Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 70(2) May 2020
Betrayed: The English Catholic Church and the Sex Abuse Crisis
by Richard Scorer. Published 2019 Biteback
Reviewed by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
I have no problem whatever with the basic thesis of this book: The Catholic Church in England failed many victims of clerical sexual abuse. Victims were not believed and all too often the offending priests were moved to another parish. The author is a lawyer with a wide reputation for his work on child abuse and human rights issues. It would be difficult to find fault with what he describes.
The author also happens to be vice-president of the National Secular
Society. As with so many secularists and "progressive Catholics" he fails
to mention the elephant in the room: the majority of victims of clerical
sexual abuse have been adolescent males, a contrast with findings in the wider society where most victims are female. To be fair, the book was published before the McCarrick scandal exploded. We now know that a significant number of young men have also been victims of clerical abuse.
The author cites Matthew Fox, a Dominican priest who left the Church because of disagreements on a wide range of issues including sexual morality. Fox also worked alongside a self-confessed witch named Starhawk.
Cardinal Ratzinger is blamed for not going after Father Maciel. In fact, that was one of the first things he did after being made pope. I will admit that neither Popes John Paul, Benedict nor Francis come out well in the light of the sex abuse crisis. Benedict made a gentleman's agreement with McCarrick. Unfortunately, McCarrick was no gentleman.
The author also favorably quotes Geoffrey Robertson, a darling of the secularists who made a frankly ridiculous bid to have Pope Benedict arrested during his hugely successful visit to Britain. When an author quotes from such sources, you get a sense of the real agenda.
The author is keen for mandatory reporting to secular authorities. Let us be clear: there is nothing in canon law that prevents an alleged victim going to the secular authorities. As I argued in a CTS booklet, would it have been appropriate for bishops to work with secular authorities in a Communist country? In some parts of the Middle East? And now, in the light of the Cardinal Pell case, in Australia?
The author has said that a failure to act on information during confession would be considered negligent by an English Court. That is why we need a return to Catholic tradition. Anonymous confessions through a grill protects both priest and penitent. Why did rates of sexual abuse escalate in the sixties? Because a new morality was introduced in seminaries and elsewhere, a morality that was in keeping with the spirit of the times. The Catholic Church has not been well served by this openness to the world.
This book reminds us that the enemy of our enemy need not be our friend.