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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Catholic Sex Scandals, Part II

My first entry on this topic concerned the common idea that the root cause of the Catholic sexual abuse problem is celibacy. This entry is to focus on "Why is it so hard for the church and church members to acknowledge the guilt of the priests and repudiate them?"

Pope apologizes to Irish abuse victims, orders Vatican investigation
Irish bishops apologize for 'depravity of abuse' described in Dublin
Catholic Order Apologizes to Abuse Victims
Catholic Bishops Apologize for Sex Abuse
German Bishops Apologize to Child Sex Abuse Victims
Chile's Catholic Church Apologizes for Child Abuse
Swiss bishops apologize, saying they underestimated abuse problem

Catholic bishops deliver full apology for child sex abuse [England and Wales]
U.S. Bishops Apologize for Scandal
Pope Meets Maltese Abuse Victims
Pope Meets With Victims of Sex Abuse By Clergy, Apologizes [USA]
Australia: Pope apologizes for church's sex crimes [bishops]
Pope says sorry to Australian victims of clerical sex abuse
Pope's brother apologizes to abuse victims at his former school
Paedophile priests must own up to their sins, says Vatican [Cardinal Bertone]
Papal preacher apologizes for anti-Semitic remarks

So, how much apologizing is enough? I know, the next remark is "Well, they aren't sincere. They're just apologizing because they got caught." Unfortunately, there is no way to prove sincerity. But to anyone asking the Catholic Church to acknowledge that there is a problem, you got it.


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27 comments:

madgebaby said...

I guess we will see if anything changes. So far it is just words, reactions to being caught. Nothing particularly proactive.

I really am surprised at how defensive this conversation has gotten. I work with survivors of sexual abuse and I'm like I said it is surprising to me to see the problems minimized. Many of the priests who abuse are victims too and I hope and pray they are getting the therapy they need to not reoffend (while being criminally prosecuted and kept away from any potential victims of course).

Being angry about the sexual misconduct of priests and the covering up of it in a systematic way over long periods of time is not a blanket condemnation of the Roman Catholic Church. It is the role of the faithful to hold leaders accountable.

Kelly said...

I am defensive about the idea that the church is showing no remorse and not doing anything about the abuse, because that is just plain wrong.

As I said before, I am not in any way defending the actions of the church over the past few decades.

I suppose my next post will be specific actions taken by the church, so you can see that it is not just words. My husband and I have both been fingerprinted, had a background check, and sat through a 2 hour abuse prevention seminar in order to be able to work with the youth in our church.

Kelly said...

I guess I don't understand by what you mean by "minimizing." If repeated apologies, huge payouts for therapy and compensation, and a complete overhaul in guidelines for working with youth, screening seminarians, and dealing with offenders is not enough, what will be?

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Do you really think those 'programs' are going to solve the problem? Programs never change anyone. Even if these good, well-intentioned priests pass through these programs perfectly, there is nothing to stop them, once practicing, from falling into sinful sexual misconduct - nothing!

I am sure many priests had entered into the priesthood with no intention of sexually abusing anyone, but somehow found themselves in that position, because of the sexually repressive system which brings out the worst in people.

Barbara C. said...

DOW wrote: "because of the sexually repressive system which brings out the worst in people"

So, are schools sexually repressive because there is twice as much sexual abuse by school teachers than by Catholic priests. (http://www.turningpointpsychotherapy.com/child_sexual_abuse_statistics.html)

Or what about the problem in Protestant Churches (http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2007/06/18/80877.htm) reported in this insurance journal?

Perhaps, you should check out this post looking at the comparative statistics (http://gerardnadal.com/). Then perhaps, Daughter of Wisdom, you could overcome your unsubstantiated prejudices and see that celibacy was NEVER the cause behind this.

"there is nothing to stop them, once practicing, from falling into sinful sexual misconduct": This is true for ANY person of faith. Priests, though, don't have a special propensity towards sin due to their vow of celibacy. Of course, we hope that the GRACE of GOD would prevent those who are truly well-intentioned. But you act as if there is no such thing as a well-intentioned, true, honest God-fearing Catholic priest.

