Sex abusing priests? Blame it on Woodstock

Rick Moran
Those who don't believe that religious entities like the Catholic Church aren't political should be disabused of that notion with the release of a study attempting to find out why priests abuse children.

The $1.8 million study is supposed to be the definitive response of the US Catholic bishops to the epidemic of child abuse cases that have nearly destroyed the Catholic church in America. The fact that it will satisfy no one is the whole point of the exercise. They aimed for a report that was right down the middle and they got it.

No blame goes to the celibacy of the priesthood. No blame goes to the increase in gay priests. Instead, the blame is placed on society and lax sexual mores that became predominant in the 1960's and 70's.

The New York Times:

The report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and '70s.Known occurrences of sexual abuse of minors by priests rose sharply during those decades, the report found, and the problem grew worse when the church's hierarchy responded by showing more care for the perpetrators than the victims.

The "blame Woodstock" explanation has been floated by bishops since the church was engulfed by scandal in the United States in 2002 and by Pope Benedict XVI after it erupted in Europe in 2010. 

It's just a little fishy that the explanation they wanted to be true was the one "discovered" by the study. But there's more:

The researchers concluded that it was not possible for the church, or for anyone, to identify abusive priests in advance. Priests who abused minors have no particular "psychological characteristics," "developmental histories" or mood disorders that distinguished them from priests who had not abused, the researchers found.

Since the scandal broke, conservatives in the church have blamed gay priests for perpetrating the abuse, while liberals have argued that the all-male, celibate culture of the priesthood was the cause. This report will satisfy neither flank.

The report notes that homosexual men began entering the seminaries "in noticeable numbers" from the late 1970s through the 1980s. By the time this cohort entered the priesthood, in the mid-1980s, the reports of sexual abuse of minors by priests began to drop and then to level off. If anything, the report says, the abuse decreased as more gay priests began serving the church.

If an attempt was made to demonize gays, the study would have been rejected outright. And, of course, there is no way they could have blamed celibacy - a bedrock practice of the priesthood that has been confirmed and reconfirmed by the Vatican many times. The only possible avenue left was to split responsibility between society, and church seminaries who didn't "prepare" priests to face these new temptations.

Then, there's this curious bit of denial:

In one of the most counterintuitive findings, the report says that fewer than 5 percent of the abusive priests exhibited behavior consistent with pedophilia, which it defines as a "psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges and behaviors about prepubescent children.

"Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as ‘pedophile priests,' " the report says.

How should we refer to them? Are we to believe they abused kids out of love? It's nonsense like this that gets people upset at the Church leadership.

The Catholic Church does a lot of good in communities all across the world. Nobody can deny that. But until they face the fact that up to 5% of their clergy and lay clergy are child abusers, they will not get past this dark period in the history of the Church.



Those who don't believe that religious entities like the Catholic Church aren't political should be disabused of that notion with the release of a study attempting to find out why priests abuse children.

The $1.8 million study is supposed to be the definitive response of the US Catholic bishops to the epidemic of child abuse cases that have nearly destroyed the Catholic church in America. The fact that it will satisfy no one is the whole point of the exercise. They aimed for a report that was right down the middle and they got it.

No blame goes to the celibacy of the priesthood. No blame goes to the increase in gay priests. Instead, the blame is placed on society and lax sexual mores that became predominant in the 1960's and 70's.

The New York Times:

The report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and '70s.

Known occurrences of sexual abuse of minors by priests rose sharply during those decades, the report found, and the problem grew worse when the church's hierarchy responded by showing more care for the perpetrators than the victims.

The "blame Woodstock" explanation has been floated by bishops since the church was engulfed by scandal in the United States in 2002 and by Pope Benedict XVI after it erupted in Europe in 2010. 

It's just a little fishy that the explanation they wanted to be true was the one "discovered" by the study. But there's more:

The researchers concluded that it was not possible for the church, or for anyone, to identify abusive priests in advance. Priests who abused minors have no particular "psychological characteristics," "developmental histories" or mood disorders that distinguished them from priests who had not abused, the researchers found.

Since the scandal broke, conservatives in the church have blamed gay priests for perpetrating the abuse, while liberals have argued that the all-male, celibate culture of the priesthood was the cause. This report will satisfy neither flank.

The report notes that homosexual men began entering the seminaries "in noticeable numbers" from the late 1970s through the 1980s. By the time this cohort entered the priesthood, in the mid-1980s, the reports of sexual abuse of minors by priests began to drop and then to level off. If anything, the report says, the abuse decreased as more gay priests began serving the church.

If an attempt was made to demonize gays, the study would have been rejected outright. And, of course, there is no way they could have blamed celibacy - a bedrock practice of the priesthood that has been confirmed and reconfirmed by the Vatican many times. The only possible avenue left was to split responsibility between society, and church seminaries who didn't "prepare" priests to face these new temptations.

Then, there's this curious bit of denial:

In one of the most counterintuitive findings, the report says that fewer than 5 percent of the abusive priests exhibited behavior consistent with pedophilia, which it defines as a "psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges and behaviors about prepubescent children.

"Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as ‘pedophile priests,' " the report says.

How should we refer to them? Are we to believe they abused kids out of love? It's nonsense like this that gets people upset at the Church leadership.

The Catholic Church does a lot of good in communities all across the world. Nobody can deny that. But until they face the fact that up to 5% of their clergy and lay clergy are child abusers, they will not get past this dark period in the history of the Church.