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by: Michael J. Scott
The Catholics are it again, and the topic is the same as it has been for the last several decades: sexually abusive priests. A study commissioned by Roman Catholic bishops ties abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the U.S. to the sexual revolution, not celibacy or homosexuality, and says it’s been largely resolved. Naturally the bishops are attempting to decriminalize their lack of a timely response to this epidemic of abuse.
While this report is shockingly naive on several levels, what surprises me the most is the fact that they’re actually chalking up the rape and abuse of tens of thousands of children to a vulnerable and unwitting priesthood who happen to simply be responding to social turmoil. In other words, instead of taking any responsibility, the bishops continue to deny and obfuscate the truth.
The bishops also said that given the fact that there were female, as well as male victims, then homosexuality amongst the priesthood wasn’t an issue. They went on to say that sexual abuse by priests in America is really little more than a “historical problem” that has largely been resolved, because the incidence of abuse has dropped significantly, and that there was never any significant correlation with either celibacy or homosexuality, according to an independent report commissioned by Catholic bishops — and subjected to fierce attack even before its release on Wednesday.
William Donohue, the outspoken president of the conservative Catholic League, noted on the group’s website that the report found that 81% of abuse victims were male and 78% were beyond puberty. “Since 100% of the abusers were male, that’s called homosexuality, not pedophilia or heterosexuality,” he said.
The report blamed the sexual revolution for a rise in sexual abuse by priests, saying that Catholic clerics were swept up by a tide of “deviant” behavior that became more socially acceptable in the 1960s and ’70s. In essence, they are saying that abuse probably didn’t occur before then. That would be a ridiculous position to take, given that enforcement and awareness hadn’t reached the level it began to reach in 1960, continuing all the way through the first decade of the 21st Century. I submit that the victims abuse which occurred prior to the 1960’s was just as prevalent, only people were afraid to come forward, because accusing a saintly priest of such a heinous crime just wasn’t done.
As to more recent abuse, I suspect it has yet to be reported, as the trauma inflicted on our children by the Catholic clergy is so damaging as to be impossible to detect until the victim believes he or she has the necessary support structure to warrant a claim without being ostracized as happened in the early days.
In conclusion, the majority of the critics of this report, like David Finkelhor, a sociologist who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, said the lack of emphasis on “the terrible mishandling of this whole phenomenon by the bishops and the church hierarchy,” is the most damaging.
So what do you think? Do you think that the priests abused children because of some sociological turmoil? Do you believe this report will do anything to prevent continuing abuse? Let us know in the comments section.