They choose, target, groom, and harm children. So punish them as criminals. Don’t label them weak and sick men who cannot help themselves.


Image courtesy of Nick Atkins Photography via flickr.com ©©

Missed among all the other headlines at the moment is the catastrophic decline in the membership of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

The principle reason for its loss of status and power is obvious: it’s the result of the child abuse scandals which have emerged in recent years, with guilty priests protected and church leaders staying silent.  Certainly, the scandals have not been dealt with in an honourable, truthful, and honest manner.

But whether in the Church, or out here in the real world inhabited by most of us, the abusers – not surprisingly - have welcomed the ‘get out of jail free’ card now offered to them on a plate. Namely, that they are not to be viewed or treated as dangerous criminals who target, groom, and seriously harm the children they abuse, but rather as weak men who can’t help themselves.

In other words, they are suffering -  yes, I said suffering - from a ‘condition’ commonly known as paedophilia... an ‘illness’ which like any other can be treated and cured.

The truth is somewhat different. Just like other violent criminals, these men – fundamentally weak or not - are nothing less than child rapists and abusers. And should be viewed and punished as such.

Perhaps one problem is that we persist in describing them with a word –paedophiles – which means, quite literally, ‘child lover’.

Labelling child abusers as nothing worse than ‘paedophiles’ softens the harsh reality.  It opens the way to believing that they unable to help themselves, that it’s an obsession like any other and not altogether their fault, that perhaps they themselves were abused in childhood and so should be pitied, that it’s just one more sexual orientation...

Call them child abusers, even child rapists. That is what they are. That is what they do. That is what they choose to do.  And men who abuse children, whether their own offspring or those they encounter at work or play, need to be stopped, punished, and deterred.  They do not first and foremost need understanding and treatment.

The child abuse scandals within the Catholic Church went on undisturbed for so long partly as a result of colleagues who kept quiet because they felt sympathy rather than revulsion. They mistakenly believed the child abusers had no control over their actions – it was tantamount to having a mental illness.

It isn’t. It’s a crime. It’s a choice. And it’s horrific. Both inside and outside the Catholic Church, let’s preserve our kindness for the victims of child abuse, and our  sense of outrage and our demand for punishment for the child abusers.


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  • julie
    i spoke to you some time ago and you were very kind
    you let yourself out of taking action by saying or implying that the issues were not really your thing
    but here you write about what in was saying
    i now have more horrific evidence
    i expect you to contact me
    thank you
    excellent article
    i give thanks but,,,,,,

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