Elena said...

I guess we will see if anything changes. So far it is just words, reactions to being caught. Nothing particularly proactive.

This just ticks me off - I gave you several concrete examples of how the church is being "particularly proactive." If you're just going to ignore the things we write then I guess it's not going to be worth the trouble to respond to you.

Your further comments illustrate how little you know about the scandal in the Catholic church. This wasn't grown men abusing small children. It was primarily ephebophilia and was much more of a homosexual issue.

It is well documented in the book I suggested in the previous thread.

Elena said...

Do you really think those 'programs' are going to solve the problem? Programs never change anyone.

I think they will put a huge dent in the problem. And they changed me and my husband. I now feel that we can identify the warning signs and potential hazards that can enable the abuse of children. I think background checks and fingerprinting also help to keep the risk to a minimum. Adhering to more stringent admission policies in the seminaries will also be a great help.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

I am not saying sexual misconduct cannot occur in Protestant churches. Oh my, we have had our share, and continue to have our share of adulteries, sexual deviancies, and so on. What I am saying is that we don't see a rush in Protestantism for members to defend those acts such as you guys are doing, by trying to find news articles to justify your positions, and to put everyone in the same boat as you are all doing.

You know, neither marriage nor celibacy can really change what's in a person's heart. If a person is inclined to sin sexually, they are going to do it - whether they took marriage vows or vows of celibacy. Also, just because a person is married does not mean that person is enjoying their sex life and is satisfied by it. There are a lot of closet gays, pedophiles and rapists who are married, who are just waiting to 'come out.' Marriage is not a cure for sexual sin and neither is celibacy.

The RISK for sexual sin is REDUCED when people really enjoy their spouse sexually, and are satisfied. A person who is sexually satisfied within his/her marriage will not go 'looking for love in all the wrong places.' People who are celibate ,with normal or hypernormal sex drives, have NO OPPORTUNITY for legitmate sexual expression, and when faced with the desire to satisfy those urges, they bottle it all in until one day they explode in sexually perverse ways - abuse, rape, sexual deviancy, and so on. The same can be said of married folks who are turned off sexually from each other, but still have an unfulfilled desire for sex.

The only people who can be truly celibate are people with low sex drives. They can function effectively within society without any fear of risk for sexual abuse or deviancy. You are asking for trouble when you require people with normal or hypernormal sex drives to be celibate.

You guys are so quick to condemn Catholic priests who keep girlfriends and yet offer excuses for Catholic priests who rape and abuse others. So hypocritical and a double standard. Nothing sinful about a man having a girlfriend you know. It's natural and normal. Just because he took some unnatural vows of celibacy does not negate what nature or God intended for him. Which is more natural - a man who satisfies his need for sex with a woman, or a man who abuses others to satisfy his sexual urges?

God's instruction for clergy is very simple, and yet effective - Only allow men who have been FAITHFUL to one wife to become pastors or bishops. This effectively eliminates the adulterers and sexual deviants.

Elena said...

What I am saying is that we don't see a rush in Protestantism for members to defend those acts such as you guys are doing,

Please find one example of Kelly, Barbara C or myself "defending those acts."

People who are celibate ,with normal or hypernormal sex drives, have NO OPPORTUNITY for legitmate sexual expression, and when faced with the desire to satisfy those urges,

I submit to you DOW that most of the incidents were homosexual and that most of the offenders had no business being in the seminary let alone working in parishes. I agree with you that these were disordered acts by disordered people. I do not believe that overall these were healthy heterosexual men who were just repressing their sexuality to the point that they had to diddle little children and I further submit that you'd be hard pressed to find documentation to support that either.


You guys are so quick to condemn Catholic priests who keep girlfriends and yet offer excuses for Catholic priests who rape and abuse others.

I'd like to see an example of any of us doing that as well.

Kelly said...

I am not saying sexual misconduct cannot occur in Protestant churches.

