Tuesday February 18, 2019
The modern-day worldwide plight of the Roman Catholic Church of their priests involved in sexual harassment and abuse of minors has been documented in many forums. The embers of this deep issue does not lose oxygen and even its ashes do not blow away in the social and political wind. It keeps unfurling and spreading.
As with most issues today, there is always someone or a group ready to push it in the echo-filled halls of social media. As unscientific as this is, it is still damning. The issue of abuse of children and in this case of our young males by priests reeks each time it is stirred. This is not just a nightmare; it’s real and very legal. Innocence till proven guilty is nudged to the side for highly credible.
The long and deep reach of this pandemic has reached Belize and we shouldn’t be surprised as many Belizeans may be. We want everything the rest of the world has so this is it. Fr. Oliver Smalls is a part of the memory of maybe every Belizean and our diaspora. From his baritone at countless masses to his thrills in competitive karaoke, the reverend was truly hailed as unique.
Any accomplishment in his life paled grimly when the Diocese of Virginia, U.S.A., published a list of tens of priests in that state with highly credible accusations of being involved in sexual abuse of minors. Many in the list were deceased. Not Fr. Smalls, he was stationed a couple thousand miles away, alive and well.
This accusation, nevertheless, has stood the test of time and distance. It is a powerful force. Even as this allegedly happened fifty years ago it is still damning. The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, which is the arm of the Vatican in charge of incidents of this magnitude, will be listening to these cases.
Our children are an invaluable part of our social structure. We live for them. When they are placed in danger our social defence is triggered. It is sad to say that lately it seems that this defence needs to be ramped up many times over since the instance of abuse of very young children is here too often.
Fr. Smalls has reacted swiftly to the Bishop of Belize and Belmopan’s also immediate dismissal from the said Diocese as clergy. He, Fr. Smalls, through his attorney voiced the unfairness of this move by the Most Reverend Nicasio. The defence is that he has passed a polygraph test and that the allegation was thus untrue.
The damage is done. This goes beyond Reverend Smalls. Our social fabric is creased once more. No amount of ironing can remove this one. We as a society are evolving. It is up to each individual to make choices to transform for the better.