I’m sure that everyone is by now aware of the sex abuse scandal plaguing the Catholic church. What was once talked about in hushed tones, if at all, is now openly and hotly debated in the media and the pews.
The image and reputation of the Vatican and the Catholic church lies in tatters as evidence has come to light that there was a systematic and methodical process in place to protect the Church and priests instead of protecting the innocent and helpless victims of the heinous crimes being perpetrated.
Many are even pointing out that Ratzinger’s nomination was motivated by the legal trial in the US. Of course, now in his position as the Pope, he claimed immunity from appearing as a witness.
The effect of this has been nothing short of devastating for the Church, especially in the Pope’s home country of Germany.
As Hitchens points out, the Vatican’s claim of statehood hangs on the flimsiest thread, having been originally created out of thin air by the Italian fascist dictator Mussolini to cement his ties with the Catholic church and gain its support.
Hitchens, by the way, participated in a spirited debate as part of the Intelligence Squared forum on the question of whether the Catholic church is a force for good:
While Hitchens is up to his usual standard of eloquence, I found Fry’s articulate arguments to be completely devastating. And they clearly had the intended effect as the vast majority of the undecided switched to his side as did a great many of those that had initially agreed that the Catholic Church is a force for good.
For those with a pitch black sense of humor, here is Louis CK learning about the Catholic church – WARNING! Video contains harsh language and suggestive imagery. But the solitary tear running down CK’s cheek makes it worthwhile.
Baha’i Catholic blog is surprisingly quiet but then again, there hasn’t been an update since late last year.
What we have here is an institution that has lost its way and rather than existing to serve a higher purpose, it merely exists to prolong its own existence and further its own pomp and grandeur.
This is a danger that can befall any organization. Those which purport to be divinely guide and free from error are especially susceptible because those within the institution believe that theirs is a heavenly task which must be protected at all costs and those outside often dare not question or criticize it.
It is all too easy to overlook the fact that the Church has been protected by the law. For many decades when victims went to the police and to the public prosecutor, no action was taken simply because the perpetrator was the Church and it was considered sacrosanct.
The Baha’i Faith has its own, albeit small, share of these sort of public scandals. In the 1990′s Dr. Hossain Danesh, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada (and a long time secretary of the body – from 1985 to 1989) lost the right to practice psychiatry as a result of charges of sexual abuse brought forward by a handful of his former patients.
Far from being sanctioned and sent away in shameful seclusion he was soon given a plum job at the new Baha’i Landegg university in Switzerland. He then proceeded to run that institution into the ground. The university closed its doors in 2005.
Recently Danesh’s “old boy” network connections at the NSA got him a heavily promoted gig in Canada. With the full backing of the national Baha’i institution, he conducted a $50/person seminar on “Healthy Marriage and Family Life”. Here is a promotional flyer for one of the many planned seminars:
They key element in this is to ask whether Danesh would be able to slink back to Canada and receive such a warm welcome had he not been a long-standing member of the NSA. Would the NSA have gone out of its way to promote the workshop of a regular Baha’i who had a checkered past?
The other question is why other Baha’is who are infinitely more qualified in this field and have a stainless reputation are not being given the same platform? The only distinction is the personal connections that Danesh made through his many years of membership on the NSA. This is what leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Rather than being loyal to virtues and principles, the NSA has betrayed itself as being loyal to personal connections.
There was another scandal a few years ago involving a young Baha’i in the developing world who alleged that she was being sexually abused by her father. It turned out that her father was a member of the country’s NSA (and its chairperson). Instead of considering her physical and mental health as the highest priority, the institutions instead focused on how to mitigate any fallout this might have on the Baha’i administration and the image and reputation of the same.
Obviously we cannot expect such institutions to police themselves. There is no reason whatsoever why similar allegations which involve the Catholic church or the Baha’i administration must be submitted to them for internal deliberation. Refreshingly enough, from what I’ve read of guidance from Baha’i institutions, they are in agreement with this and encourage victims to approach the proper authorities and seek legal recourse through appropriate channels. The best panacea for such tragic crimes remains transparency and public scrutiny.