For atheists like myself, BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme often provides abundant ammunition. Both God and religion (the two things are after all separate) are the source of many stories which are tragi-comic, or just plain tragic. The latest slew of child abuse revelations in the Catholic Church in the U.S. (not to mention our very own Ampleforth) takes that ancient institution further into the realm of bankruptcy, morally if not yet financially. According to one of the interviewees on the show, it could be that the priests involved, acknowledging God’s omniscience, excused their depraved behaviour on the grounds that if God knew about it before it even happened then it must have had His blessing. For others, such paedophilic episodes may just have been tests, and of course at the end of the day the only punishment may have been a few Hail Marys and a quiet move to another diocese.
But why should we be surprised by these continual revelations? Poor old Pope Francis must be asking himself the same question. Perhaps he should look to the Bible. Remember Abraham and Isaac? Clearly God wasn’t much concerned with the welfare of the child then, who after his ordeal (being tied up and placed on the pyre of firewood his father had made him carry to the supposed sacrificial place) could be excused a good dose of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. And then there is the First Commandment:
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me.” (Exodus 20:5)
Pity your poor great-great-great grandchildren! I suppose love comes at a price, which is probably what many of these errant ordained men of God tell themselves.
For more Biblical authority on child abuse, the Salon website has an unpleasant rundown here. It ends in the New Testament with the most singular example of child abuse in the Good Book – Jesus Christ himself. Good ole’ Jehovah, sacrificing his only son.