Sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy is hitting the news on a daily basis just at the moment. The apparent scale the abuse itself, together with alleged cover-ups implicating even the present Pope himself, is doing the reputation of the Catholic church immense harm.
The secular media is full of it. Anti-religionists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are having a field day. But why are Protestant spokespersons saying so little about it?
Martin Marty, veteran US religious commentator, offers the following reasons:-
1. It is regarded as an ‘in-house’ issue that is receiving quite enough comment from critical Catholics, without Protestants needing to weigh in.
2. Protestants are busy checking to see if their own house in order. There may not be much evidence of child abuse among Protestant clergy, but we don’t have to look far to find instances of other kinds of moral wrong-doing.
3. The ‘old boys’ network’ may be at work here, with clergy from different denominations guarding their profession and protecting the good name of their caste.
4. Protestant commentators may, in addition to feeling outrage at the suffering of victims, may also feel a degree of empathy with the innocent majority.
5. The ecumenical climate means that Protestants are much less inclined to view Catholics as rivals, still less as ‘the enemy’. Members of one communion are more likely to rejoice at the good fortunes of another, and less likely to rejoice in their misfortunes.
None of this is to be regarded as excuse or evasion of a very serious problem. But it may help to explain how things get communicated, and by whom.