Atila Sinke Guimarães
Bird's Eye View of the News, November 30, 2001
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Priests in England and Wales will no longer hear children’s confessions in traditional closed confessionals. Children must now be heard openly in church or in glass-fronted confessionals with the priest and penitent in plain view. This is one of 83 wide-ranging recommendations made by the Nolan Review, an independent committee that inquired into child abuse within the Catholic Church in the two nations and released its final report last September.
The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, who commissioned the inquiry, have accepted its findings and are already putting them into practice. Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, leader of the implementation team, said that priests were themselves sensitive to the risks of being hidden in an enclosed space with another person. Many would welcome the regulation. Nichols pointed out that some newer churches had glass-fronted confessionals, which would now become the norm (Our Sunday Visitor, October 28, 2001).
For me, what is surprising is the absurdness of this apparently prudent measure to prevent child abuse. In fact, it assumes as a presupposition that the average English priest is a pedophile, and because of this, mandates a profound change in the millenary practice of a complete discretion in everything that surrounds the sacrament of confession.
Let me analyze only the presupposition. Instead of acting on the generalization that priests are pedophiles, why don’t the English and Welsh Bishops promote a rigorous campaign against this monstrous vice within the ranks of the clergy? Why should these vicious men be protected to the detriment of the honor of the priesthood and children’s safety? Also, consider the vast fortunes the Church is expending to compensate the victims. Wouldn’t it be easier and much more efficient to exclude the priest convicted of pedophilia from the Church? This is my opinion.
I would go a little further. I suggest reducing the criminal priest to the lay condition and handing him over to the civil law, so that he would have to pay both the moral and financial consequences for his crimes. It would be a salutary measure to clean the Catholic Church of this plague, and to mete out to the guilty the deserved punition.
The real guarantee for children’s safety is to conserve the Bride of Christ pure, as she always was. What does not attack the root of the problem will not be effective, in my opinion. Today we have the glass confessional, tomorrow there will be glass walls in classrooms, the day after tomorrow we will have to create a glass dome for each priest to live in … to guarantee that these evil men will not attack our children. It seems to me an absurdity. Either the courage to resolve the problem is lacking or there is a progressivist plan to change the image of the priest, showing him as a pedophile.
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