November 21, 2006

News item: “US Catholic Church seeks to find root of priest sex abuse” (Hat tip: Free Republic). Here’s the gist of the story:

The US Roman Catholic Church has asked a criminology school to delve into the darkest pages of its history by probing the causes of a priest sex abuse scandal.

At a meeting due to end Thursday in the eastern city of Baltimore, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops voted to disburse 335,000 dollars to fund the first three phases of a study by New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“It will be a groundbreaking study, never done before in the US, nor in the world,” Bishop Gregory Aymond, who chairs the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, told AFP.

“We don’t know what would come out of it, but we are going to tell the truth,” said Aymond, of Austin, Texas.

$335,000 for a study into the whys behind clergy sexual abuse. Are you kidding me? What a freakin’ waste of money, time, and effort. Note to Bishop Aymond: if you REALLY want to find out the “root cause” of the clergy sexual abuse scandals, it don’t take no genius (or $335K) to figure it out – heck, all you have to do is read further down in the same damned article (my boldings):

The majority of priests accused of sex abuse were trained in the 1960s and 1970s in seminaries where psychological tests and sexuality education have since been introduced.

A final phase of the study will make proposals on how to prevent sex abuse and help victims.

“Our goal is to ascertain the causes of the clergy sexual abuse crisis and if we need to change any method we have now,” said Teresa Kettlekamp, the executive director of the bishops conference’s Office of Child and Youth Protection, which was created in 2002, in the wake of the sex abuse scandal.

But the study would also be useful to schools and youth groups, Church officials said.

“The pathology of abusing children isn’t unique; it’s a societal problem,” Kettlekamp said.

“We are hoping it will be a big, big help to the society in general,” she said.

The idea of the US RC Church spending that kind of money to find out why priests trained in the ’60s and ’70s abused children in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s is not only laughable, but a terrible waste of time and money on everyone’s part as well. How about this, Bishop Aymond, I’ll tell you what lies at the core of your clergy sexual abuse scandal, and it won’t take weeks, months, or even years for a report; and, better than that, I won’t even take a nickel of your money to produce it.

Here it is in a nutshell, Bishop: it’s called sin. Perhaps you’ve heard that term once or twice around the mulberry bush?

The fact is, every human being has their dark side and within them the potential or weakness to succumb to temptation and do very bad things, and, believe it or not, these impulses don’t go away simply because one feels or acts upon God’s call to ordained ministry in the Church. (Heck, I’ve been around A LOT of ordained people in the Church, and I can tell you that there’s no shortage of flaws and weaknesses there!) Because of this, the Church has a responsibility to those it serves to have in place processes and procedures to identify and winnow out those who, for whatever reason, actual or suspected, pose potential harm to the standards and credibility of that institution in any way. In this case, we’re talking clergy sexual abuse, but it could be any kind of clergy misbehavior or dereliction of duty. Without effective forms of administrative oversight and attention to performance, one should not be surprised when bad things are allowed to happen.

In this particular case, the RC Church was vulnerable to this kind of criminal misbehavior and scandal because of certain pre-conditions and societal developments that resulted in a “perfect storm” that hit the Church’s seminaries in the late ’60s and early ’70s:

* The vow of celibacy required by anyone seeking ordination to the priesthood in the Church;
* The sexual revolution of the late ’60s, where certain behaviors once frowned upon and/or kept “in the closet” were, if not legitimized, were certainly not held up to the same level of critique or condemnation as in the past;
* The post-Vatican II easing of restrictions on gays entering the Catholic priesthood (Stanley Kurtz of National Review Online has written a fine article about this in detail);
* In this new climate, RC seminaries became havens for predatory homosexuals (and heterosexuals, for that matter) looking to surround themselves with like-minded men who they could feel comfortable and safe around.

Add to this a male-dominant, top-heavy institution inherently slow to react and respond to complaints and criticism from its parishioners, resistant to self-correction, and prone to “circling the wagons” whenever things got dicey, and you have a climate perfect for abuse and protecting clergy with a history of abusing children. That this climate, in fact, existed has no better poster-child than the Archdiocese of Boston’s Bernard Cardinal Law, who not only was aware of abusive priests operating in his diocese, but had them transferred from parish to parish to avoid having to deal with the problem directly or publicly.

The point I’m getting at here is that, if the US RC Church REALLY wants to find the cause of the clergy sexual abuse scandals, it doesn’t need to spend money for high-falutin’ academic studies into its psychological or sociological aspects, it need only admit that it was slow to identify the magnitude of the problem and deal with it harshly and directly early on at the first sign of trouble. If the Church had perhaps stripped a few priests of their orders publicly, instituted no-nonsense policies and processes dealing with sexual abuse that included immediate suspensions of all priests accused of sexual abuse until their cases could be effectively (and fairly) investigated and penalties for bishops who refused to act swiftly and publicly (I know, I know, all these things easier said than done), things never would have been allowed to spiral out of control as they did.

So Bishop Aymond, keep your $335K and your “groundbreaking study” and invest it somewhere else where it will do far better good. Like, for example, mirrors for the bishops charged with overseeing RC seminaries, archdioceses and dioceses, because in that way, you just may find the cause of the clergy sexual abuse scandals staring you straight in the face.

Filed in: Religion & Culture by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comments (0)
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