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. Read the rest of this entry »

Clerical Abuse: Vatican Puts its Head in the Sand.

Following the announcement of Papal visit to the UK, the Guardian yesterday carried two important stories on Benedict XVI and the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI

In an opinion piece, Tanya Gold expressing deep anger at the Papal visit.  Under the heading, “Ignore the bells and the smells and the lovely Raphaels, the Pope’s arrival in Britain is nothing to celebrate“, she writes:

Save us, O Lord, save us all. Save us from the Pope. Joseph Ratzinger is coming to Britain. Gordon Brown is “delighted”. David Cameron is “delighted”. I am “repelled”. Let him come; I applaud freedom of speech. But no red carpets, please. No biscuits. No Queen.

In his actions on child abuse and Aids, Joseph Ratzinger has colluded in the protection of paedophiles and the deaths of millions of Africans. As Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (Pope John Paul II’s chief enforcer), it was Ratzinger’s job to investigate the child abuse scandal that plagued the Catholic church for decades. And how did he do it? In May 2001 he wrote a confidential letter to Catholic bishops, ordering them not to notify the police – or anyone else – about the allegations, on pain of excommunication. He referred to a previous (confidential) Vatican document that ordered that investigations should be handled “in the most secretive way . . . restrained by a perpetual silence”. Excommunication is a joke to me, perhaps to you, but to a Catholic it means exclusion and perhaps hellfire – for trying to protect a child. Well, God is love. Read the rest of this entry »

Clerical Abuse: A Lesson From South Africa

In the aftermath of apartheid, an important part of the country’s transition to normality was played by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, magnificently led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

TRC logo

Among mountains of harrowing tales of huge personal tragedy and confessions of guilt from all sides of a long conflict, I was especially struck by one man’s testimony.

Dr Beyers Naude was a minister and theologian in the Dutch Reformed Church, who in his youth was seen as a rising star and future leader in that community. So it turned out, but not in the way then anticipated.   Read the rest of this entry »

Church, Power & Abuse

Depressing church news over the past two months has led me to pick up and start reading a book which has been on my shelves some time, but which I have previously only dipped into.  The removal of  excommunication of SPXX  members has received wide and ongoing publicity; clerical sexual abuse is again in the news with the FBI reopening old investigations in LA Diocese, and fresh revelations over   Fr Marcial Maarciel Delgado of the Legionnaires of Christ.  Meanwhile, on the progressive wing of the church, there has been less coverage in the MSM of the silencing or excommunication of the priests  Fr Roger Haight,  Geoffrey Farrow and Roy  Bourgeois, or of bizarre goings-on in the parishes of St Mary’s, Brisbane and St Stephen’s, Minneapolis, where attempts to muzzle complete parishes have led to resistance (St Mary’s) or exodus (St Stephen’s).

What all these have in common is that they are concerned with power in the church – its extension, its abuse, or attempts to defy or resist it.  so I picked up again  “Confronting Power & Sex in the Catholic Church”, by Bishop Geoffrey Robinson.  I am pleased that I did.  Published in 2007, this book Read the rest of this entry »

Priests, Paedophiles, and Purity.

I generally refrain from commenting on paedophile scandals, inside or outside the church.  But two stories which almost co-incided a few weeks ago have been niggling at me since I encountered them.  Now, in the diocese of LA, clerical misconduct of a sexual kind is once again in the news:  The Wall Street Journal reports the archdiocese is under investigation for failing to report abuse (“in the distant past”, retorts teh diocese.).

It was reported earlier that the Church’s own investigation into its seminaries has yielded the gratifying conclusion that ‘homosexual’ activities in seminaries had declined since the crackdown on admitting gay candidates, and that as a result, there was confidence that clerical paedophilia would consequently cease to be a problem.

The second report, published just a short while previously, was of an investigation into clerical training in United States seminaries (of all faiths, not specifically Catholic – but there is no reason to suppose that Catholic institutions are any better than the rest.  Quite the contrary.).  One alarming finding was that the majority of seminaries made no provision at all for basic sexual education.

The implications are breathtaking.  “The glory of God is humans fully alive”, St Irenaus teaches us, and sexuality we know is a fundamental part of our humanity, contributing significantly to both physical and mental health.   I have long found it extraordinary that the Catholic Church sees fit to leave the formulation of doctrine on such an important topic to men who as a result of deliberate perosnal choice, either have no direct experience of the subject, or are living double lives in defiance of those vows. This is itself ridiculous.  But I now realise that it gets worse:  not only do these peole have no direct experience of sex, many of them also lack proper professional training in such matters.

Against this background, it is no surprise at all that many priests have developed so poorly in their sexual identities tha they have ended up preying on the vulnerable, as is well known.  But what are the chances of parishioners who find themselves troubled by sexual issues, getting psychogically sound advice from their pastors?

It seems to me that the scandal of paedophilia indirectly caused by the church’s ill-advised policies may well extend far beyond just the abuse by clerics, but also to a wider, hidden level, of people whose psycho-sexual health myhave been derailed by well-meanng but untrained and incompetent clerical advisors.

Trying to fix the problem by simply driving away from the seminaries those well-adjusted people with the honesty and self-knowledge to acknoweldge their sexuality is craziness, and can only compound, not solve, the problem.