MICHAEL VAZ, MERCES
All over the world special provisions are ensured to protect children from all harm and evil. In our own country we have the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, to effectively address sexual abuse and exploitation of children. When such importance is attached towards safeguarding children, it is simply incomprehensible how a predominantly Catholic country like Ireland was plunged in the worst sexual abuse of children not by laymen but by the revered clergy. The outburst by the Irish people during the Papal visit to the country, the first in almost four decades, has shaken the world. Unbelievably, a government-mandated inquiry has revealed that thousands of children were sexually exploited or physically abused by the clergy, and the upper hierarchy systematically tried to conceal these crimes to protect the hallowed faith. Countless children were separated by the church from their mothers in forced adoption and subjected to bonded labour, in the name of preserving and purifying the Catholic faith, holding that they were born of unmarried mothers. Some survivors of the Irish mother and baby homes, which have the mass graves of the victims, spoke to the pontiff about their ordeals. What a shame that such is the revelation from a country that is predominantly Catholic, which till recently had laws banning divorce, abortion and usage of contraceptives, claiming that it was against the faith. Is sexual exploitation of innocent children advocated in their faith? Ireland is not the only country to be tarnished with this tag for there are a number of such cases elsewhere in Europe and also in parts of South America, US, Canada and Australia which only prove the clandestine deals of people in robes adored for their hypothetical celibacy. There is no point just extending an apology that the church has erred, but no effort should be spared to investigate the matter dating back to decades and take action to ensure that the scourge is not repeated. There are scores of religions in this world and endless denominations within them but have we heard of such a plague in any other religion other than Catholicism? If these priests were married and had families with children around, such evil thoughts would never have entered their heads. So better late than never; church should take a relook at celibacy.