On 24 April David Greenwood, head of the Child Abuse Department at Switalskis and noted solicitor with a nationwide reputation for excellence in his field, took part in a debate at the Cambridge Union Debating Society. He was an opponent of the proposal “This House believes the Catholic Church is a force for good.” The full text of his speech may be found below.
I am a solicitor working on behalf of victims of child abuse. I also campaign for the rights of abuse victims and in particular for a public enquiry into the extent of abuse in the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England and the cover ups which have taken place. The reality is we don’t know for sure how bad the Roman Catholic Church has been in the UK. Inquiries in Ireland and Australia have revealed the shocking extent of child abuse by clergy.
The Roman Catholic Church has undoubtedly harnessed the inherent good in citizens. The problem is, is that it behaves like the most rampant, power thirsty, blue chip company on Wall Street. It has managed to do this in a legal dimension that has allowed its behaviour to go unchallenged until recently brought to account by the United Nations. Its leaders have been ignored by the International Criminal Court and by governments despite the harm it has done in many societies. The Holy See’s status as a member state of the United Nations has allowed it to hide behind the mask of sovereign statehood. Even when criticised and asked to mend its ways by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child it faces the other way, refuses to engage and continues to pursue its narrow and harmful doctrines (which I will mention shortly). I should say that the Holy See tells us there are 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide.
Essentially when faced with a conflict between doing moral good or preserving its numbers and promoting its growth the church chooses itself every time.
Rather than promoting independent thought in its followers and rather than rely on the inherent attractiveness of the positive experience that religious belief can offer, it engages in what can only be described as psycho-terror. Its followers are locked in to feelings of chronic fear of sin, guilt and worry. It requires its followers to integrate new born children in to its organisation. It operates a totalitarian regime of coercion. It enforces the concept of sin. Committing sin and failing to seek absolution from one of its foot soldiers (priests) will lead to eternal damnation. Penalties are imposed for breaches of an outdated ethical code; for example homosexuality.
Some of the Partners in my law firm actually go along with this stuff probably because it was drummed in to them as children. This is a measure of the success this indoctrination has achieved. The church teaches children to believe in sin and eternal damnation from around the age of 7 when children are required to take to a confessional box weekly.
Married couples pledge to bring up the children of the marriage in the faith and so the system of continued psycho-terror is self perpetuating.
I should say at this point that it is my view that continuing to enforce the church’s threats of eternal torment in hell causes widespread psychological harm and that this is an offence punishable by the International Criminal Court as a crime against humanity. The ICC has been invited by me and two German lawyers to pursue the prosecution of Mr Ratzinger.
30 million Africans have died from HIV AIDS in the last twenty years. Millions of Catholics live in areas affected. Rather than protecting its congregation the church has opted to allow continued free procreation in order to swell its numbers. The Catholic Church forbids the use of contraceptives and condoms. Successive Popes since the 1980’s have ignored the obvious capacity it has to change its view and to save lives.
The sexual abuse of children by Priests has been a regular occurrence through living memory. The question for the church in this is how did it react? Did it recognise that a moral way to look at the problem would be to confront it, open up its doors, root out abusers and change its system? On the contrary, the church feared the damage that could be done if all this abuse were to be revealed to the outside world in its full extent. The church has hidden statistics, from us, from lawyers, around the world, from police and civil authorities and from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. Their tactic appears to have been:-
- To enforce secrecy via the 1962 crimen document subsequently endorsed by the three separate Popes in 2001, 2010 and 2013.
- To impose ludicrously feeble penalties on offending Priests.
- To fail to report paedophiles to the police and civil authorities.
- To challenge law suits vigorously.
- To protect and move priests against whom allegations have been made (and thereby expose other children to the risk of sexual abuse from Priests who have thereby escaped imprisonment).
- It has refused to disclose details of the size of the problem or how the Holy See has dealt with allegations internally.
These are just a few levels on which the Roman Catholic Church has proved that it has lost its way. It has become more concerned with expansion and survival than the promoting of a moral message. The Roman Catholic Church can no longer be thought of as a moral organisation. Its treatment of homosexuals is discriminatory. Women cannot enter the clergy. I could go on.
A campaigning colleague of mine, Sue Cox who is in the audience was so struck by the behaviour of the church that she decided to apply the psychological test for narcissistic personality disorder to the Roman Catholic Church. She found that the church appears to tick all the boxes:
– It will exploit others without considering the cost of doing so.
– It expects to be recognised as superior and special without superior
– It lacks the ability to empathise with feelings of others.
– It lacks the ability to view the world from the perspective of others.
– It is angry when criticised.
– It lacks shame.