Playing the blame game in the sex abuse scandal
The John Jay report on the clergy sexual abuse tries to explain what happened. It also sounds like the blame game. That's easy to do from 20/20 hindsight. Suffice it to say,the following is true:
1. The sexual revolution combined with the revolution against authority combined with the upheaval in the Church after Vatican II which led to the loss of identity of priests, nuns, monks, brothers, sisters and a good number of laity of the 1960's and 70's is the greatest factor in this horrible chapter on sex abuse. Prior to Vatican II, there were strict laws and codes of conduct scripted in minute detail. Overnight that was thrown out the window and those who were mature dealt with it in a mature fashion. Those stuck in adolescence although they were in their 40, 50's and older went through their adolescence bringing heart break to those in their way and themselves.
2. This is as much an authority and power issue as it is a sexual one. Some bishops managed their priests during this period very well others didn't. In addition, sexual molestation of minors was viewed more as a sin that could be forgiven, an event the victim would get over and a fact of human life. But it was hush, hush. Not good from our 2011 perspective of things is it? We know better today.
3. Perfection through psychology reigned supreme in this period especially with pop-psychology. Psycho-analysis could cure your psychological problems (today it's medication). Bishops who supervised priests thought these priests who abused could be cured and they needed personnel. Jesus loves you and the Church shouldn't appear to be harsh any longer compromised many bishops leading them to make stupid decisions regarding priests who molested. Clericalism of course plays into this in a huge way.
4. Opportunity. Think about this. Even in the 1960's most parents would not entrust their daughters to a priest as they would their boys. They would allow their sons to go on trips with priests and to be with the priest unsupervised. For the most part, mothers and fathers would not have allowed that for their daughters. For priests who had an attraction to teenage boys, this was a recipe for disaster. Ultimately, this scandal is a scandal of "betrayal of trust" and "misplaced trust." Priests were idealized as being Christ--but a priest is not Christ, never forget that. Only Christ is Christ. I think this accounts for the overwhelming number of boys abused compared to girls. Parents and others would be more keen on not letting a priest be alone for long periods of time with their daughters. The current Virtus training we offer the laity now, informs them about protecting the boundaries of our youth and being vigilant.
5. The pundits in the liberal wing of the Church have used the scandal to blame celibacy and an all male priesthood. The conservatives have blamed the liberalization of the Church and unbridled homosexuality and allowing homosexuals to become priests. The John Jay Report says that it is neither of these, but cultural factors and changing sexual mores in the 1960's. I personally don't think you can discount either of these observations when combined with what else was happening in the Church and culture. The Church and bishops moved from being very austere, doctrinaire and rigid in their approach to discipline (just look at our Catholic schools prior to and after Vatican II) to very flexible, open, and "look the other way" (just look at what happened to the Mass in the '70's). This was a recipe for disaster and a disaster we had. If there is a "good old boy" system (keep in mind there is a "good old girl" system in women's communities too) then an all male institution without constraints or accountability will run a muck. In terms of "homosexuality" certainly there are mature homosexuals who are celibate and priests and would never take advantage of a teenager. The same is true of heterosexuals. But there are both homosexuals and heterosexuals who have compulsions towards sex and toward teenagers. If access to them is enabled by mismanagement by bishops and naivete by laity, then we see what happens. But if the laity believed that all priests are heterosexual and that's the reason they don't allow their priests to have the same access to their girls as they do to their boys, then what happened is what happened. It was a combination of naivete and trust--most laity just wouldn't believe that a priest would do something like molesting their child. The betrayal of trust by those priests that took advantage of the trust accorded to them and the mismanagement of clergy by bishops whether intentional or unintentional play the greatest role in this debacle as well as the naivete of the laity concerning the remotest possibility that a priest could be a molester. They let their guard down out of ignorance.
6. This scandal is not about pedophilia, although there is that part to the scandal, but miniscule. Pedophilia is a pathology that is incurable. Attraction to the adult body of a post-pubescent child is not pedophilia--it is physical sexual attraction. Mature homosexuals and heterosexuals recognize their attractions and have "impulse control" when it comes to sex. Immature homosexuals and heterosexuals who are attracted not only to the physical qualities of the teenagers developed body,but also to that teenagers immaturity or "seeming" maturity are the ones most at risk to take advantage of opportunities to have sex and if in the priesthood, to groom such individuals for such untoward relationships. If there is stress in the priest's life, he has problems with having chaste adult friendships with either sex and is himself a "teenager" at heart, psychologically, then danger lurks.
This is a very sad chapter in our Church. Most cases being litigated now come from the 1960's and 1970's, the overwhelming number from the 70's. Know your history and know what else was happening in the "spirit of Vatican II" Church of that time. Know too what was happening in our society in general at that time!