Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

Ask the Experts, again...

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jun 12, 2003

From a Rachel Zoll story:

Researchers have identified a pattern in the molestation crisis afflicting the Roman Catholic Church: most of the victims are older boys.

The cops knew it. Margaret Gallant knew it. Yet researchers have now "identified a pattern" in the self-congratulatory way of the astrophysicists who first noticed binary stars.

Noting this trend [!], some high-ranking Catholics have concluded that many abusive clergy are gay, and some church members have suggested purging the priesthood of homosexuals. But abuse experts say that's a simplistic approach that will not end the threat to children.

Well, as simplistic approaches go, I'd say it's one of the best. Moreover, even though most of us can do the arithmetic necessary to understand that getting rid of men who like 14-year-olds will not eliminate the threat to five-year-olds, we're willing to accept it as a step in the right direction.

"What I'm afraid of is we're going into this witch hunt for gays,'' said the Rev. Stephen Rossetti, a psychologist and sex abuse consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

A witch-hunt is a bad thing, one assumes, only when the quarry are not witches at all.

"We need to be careful that we don't make anyone -- whether it's priests or gays -- scapegoats."

A bogus disjunction. Everyone agrees that some element within the priesthood needs to be eliminated. The problem is one of accurate discernment of cause-and-effect and accurate identification of the harmful element.

Still, some in the church blame gays for the cases of abuse, in part because most of the abusive priests are not considered pedophiles. In some cases where the victims are adolescents, the encounter can be considered homosexual conduct that -- although unacceptable -- can't be classified as a psychiatric disorder, Berlin said.

"Sin" will do. We can argue about the disorder later.

The offenders' targeting of boys versus girls can be a clue to their sexual orientation, but not necessarily, experts say.

You know my methods, Watson.

A. W. Richard Sipe, a psychotherapist and former priest who works with plaintiffs in sex abuse cases, blames the culture of the church. "What other profession do you have that has a widespread boys club mentality where everyone has to be a man, where everything is male-revered," Sipe said.

Male-revered? In my (extended) family, there isn't one male in twenty who couldn't change a shock-absorber. Among priests of my acquaintance, there isn't one in twenty who would know where to look for it.

Until more research can be done on why boys are more often targeted many researchers say the church should focus on improving screening of candidates to the priesthood, teaching seminarians how to handle the pressures of celibate life and strengthening supervision of priests.

Good thinking. We don't know what to screen for, so let's do more of it.

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