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Blaming Woodstock

Catholic Church-Funded Study Declares that Gay Priests Are the Cure for the Child Abuse Scandal, Not the Cause

A new report commissioned by the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops has kindly concluded that gay priests were not the cause of the explosion of child abuse cases that has, you should pardon the expression, bedeviled the Church over the past several decades. In fact, echoing the argument gay activists have made forever, the study found that more openness among gay priests is actually one of the reason reports of abuse have been declining.

But that hasn’t stopped the congregants in the far right pews of the Church from insisting that it’s still all our fault.

The study, 300 pages and five years in the making, was undertaken by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. In a case of the fox paying for an investigation into the hen house break-in, the Church anted up half the $1.8 million needed for the study. As  might be expected given the funding source, the report reaches a number of unusual conclusions, including the fact that a vanishingly small number of priests were actually pedophiles—just four percent of all the priests convicted of child abuse—a statistic arrived at by defining pedophilia as attraction to children aged 10 or younger. Or, in other words, by using a definition no one else uses.

But the report also dismissed the canard that the scandal had anything to do with gay priests. In fact, it says, gay priests were part of the solution to the problem. It directly correlates rise in the number of gay priests starting in the 1970s to “a decreased incidence of abuse—not an increased incidence of abuse.” Funny, we could have told them that and the church could have used the $2 million to recruit more gay priests and cut down on child abuse in the church!

Needless to say, that conclusion did not set well with that segment of the Church that seems to miss the good old days of the Inquisition. William Donohue, the one-man band behind the ultraconservative Catholic League, told The New York Times that “the authors go through all sorts of contortions to deny the obvious – that obviously, homosexuality was at work.” George Weigel wrote in the National Review online that the conclusion smacked of “clinicians ideologically committed to the notion that there is nothing necessarily destructive about same-sex behaviors.” As opposed to far right activists ideologically, and nonsensically, committed to destructive prejudices about homosexuality!

So why did priests abuse children? The report claims opportunity, for starters. If most of the victims were male, that’s because the Church has very few roles for female minors. Aha, sexism is partly to blame! Now we are getting somewhere! Also, the report insists that priests were somehow confused, by the sexual revolution, an idea that has been called the “Blame Woodstock” defense. Nothing like shifting cultural norms to make you want to go out and abuse a minor, apparently. The idea that sexual liberation actually would not only inspire adults to a healthy open sexuality but kids to report their abuse was apparently lost on the researchers.

In any case, according to study researcher Karen Terry, “the problem is largely historical” and consistent with patterns of increased deviance in society” in the 1960s and 1970s. As for the bishops who made a parlor game out of reassigning clerical abusers to new parishes to cover up past offenses (also the officials funding the story), they largely get off the hook. In fact, the report goes out of its way to praise the hierarchy, even though it closed the barn doors decades late and only after it had been forced to by a small army of victims who went public. When it comes to reports, you get what you pay for.

Of course, the main issue that has gone unaddressed is why this happens in clerical settings when it doesn’t happen in openly gay ones. For one, the Church didn’t have guidelines in place decades ago for interactions between priests and minors. Gay groups have been far more scrupulous—dare we say moral—about instituting guidelines to protect minors from being preyed upon.

But never let it be said that the Church could actually learn a thing or two from a group that it likes to characterize as intrinsically evil.

Photo Credit: Lori Grieg

 

By:           John Gallagher
On:           May 26, 2011
Tagged: ,
  • 6 Comments
    • EdWoody
      EdWoody

      “…a statistic arrived at by defining pedophilia as attraction to children aged 10 or younger. Or, in other words, by using a definition no one else uses.”

      That may well be so, but it’s still the correct definition. Pedophilia is sexual attraction to pre-pubescents, not to anyone who isn’t over the age of consent. Sexual attraction to teenagers, past puberty but before the age of consent, is called ephebophilia. But of course, the media and the right wing have latched onto the word “pedophile” (just like they did the word “terrorist”) and use it to describe all manner of things it does not actually describe.

