Alex Blaze

New Report on Catholic Child Molestation Blames Stress, Not Gays

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 18, 2011 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living
Tags: Catholic church, john jay college, pedophilia, priest

A new, big report is out from John Jay College on the Catholic child abuse crises, looking specifically for causes. pope.jpgThe report is cost almost two million dollars, half of which was paid by the Catholic Bishops but another chunk was paid for by the government. The study relied on data reported by the Church itself. The study itself hasn't been released, but Religious News Services and the New York Times were able to examine a copy.

The study says that the common causes that people blame - homosexuality, celibacy, and pedophilia - weren't the causes of the crimes. It says that sexual orientation wasn't statistically related to child abuse, which professional homophobe Bill Donohue decried: "The authors go through all sorts of contortions to deny the obvious - that obviously, homosexuality was at work."

The report says that pedophilia, or an actual attraction to prepubescent children, was only at work in about 4% of cases. It also eliminates celibacy as a possibility because it "remained a constant throughout peaks and valleys of abuse rates, and priests may be less likely to abuse children today than men in analogous professions." I'm wondering what those analogous professions are.

So what did cause the crisis? According to the report, which I don't have in front of me and can't go into much detail on: stress, power, and Woodstock.

The "situational" nature of the abuse by clergy is comparable to that of police officers who brutalize people, the authors write. The stress of the work, the perils of isolation and a lack of oversight are factors that contribute to "deviant behavior."

With fewer and fewer priests available to minister to growing numbers of American Catholics, the Catholic bishops will be forced to do a better job supporting priests and providing respites from their often grinding schedules. That would likely necessitate a larger role for the laity and women--an issue fraught with controversy.

The John Jay researchers take pains to credit the hierarchy for making important strides in combating child abuse--an assertion victim advocates will strenuously dispute--and they point out that society as a whole was only slowly coming to understand the nature of child abuse as U.S. dioceses were swamped with cases.

At the same time, however, researchers note the bishops' abysmal track record in so many tragic instances, and say church leadership was reflexively defensive and self-protective--behavior that fits a well-defined pattern of crisis management in large institutions.

Indeed, the authors convincingly argue that the clerical culture that fostered and concealed deviance by priests is remarkably similar to the law enforcement culture that allows police brutality. The church, like the police, is a hierarchical organization that operates in a decentralized way, with each department (or diocese) an authority unto itself and not inclined to open itself to oversight.

The Times provides more information about the sexual revolution aspect of this explanation:

Instead, the report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and '70s.

Known occurrences of sexual abuse of minors by priests rose sharply during those decades, the report found, and the problem grew worse when the church's hierarchy responded by showing more care for the perpetrators than the victims.

I don't get it - there are lots of professions that are stressful that don't lead people to molest children. There hasn't been a string of child abuse scandals involving air traffic controllers, for example.

And I don't see why the response to stress would be child molestation. Why not drugs or sex with adults or oversleeping or any of the other ways people deal with stress?

I do get how hierarchy and power can perpetuate child abuse and how concerns about the image of the Catholic Church as well as respect for priests on the part of law enforcement officers can keep child molesters in the priesthood, but that doesn't explain why fully 5% of American priests (according to the study; one victim advocate quoted in the Times says the real number is certainly higher) were molesting children in the first place.

The study compares the situation to police brutality, how a small, hierarchical structure in a high-stress field seeks to cover up abuses of power, and it's great that major media outlets have to now at least get the fact that police brutality isn't just a few bad apples out there. And it's true that police departments are in desperate need of more oversight, like parishes are. But there just aren't as many police officers out there molesting children because of the stress of their jobs.

Either way, this isn't the last we'll be hearing of this report, and at least it's yet another study that takes the blame away from gay people, the church's favorite scapegoat.

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CatherineCC | May 18, 2011 2:02 PM

Oh don't worry, they're still going to blame homosexuals.
Facts? Bah. This is the Catholic Church we're talking about.

The elephant in the room was not even mentioned in this reoprt, that is, why predators were protected in various ways by bishops, and why bishops felt they were exempt from cooperating with civil legal authorities. The authoritarian mind-sets of the hierarchy, living in their own little worlds, was not examined.

I think you're reading it wrong. It's not stress, power and Woodstock. It's stress, *P*O*W*E*R*, and Woodstock.

The real reason it rocketed was because they figured out they could get away with it. If they had abused teens or adults there was a much higher chance of not only getting caught, but having quicker retribution and actual consequences. How many stories of priest abuse include parents/adults/guardians that were complicit, urging the child to move on, or not involving police or pressing charges on the childs behalf? How many of those adults would have gone after the priest involved if they were the victim of the abuse directly?

