Theologian says clerical sexual abuse ‘always about abuse of power’

Karlijn Demasure taught religion at a secondary school for girls in Belgium when she first came across child abuse. It turned out a girl was sexually abused at home and no one at the school knew exactly what to do.

“The psychiatrist associated with the school was also unable to help us,” said Demasure. “Should we address the father that we knew about it and that it shouldn’t be happening? Should we send the girl to therapy? Nobody knew. This episode made me decide to go back to university for further study, and to specialize as a theologian in this field. We must help these children.”

A short time after the episode at the girls school, the first reports started to pour in from the United States about child abuse in the Church, and in 2010 the bomb went off in Belgium. In her homeland, Demasure was a theologian on the committee which investigated abuse within the Belgian Church. In 2014, she was appointed a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, where she also headed the Center for Child Protection.

“For me, what has always been most important is the way Jesus looks at children,” said Demasure.

“In the Gospel, we read how the disciples wanted to get rid of the children, saw them as less important, but Jesus said, ‘Let them come to Me.’ He also calls us to be like children. From this you can conclude that children are very important to Him. Why are they seen as ‘less important’ in the Church?” Demasure said.

“There is a need to change our way of thinking. Children are also people, with their own feelings and insecurities and unfortunately, also with their own wounds. Instead of ignoring that and dismissing it as less important, we should give them more space. What is needed is a theology of children in which they are seen as the people they are,” she continued.

“Children are children, not mini-adults. Then let them be children. They also have something to offer and who are we to ignore or reject this? Children are of course also the future adults and are fully people in the present and not only in their future function. That’s why you’d better give them a good foundation and support them in what’s going on in their lives. ”

That support must be there even after abuse, Demasure said, and again she put out Chri...

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