War on Kids?

Yesterday, one of the members of Pope Francis’s new council on child abuse, a victim herself, noted that Bishops who made wrong decisions and/or attempted to cover-up abuse incidents should be made accountable. Her perspective is crucial to the council – it offers insight the Church has not had at this level before. And her desire to share her experience in reprimanding those responsible is admirable.
Catholics have been sorting through the damage done by sexual abuse scandals for some time now. Progress has been made on many fronts. For instance, Catholics who will spend time with children or young people in any fashion, be it offering communion during Mass or leading a youth group trip, must receive training on sexual abuse, how to spot it and how to stop it. Trainees hear specifically from abusers and how they chose and abused their prey. Not really the way anyone wants to spend a weekend afternoon. Catholics also undergo state police background checks.
To date, the Church has been the only group to face such disturbing sex abuse scandals on the open public stage. Many people have stereotyped all Catholic religious as predators and pedophiles. I myself have friends who have left the Church over this issue and have known more than one victim. I’ve even come to know there was a violent pedophile teaching in my Catholic high school when I attended. And yes I’m angry about all of those situations.
It’s true that many cases brought to Church fathers were not handled properly. I believe much of this was out of fear as well as unfamiliarness with such crimes. Mistakes and oversights lead to great heartache and pain for victims and their families. Yet even with the amount of dialogue, discussion and arguing that has resulted because of Church sex scandals, children are not any safer than they were before.
But that’s not because of the Church, which may now be one of few groups, organizations or institutions looking for credible ways to deal with the war society has declared on children.
One of the first things Catholics learn in the abuse training they receive to work with children are some scary statistics.
One in four women/girls in the United States is sexually abused by age 18.
One in 10 men/boys in the United States is sexually abused by age 18.
Let me say that again. One in four girls. One in 10 boys.
In real life, that means if your son plays on a sports team, it’s likely at least one of those boys has or will be abused. If your daughter has a sleepover with 10 friends, at least two of those girls have been or will be abused.
That’s a lot of kids. That’s also a lot of abusers. In fact, it’s so many that we can’t keep blaming priests for all abuse. There simply aren’t enough priests on the planet to be guilty of all these crimes. The probability that you and I likely know at least one abuser is very high. A friend, family member, colleague, spiritual leader, other kids, other parents. Abusers can be anyone.
Think about it. Even today with the Church making stronger efforts to battle this problem, it seems stories of abuse – sexual and other – are more prevalent than ever, and more scary than ever. There are the three women held as sex slaves in Cleveland from their tween to adult years. Multiple men and women arrested for selling infants and toddlers, usually their own, for sex on the Internet. Or how about the two blonde sisters from an affluent Pacific Northwest family kidnapped by drug dealers and sold to a variety of “johns” while debilitated by drugs? There are enough of these that I see a new one daily on my Facebook feed. More on Twitter, even more in the traditional media. Few of these abusers are clergy.
Put instances like those together with the physical abuse of children and babies, and sometimes stories of inhumanity to children will dominate an entire evening newscast. We weep. We set up trusts. We Tweet, we discuss. We pass more and more laws to protect that fail to make a difference. And then go back to our sex and violence saturated lives to wonder why this happens.
We live in a society where children, especially the smallest of the small are seen as an inconvenience at best, and annoyance at worst. Parenting is hard, but unlike our parents generation, today society puts adult desires ahead of everything. Millions of babies haven’t made it past the womb, sacrificed to adult convenience in abortion mills. Getting into the world isn’t always better. Parents shake, smoother and out right kill to make infants “stop crying.” They don’t feed them. They don’t change their diapers, talk to them, hold them, make sure they get to school. But worst of all, they are objectified. Little girls dress like little tarts – styled by their favorite singers, movie stars and the parents who honor celebrities a little too much. Boys see their fathers watching porn, and they begin to objectify their female friends. Anyone remember the Ohio football team rape? Or how about the people, including other young girls and parents, who stood by and let it happen?
Sex abuse, or any kind of child abuse, is not solely the sin of Catholic religious. While the Church certainly has guilty among its numbers, we are all responsible for the war on children in some way. Do you look the other way when you know something isn’t right about a child? Do you teach your children to bully? Are you afraid to report for fear of shining light on your own mistakes as a parent? Do your kids see you watching porn, frequenting strip clubs (ladies that goes for you, too), or making crude comments about other men and women?
When you see a young person, girl or boy, sexually objectified or abused, do you remember that they too are someone’s child? When you see Miley Cyrus degrade herself for money, do you remember that she is someone’s daughter? Do you buy your kids video games where they can be the criminals themselves? I used to find many of these things harmless…until I had two daughters.
We all need to start putting children first in our minds and hearts. They need a helping hand through this scary world we’ve created. Think about what they’re absorbing and the impact that has on their development, and on the future of the world. It’s easy to point fingers at the Church and clergy who have fallen. It’s harder to fight child abuse when we find that the monsters are all around us…and sometimes, even are us.

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