Friday, June 29, 2007

About "The Scandal"

Anyone who molests a child should go to jail, whatever his/her occupation. Anyone who covers up child abuse should go to jail, whatever his/her occupation.

It absolutely infuriates me as a Catholic that certain individuals among the hierarchy shuttled "bad apple" priests from parish to parish for decades fully aware of the problem and allowing it to continue. It is Christian to believe in the forgiveness of sins, but that does not mean putting the allegedly reformed sinner back into the position which he/she abused to begin with!

Studies indicate that Catholic priests are no more likely to be pedophiles than clergy from other religious traditions and actually less likely than similar "helping" occupations such as teacher, child psychologist, sports coach, Scout leader, etc.

So why does one hear more about abuse by Catholic priests than that of other clergy? IMHO the reasons include:

(1) Catholicism is the single largest American denomination. As of 2002, there were over 60,000 active and retired Catholic priests in the U.S. So there's simply a greater number of potential abusers even if the percentage is no higher than other faiths.

(2) The centralized organization of the Catholic Church makes it easier to uncover the records of abuse. Protestant denominations have a much more autonomous structure for each individual congregation. The editor of Christian Ethics Today told The American Baptist Press in January of 2007 that he believed this structure and resulting lack of accountability created a higher risk in Baptist and other Protestant churches: "Most Baptists and nondenominational ministers know that ‘If I get caught, I can move to California and start a new church.’”

(3) The anti-Catholic bias in the elite media. A 1980 study by Robert Lichter of the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that of the 286 most influential journalists at the time, fully half "eschewed any religious affiliation" and 86 percent seldom or never attended religious services. In 1995, Lichter did a follow-up and found that the number attending religious services once per month or more had increased somewhat, to 30%. By contrast, among the U.S. population in general more than half attend at least once per month and 44% attend on a weekly basis. It is clear that as a group, journalists are much less religious than the American public and this definitely plays into the biased coverage of the Church.

I'm not going to sit here and defend the actions of certain individuals in the Church hierarchy. However, I do think that it's a serious error to blame the Church as a whole for a handful of "bad apples". Humans make mistakes, even bishops and cardinals. That doesn't excuse them from the consequences of those mistakes (which I believe should absolutely include prison time when warranted). But it isn't a problem with the underlying teachings of the Church such as priestly celibacy.


Headmistress, zookeeper said...

I agree.

ALL helping professions have a higher rate of creeps because creeps are predators and they follow the prey and use camoflage. This tells us something about creeps and something about our need to be wary- not about the helping professions.

And while I don't agree with the Catholic church's teachings on celibacy, if 'celibacy' and not sinful perversion were really the issue, these people would be having affairs with adult women, not molesting children, often of the same sex.

Does the media really believe that if the Catholic church allowed the clergy to marry yesterday, these nasty creeps would suddenly prefer adult women over little boys and girls?

Crimson Wife said...

Thanks for your comment!

About celibacy for priests, it's actually a discipline of the Catholic Church rather than doctrine. The Byzantine (Eastern Catholic) Rite allows married men to be ordained as priests, though priests cannot marry *after* their ordination. Also, Episcopalian/Anglican priests who choose to convert to Catholicism can be married. I would not be surprised if at some point the Vatican decided to change Canon Law to make the Roman Rite the same as the Byzantine Rite and I would support it.

Our parish has a wonderful deacon who I'm sure would become a priest if he were allowed to and there are probably lots of other similar deacons across the U.S.

The question of whether to allow married men to become ordained priests is, as you rightly point out, a separate issue from how to prevent child abuse by priests. Plenty of pedophiles are married or in some other sort of relationship with an adult woman :-(