I doubt I am the only person who feels an uneasy sense of déjà vu in the ongoing child sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, and the bullying and subsequent tragic suicide of teenage Irish immigrant Phoebe Prince in South Hadley, MA.
On the surface, they are very different tragedies. But when you dig a bit deeper, the disquieting similarities cannot be ignored.
In both cases, God's innocent Children were tortured and violated.
In both cases, the adults in whose care they had been entrusted turned the other way and did nothing to help. While a deliberate institutional cover-up has already been established as fact in the Church scandals, there were almost certainly many adults with responsibility for South Hadley High students who remained silent or inactive, despite knowing the facts or knowing enough. Participating in this conspiracy of silence makes them no less guilty than lying bishops and cardinals.
In both cases, law-enforcement officials were not alerted and did not become involved until it was too late.
In any event, in both cases the crime was not even considered a crime: Priests were holier than police — than everybody, the way they had ordained it to be — for decades, especially in Ireland. Surely the stories of sex abuse were made up by "bad" boys and girls. And in Massachusetts, bullying is not even a minor crime, no matter the often-tragic results.
In both cases, lives that should have flowered were lost.
And in both, they were often lost to suicide: The only way the helpless victims saw to kill the pain was to kill themselves. What tragedy!
And finally, in both cases, there were the hateful destroyers of God-given Life. Whether they were texting teens and absent administrators or pedophile priests and conspiratorial Churchmen, they were creatures of darkness whose minds, hearts and souls dared to defy God's unequivocal Law of Love and His Power over Life.
Yes, in both cases, there are some circumstances to be considered "for the defense."
Although they would of course disagree, as they tend to do with all things, teenagers do not have the full complement of emotional machinery, maturity and life experience to fully understand all the possible consequences of their actions. Like all of God's Children, Phoebe was a unique and singular Creation, and it is possible that another teenage girl would not have felt the level of fear and hopelessness she did at the hands of her tormentors.
But that is immaterial. God does not measure Justice by how His Children react to pain inflicted upon them; He judges those who inflict the pain on His Innocents, and those who remain silent in its face.
In the Church scandal, it is understood that pedophilia is a serious and complicated mental illness, just as it is understood that compassion for the sick is a Gospel imperative.
But evil acts of pedophilia, and the criminal cover-up of these crimes, make the illness and Godly compassion for the sick almost immaterial as well.
What is it like to be an innocent and loving person singled out of the crowd, to be falsely accused of acts you did not commit, to be abandoned and left alone by what seems to be the entire world, to be judged guilty without explanation, and finally to be dragged to the end of your mortal life, with your killers still laughing at their "accomplished" mission of hate?
Phoebe knows, as does Her Loving Father, Who is with her in Heaven and has dried her tears. His Own Son, Jesus Christ, walked much of the same walk, albeit willingly as part of His Great and Holy Ministry to restore Eternal Life for us all.
Let us pray that Phoebe — though not fully God and fully man like Our Lord, Who was on a mission of ultimate sacrifice for others — restores something to us as well.
God bless Phoebe, and God bless you all!
— Father Tim