Monday, April 11, 2011

A Balanced View of Priestly Sexual Abuse

The Catholic League ran a full-page ad in the New York Times today on the subject of priestly sexual abuse. It is a very thoughtful, balanced, and well-documented text well worth the time that it takes to read. The following link will take you to an on-line version of this advertisement, titled STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH and signed by Bill Donahue, president of the League. Here is how this organization describes itself in the first paragraph of its About Us page:

The Catholic League is the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization. Founded in 1973 by the late Father Virgil C. Blum, S.J., the Catholic League defends the right of Catholics – lay and clergy alike – to participate in American public life without defamation or discrimination.
Some comments of my own. I’ve been following this subject for years in the papers and on the electronic media. My own reaction has been disgust. Indeed I think that attending to the media even with a moderate amount of concentration will produce the undeniable impression that these media are strongly prejudiced toward religion in any form and toward Catholicism above all—this last emphasis due not particularly to any specific features of Catholic theology but a reflection of the general size, strength, and cohesion of this church which does not look like it will weaken, thin out, secularize, and become, de facto, a mild cheering section for a gentler sort of materialism. The fact that papers have “religion” pages on which articles have quite a different slant than elsewhere does not negate my impression at all.

We’ve been parents of children who have attended both Catholic and ordinary public schools. In all those years we knew of only a single case of alleged abuse of a pubescent minor. It took place in one of the public schools our girls attended, and the party under suspicion was a coach who gave himself some freedoms in touching girls. The school went through all kinds of procedural motions; indeed we frankly felt as if we had done something questionable rather than that jerk, the coach. And, as it turned out, the teacher remained in place—although, after these events, his behavior became extremely circumspect. All institutions tend to behave in similar ways.

The media also treat some religious persuasions as if they were, indeed, untouchable. But that’s another story. All forms of biased reporting, for or against—all disrespect for those who exercise their conscience, whether approved by modernist ideology or not, falls outside the pale of professional journalism. It is too bad that the Catholic League has to expend big bucks to put a balanced view of priestly abuse in the New York Times—rather than encountering that view, as a matter of course, in the pages of the newspaper of record.


  1. I followed the links and read the text.

    I find it odd that the article calls upon Richard Dawkins, arch-atheist, for support at the very end.
    It struck me as bizarre as saying, "Look, here! Beezelbub is rotten to the core, but he thinks highly of us! So rally round, folks!"

    What's good enough for atheists is good enough for the rest of you riff-raff? Is that what they said there?

  2. The way you put it, Montag ("calls upon...for support") is not the way I read that closing statement. It could be read as saying that Dawkins has a balanced view.

  3. Yes. I am overstating... as usual.

    The entire spectacle is somehow akin to that of the McMartin school in California (I believe) back in the early 90's. It was a "witch trial" based on "recovered memory" and suggestions planted into children's minds by overzealous prosecutors.
    And it was not the only one over the following decade. Suddenly there was a rash of abuse and Satan worship in pre-schools.

    So instead of actually making the world a safer place for children, it destroyed many lives and left the children - if anything - more impaired by their exposure to a legal system which cannot comprehend certain types of evil... but did not hesitate to expose their young minds to a web of pornographic insinuation.

    In the case of the priests, we have actual crimes, but somehow I sense that children will not be more secure when the dust settles. The Church will clean house, and things will be much better there, but the Abuser will take on another form and continue somewhere else under its new guise.

  4. I fear that you are right, Montag. Big, strong families and children able to talk to their parents (and vice versa) are the only bulwark against this sort of thing that works up to a point.

    Not to minimize the horrid nature of sexual abuse, but the issue that rose to my attention here is really the not-so-subtle cultural prejudices echo back by the media--that, these days, there isn't a genuine "adult" sort of stance that our institutions actually reflect.

  5. I agree totally.
    Sometimes the worst damage comes from the legal system, the parents, the schoolmates... all the people thought to be in the role of support actually may inflict damage that is more severe than anything else.
    So the business is very complex.

    And there are very, very mixed messages in the Media and in our heads. The Music Industry itself has created stock epithets of sexually suggestive acts that are open to all ages.
    I saw a 15 or 14 year old Justin Bieber on The Today Show 2 years ago and I just stood there amazed at the hypocritical stupidity of it all.