The Archdiocese of New York is handing out coloring and comic books that warn children about sex predators, the first such effort by a U.S. Roman Catholic diocese. In the coloring book, a perky guardian angel tells children not to keep secrets from their parents, not to meet anyone from an Internet chat room and to allow only “certain people” such as a doctor or parent to see “where your bathing suit would be.” In a comic-book version for children over 10, a teenager turns to St. Michael the Archangel for strength to report that two schoolmates are being sexually abused. The books have been distributed to about 300 schools and 400 religious education programs to use as a resource. They also can be viewed online. Some critics, while applauding the intent, say the books should say explicitly that trusted adults, including priests, may be the abusers. (Emphasis added.)
My first reaction to the “some critics say the books should say explicitly that trusted adults, including priests, may be the abusers” part was this:
Gee, ya think?
Gosh, what on Earth might have made you think that?
(We need a sarcasm font. Imagine the above three paragraphs in a sarcasm font.)
But then, it occurred to me.
Once you start telling children that priests are fallible human beings and that you can’t necessarily trust everything they tell you…
…well, you see where I’m going with this, don’t you?
The perpetuation of religion depends, not only on teaching children your religion, but on teaching them that religious leaders and teachers are special and trustworthy, that they know more about God than the rest of us, and that they deserve a special level of respect and trust. If you tell children not to automatically trust priests, the whole house of cards falls down.
This doesn’t read to me like taking responsibility for the sexual abuse scandal in the priesthood. It reads to me like PR. It reads to me like yet another case of the Catholic Church covering their own ass — at the expense of children’s actual safety.