      Not saying that makes it any better, just that the study’s definition of pedophile is in fact correct.

      May 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Hyacinthe
      Hyacinthe

      @EdWoody: I think you might be only partly right: pedophilia IS attraction to pre-pubescents, but if the study indeed set an age limit of ten for pre-pubescence then they are indeed leaving out, say, abuse of twelve-year-olds, many of whom (particularly boys) would be prepubescent, so the abuse would be pedophilia. While they probably would have to set an arbitrary age, something like thirteen would make more sense.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JAW
      JAW

      Let’s not try to twist the study to our side.

      Gay priests were FAR from the cure. The only thing that might have happened, was gay priests started to hang out and meet each other. There have always been a large number of gay priests, the sexual revolution of the late 1960’s and early 70’s gave them an out let to meet at bars etc.

      We are not the cause of the abuse… nor are we the cure.

      May 26, 2011 at 1:56 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jim Hlavac
      Jim Hlavac

      Funny, Pope Alexander VI (nee Rodrigo Borgia) didn’t mention the 1960s or 1970s sexual revolution in his 1492 bull (papal order) telling his priests, bishops, cardinals and monks to leave the boys alone. Indeed, he sacked a few cardinals to make his point. And he repeatedly issued more such bulls during his years in office (when he wasn’t busy taking care of this four kids and several mistresses.) Other popes in the past also issued such bulls — over the past 1500 years — not a one of them mentioned the 1960s. Perhaps the Church should look further into the matter.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Japhet
      Japhet

      “In fact, echoing the argument gay activists have made forever, the study found that more openness among gay priests is actually one of the reason reports of abuse have been declining.

      It directly correlates rise in the number of gay priests starting in the 1970s to “a decreased incidence of abuse—not an increased incidence of abuse.” Funny, we could have told them that and the church could have used the $2 million to recruit more gay priests and cut down on child abuse in the church!”

      My interpretation of what’s being said here isn’t that gay men weren’t abusing children. It just seems to imply that gay men who are allowed to be out won’t abuse children. Which still seems to blame closeted/fearful/persecuted gay men for the abuse of children… So dunno, this doesnt seem terribly flattering to me.

      May 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Adam
      Adam

      I’ve been saying a lot of this for years. The shockingly low number of priest abuse cases involving pre-pubescent children shouldn’t be so shocking at all.

      Ask most straight men and they’ll admit that a sixteen year old girl, while illegal to look at, can be extremely attractive. It’s our genetic build. The socially constructed ages of consent are there to protect youths from being preyed on, and they’re important for that reason, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still pop a boner looking at someone of the gender we’re attracted to. In fact, evolutionarily, we’re supposed to be going for the youngest possible functioning reproductive system we can find.

      If a priest is openly gay, its way more likely he’s gotten it out of his system. He may have been self aware enough to experiment when he was younger, to have those important post pubescent sexual encounters. But a closeted priest, someone who hates their inner thoughts and feelings, someone who went into the priesthood not because they wanted to be a priest and just happened to be gay, but because they NEEDED to be a priest to hide their sexuality, they never got those experiences.

      A priest that’s openly gay, much like the typical secular straight or gay man, will look at those teenage versions of their sexually desired genders, and they may even find them attractive, but there’s no mystery to them. Indeed, after initially finding attraction to them, the openly gay priest will quickly remember how awkward teenagers are sexually, and think to themselves how glad they are to be done with all that craziness. They’ve also probably realized that no means no.

      The men pushed into the priesthood by fear, well, they’re partial victims in this scenario. They’re grown-ass men who should know better, but that doesn’t mean the environment of “ignore and it will go away, just be a priest” didn’t hurt them.

      The Church needs to realize that this problem lies so much more with their stance on homosexuality, a stance with extremely poor scriptural backing, but centuries of social tradition. This study gives me hope that they’re getting closer to that realization.

      May 26, 2011 at 3:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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