Wednesday, March 2, 2016
THE STATE OF DENIAL AND IT ISN'T JUST A CATHOLIC THING
One Pennsylvania diocese was investigated by a grand jury and discovered from archival records horrible abuse over the past 50 years.
In all of this, one would think that sexual abuse of minors is a Catholic thing in general and a priestly thing in particular. I would caution those who are in such a state of denial to put a "spotlight" on other institutions, such as the family, yes the family, especially now that we have so many divorces and strangers moving into the home, such as boyfriends, children of boyfriends and new spouses with more children, some teenagers.
I would also suggest a spotlight similar to the one the Boston Globe shone on the Church be shone on public schools.
I would also suggest that there is a media fascination with women teachers who abuse their students and that these women often become celebrities in the news and are treated differently than male abusers.
All one need to do and the press could do it, is to evaluate those who are in prison convicted of crimes of child molestation and sexual abuse of the most horrific type. Are these prisoners all Catholic? Are they all priests who made promises to chastity and celibacy? Of course not, most are married men, some are women.
In addition, unlike the vast majority of Protestant denominations, there is a paper trail in archived records of what priests have done. Thus courts can required this records to be turned over to secular courts to read and distribute. Protestants for the most part have no such paper trail. In the Catholic Church it is required by canon law. Thus this makes the Church a target since it has records.
But the Catholic Church and her priesthood should be held to a higher standard although the people of the Catholic Church, clergy and laity are a part of the society that was/is in a state of denial and continues to be in a state of denial about sexual abuse of minors.
What could have caused the Church's officials and other clergy and laity to be so blind to what children were suffering? These are my guesses:
1. Up until the 1980's, early 1990's most clergy and laity who thought that a priest might have been molesting a minor, but had no actual proof other than a suspicion, a feeling, would have thought that their thoughts were dirty and perverted--that they had a dirty mind. Thus they would not have reported their suspicions out of fear of detraction of the priest's moral character.
2. There was encouragement of priests until the charter in 2004 to be close to young people, bring them in the rectory, take them on trips without other chaperons and the like. This was a sign of a hip and "with it" priest who could relate to the young and play with them like a peer. This mentality still exists to day in some places, that priests should be able to get on the same level with the young to relate to them. Many priests did so in an exemplary way, but it opened the door to the type of abuse we have seen when too much trust is placed in adults who relate too much with young people.
Most people would be very suspicious of any other professional acting too much like a teenager or child themselves in relating to young people.
3. Parents allowed their children to spend an inordinate amount of time with priests such as to take them on trips alone and even to allow these kids to go with a priest on month long vacations. I find this incomprehensible, but it happened time and time again. Again parents trusted priests who should never have been given such trust or access to children for this kind of thing, even if the priest was trustworthy. Of course it is a tremendous betrayal of trust.
4. Bishops who shuffled these miscreant priests around time after time are the greatest puzzle to me. My thoughts on this:
--the bishop was completely ignorant of what sexual abuse does to a minor and thought they would get over it and that sexual abuse was like any other type of sexual sin and could be forgiven time and time again and new opportunities to get it right were given to priests time and time again
--the priest only did these sorts of things other the influence of drugs or alcohol and thus addiction was at the root of it--thus curing the addiction cured the problem. This accounts for so many priests being sent for treatment, sometimes for more than a year and then being assured by those who treated the priest that he was over his addictions and should be reassigned. I know for a fact as vocation director that I heard priests who treated priests for sexual abuse say over and over again it was like an addiction similar to alcohol and that once these priests got into recovery they should be integrated back into the parish, but the parish needed to know what the priest's problem was and that he needed supervision with his recovery. They wanted the Church and broader society to treat recovering sexual addicts as they would recovering alcoholics with acceptance and understanding.
--most of the cases involved teenage boys that looked like adults in bodily development. Many bishops must have thought that these boys wanted it and like it that they were homosexual and that it was consensual sex.
--barring any of the two above, the bishops themselves were morally bankrupt or simply did not believe the accusations that parents brought against priests.
--keep in mind that law enforcement often was notified about these cases and sent them back to the bishop to handle. Perhaps law enforcement who see more of this stuff than any other segment of society felt the same way as many bishops did, that it simply happens and we move on and that teenagers could have been complicit in their sex abuse, meaning it wasn't abuse but desired by both parties.
The whole thing is a mess but today there are safeguards in place to prevent a priest from taking children on vacations, overnight trips and the such without other chaperons. And if a priest is doing this, no one today thinks that they themselves have a dirty mind for thinking that there is something suspicious about this.
Through various diocesan programs, more clergy and laity are aware of danger signs related to potential abuse and will intervene to stop it, such as reporting their suspicious to higher authorities such as law enforcement.
There is now zero tolerance and priests will be expelled from the active priesthood when an accusation proves to be true.
Denial runs deep in this scandal and it continues to do so in and outside of the Church.