Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Church Sex Abuse Scandal: What Is Not Helpful

1. Hyperbole: As recently as last Saturday night, I have heard members of the Catholic clergy -- even ones whom I consider to be very intelligent -- responding to the spate of stories in the media about the latest round of child sex abuse revelations as if people were trying to take down the Pope and/or the entire Catholic Church. This is just a complete over-reaction and does nothing to help address the real problem of ridding the priesthood of those who would harm our children and restoring the credibility of the Church as an institution.

2. Accusing the Victims of Lying: While it may be comforting to believe that a substantial portion of those who accuse priests of molestation are making their stories up as a means of getting a financial settlement, the unfortunate reality is that almost all of the charges that have been brought forward have been found to be true. Yet in my prayer group on Friday we heard a predicador say that many of the accusations are fraudulent. Sitting next to me as he spoke was a woman who was molested by a priest as a teenager in her country and, because nobody believed and helped her, spent most of her life away from the Church. Because of their mother's alienation, her children were not raised in the Church and still do not attend, even though this woman has now found healing and come back. I can only imagine how hurtful the predicador's words must have been to her.

3. Equating Pedophilia and Homosexuality: Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone: ""Many psychologists, many psychiatrists have demonstrated there exists no relationship between celibacy and pedophilia...But many others have demonstrated, and have told me recently, that there is a link between homosexuality and pedophilia. This is true, this is the problem." Unfair, hurtful, and untrue. While I agree with Cardinal Bertone and many others that the celibacy requirement is not responsible for pedophilia, he is simply wrong about homosexuality. The only study that I know about that breaks down the behavior of priests who have violated their celibacy vows by partner -- Pepe Rodriguez's La Vida Sexual del Clero -- shows that 53% had sex with adult women, 21% with adult men, 14% with juvenile males, and 12% with juvenile females. It is far more likely that the small difference in percentages with juvenile males vs. females is due to the fact that pedophilia is largely a crime of opportunity and priests are more likely to have access to juvenile males in seminary schools or as altar boys -- female altar servers being a relatively recent phenomenon. Cardinal Bertone's remarks are also a huge injustice to the number of gay priests who have been faithful to their celibacy vows and have never abused anyone of any age.

Please, let's calm down and think before we speak about this issue.

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