Viewpoint: Fr Shay Cullen on scandal of child abuse

A gathering is taking place in Berlin this week for child protection experts and defenders of abused and sexually-exploited children. I am here to represent the dedicated Filipinos and all others who have worked to protect children and bring their abusers to justice. The meeting, organized by ECPAT Germany has brought together experienced people from many professions, law enforcers, psychologists, sociologists, lawyers, campaigners and many more to work together. The goal is to strengthen our international communications system of reporting child sexual exploitation and to coordinate our action programs to save more children, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Only those who suffered and survived and even bravely overcome such abuse and exploitation know the pain, hurt and alienation it cause in their lives. It is something humiliating and oppressive that is done to them by people in positions of ascendancy that have power over them. Parents, relatives, teachers, instructors, clergy and people from all walks of life abuse their position and power to selfishly and criminally gratify their perverted sexual urges and desires. It’s done without a thought or feeling of concern for the victim’s feelings, shock and trauma.

The victims are affected for life and they struggle all their lives to bury the memory, keep the truth hidden for all others and even themselves. There are those who go on to live what externally looks a perfectly ordinary and even professionally successful lives.

Every act of abuse and especially sexual abuse of a child is a heinous crime. Those who know about it and fail to help the victim and report it to the authorities and see that justice is done is guilty too. The work of the dedicated people gathered here from all around the world is to save as many children as possible from the terrible life-long hurt and personality damage caused to them by dominating abusers.

A few corrupt people in positions of influence are destroying the lives of children and youth and the reputation of all those doing good in the Catholic church. They are the people of God and must speak out against this inaction and cover-up by church leaders and members.

As I write this, the news about a Papal Gentleman, Angelo Balducci, and his pimp, a member of the Vatican choir, a Nigerian Chinediu Thiomas Ehiem had been caught by Italian police engaged in the prostitution of young seminarians and youth. The abuse of young students in elite Jesuit schools in Germany and the Philippines is racing across the air waves. The Catholic Church in the Netherlands has begun a top level investigation into the sexual abuse of children in church-run schools, an echo of the institutional abuse of children in Ireland by the “religious”.

I am asked by the press for my reaction. Am I embarrassed or ashamed of being a priest in a Church where such evil things happen? No! I am angry it has been allowed to go on for so long. The church is the people of God and not a human institution. They are the victims of institutional abuse and cover up and we have to be a prophetic voice to defend the victims of abuse.

My life-long work has been to help all victims of abuse, human rights violations and exploitation and bring abusers to justice no matter who the abusers are or what position they hold. The institutional church leaders, priests. professors, and bishops in positions of power and influence have to be held accountable at all times if they have failed to protect children. Many of us are doing this for years. There are hundreds of thousands of good dedicated and innocent religious clergy who feel betrayed and smeared by the abusers and the cover up by those who should have acted swiftly and decisively to put the abusers behind bars.

The sooner that all the revelations are made, the victims helped and the perpetrators are put behind bars will the church rediscover it's true mission of helping the victims and the children and preaching and living out the message of Jesus Christ.

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