Monday, June 14, 2010

The sex-abuse scandals

I mentioned the sex-abuse scandals in a previous post and there was some further discussion in the comments. I've decided to make something of a public statement about where I stand on them. Not because I think anyone  will or should care but just to state some things so that, should any one come to care, it will be obvious where I stand.

  1. The cliché is that it's not the crime, it's the cover-up. In this case the cliché is actually true. The actual abuses, horrible as they were, were mainly individual crimes not institutional ones. The moral indictment of the Catholic Church comes with the efforts to protect the institution by hiding what had happened. In many cases, the cover-ups led to more children being abused.
  2. I don't think it is reasonable to make any sort of cause and effect connections between the church's teaching on sexuality and what happened. The sort of men who abused teenage boys would not have been any less likely to do so if they'd had wives. Further, I have seen no evidence to indicate that priests were statistically more likely to sexually abuse children than members of any other group that works with children.
  3. I don't think there is any reasonable narrative that makes Pope Benedict the bad guy in this story.
  4. Conversely, I think there is much about John Paul's actions that deserves deeper investigation. We need to know just how much he did to hamper investigations of abusive priests. I know this will be very painful to some but it needs to be done.
  5. There needs to be a special investigation of the Irish church as forms of abusive that happened there and with some of the Irish orders operating in North America seems to have been especially prevalent and repugnant.

On the last point, there is something I'd like to underline. For all the condemnation of the church's attitudes on sexuality, it is an interesting cultural fact that most places where the Catholic church played a powerful political and cultural role historically now show more open-minded and tolerant attitudes than places in the west where Protestantism did. In Canada, for example, Quebec is a very different place than the rest of the country.

The singular exception to this is Ireland where some of the most repressive cultural attitudes towards sex in the entire west formed.

1 comment:

  1. You've touched on many things here Jules, and your points all have merit. I think that the sex abuse scandals and the subsequent coverups are symptomatic of a larger systemic dysfunction in the RC Church and the triumph of Clericalism. Yet they still don't seem to get it. The Pope just blamed the Devil for raining on his parade (The Year of the Priests) by bringing more abuse and coverups out in the open this past year. I would respectfully submit that it was the Holy Spirit telling Rome to "get real." The situation in Ireland is appalling and I agree with your analysis. I also think it is another example of the residual effects of Jansenism because it was in Ireland that the Jansenists gained their strongest foothold.

    Richard Sipe has been writing and treating abusive priests for the past 40 yrs. He's a former Benedictine Monk who left in 1970 after 20 years to become a clinical psychologist, and still remains Catholic. His website is an excellent resource for all of this, its time consuming but he shows how complex this is, and documents how the sexual abuse of minors goes back to Luther's time: