The Christian Faith stands completely opposed to the abuse of any person and has at its core the love of neighbour and particularly of the poor and vulnerable. In stark contrast to the teachings of the Faith, some Christian leaders have been abusive to those in their care and the Church has sometimes failed to punish abusers and to help victims.
Love of neighbour is one of Jesus’ central teachings, so much so that He names it a new commandment.
‘“I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”’ John 13: 34-35
There is no part of Christian teaching that accepts the abuse of one person by another and Christian moral teaching would strongly condemn this behaviour.
In the Bible, Jesus makes specific mention of those who harm children and condemns these actions in the strongest possible terms.
‘“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”’ Matthew 18:6
In modern times, the scale of abuse in the Church has become apparent, particularly the scandal of child sexual abuse often perpetrated by priests.
Pope Francis has promoted a zero-tolerance policy towards abuse in the Catholic Church, whilst asking the victims of abuse to forgive the Church for the grave harm that it has caused.
‘“Asking for forgiveness is good for the victims, but they are the ones who have to be ‘at the centre’ of everything. Their pain and their psychological wounds can begin to heal if they find answers —if there are concrete actions to repair the horrors they have suffered and to prevent them from happening again.”’ Pope Francis.
All Catholic parishes in the UK now have a safeguarding representative and all Catholic dioceses in the UK have a safeguarding officer.
Safeguarding complaints should first be raised with the relevant church body, to allow them to investigate concerns and respond appropriately.
The Catholic Safeguarding Standards Agency (www.catholicsafeguarding.org.uk) was also established as a new professional standards body to regulate all Catholic Church bodies. They also receive safeguarding complaints.
If you have been abused or if abuse has affected someone you love, please do make contact with the relevant church body or the CSSA.