In most cases of brutal murders and violent behavior defense lawyers present as mitigating circumstances the child abuse and violence perpetrated against the accused from their early years. That abuse, they say, formed the violent tendency in his or her personality.
They argue that the abuse causes uncontrollable urges for retribution, revenge and vengeance that can be the driving force behind many brutal crimes.
Many a judge has accepted that as a true mitigating circumstance. However most judges rule that the accused must be held accountable for his or her crimes of violence. But the court acknowledges that childhood abuse: sexual, physical, verbal and psychological abuse has a dire impact on children.
The schoolyard bullying that children inflict on other children is perhaps indicative of a unhappy childhood and a projection of inner anger and repressed anger at abusive parents or others. The child victims can grow up seeking retaliation against all adult bullies. This can lead to violent acts.
Catholic teachings have been continually been misinterpreted, ignored and contradicted by the custom and practices in Catholic institutions and families over the past centuries.
Physical and sexual abuse of children has been grossly covered up and ignored for centuries. Physical punishment in schools and institutions and in families was common and caused untold lifelong psychological hurt and pain to children.
In most developed countries it has been rightly exposed, condemned and banned and made illegal. The cover-up and denial still goes on as institutions and families hide their shame and embarrassment. That too is a crime that goes on with impunity.
Children rarely have a chance or venue to complain, demand justice and get help. Even authorities in developing countries ignore many complaints and even ignore them. So long as childhood abuse is allowed to continue there will be many abused people seeking revenge and they may turn to violence. They can channel their anger and rebellious urges into gang violence, hooliganism, crime, or even terrorism and war.
Many have joined political parties known for racial hatred and violent tendencies. People of all religious beliefs must do all they can to end child abuse and protect children.
For Christians and particularly Catholics this has been greatly stressed by Pope Francis on his visit to the Philippines where his homilies given in the power of the spirit have inspired, energized and motivated Catholic communities to do more to safeguard and protect children.
This is done by energetically planting Christian values regarding the child given to us by Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 18 Vs 1 8). The innocent child is placed by Jesus at the center of the kingdom as a model for adults to imitate. Those who respect the child respects me, he said of the child. Those who abuse them are better off with a millstone tied around their necks cast into the deep ocean.
The Catholic communities in the Philippines are taking the words of Pope Francis to heart after 6 million of them attended his farewell Mass in Manila and they are looking for ways to put their faith into action. They need inspiration to find the moral strength to speak out against abusers. Many choose to look the other way and avoid the unpleasant reality. Instead they ought to be fired up by faith and conviction in the gospel message of Jesus and demand protection and justice for the vulnerable abused child.
There is a great challenge in the words of Pope Francis, “protect the children” he said and repeated it three times. Perhaps he is aware that child abuse is widespread, is ignored by church leaders, Catholics and the authorities who give lip service while the practice of sex tourism, child prostitution, jailing of children and punishing children severely is still widespread and done with impunity.
This has to stop and parents and society must give love, respect, affirmation, patience, understanding, inspiration and encouragement must replace punishment and harsh discipline. Children will then grow in love and peaceful non-violence.