Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Study on Catholic priest abuse completely misses the point

Perhaps not surprisingly, a study commissioned by the country's Roman Catholic bishops to analyze the pattern of clergy sex abuse completely overlooks the real issues of the scandal.  The authors of the study say it's not homosexuality, celibacy, or an all-male priesthood that caused the abuse.  Instead, they point to the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s and say that priests who were ordained in the 40s and 50s were ill-prepared to handle the societal changes.

I guess I'd take their claims more seriously if more people who took part in the sexual revolution thought it was okay to have sex with boys between the ages of 10-14.  The study also spends some time arguing semantics, saying that many of the abuse cases weren't technically pedophilia since a lot of the victims may have gone through puberty before they were molested.  I'm not sure it matters a great deal if the kid was 10 or 14; abuse is abuse, and it's made even worse when it's done by someone using religious authority to inflict it.

Whatever the real reasons behind the individual priests' misbehavior, the larger problem is the system that was in place that allowed -- I might go so far as to say encouraged -- the misbehavior to continue.  Not only have bishops been ordered by the Vatican to not report abusive priests to the secular authorities, but there has also been very little in the way of internal discipline for these monsters.  In the majority of cases, abusive priests were simply moved to other parishes where they could continue their abuse.

The evil here goes all the way to the top of the Catholic Church.  The man who is now Pope, Joseph Ratziner, personally covered up many cases of abuse in the name of what was best for the Church.  Ratzinger certainly doesn't deserve the adulation or the respect given him by the world's Catholics and should be held accountable for his part in damaging thousands of young people.