I have been reading an interesting book about the remarkable pope, Pope John Paul II, born Carl Voitawa (Karol Wojtyla), and his life & times. This man burst on the international scene way back in the 70s, and caused many hopeful waves – at first. There was hope of some peace between the absurd feuding factions of religiosity, and even between religious people in general and the rest of the world.
Yet events and dirty old reality have combined with Catholic dogmatics and illogic to dampen most all of the hope John Paul II had kindled in this sad old world. This is true in areas of Ecumenism, of inter-faith toleration and respect, and in intra-church areas, such as the role of women and so on. The greatest dismay comes from the most unexpected areas – one now common knowledge, and the other still largely ignored: (i) The bumbling, embarrassed cover-ups, secrecy and priest-shiftings that enabled for so many years the sexual abuse of kids within the Church; and (ii) The rape and sexual abuse of nuns by the African clergy, a less-reported nightmare that has been going on for many years, too.
This second crime-wave is, I feel, even more disturbing than the first. It is mostly occurs (to my knowledge) in Africa, arising not only out of male needs and African sexual mores, but also out of the African AIDS epidemic. Fearful of satisfying their natural but illicit sex desires with prostitutes, a group at high risk for contracting the fearful virus, Catholic priests – Priests! – have apparently taken to bullying nuns into this role. It is an astounding and under-reported crime wave.
For a priest to break his celibate vows is one thing; but to compound that sin by rape is another. For while a “simple” rape of a woman by a priest, however managed, is crime enough, it is still a worse crime that a dedicated religious person, who keeps a sacrament of remaining chaste in accord with her calling, off all people, should be violated – it is more than indignity and trauma, it is betrayal and crime. And yet, beyond this, not only is that woman vicitimized and her religious vocation sullied, but if pregnancy ensues, the poor victim must be punished by being completely cast out of her vocation.
But it does not end there. Add to this the horror of an AIDS epidemic running like wildfire through Africa, and foolish people – including apparently many in the African clergy – embracing an appalling, superstitious folk-fallacy that sex with a virgin somehow “cures” AIDS! Now female religious orders are turned into prime targets for rape, living “morning after pills” for priests’ ill-advised sexual dalliances! Worse still, horribile dictu, the poor victim by then is then infected – in effect, given a death sentence – while the ignorant arrogant perpetrator goes off in the mistaken belief that he no longer has the AIDS virus! An unbelievable horror that the Holy See had, at the time of the book’s writing, completely and utterly refused to respond to.
This is not the Church that I believed existed in the Roman Catholic world. The foolish and constipated sanctioning of such hideous crimes by the Catholic hierarchy, by the current Pope, and by that appealing old man, now passed on, Pope John Paul II himself, has fouled those waters that I had hoped still possessed some sense of mercy, and order, and decency. I have read this from one book, and have yet to catch up on the status of these problems as of 2011, but I have a feeling that even now little has been done, whether to castigate the wicked, educate the fools, or to purge the priestly ranks.