Power and lack of oversight leads to abuse of those with less of a voice, in the minority, or on the margins of society. Stressed police don't often beat a rich white woman unconscious, or accidentally shoot a rich white man, because their odds of getting away with that is slim. Instead they target poor people, preferably with a criminal record, that are a minority, and/or that's not socially empowered.

No difference here. They sought out a group without power, sometimes without any protection or guardians at all (orphans in particular have been a prime target of priest abuse), and used their power to get away with just about anything. There are cases in Ireland being discovered just now that involve "snuff dungeons" in the basements of Catholic run orphanages. Skeletal remains are being found of kids that "ran away" decades ago, many showing signs of severe abuse.

Am I surprised that it's not a gay thing? Not at all. Am I surprised abuse went up when there was no oversight or punishment for abusing their power? Nope. Am I surprised they attacked a group with little power or representation, whom they could manipulate directly, or manipulate the system around? Nope. Just like I won't be surprised when people discredit this report and blame it all on "the gays".

"The real reason it rocketed was because they figured out they could get away with it."

I don't get it. If I were in a situation where I knew I could molest an 11-year-old girl and I was 100% certain (for whatever reason) I could get away with it, I still wouldn't do it. There's nothing about that that motivates me.

Good point. I find nothing at all even remotely sexually attractive about children. Boy, girl, it makes no difference. I know that this is about power for those who do it but there are still actions involved that the perpetrator must do which I find to be absolutely repulsive. I just can't wrap my head around it all and even begin to understand it all and in many ways I hope I never do.

I'm not saying it was the only motivation. Some were pedophiles, some were just horny unfulfilled men, some were into wielding power, some were into S&M, some were into... who knows what. The report is saying simply that the reason it was targeted at children isn't that the priests involved were all pedophiles (or gay). It was that children were an easy target, AND they had clear evidence that they could get away with doing just about anything to children, especially those with certain circumstances.

What does torturing and killing orphans in an orphanage basement have to do with sex? Nothing. It's just one more instance of where those that were trusted in society with power in their position, wielded that power against a group that had little to no voice. Were those priests pedophiles? I'm betting not. They chose children because they could get away with it, not because they were sexually attracted to children.

Nothing here is saying "power directly induces child rape". I'm not sure why you keep trying to read that into this. Rather, it's saying these priests targeted the most disenfranchised group they could find, in this case, mainly children, regardless of the form or venue in which that dominance took place.

Frankly, turning most dominance/power issues into something sexual is not at all uncommon. How many times have we heard about people being raped as a form of power-play? How many "straight" men, who wouldn't consider having gay sex none the less engage in it in prison? How much of that is driven by attraction or a desire to have gay sex? How much is driven by power?

They've released another study, this time explicitly pointing out that homosexuality isn't to blame. Great. Too bad that the damage is done already and a whole generation or two will believe the exact opposite thanks to the scurrilous lies and bigotry from the Pope's spokesmen, cardinals, bishops and various lay Catholics since at least 2002. Yep, despite what's in this report they'll be claiming otherwise for years to come since it's just "obvious" that a man who molests a boy MUST be gay given that the very acts are supposedly gay themselves. And they wonder why I walked away...

The issue isn't really what caused the abuse.... The issue is really how come the Catholic hierarchry weren't monitoring their priests. And then when some indicators starting to filter upwards the hierarchry didn't do anything about it. In fact they spent huge amounts of energy trying to avoid / hide the issue; moving abusive priests around / ducking the problem.

Meanwhile they were spending vast amounts of time / energy combating abortion / gay marriage. If they had just spent 10% of that time / energy being good housekeepers looking after their flock, hardly any of this would have happened.

But you can tell a lot about an organization based on where it chooses to spend its time?

I'm not surprised that the Bishops would commission and partially pay for a study that nearly exonerates them and blames our sinful society instead. What amazes me is that the prestigious John Jay college would 1.) participate in this study at all, and 2.)come to the laughable and transparent conclusions that they have. I wonder if they realize yet that their street cred and reputation just flew out the window? I'm curious to know how much money got passed under the table to 'buy' this study result. I'd also like to know why and how much the 'public' had to pay for this? Seems to me, the Church should be footing the entire bill. If I were a victim of priest abuse I'd be hoopin' mad this day :(

It'll be interesting to read the actual report without the Times' filter.