Well, what you said was this:
We know that no church is perfect, but by hiring men who are married and who have good track records of maintaining a meaningful, faithful married relationship with their wives, will go a long way in reducing the number of the homosexual pedophiles in the ranks of the clergy.

If that is the case, then you should be able to see a clear difference in rates of abuse between the only church which requires celibacy for their ministers, and every other denomination. That is not the case.

What I am saying is that we don't see a rush in Protestantism for members to defend those acts such as you guys are doing, by trying to find news articles to justify your positions, and to put everyone in the same boat as you are all doing.

I believe you are getting defensive because you cannot prove your assertion that celibacy is to blame. If you could pull up news articles to justify your position, you would.

And we ARE all in the same boat, because sexual abuse is not a problem which was caused by the Catholic church's doctrines. Now, the mishandling we did all on our own, so go ahead and point fingers there.

The latter part of what you wrote is confusing to me. You say that it is in a person's heart that is what matters, so if they have sinful desires, then they aren't going to be satisfied by marriage, but if they're happy in their marriage, then it might help them to resist the desires in their heart. That's a bit circular to me.

So, if all the abuse in non-Catholic churches comes from men who were not faithful to their wife, then how can you know that in advance? Do you just ask them on the seminary application if they've been having an affair and trust that they won't lie? Do you check their laptop for porn? Because I rather suspect that if someone is struggling with deviant desires and is trying to cover it up with marriage, that you aren't going to be able to tell that from the outside. It's easy to say "only accept people who have been faithful to their wife" but it is a lot more difficult to do it. *cough*Ted Haggard*cough*

Unashamed said...

I'm saddened by this conversation. It's an ugly topic and it's sad that we even have to talk about it. I commend Kelly for having the courage to bring it up.

There is vast evidence that the Catholic church has taken, and continues to make, extensive measures to minimize the potential for future abuse. Kelly has provided many examples of apologies and restitution - this is only a small sample. That there is repentance on the part of the church, there can be no argument. Was it covered up in the past? Yes, shamefully it was. The Church is trying to move forward now. Why is this so difficult to accept?

The whole "celibacy is at fault" thing is a non-starter. It MAY have contributed to a climate of sexual secrecy during that period, but it certainly wasn't wholly to blame. This is a complex situation with a lot of factors involved and "enforced celibacy" is a handy scapegoat.

The reality is, this is a sinful, fallen world. The fact that our religious leaders - Catholic and Protestant - are capable of committing heinous evil should be a humbling reminder to all of us of our dependence on our Saviour. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."

Under the Law, my own sin is no less evil. I deserve death. So do you. Instead, I am declared righteous and given life. You may not like it, but the same is true for those abusers who have repented. Who are you or I to begrudge God from bestowing His mercy on whom He chooses?

This story isn't over and perhaps this is part of the reason why it's been so difficult for some to accept the church's repentance. As more revelations of abuse become known, wounds will be re-opened, both those of the victims and those of the Church and her faithful who are trying to come to terms with how this could have happened. Our Catholic brothers and sisters will have to endure, again and again, the shame of the past as well as the present condemnation from the world. Those of us who are non-Catholic Christians should be STANDING with our Catholic brethren and helping them bear their burden, even as we would bear the burden of the victims. In a sense, the Catholic laity are no less victims in all this.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Kelly wrote:

"The latter part of what you wrote is confusing to me. You say that it is in a person's heart that is what matters, so if they have sinful desires, then they aren't going to be satisfied by marriage, but if they're happy in their marriage, then it might help them to resist the desires in their heart. That's a bit circular to me."
-----------------------------------

Let me clarify. A person with the sinful desire to sin sexually will not be changed by marriage.

A person who is SEXUALLY SATISFIED within their marriage will not be tempted to stray and be unfaithful to their spouse.

Peace.

Elena said...

Well that's simply not true either Hillary. Happily married men are not immune from temptation and cheating.

The smart ones just learn how to minimize their exposure and risk to both.

BTW are you married?

madgebaby said...

