This story is both disturbing and disappointing – to say the least – but unfortunately not at all surprising. On Monday, the Catholic League (which has the nerve to end their organization’s name with the descriptor “for Religious and Civil Rights”) ran a full page ad in The New York Times blaming sexual abuse in the Church on “homosexuality, not pedophilia.”
And, as The Raw Story points out, “it also claimed that some children were active participants in the abuse.”
If Bette Midler is correct and God is watching us, I hope He’s throwing up right now.
In the ad, the full text of which I am led to believe is here on the Catholic League site, the organization’s president, Bill Donohue, writes, “The refrain that child rape is a reality in the Church is twice wrong: let’s get it straight — they weren’t children and they weren’t raped…. most of the victims have been adolescents, and the most common abuse has been inappropriate touching (inexcusable though this is, it is not rape).” He goes on to cite a 2004 John Jay College study about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church – a study which was funded by US Bishops – as having found that “more than three-quarters of the victims were post pubescent, meaning the abuse did not meet the clinical definition of pedophilia.” Donahue adds, “In other words, the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia.”
Okay. Okay, okay, okay. As someone who was raised Catholic in a town where more than one priest was, uh, disrobed for having touched kids, let me say this: do I think in the past gay men hid behind the collar in order to avoid a life of ridicule? Sure I do. That said, do I think being gay automatically makes one a kid-toucher? Nope. Of course not. Now, could it be that the vow of celibacy required of priests may have an effect on their urge to touch children? I don’t know, but either way, that dynamic would affect both straight and gay priests, as it clearly has. According to The Raw Story, figures compiled by the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) show “that half of those abused are female.” It’s obvious that sexual abuse in the Church isn’t “caused” by homosexuality, and I don’t think every priest who has ever touched a kid was a pedophile, per se, either. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter why these priests have abused their power, although the Church really may want to look into that whole letting priests marry and accepting gay people for who they are thing. What truly matters is that these men have abused their power, and yet they haven’t been brought to justice.
I suppose the silver lining to this horrible black cloud hanging over the Catholic Church is that not all Catholic voices sound like Bill Donahue’s. Phil Attey, executive director of Catholics for Equality, is quoted as saying, ”We’re disappointed that Bill Donahue refuses to look at the long-term well-being of the Catholic Church by joining the overwhelming majority of American Catholics who see the only path toward fixing the problem to be the establishment of permanent structures for the laity to be involved in the running of the church.”
Okay, sure. Let the lay people be more involved. But what about bringing the offending priests to justice? Unfortunately, Donohue claims that those identifying themselves as victims of abuse are only doing so for financial gain. He writes, “When $225,000 is dished out to a Michigan man who claims he was abused in the 1950s by a priest who died in 1983—and the diocese admits the accusation is unsubstantiated—it encourages fraud.” I highly doubt the majority of those who were as children abused by priests are looking to cash in. I think what anyone who was raised Catholic in the last 50 years wants is to see justice. Thankfully I never experienced that sort of abuse as a child, but I’m still disgusted by the Church’s continual dismissal of these horrifying – and I believe wholly factual – claims.
Donohue says, “of the 4,392 priests accused of sexual abuse from 1950-2002, almost 56 percent faced only one misconduct allegation, and at least some of these would certainly vanish under detailed scrutiny.” I wonder what “detailed scrutiny” means and where that scrutiny would come from. (The Church, no doubt.) Let’s just say that only half of these accusations are true: that’s about 39 priests a year on average being accused of sexual abuse against children. Except two priests in my very hometown were “removed from service” by the Church for touching kids over a period of those years. That’s two priests in one town of fewer than 50,000 people. Someone’s numbers are off. (I’d venture to say the Catholic League’s numbers represent only those cases taken seriously by the Church and do not encompass all of the dismissed allegations.) And, by the way, how many lives can just two priests ruin? In the 80′s, when I was growing up in the Church, there were on average at least 20 kids from 2nd to 10th grade taking religious instruction at each of the two Catholic churches where these men led their congregations. It’s likely that 360 kids below the age of consent were exposed to these men each year.
The Raw Story notes, “Allegations of sexual abuse involving the Roman Catholic clergy in the United States rose sharply last year to nearly 700 from around 400 in 2009,” according to a church report Monday. ”The vast majority of the allegations, 653, involved alleged abuse that occurred decades ago but whose victims/survivors are just now finding the courage to report them,” the study said. So clearly there are more than 4,392 priests who have engaged in the sexual abuse of children. I don’t care how you slice it, that number is high, even over a span of 52 years, especially considering that these men have taken a vow of chastity and purity and are representing themselves as the most moral members of our society.
Here’s a hint, Mr. Donohue: stop trying to scapegoat homosexuality for child sex abuse in the Catholic Church and start encouraging your beloved priests to come clean and pay the price. Otherwise, after a few more decades of this abhorrent scapegoating, denial and protecting the guilty, you’ll be the only person left in the Catholic Church. Not that many in my generation would notice or care. Most of us gave up on the Church years ago.
Source: The Raw Story