Abuse: Vatican Blame Game, Updated

Writing about the Vatican’s blame game yesterday, (Vatican puts its Head in the Sand), I expressed some scepticism about some figures quoted that were unattributed.  I have since stumbled upon a Canadian story, reprinting one from which describes a “report” (unnamed) of February 27 2004 which appears to discuss the same figures, in greater detail.  This report appears to corroborate the Vatican’s figures of  “1.5 – 5%” of clergy implicated in allegations of abuse, but flatly contradicts the claim that other denominations are at least as guilty.  Canada’s National Post reported in 2004:

On Feb. 27, two major reports were released documenting the extent of American priestly abuse between 1950 and 2002. The numbers are staggering. All told, 4,392 priests were alleged to have sexually abused 10,667 children. That works out to about 4% of all priests in ministry, a figure many times the rate of that for Protestant clergy. The most obvious explanation for the discrepancy is simple: Protestant ministers are allowed to take wives. Catholic priests are not.
Read more:  National Post

This report states clearly that 81% of victims were boys, which differs from other estimates that to thirds were girls. But drawing a clear distinction between the abuse of young boys and adolescents, the report states that adolescents are more vulnerable to gay “ephebophiles” (i.e. attracted to young men), and young boys are more prone to molestation by heterosexual  men, attracted by the hairless, androgynous skin.  It goes on to note that even excluding gay priests from the calculations, that still leaves 3% of heterosexual priests guilty of sexual abuse of children.

Some of this elaborates what I have previously reported on, yesterday and previously, some of it contradicts my earlier reports.  But the fundamental conclusion, as noted by Professor Katz of Harvard Medical School, remains the same:

“The [available] data suggest that Catholic diocesan priests are a relatively distinct and atypical group of male sexual offenders. It is possible then that their motivations to engage in sexual misbehaviour are associated with their specific developmental path, psychologically determined predispositional vulnerabilities, or a pre-selection bias in their choice of profession. In addition, several unspecified factors specifically associated with Catholic clerical education and socialization could be associated with an increased risk of expressing or experimenting with socially immature but aberrant sexual behaviours.”

Driving all this is the formal requirement that Catholic priests be celibate. On one hand, the restriction serves to attract men who are ashamed of their sexuality for one reason or another, and are looking for a socially acceptable means to repress it. On the other hand, by insulating priests from the normalizing influence of a monogamous, adult relationship (gay or straight), it permits them to surrender to their dark fetishes unimpeded. Men who remain single through their middle-aged years often sink into a sort of self-indulgent weirdness. Typically, this manifests itself in harmless bachelor habits. But when there is a latent sexual pathology, the situation gets more serious. And those are the specimens the Church is recruiting.
Read more: National Post

But to change the subject slightly, it is also worth noting the news report that prompted the Post columnist to repeat this story in the first place.  In Nova Scotia, Bishop Raymond Lahey of the Antigonish diocese is now a wanted man. Facing charges of child pornography, he appears to have gone AWOL rather face the charges directly.  A warrant of arrest has been issued in Ottawa. Read the report.  At this point, I am simply unable to comment, beyond “Lord have mercy, for the system we have created.”.

Once again, then:

If the recruitment process (enforcing celibacy) and the training process (in the seminary system) are  leaving us with a male clergy preselected by their shame over sexuality, with a bias to socially immature behaviour, or socialised by the seminary system to such behaviour, the only way to deal the problem is to change the system.

2 Responses to “Abuse: Vatican Blame Game, Updated”

  1. Norma Villarreal Says:

    “The only way to deal with the problem is to change the system.” That may be valid, but I do not see rules changing in the near future that allow Catholic priests to marry or permit women to become priests. As for the Vatican’s blame game, what if the hierarchy would quit pointing fingers, stop moving (alleged) perpetrators to various parishes, and be accountable for actions of their clergy members?

    • queeringthechurch Says:

      Norma, I agree that I don’t see the Vatican changing the rules any time too soon, nor sadly do I see them easily accepting their own culpability, and ceasing the blame game. where I am heading though, is an increasing sense that change does not have to come only from the Vatican, granted as a gift from on high. Sure, on the biggest issues, we depend on their agreement, but if the political history of South Africa is any guide, I can see a situation where small changes are de facto created by the rest of us, laity and local churches together, and later ratified from above as confirmation only of change already effected.
      Thereafter, it becomes easier to exert pressure for bigger changes.

      Unrealistic dreaming? It’s how women priests became accepted in the Anglican communion. In the ECLA, which recently agreed to recognise gay and lesbian clergy in committed but non-celibate relationships, this too simply confirmed a de facto situation. Many congregations already had valued gay pastors: the resolution in the summer did not introduce gay clergy as much as recognise those already there – and permit those who were closeted to live in greater honesty. These are not the Catholic Church – but I think I am discerning evidence of a lot of progressive muscle-flexing, which could see some change sooner than we think. I’m hoping to post some expanded thoughts on this over the next few days.

      Thanks for joining the discussion: all contributions are valuable, and much appreciated.

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