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Priest Pedophilia? Blame it on Woodstock

Lost in the Arnold Schwarzenegger scandal and the Newt Gingrich political incorrectness implosion earlier this week was the bombshell release of a $1.8M study by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Their conclusion as to why there was a wave of priest pedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church?  Blame it on Woodstock.

Yes, those socially tumultuous sixties and seventies, not the fact that pedophiles, particularly those with a penchant for little boys, could line up for the only gig outside of Disneyworld that put a smorgasbord of children under their control.  Maybe they should have asked the Walt Disney Co. how they do their evaluations and screenings.

The study, “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2002,” launched in 2006, was conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and funded, in part by the Justice Department. It is the follow-up to a preliminary report that the law school released in 2004.  It found that it was those wild and weird 1960’s and ’70s that set loose the wave of pedophilia in the American Roman Catholic Church, not celibacy nor the homosexual priests.  In fact, pedophilia actually dropped as more self-admitted homosexuals in the survey group donned the robes.

The study also told us that there was no way to determine a candidate for the priesthood who might be a pedophile. Pedophiles in the clergy who abused minors had no “psychological characteristics,” “developmental histories” or other mental disorders, the study found.

“It deflects responsibility from the bishops and puts it on to a sociological problem,” Robert M. Hoatson, priest and Road to Recovery founder told the New York Times.

It’s also a lot of Papal bull…

The problem of pedophiles in the priesthood stretches back centuries, in every corner of the globe. The explosion of cases here in the United States came from increased awareness, not the allegedly looser morals of a period in U.S. history.  There are cases filed against priests and the church on every continent other than perhaps Antarctica, and only possibly because molesting baby penguins is bestiality, not pedophilia.

The part of the study that I can agree with: If you’re gay or celibate, that doesn’t make you any more likely to abuse children than a straight person.

The problems with the rest of the study are huge. The Times reported:

“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.”

Known occurrences are the key problem.  Bishops under-reported figures. A grand jury in Philadelphia unearthed dozens of cases which the Bishop in the City of Brotherly Love tasked with uncovering cases of abuse by priests in his diocese did not even know about.

Ending the hypocrisy of celibacy is not the answer to this particular problem.  Pedophiles that are already not obeying their vows aren’t likely to worry much about that, and they don’t date adult women much.

Neither is using the pedophilia as a wedge issue to drive gay priests out of the Church, as many homophobic Catholics would like to do.

The one thing that the gang from the moral accountability biz has not got around to doing, even with this report, is being morally accountable. There is a word that this report should have invoked frequently: Screening.

Clergy are in a position of authority and “ultimate” power. For those who believe in the faith and in their flavor of God, they are the agents and gatekeepers of the superhighway to Heaven. No child, fearing the call of the nuns that they will burn in Hell for failing to obey, is going to resist.   The priesthood is pedophile paradise.

You have to go through extensive background checks to work in most other jobs with children. Not so the Roman Catholic priesthood.  Hear the voices calling you, show up at a church, and a clergy-starved church is probably glad to see you.

The Roman Catholic Church really has needed to do for decades is to own up to its own poor screening practices. While no process will ever weed out 100% of pedophiles in any organization, extensive background checks, and cross-checks with evolving public protections like the Megan’s Law list, would have been proactive responses over the decades. Today, psych fitness screenings should be a must as well. The position is too powerful.

The Catholic sin-check, the confessional, is a generations out-of-date non-starter because the priests hearing confessions can only suggest curatives and absolve those confessing with minimal repentance.

The problem could solve itself at the Papal level.  If  Benedict XVI would issue a bull stating that priests will not be absolved for sins like pedophilia, perhaps it might give a moment of pause.

Don’t count on it though. This Pope has been one of the biggest obstructionist ostriches in the Church, even before his ascension.   Then Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001 sent out a confidential letter telling Bishops to hold inquiries behind close doors and seal records for up to 10 years.  The Guardian in the U.K. reports:

“The letter, ‘concerning very grave sins’, was sent from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that once presided over the Inquisition and was overseen by Ratzinger.”

The report does not account for the numerous priests who were dispatched from the U.S. to countries where they would not be extraditable.

Other than restating the obvious, this five year, $1.8 broom has not swept pedophiles out of the church.  It seems to be a very expensive attempt to sweep the pedophilia issue under the Catholic Church’s already bumpy rug rather than achieve some real accountability.

Blaming the social conditions of the 1960’s and 1970’s? My modified hippy take:

Make progress, not excuses.

Peace, man.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian and short filmmaker who blogs for Truth2Power, the Huffington Post, and the Daily KOS, among others.

One comment on “Priest Pedophilia? Blame it on Woodstock

  1. Thomas T. Panto
    May 24, 2011

    When, to limit and control the reproduction only to their obedient, faithful, patriotic soldiers and slaves, the rulers of evil religious empires forbid, condemned and outlawed NORMAL HUMAN CONTACT then they CREATED the countless abnormal Human Contacts that Human civilizations suffer from today. Only those who SEE and KNOW how fragile life and happiness is to achieve and sustain will admire, respect, love and protect the future of this creation from every form of abuse.

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