Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51-year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, is a trusted advisor to Pope Benedict on the subject of pedophilia. Turns out, he knows of what he speaks.
Investigators say that in tapped mobile-phone conversations, Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. “I do not want 16-year-old boys but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are O.K. Look for needy boys who have family issues.”
At this point, I have a hard time coming up with something to say. I fear that we are all jaded and cynical about this issue. The fact is, children are still being abused at all levels, from third world parishes to the Vatican itself. There is still rampant corruption at the top — including the Pope and his closest advisors.
The church has no intention of dealing with this in a meaningful way. They have proven it by denying the problem, obstructing investigations, blaming the victims, and calling for “better morals” from people who have nothing to do with it beyond the drop of a few pence in the plate every Sunday.
I predicted this approach when the scandal broke. I predicted it very accurately. I also predicted that over time, the public would become jaded and that the Church would quietly wriggle its way out of the scandal without effecting any real change.
And on May 19, almost a year to the day since I made that prediction, Time quietly published what ought to be an earth-shaking scandal — One of the pope’s top advisors routinely pays young boys for sex with cocaine! The campaign against child abuse — such as it is — has been so spectacularly unsuccessful that abuse is still being carried on by top officials in Italy. Forget what’s still going on in the Third World. This is on the Vatican’s doorstep.
Oh… and also, the abuser is HIV positive.
The thing is, it hasn’t made big news. I searched Father Seppia’s name and came up with exactly one major news source on the entire first page. The rest was blogs. The number two hit was from unicornbooty. It’s an interesting site, but not exactly what we’d hope for a scandal of this magnitude.
The church has won this one, and we just haven’t realized it yet. The truth is sad: We don’t care enough about children’s welfare to demand real change. We are more afraid of standing boldly against religion — of holding supporters of Catholicism accountable for their continued monetary support. We are afraid of the reaction of believers worldwide if the Pope and his advisors are brought up on charges of crimes against humanity (which they have committed in full view). We are afraid of the dangerous precedent of holding religion accountable by worldy, empirical standards. We would rather maintain our belief in the “inherent goodness” of the Church, despite its two thousand year history of the polar opposite of goodness.
And this will not change until our attitude toward religion in general changes. Until we recognize the need for religion to justify its existence and authority, we will not be in a position to force it to live in the real world with the rest of us. Children will still be anally raped by priests. All over the world. And we — those of us who have not maintained constant and heavy pressure on church and government leaders — will be responsible for allowing it to continue.