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SINS OF THE FATHERS !

SINS OF THE FATHERS !
March 01
14:30 2019

By Major Lloyd Jones

Last month a letter from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Belize, Bishop Nicasio sent shock waves throughout Belize. In his letter Bishop Nicasio informed his diocese that Father Oliver Smalls Jr. had been removed from his duties and that Father Smalls was named as a priest who had credible reports of child sexual abuse made against him in Richmond.

It must be made clear that no allegations of child sexual abuse have been made against Father Smalls while he served in Belize and that Father Smalls through his attorney has indicated his innocence and that he intended to vigorously challenge the actions of Bishop Nicasio.

The Catholic Church is under serious pressure to reform and to correct, to the extent possible, its near criminal inaction related to systemic and institutional sexual abuse by its priests. It is this pressure that has been flushing out these predator priests and it so happens that Father Smalls has been so labelled though he rebuffs any such accusations.

Father Smalls is a charismatic and well loved priest and so it is understandable why so many people rush to his defence. I cannot say whether or not Father Smalls’ hands were in the cookie jar. That is not my place, but I can say that too many times we fall victim to the disarming charm of predators. A rapist does not rape every woman he encounters and neither does a child predator. Not just because you or your family members weren’t victimized means others weren’t.

The Church’s efforts to correct this problem have only just begun and so it will take some time for the full extent of the abuses to be exposed, especially in a homophobic place such as Belize. My simple advice to you is that if you wish, pray to your priest, but watch your children!

In December I shared the below column with you. It was provocative then and some of my Catholic friends thought that I was unrighteous to have written such a column. Now that no other than the Bishop has denuded Father Smalls (pun intended) I wonder what my friends’ sensibilities say to them now.

FORGIVE ME FATHER FOR YOU HAVE SINNED

In September Pope Francis summoned the Presidents of the Church’s Conferences of Bishops from around the world, to address the one thing that could diminish the Church: child sexual abuse. The Pope has been facing mounting pressures over revelations of the extent of the “child abuse scandal” and what appears to be institutional abetment to conceal such abuses.

For a very long time Priests have been able to hide not just behind the “cloth” but behind Bishops who were more concerned about the image of the Church than about the children who were being victimized. Changing attitudes globally has shifted the modus operandi of the Church. In addition, more and more of its own members have become intolerant of the abuses adding to the pressures that the Pope now faces. The Church has been compelled to, convincingly and fully; deal with this most vexing matter.

Child molestation is one of Belize’s dirty little secrets. The full extent of this crime is often unknown given the stigma that is attached to it. Children who had their innocence snatched from them are confined to a life of shame and anguished wonder. It is a lifetime spent questioning how and why such horrors befell them.

Meanwhile those who perpetrated the crimes not only go unpunished but are often times elevated to positions of power and influence within Belizean society. Despite what is clearly a near atrocity Belize, as a country, has not done enough to deal decisively with this issue.

If Belizeans have, as a matter of a twisted culture, hidden the abuse of children in heterosexual circumstances imagine the extent to which they go to bury the abuse of children in homosexual circumstances. Such accounts are buried deep, never to be reveal lest the victim become the subject of cruel, painful and bitter ridicule. So parents choose what they honestly believe to be the “best” option: Silence! The very thing that nurtures sexual abuse.

It is difficult to believe, despite all the revelations of systemic and predatory excesses in the Church globally, that Belizean boys have been spared the abuses of such predatory priests. As far as I can tell, not a single Belizean man has come forward to tell of his horrid ordeal. Why do you think this is? Is it the shame of a homosexual encounter, albeit a case of stolen innocence? Or is it a case where you will tell your story but no conviction will emerge?

What is it that has driven our young boys (now men) to remain silent even as those predatory priests continue to feast on the innocence of other little boys?

Our Judeo-Christian foundation has created for us a great contradiction: predator priests! It seems strange because it is our religious underpinnings that have caused us to turn a blind eye to the pain and suffering of our little boys. Religious Belizeans will condemn homosexual adults to hell, a thousand times over, but they will say nothing about homosexual priests who rape our little boys. This is a contradiction that only a force like religion could have created.

Religion is one of the most powerful forces in all the world. Humans, it seems, crave spiritual fulfilment: enter religion! In their quest for spiritual fulfilment people’s love of their clergy often blurs their sensibilities and their ability to discern that which is right and that which is wrong. It is this cognitive dissonance that has helped to nurture the institutional predation of our children.

We have been taught to believe that religious men are mediums for the Almighty and to question them; to challenge them; to hold them to account is to somehow insult God himself. And so they feasts! They feast with impunity for we say nothing!

So bad has been the depth of the Church’s child sex abuse crisis that it has led to increasing calls for the Church to allow priests to be married. The sad truth is that the Church attracts paedophiles because of the culture of impunity. It is no different than the fact that politics in Belize attracts thieves because of the culture of impunity. If Priests can be passing around young boys as if they are chattels why wouldn’t those who love young boys become priests?

Belize’s homophobic culture has been doubly hard on male victims of child sexual abuse. In fact not just Belize but indeed all of CARICOM. The tragedy here is that it is this very culture that has helped to insulate predator priests from prosecution. Such bitter irony when we see the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and other countries coming to grips with their own institutional failure to protect their children from such horrors. But not a peep in the Caribbean. It can’t be, it simply cannot be, that this phenomenon has somehow skipped us in the Caribbean.

I am sure that you will agree that the abuse of children (boys or girls) is an atrocity of the worst kind; but the abuse of our children at the hands of so called “men of God” is a crime against innocence: an atrocity magnified ad infinitum.

The Church is big in Belize; it is as big as politics if not bigger. In Belize, otherwise sensible and educated people will crucify you for their Party. If Belizeans behave this way for ham and turkey imagine how they behave when their souls are in jeopardy!

In the vein, let me be clear. My objective here is not to degrade the Catholic Church or to insult anyone’s religious beliefs. My message is to say to you that if we continue to bury our heads in the proverbial sand we will raise yet another generation that has been broken because of men who preyed when they should have protected.

Forgive me Father for you have sinned!

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