All the preventative measures you mention--the background checks, fingerprinting, prevention classes, etc., have been standard in mainline protestant denominations for at least a decade and are standard in schools and scouts and other organizations. They are hardly dramatic measures and they do nothing to address this pervasive pattern of abuse that was minimized by the hierarchy.

madgebaby said...

Also, perhaps 10% of abusers can be identified by background checks and fingerprint checks, so that is a better screening device than it is a real prevention. No one with a juvenile record would be identified in this manner so it only works on people who are adults.

Elena said...

All the preventative measures you mention--the background checks, fingerprinting, prevention classes, etc., have been standard in mainline protestant denominations for at least a decade and are standard in schools and scouts and other organizations. They are hardly dramatic measures and they do nothing to address this pervasive pattern of abuse that was minimized by the hierarchy

chuckle... they're pretty dramatic if all you want to do is teach a Sunday School class! I think screening and awareness on the parish level and at seminaries as well as ongoing investigations at the diocesan level do a lot to address the pattern.

I'm not exactly sure what would satisfy you and I can't even imagine.

Unashamed said...

madgebaby, if in your estimation the measures that the Catholic church has taken to prevent abuse are inadequate, do you have any suggestions for improvement? I ask this in seriousness. You mentioned that you work with survivors of abuse so I presume you have some expertise.

Elena said...

Also, perhaps 10% of abusers can be identified by background checks and fingerprint checks, so that is a better screening device than it is a real prevention. No one with a juvenile record would be identified in this manner so it only works on people who are adults.

That's true. So on the parish level with Sunday School teachers, day school teachers, youth group leaders and sports coaches, you can't check the juvenile record. And guess what, that's true OUTSIDE the Catholic church as well.

HOWEVER, in regards to priest formation, the seminaries don't rely solely on the background checks but continue careful vocational and psychological evaluations during the formation years. That's pretty thorough.

Incidentally madgebaby, if you have any incidents of abused CHILDREN under the age of 10 molested by a priest ordained in the last six years I would be very interested in hearing about it.

Barbara C. said...

The reason Catholics get so defensive is because the reports of these incidents in the media are often full of misrepresentations and outright errors just for the ratings soundbite or catch headline or funny joke.

And in general, the Catholic Church is a bigger target for criticism and jokes because it is so large and organized. It's harder to make generalizations about Protestantism because the tenants can vary widely from church building to church building and even within members who attend the same church building. The only single Christian denomination that catches as much flack as the Catholic Church is probably the Mormons. It gets REALLY annoying!!

The thing is that there is a huge number of celibate men in society if you take the word "celibacy" by it's actual definition of "unmarried". However, there is a dearth of CHASTE men in our society. Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? At a most basic level, most people are tempted to sin sexually otherwise the rates of premarital sex wouldn't be so high.

And in how hyper-sexualized society there are many married men are very satisfied with their sex lives...but at the expense of the dignity of and respect for their wives. There is often a lack of chastity within the bonds of marriage these days, especially by the strict standards of the Catholic Church.

And people don't just cheat on their spouses for sexual satisfaction that they feel is lacking...often sexual dissatisfaction is a sign of other problems within the marriage.

So, in other words I really think Hillary is way off the mark in ALL of her analysis.

madgebaby said...

Of course, Elena, I can't discuss any cases I'm involved with. Undoubtedly things are better than they used to be, if only because the church is under the microscope right now.

As far as the extreme measures to teach a sunday school class, all of that has been standard of practice in my denomination and all the other mainline denominations for at least a decade, and we've not been making news about clergy sexual abuse scandals. Camps and scouts have been doing that stuff for more like 20 years. None of that is in any way extreme, unfortunately. I know it is burdensome.

What would help? third party audit of all records, a vehicle for reporting and investigation of abuse that sidesteps all current ordained leadership, less defensiveness and less of a persecution complex. Those things would help.

Elena said...

Well I wasn't asking you to break confidentiality. I merely thought if there was a link to an investigation of a new priest, of a child (not homosexual and not ephebophilia) that you would present it. My guess is that you would be hard pressed to find one.

