ISSN 2330-717X

Shame ‘Keeps Abuse Victims Silent’

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By Alessandro Speciale

Asia’s culture of collective “shame” has led victims of sexual abuse there to remain silent, Manila archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle said yesterday.

The archbishop was addressing the “Towards healing and renewal” gathering — a Vatican-sponsored conference at the Gregorian University in Rome on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

“For Asian cultures, a person’s shame tarnishes one’s family, clan and community. Silence could be a way of preserving what is left of one’s honor,” he told over 100 bishops and 30 heads of religious orders from around the world. But, he added, “it could also be a sign of trauma.”

He said there have been a few cases filed against clerics in Asia. But the tendency to think sexual abuse scandals was only a problem in Western cultures “changed when similar cases surfaced in Asia.”

“To pretend no problem exists does not help,” he added.

There is now a “pressing need to formulate national pastoral guidelines for handling such cases,” the prelate said.

Last November, the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences invited bishops to take “drastic and immediate measures” to contain the problem before it explodes.

Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican prosecutor who deals with sexual abuses cases for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the Church must break with its “deadly culture of silence.”

“Our people need to know the law is being applied. No strategy for the prevention of child abuse will ever work without commitment and accountability.”

Archbishop Tagle singled out four cultural “risk factors,” drawn from his experience in the Philippines which may also exist in other Asian countries: a widespread habit of physical contact; an excessive respect for people in authority; a large family network and a culture that tends to consider clergy “more than ordinary humans.”

“Filipino culture is a touching culture. We touch children a lot. But they cannot clearly distinguish an affectionate touch from a malicious one. They are vulnerable to manipulation through touch.”

He also cautioned against regarding the clergy as more than ordinary.

This clouds the clergy’s sense of humanity, he said, adding that some hide their true selves and lead double lives.

“Duplicity can breed abusive tendencies.”

UCA News

The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News, UCAN) is the leading independent Catholic news source in Asia. A network of journalists and editors that spans East, South and Southeast Asia, UCA News has for four decades aimed to provide the most accurate and up-to-date news, feature, commentary and analysis, and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments that relate or are of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia.

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