Church report on priestly abuse falls short
So we’re to believe that priests were simply swept along with the rest of society as drug use increased, premarital sex became more acceptable and divorce more common? Oh, the horrors of the Summer of Love!
May I point out that “deviant” behavior is a slippery category, and loosened morality on sex in general isn’t the same as the criminal act of sexually abusing a child? The report correlates the rise in sexual abuse of children by priests with rising crime rates and divorce rates — deviant behavior, all — without establishing how they’re related other than coincidence in time.
The problem is that child molestation by priests — and the systematic cover-up of their crimes by church hierarchy — has been exposed as a global phenomenon. How well does generalized “deviance” explain trends in sexual abuse that happened in South Africa, Ireland, Germany and other countries worldwide? Surely the divorce and crime rates didn’t play out in the same way in all of these countries the way they did in the United States.
The study also took pains to characterize the scourge of sexual abuse by priests as “historical” — which is to say, a thing that happened and is now mostly past. It notes a drop in reported abuse cases starting in the mid-1980s and credits new policies and practices put in place in churches and seminaries. If this is true, shouldn’t we be asking how important a factor the societal deviance explanation is to begin with?
Moreover, it seems a little too pat to use reported cases of priestly abuse to draw conclusions for all time.
The most damnable aspect of the report — yes, that word is chosen carefully — is how it seeks to distort the role of pedophilia.
The report defines prepubescent children as 10 years of age and under. By that standard, as The New York Times pointed out, the bishops can claim that fewer than 5 percent of sexual predator priests were pedophiles and that only 22 percent of their victims were prepubescent.