Monday, April 26, 2010

Catholic Church Scandal?

Catholic Church has been covering up widespread embezzlement of tithes & donations for years in Singapore.....

Now, THAT caught your attention didn’t it. ; )

Before I get sued for defamation, let me say explicitly that my sentence above about the Catholic Church here is NOT true — there was no such news leaking out.

What I did hope to do, was to make a point: When it comes to financial crimes, people are MUCH more rational than when it comes to sexual crimes.,-dismay,-denial-and-disappointment

A Just Response is needed

Over the last few years, Singapore has been rocked by 2 major financial scandals in the charity sector. In the first, we saw the downfall of TT Durai and the transformation of NKF. In the second, we saw the downfall of Ming Yi the Monk and the transformation of Renci. Additionally, we saw the government introducing stricter laws and regulations to govern the charity sector – a move that many, including myself, applauded as long overdue.

What were the reactions of the public and the supporters when these scandals broke?

Did any donor say that people were just trying to attack and bring down kidney foundations? Did any donor say that anti-Buddhists were trying to bring down Buddhism in Singapore? Of course not! The suggestion sounds incredibly silly to even mention!

Everyone recognized the goodness of having kidney foundations. Everyone recognized the goodness of the Buddhist faith. Everyone recognized the goodness of hospitals, including Renci hospital.

But everyone also recognized that TT Durai and Ming Yi were human, had committed financial crimes, and had to be punished accordingly to fair laws, whether or not followers wanted to forgive them later.

A parallel can be drawn with the scandal that is rocking the Catholic Church now, and through this parallel with NKF and Renci, we can see how simple the solution actually is.

Many people recognize the concept and ideals of the Catholic Church are good. Many people also recognize the Catholic Church has made much positive contribution.

Yet everyone also recognizes that priests are human, and humans fail from time to time. The mistakes made by Catholic priests have been recognize eg. The corruption that led to Martin Luther’s Reformation and also during the Crusades.

For non-Catholics to attack Catholicism for the mistakes of these abusive priests, and priests who covered up the abuse, would be akin to attacking Buddhism for Ming Yi’s failings. For Catholics to perceive the charges and actions against these criminal priests as attacks against the Catholic Church, would be akin to Buddhists perceiving Ming Yi’s conviction as an attack against Buddhism.

When the NKF scandal broke, hundreds of donors immediately called to cancel their donations. Was it because they were against kidney foundations or charities? No! They simply did not want their money supporting corruption. In the same way, if Catholics stopped donating to Church from tomorrow, it won’t be an indication of disrespect to the Church, but simply not wanting to contribute to an administration who covers up abuse rather than seeks justice.

In actual fact, these priests — both the abusers, and those who covered up the crimes — are simply humans who have committed crimes within an organization and deserved to be punished according to the laws of the land, like any other abuser. Structural and systematic checks have to be put in place in institutions to ensure institutionalized abuse and cover ups never happen again.

I have an Irish friend. Here is his response to the article
‘Victims of child abuse at Catholic institutions in the Irish Republic have expressed anger that a damning report will not bring about prosecutions.’

He says “I actually started the get upset and cried a little this morning as I heard about the report, which was released yesterday, on this morning’s news. I’m going to buy a copy of the report and read it from cover to cover

I’m so angry that what I feel is that. If, after that report, 800 people who caused this abuse are being given protection of anonimity and immunity….then we should seek them out and give them our own justice….but these are old men and women (terms i use very loosely) are so old now…..that we would be abusers ourselves

One thing you have to appreciate to understand what happened is this. If a young person in Ireland during this time was discovered to be gay or overly interested in sexuality they were put into the priesthood ‘to cure them’. This on top of the sexual repression of the time and indeed the fact that a person who wants to bully-abuse people will seek out these kind of positions of responsibility…this is all astonishing

What makes me really really angry is that kids told priests in confession about this and were called liars! Kids told parents who told them they were liars…you don’t question the church! And because so many people supported the church, our government felt it couldn’t take on the church and instead let these kids be abused…tens of thosands of them”

I’ve rarely been this angry or upset in my life

indeed…..i know some of the people involved in prosecuting this case…..

it was estimated that there were something like 500 child rapists/priests in the Dublin area alone, and that throughout Ireland a conservative estimate that at least 150,000 children had been assaulted. I0,000 of these have been “paid off”, at a cost of $1.5 billion…..imagine how much it would cost if all were compensated…….

and this is just ireland………..”

I hope everyone does also realise that if the Church is made to compensate, where the compensation money comes from —- from the lay Catholic followers who have been tithing faithfully, and whose family members may have been victim to the abusers………

The lesson we must learn : Preventing similar abuse in institutions in Singapore

Seeing this scandal as an issue with the Catholic Church as opposed to criminals within the Catholic Church organisation also misses the point in another way. In fact this may be even more dangerous because it blinds us to the lesson we ought to learn.

Have we looked at the Catholic Church, asked how this could happen on such a wide scale for decades, and go unchecked? Have we asked if the same organisational weaknesses are present in our temples, our Buddhist, Taoist monasteries? Our military? Our boarding schools? Etc etc? If the same weaknesses are present, do we then ask if there really has been no abuse, or if we are simply doing what the Catholic Church has been doing for decades —- turning a blind eye? The moment we see it as a Catholic Church problem, we stop looking beyond there, and we miss opportunities to check the problem that may be also occurring in non-Catholic organisations.

I know that many people simply cannot buy the idea that Catholic Priests are such evil people, who need laws and checks and regulations to keep them from molesting kids. I think an excellent book written by Anna Salter provides great insight and explains the fallacy of this thinking very well. Anna Salter is a psychologist who interviewed many victims and perpetrators of sexual crimes. She wrote the excellent book ‘Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists, And Other Sex Offenders’ ( )

based on these interviews.

The main point made in this book:

People need to stop asking the question “How could good church people be abusers?!?!”
People need to start asking the question “What is the best platform for an abuser to make use of?”

The starting question cannot be “What are priests/monks like? Are they likely to commit such crimes?” because the answer is No. And that leads to self-denial / defensiveness.
The starting question always has to be, “What would be the best target/platform/opportunity for a criminal to make use of? Where is security the most lax?”

Then you realise that a swindler of money would be clamouring to start charities in countries where lax laws govern the finances of charities.

Then you start realising that child molesters are clamouring to be priests in systems that cover up their crimes. In schools that have no safeguard mechanism.

You know what’s the scary thing?

When you start asking those kinds of questions, you know that such abuse/crimes are taking place all over the world, in environments where we most trust our kids to be.

The USA, Ireland, Germany etc has done very well to acknowledge it happens, and take steps, even though i believe it is far from enough/ideal.

What scares me are the environments, all over the world, where people claim/believe that no/little abuse is taking place. Because it doesn’t mean no abuse takes place, it means nobody is even doing anything to look.

It’s happening all the world over, Asia, Europe, etc etc and i think Europe/US is already ahead in doing something about it. I think we need to learn from this experience. - Mathia Lee


  1. There was a big scandal that you left out. in 2004, Joachim Kang embezzle millions from the Catholic Church in Singapore.

  2. You remembered wrongly. He did not embezzle. The money was parked in investments. It was unauthorised use of church funds.