The enormity of the crime – and this was just in France alone remember- is so huge, so evil, so heart-wrenchingly dreadful we don’t even really have a word for it.
It’s nothing short of a paedophillic holocaust.
If you extrapolate that number across the world – and there is no reason to think France was some exception to the rule, we’ve seen the same in the US, Ireland, Germany, Chile, Australia and Poland – the number of children abused by members of the Catholic church becomes almost incomprehensible.
There’s no way of sweetening the pill or gilding the lily. It’s evil child molestation on an industrial scale.
The Church’s Canon Law doesn’t even see sexual abuse, grooming minors for sex, possessing child pornography and the covering up of abuse as crimes. For that to change we have to wait until December and presumably feel deeply grateful to our far-sighted Pope.
If the Catholic church were a business, or a corporation, or a cartel the FBI, Interpol and various collaborative crime agencies would be celebrating the fact they’d busted one of the most evil organisations on the planet – one responsible for at the very least 330,000 acts of child rape and abuse over roughly half a century.
They would freeze every cash and capital asset and jail the ringleaders, from the Pope downwards, for a very, very long time.
But it’s a religious institution you see.
And that means they have been allowed to carry out acts of pure depravity on a routine basis and get away apparently scot free.
I know not every Catholic priest is a nonce.
But three hundred and thirty thousand.
The time for contrition and excuses is over.
The Catholic church has always known this has gone on and has gone to extreme lengths to hide it. It starts with indoctrination from birth of course, the drill that all catholic clergy from the Pope to the parish priest are always right and should never, ever be questioned.
But the church is also absolutely happy to lie and obfuscate at every turn – while outwardly professing a new era of truth and openness of course.
I went to a Catholic boys’ school. The head teacher there was a child abuser.
He was laughably called The Very Reverend Kevin O’Neill. Among others, he groomed and abused my schoolfriend Graham Caveney.
Graham bravely waived his right to anonymity by penning a brilliant book about his experiences called The Boy With Perpetual Nervousness which manages to be by turns deeply harrowing yet also warm and very funny. A tribute to Graham’s humanity really.
O’Neill’s crimes were eventually rumbled and the Catholic hierarchy made aware of the depths of his depravity.
Did he see the inside of Strangeways for a 10 stretch? No, he was sent to a community for wayward priests in the US to see out his days in the gorgeous Florida sunshine untroubled by the criminal justice system as the Church was happy with his defence of violating teenage boys in his care – “it takes two to tango”.
Suitably horrified I went to see the remaining Marist priests who ran our school and now lived in a shared house in Blackburn. When I arrived they hid, ducking below windows, for hours until it became obvious I wasn’t leaving anytime soon and finally one confronted me on the doorstep.
He was ranting that I was trampling on his rights simply by being there. His rights.
He said “you seem to be very angry”.
Ya think father?
I got nothing, no explanation, no apology, nothing.
And this is the way of the Catholic Church.
I visited my old school and spoke to the new bosses.
After they left the room I happened to notice on the desk a list of instructions from the Church’s appointed PR agency handling the fallout of Father O’Neill’s depraved time at the school. It said: “do not talk to journalists. They are sneaky and clever.”
So much for the new era of openness and honesty.
Yeah, we’re dead clever asking those sneaky questions like why were children being sexually abused at your school and nothing was done about it?
The teaching staff there now of course are as horrified as me and all traces that O’Neill was ever there have been scribbled out – erased from history.
But it wasn’t just my school affected by paedophilia.
The next nearest Catholic school to us? Happened there too. The next nearest one after that? Yep, happened there too.
It’s endemic, it’s institutionalised, and let’s be honest it’s freak show sexuality. Telling grown men to live together while maintaining all sexual thoughts are sinful and damning … well, that was never likely to end well was it?
I almost wish the Catholic church was right and there is a Hell.
Because there’d be a special place for the Very Reverend Kevin O’Neill and his ilk.
(The independent inquiry was commissioned by the French Catholic Church in 2018. It spent more than two-and-a-half years combing through court, police and Church records and speaking to victims and witnesses.)