This is Frederico Lombardi (more of him later) and this story is just plain weird. The Vatican sees e-learning as a way to prevent its priests from committing sexual abuse on children. They have set up an ‘e-learning center’ to supposedly protect children and help the victims of sexual abuse. Now, I’ve spent the whole of my adult life promoting the use of technology in learning, but this takes the communal mass biscuit for inappropriateness.
But it gets weirder. This announcement was made at a press conference for a full ‘Conference’ on ‘Sexual abuse on children by clergy’ funded by the Pontificial Gregorian University in Rome. Monsignor Klaus Franzl (not to be confused with Fritzl, the Austrian incest beast) announced yesterday, “The e-learning center will work with medical institutions and universities to develop a constant response to the problems of sexual abuse.” By the way, I wonder how Christian apologists explain the horrors of the Catholic priest rape holocaust or the Fritzl case. If there is a God, he truly does work in mysterious ways. Check out this brilliant denunciation by Christopher Hitchens.
Available in six languages it is supposed to get new guidelines out to Bishops and priests about child abuse. Now in my book, this is not an area that needs ‘guidelines’ but a process of bringing those beasts to justice and helping those who were abused. “We want people to know we are serious about this” says Father Frederico Lombardi. Oh yeah – so you weren’t serious about this before! This was the same Frederico Lombardi who tried, unsuccessfully to protect the current Pope from the scandal. He's the pontiff's PR supremo.
Let’s be clear here, the current Pope, god’s man on earth we’re told, has been complicit personally and institutionally in the abuse scandal. In 1979 a young boy was subjected to sexual abuse by a German priest and the current Pope, then an Arch-bishop, protected that priest, who went on to commit further crimes. The Pope’s brother had to admit that his memory failed him and admitted he knew of the case. Ratzinger was also responsible for obstructing investigation into this criminal activity.
Now if the Vatican had simply funded initiatives and retributive payments to the victims, fine, but this smacks of an on-going PR campaign to dampen down a global criminal epidemic by priests, that should make everyone wary of allowing contact between them and children. I’m with Christopher Hitchens, in ‘God is not Great’ and his chapter ‘Is religion child abuse?’ Ignatius Loyola famously said ‘give me a boy until he is ten, and I’ll give you the man’. How hideously true this turned out to be.
If any lessons are to be learnt from Catholic child abuse, it is that education should remain secular. Education should open up young minds, not subject them to dogmatic closure. This is why I am absolutely against the state funding of faith schools. I do not want tax money to fund schools where the creed supports genital mutilation (both boys and girls), gives priests contact with young children and imposes dogma on impressionable minds.