Clerical Abuse of Children, a Case to Answer

Clerical Abuse of Children, a Case to Answer
Fr. Shay Cullen
3 August 2017

The recent arrest of a Catholic clergy, a monsignor and parish priest, accused for allegedly trafficking a 13-year old minor arrested in his vehicle with the child on the way to a motel in Marikina is highly unusual. He went under procedures for being charged with alleged violation of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. Most cases of alleged clerical child abuse go unreported or are covered up in the Philippines as has happened in times past. In other countries also, the scandal of clerical child abuse has left thousands of child victims without redress, help, therapy or a chance for justice for having been raped and sexually molested and trafficked.

The Philippines’ Child Protection Law otherwise known as Republic Act 7610 has a provision in Section 6 that is designed to criminalize such an act where a child is taken to a secluded place, in a vehicle or a motel, by an adult not her relative for purposes of sexual abuse. This provision of the law is to prevent any act of rape taking place and to bring the suspect to justice.

The institutional church, that is, the hierarchy in many countries has been shown to have failed in its obligation and duty to protect children and actively pursue clerical child abusers when the evidence was strong and clear. In the past the church institutions in different countries even facilitated payoffs to parents of child victims and tried to use influence with the authorities to have charges against priests and religious dropped. Other clergy were moved to other parishes when complaints of child abuse were made.

In many cases, there was no action by church authorities to protect the child and report the alleged abuser to the authorities for the alleged crimes. There have been big changes in church procedure in dealing with child abuse cases by clergy nowadays and a zero tolerance policy is in place thanks to Pope Francis.

Cardinal George Pell from Australia, the highest Vatican official to ever be charged, is facing alleged complaints of having abused children and allegedly covered up other similar cases by clergy. While we must respect the principle that everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty and not to be falsely accused, on the other hand, when the evidence is clear, then each person has a case to answer.

The case of the monsignor in Marikina is serious as he was apprehended on the way in his vehicle to the motel with the 13-year old child. The mother reported it to the police so it is presumed that she knows the age of her child. He had a gun, which he surrendered to the authorities. The girl previously told social workers that the man brought her to the motel before in June and warned her “at gunpoint” not to allow other customers to “book” her.

Everyone has to answer for their behavior no matter what station they hold in life. The higher their ascendency and position, the greater their responsibility to answer the charges and all are to be dealt with equally before the law. No privilege or power ought to excuse anyone from facing the truth.

In our experience helping victim-survivors of child sexual abuse and seeking justice for them, the majority of abusers are in fact the neighbors and so-called friends of the family. Then, the worst offenders are step-fathers and the mother’s live-in partners and the biological father. See the result below:

– Biological fathers: 17
– Step-fathers and mother’s live in partners: 20
– Neighbors and/or acquaintances: 32
– Biological family members (excluding fathers): 7
– Non-biological family members (relatives by affinity): 12
– Police/person in authority: 3
– Grandfathers: 3

This just indicates how vulnerable children are to the crimes of adult against them when they are so weak and dependent. The youngest child in our Preda Foundation home for abused girls is 6 years old. The average age of the victim-survivors is 14 years old. The fact there have been no child abuse cases brought out in public against clergy is very significant and it can be presumed they are being protected.

We have had legal success every year with the brave and courageous children who are empowered to testify in the court and speak without fear about the abuse they suffered. We win an average of four convictions a year. This year so far we succeeded with the prosecutor to have three cases of child sexual abuse and multiple rape elevated to the regional trial courts in their respective jurisdictions. We hope for another three cases we filed to go to trial this year also. The prosecutors, now mostly female, are dedicated and are people of integrity.

With constant care, gathering and presentation of evidence that is done for all victim-survivors, we can pursue justice no matter how difficult it is. We receive challenges and counter-charges against us but our staff are resilient and knowledgeable and can answer the counter-charges and win. We have to take a stand and fight on for justice with and for the children. We hope that everybody will support victim-survivors so that justice, elusive as it maybe, will prevail.

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