Sunday, May 22, 2011


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!


Anonymous said...

The John Jay report downplays the role of homosexuality, possibly too much so.
One sociologist has reported that the sociologists who drafted the report are too afraid of offending homosexuals by allocating more of the causality to the homosexual nature of the perpetrators.

Not all homosexuals are predatory, but most of the sex abuse was homosexual in nature.
Just as...
Not all Muslisms are terrorists, but most of the terrorism of late is done by Muslims.
Get the point? (and I am NOT saying anything bad about either homosexuals or those of the Muslim faith--they are God's children and loved by Him too. So don't anybody start calling me a homophobe or anti-Muslim! --and neither am I making excuses for errant behavior or beliefs!)

How does the Church handle homosexuals that are seeking the priesthood? Is there a blanket policy against allowing homosexuals into the seminary? Or is it a case-by-case basis?

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think I tried to address why there is more homosexual abuse--it was opportunity and the betrayal of trust--laity thought these priests were heterosexual when they weren't. Most laity would not have allowed their daughters to have the same type of relationship with priests as they did their sons, because most laity didn't want to tempt heterosexual priests. There was more vigilance in other words. I suspect if the laity allowed heterosexual priests who were immature or underdeveloped psychologically, we would have seen more sexual abuse of female teenagers. It's all about opportunity and taking advantage of it. Does that make sense?

Anonymous said...

'Blaming' the 'sexual revolution' for the problem is a deflection. An organisation populated by a single sex,e.g. religous groups, are attractive to homosexuals of that preference. The key is that the homosexuals control that urge as the heterosexuals do.

As has been discussed on this blog before. the foundations of the crisis extend much farther back than the late '60s to '90s. The personnel and attitudes were in place to exploit the relaxation that is identified with Vatican II.

It is illuminating that the lay people would need special instruction to beware their sons as their daughters around clergy. This indicates an aspect of clericalism that included programming the laity to over look the obvious.

Dostoyevsky said (sort of) that sometimes things are what they seem. The laity wanted the clergy to be demigods, and the clergy, apparently, wanted to be like us. All a bad mix. The remnants of this test of the Church and God remains with the political distractions of the same Catholics who endorsed hedonism. The good news is that the roots of the problem are now known and accessible for removal.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to double post; the earlier entries appeared after my first entry.

Lamb, all sex is predatory. It is the nature of the hunt that defines us as beast or man.

Homosexuals in influential positions in education have defined homosexuality as normal. That does not make it so. It has no purpose other than appeasing the prurient nature of man.


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

RCG, the redefining of sex and what is normal and not normal, though, is part of the sexual revolution from the 60's continuing in an accelerated fashion today. If you have priests who are immature or not committed to the Church's teaching as it regards sex, and they rebel against authority and do their own thing, like having affairs, then it is a result of social changes in sexual mores. However, if you have a bishop who looks the other way or enables it by lack of leadership and proper discipline then you have the crisis which we experienced.

Anonymous said...

What about does the Church handle homosexuals that want to enter the priesthood/religious life? What is the policy/protocol?

The laity wern't only lax, they were clueless. This kind of thing wasn't in the public discourse and therefore wouldn't come to mind often when a parent was protecting their child.

I understand and agree with the 'opportunity' and 'betrayl of trust' aspect.

rcg, thanks for the qoute, "Sometimes things are what they seem."

Now that all this has happened and been exposed, one of many silver linings is that priests and religious who today struggle with these temptations CAN go to a professional and talk about it. i.e. they aren't still simply left to their own wits to battle the demons.


Anonymous said...

Fr, I understand and agree. I may be giving the benefit of the doubt to the men who were and who are bishops; that they have relied on advice from laity who the bishops believe(d) are speaking with some authority on the nature of man and his sexual drives and desires. In so doing they linked the concepts and principles of charity and forgiveness to tolerance of homosexuals as persons and defeated the link between appetite and sin. We are, IMO, incorrectly tolerating sexual appetites as immutable and uncontrollable. The fact that this tolerance of libertine sex requires a vast body of argument to support itself indicates that the rationalisation of the desire is intentional and the position unsupportable.

The bishops were and many are still confused by the shear mass of the argument. Again, a parametric indicator that the argument is manufactured in favour of the outcome.

Sometimes the most complex things are best understood simply. People will devote HOURS to trying to satisfy their sexual desires. Priests are, in the end, men, too, and will struggle with the same urges as any other man. So this can be boiled down to a group of people who want to have sex arguing that it is a natural urge and therefore the clergy should join in, too.

If the laity led the clergy astray, and this is certainly a factor here, it was because the clergy listened to us when they should not have. This is the same mistake clergy make in many of the social justice areas. Tolerance and forgiveness does not mean something is acceptable.


Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

There is better screening of applicants, the seminary preparation is not "other worldly" and prepares candidates to live in the real world and to grow in their maturity, including sexual maturity, but in a chaste way. In the pre-Vatican II Church which was more controling and let men remain as children following rule but not internalizing them, this created some problems for the immature, not all, but some. Often too, men went into the seminary in the 9th grade--where their ability to relate to girls was limited. This could account for a great deal of the immaturity that took place with the relaxation of things right have Vatican II, these guys, simply were not prepared and went through an adolescence which did not occur at the right time, they were older.

Vianney1100 said...

You hit all the causes of the abuse scandal and I agree wholeheartedly. There is one glaring figure that the John Jay people tried to gloss over and that is the 81% male on male abuse. They came up with the lame excuse that these men had more access to boys, I think that is very weak. What you mentioned in the last paragraph makes more sense, that this is not a pedophilia problem and that it involved immaturity. This is a clear homosexual problem if you take this to its logical conclusion. Male homosexuals are the way they are in a large part due to their never really growing up and remaining immature and in great need of affirmation. They are much more immature in their behavior than heterosexuals, thus the 81% figure. As I have mentioned before, my college alma-mater is a haven of homosexual abusers who had equal access to boys and girls just like the men of Sodom who didn’t want Lot’s daughters.

Templar said...

The book "Goodbye Good Men" makes it very clear that at some point the Seminary system changed from tolerating a homosexual candidate that lived chastely, to being a system that promoted homosexuality and turned a blind eye to the sexual activities which naturally resulted resulted from that tacit approval; and finally became a system where Seminarians who were openly conservative, traditional, or outspokenly heterosexual were targeted by the Seminaries for expulsion.

Although I am somewhat reserved in my enthusiasm for JPII, I will give credit where it is due, and JPII's reform of the Seminaries are one of the linchpins of the restoration of Catholic Identity we are undergoing. Without that we'd be spinning our wheels.

Anonymous said...

Has there been a comparison between gay and straight priests who left ministry after the "heady" days of the 60's and 70's? How many straight priests strayed with female members of staff or of the parish?