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  • No More Abuse
    It's time the world's Catholics, starting with those in Italy, who are nearest to the Vatican, stand up for believers everywhere and demand a stop to child abuse in the Church
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Babies are everything in southern Italian families. In fact, while Italy's population growth started coming to a halt, I still saw tons of pregnant women in Ischia, the island off the coast of Naples where I live whenever I'm in Italy. My own Italian family is shining proof of this idea that babies keep the family going, bring joy, and are great accomplishments. Indeed, even very young couples (young at 22 and 23 by American standards) are having babies in southern Italy. Families come together to raise the child. I know for certain that Ischia stands by the "it takes a village" creed. That's why the news coming out of the Vatican about even more sexual abuse of children at the hands of Catholic priests is all the more disturbing.

    Recently, documents have surfaced that indicate that Joseph Ratzinger, now known as Pope Benedict XVI, allegedly had a role in covering up instances of sexual abuse both in Europe and the United States among priests. The Vatican's defenses are up, and it has had spokespeople defending the Pope with arguments that include everything from the expected "the Pope can't be blamed for the actions of others" to the outrageous and absurd "these discussions are equal to anti-Semitism." Frankly, there's enough blame to go around and the Pope deserves some of it piled on his shoulders, as do us believers who have remained silent on the issue of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy.

    Italians, most of whom are Catholic like me, do not condone the abuse of children. Most of them do everything in their power to protect kids. It's ingrained in this family-oriented culture, one that sticks with Italians even after they move to different countries. They might lose the language, forget the authentic recipes, and never visit Italy again. But for at least one or two generations, cousin Vinnie and Uncle Giovanni have a seat at Sunday dinner and a place in your heart. The little kids in the Italian family are the soul of its being. They make everything shine. They are treasured and tended to. They are disciplined if necessary. But above all they are protected.

    Your Italian family is your security blanket and the Catholic Church your moral compass. When the compass is faulty, everyone is at risk. And the village must put up its defenses to protect its babes. What I want to know is where is the village? Why aren't more people standing up and telling the Church, "We won't stand for this abuse of power. We won't let you hurt our children anymore."

    As a Catholic, I'm angry. There are no excuses for sexually abusing or hurting children in any way. My Church taught me to be good to people, to be kind, to be loving. To think that my Church, which lives in our Italy and educates us, betrayed us all in this way is horrifying. But what bothers me even more is that these men of the cloth including perhaps the Pope himself believe that they should be above the law, that they who are without traditional families can decide how to punish one another. The fact that they thought and perhaps still do think moving priests from one parish to the next was the solution, when that just increased the number of victims on whom they could prey, has me fuming mad.

    These predators belong in jail like other pedophiles. They are human beings hiding behind religion, hiding behind the collar that they wear as a costume to lure unsuspecting, innocent victims. The damage they've done is never ending. Sexual abuse begets sexual abuse begets sexual abuse and on and on. Buying off parents to keep them from coming forward, so the cycle can continue is more than reprehensible; like the sexual abuse itself, it's a crime. Criminals are locked up in our society. Period! Why isn't anyone telling them to shove it? Why isn't Italy angrier about these abuses?

    We can take back our Catholic Church. We can demand our children be protected and the Church better fit into the modern world. I know I for one will never leave my children, should I be lucky enough to have them, alone with a priest or Sunday school teacher. I'll be keeping a close eye on anyone who holds the privileged position of teaching and caring for my child.

    My brother and his wife delivered a baby girl, Maria Regina their first and my parent's first grandchild a little more than 24 hours ago. My village and I are welcoming her into the family as I write this. I'm only the aunt and the talons are out. She's so precious and perfect at this moment untouched and pristine. How anyone, but especially a trusted religious leader, could harm her or any other child is beyond my comprehension. I won't tolerate it. I will speak up every chance I get. I want someone to pay for these crimes of sexual abuse and bribery. I demand justice for all of us because in essence we are all victims.

    The Church should allow families to prosecute priests who sexually molest children and those who try to cover up their sins, which are also crimes. The guilty shall go to prison and pay for what they've done, unable to strike again. Last I checked the law sees those who help criminals as aiding and abetting. I don't particularly care about the argument that the Pope is speaking for God and represents God on Earth. My God does not tolerate the abuse of children. My Italy does not tolerate the abuse of children. My village certainly does not tolerate the abuse of children. And I demand this cycle of horror comes to an end. Amen. What do you think?

    Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com, and you can read about her life and career in Italy and the United States at the Two Worlds Web site.


    Article Published 4/12/2010

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