The Diocese in the United states REQUIRE alleged abusers to be reported to the authorities ASAP. That certainly sidesteps the church authority and takes it out of their hands. And if you were seriously following the scandal as rigorously as you criticize it, you would know that already.

The defensiveness and persecution complex probably isn't going away anytime soon - and folks like you are the reason why.

madgebaby said...

So personal. . . .my oh my. I was thinking that this was a pretty civilized and reasoned discourse up until now.

I'm glad that abusers are finally being reported in congruence with the law. Of course in most all states it is mandated that allegations be reported without an internal investigation happening first, and it would be interesting to know what is happening as far as that goes.

Elena said...

I apologize if I hurt your feelings madgebaby. That wasn't my intention.

I can remember back in 2002, during one of the lowest points in my life, depending on my church and my associate pastor to counsel, comfort, strengthen and bolster me and my faith. And I would come away from confession or from church feeling so strong and refreshed, only to hear story after story after story about abuse, after abuse after abuse. And it was sad and it was inexcusable. Whether we wanted to be or not we all became apologists for a damaged church while at the same time having many questions about what the heck was going on. It was exhausting and it literally took time and energy away from more important things- which to me at the time was healing.

It also really did hurt the 96% of Catholic priests who were totally innocent of any wrongdoing, as well as all the devout Catholics who love the church and understand her teachings. The sins of a few affected the many.

I should mention that my 60 something year old pastor at the time got spat on when he went to the local gym he had been attending for years to work out, or that other priests were met with jeers and obscene gestures simply for being Catholic priests.

And it was hard for the faithful too who were trying to live their lives, raise their children and were told over and over again by folks like Candy that their church was akin to a den of iniquity. At the time and somewhat since then just being a Catholic lost you some credibility points with other Christians sometimes in online discussions. It's all been a bit hard to take.

Hopefully with this explanation you can perhaps see where the persecution complex and defensiveness comes in.

And as I have done this type of discussion before, answering all the usual questions ad nauseum I'm going to bow out.

Kelly said...

And in how hyper-sexualized society there are many married men are very satisfied with their sex lives...but at the expense of the dignity of and respect for their wives. There is often a lack of chastity within the bonds of marriage these days, especially by the strict standards of the Catholic Church.

And people don't just cheat on their spouses for sexual satisfaction that they feel is lacking...often sexual dissatisfaction is a sign of other problems within the marriage.

So, in other words I really think Hillary is way off the mark in ALL of her analysis.


I really agree with everything you wrote here, Barbara.

I don't know that Hillary said this exactly, but I have a concern with the idea that if someone struggles with a sexual sin, that having the outlet of marriage will help. I think that "using" a spouse in that way would objectify them. It isn't respecting their dignity as a person.

And I still don't think that if you are attracted to a 14 year old boy, that having sex with a woman will help.

Kelly said...

I'm saddened by this conversation. It's an ugly topic and it's sad that we even have to talk about it. I commend Kelly for having the courage to bring it up.

Thank you for your support, Unashamed.

madgebaby said...

It's very hard to feel two ways at once about something, to both feel indignant about the abuse and love so many other aspects of the church. I'm sure it is hard to negotiate those feelings.

It has been a really hard time for people in collars generally; the kind of ridicule and disrespect you describe toward priests is so sad. I know that protestant clergy who wear collars have been treated the same way.

People like Candy exploit the tendency we all have to be afraid of things we don't understand or that are not like us. I'm sorry people like that make it so much worse, since she's clearly got some issues that transcend theology and ecclesiology

Dr MikeyMike said...

A person who is SEXUALLY SATISFIED within their marriage will not be tempted to stray and be unfaithful to their spouse.

Interestingly enough, statistics show that men who have more sex at home also masturbate more, or so what was taught in my psychiatry course. Following your logic, I suppose if those who are sexually satisfied in marriage do not stray away from their spouses, they wouldn't need to masturbate, either.