Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thoughts on the Church sex scandal. Part Two.

Part Two, and a final (obvious) revelation at the end....

(For Part One, go here.)

Third: The Church’s initial responses were in line with the times.

At the time most of the abuse occurred (again, decades ago), the standard response was to quietly try to rehabilitate the offender through counseling. This was the accepted psychology at the time, and that is how therapists advised Church officials (and everyone else of that era). Of course, we now know that sex offenders are generally not able to be rehabilitated, and they almost always re-offend. But how was the Church to know something that no one else at the time knew, either? Yet the Church is excoriated while everyone else, doing the same thing, gets a pass.

Fourth: The Church has been hyper-aggressive in addressing the problem.

In fact, I have never seen or heard of any organization which has gone so far overboard in policing itself after similar allegations.


Yes, in some cases, overboard. Let me explain.

When the first wave of the abuse scandal swept the nation, dioceses sprang into action, setting up mandatory sexual abuse prevention and awareness programs for anyone and everyone involved in paid or voluntary positions within parishes, schools, ministries and other Church entities. These programs are often long and tedious, and everyone must become re-certified each year. The Church wants to right the wrongs, and has gone to great lengths to do so.

Which brings me to the “overboard.”

A few years ago, I was told about a policy which mandated that I could not be alone with the teen girl I was sponsoring for Confirmation. There had to be a parent or other adult present if we were together, even outside of a Church setting.

Mind you, the girl I was sponsoring was the daughter of close family friends. I had known her since she was six weeks old, and she was my daughter’s best friend of fifteen years. Now the Church was telling me that I, a regular suburban mom with no criminal background, needed a chaperone to be with a family friend, even in a public place!

I couldn’t believe this was right. I thought it was unjust (and just absurd). I called a friend who worked in the diocesan offices, and he confirmed that it was true. A sponsor for Confirmation was “a representative of the Catholic Church,” and as such, we had to be above suspicion in every circumstance.

So, yup, I think the Church has gone above and beyond in addressing the problem. And the fact that there are virtually no new cases of priestly sexual abuse is a good indication that she has largely righted the wrong.

Fifth: Church teaching on sexuality is right, and is the antidote to the sex scandal.

I “discovered” my Catholic Faith in 1995, many years before the priest abuse scandal hit the headlines. Back then, I was reading a conservative Catholic newspaper called The Wanderer, which was already reporting on the problem of sexual deviants in the priesthood. That’s right -- the faithful, magisterial Catholics in America were already decrying the scandal of active homosexuals in the clergy, who in addition to being unchaste were pushing for a “progressive sexual ethic” in the Church (i.e., they wanted the Church to ditch her teachings on sexual sin).

So, the idea that the secular media broke this story is not exactly true, as I and other Catholics had known about it for years. Faithful Catholics were trying to expose it! We knew something rotten and dangerous had infiltrated the priesthood.

The fact is, many seminaries had become corrupted after the mid ‘60s. Until recently, they had for decades turned away orthodox, faithful candidates for the priesthood, preferring instead to foster a culture of homosexuality.

It’s a difficult read, but if anyone wants a look inside the seminaries of that time, check out Goodbye, Good Men, which describes what went wrong with several decades of priestly formation. With a culture of homosexuality being the norm in many seminaries for so long, is it any wonder that a whopping 80% of the priest-abuse victims were male? Mostly pubescent and post-pubescent males at that. Please note: I am not asserting that homosexuals are prone to abusing children, but I am saying that most of the priestly abuse was homosexual abuse.

Priests who committed sexual sins against children were acting against Church teaching. They were committing mortal sin, which the Church teaches is deserving of an eternity in hell. Had these predator priests lived according to to the teachings of the Church, not a single child would have been harmed.

The ones howling the loudest about the shame the Church should feel are the sexual libertines themselves. The free sex crowd who rail against the Church’s “repressive” sexual teachings don’t seem to recognize that it’s the “anything goes” mentality of sexuality that leads to, well... anything! Ah, the irony.

Anyway, these posts are much too long. I have much more to say, but I won’t. Because as I was writing, I realized the obvious about the Church-bashers:

It doesn’t matter to them that the reporting on Church abuse is grossly disproportionate compared to other offenders.

It doesn’t matter to them that there is no link between celibacy and sexual abuse.

It doesn’t matter to them that the Church’s initial reaction was in line with the conventional wisdom at the time.

It doesn’t matter to them that the Church has been incredibly aggressive in addressing the problem.

It doesn’t matter to them that living according to the Church’s teaching on sexuality is the answer to all sexual deviance, including sex abuse of children.

It doesn’t matter, because those who are attacking the Catholic Church now also hated the Church well before the scandals ever broke.

The Church-bashers will keep on bashing the Church, and nothing I write here -- no matter if it’s true, no matter if it’s logical -- will change their hearts. Only God can do that.

So, we Catholics must remember Jesus’ promise that the Church would be hated by the world. It should not surprise us or worry us. We should wear it as a badge of honor, and take the humiliation. Sometimes, it’s the Christian thing to do.


  1. Amen Leila! Excellent post. I went to a class last night on Church history and it was all about the heresies at the time and the persecution of the faithful Christians, now martyrs. We have to be the same, martyrs for our faith because it IS the truth. You can keep writing about this is you'd like - I'll listen!

  2. BAM! Another great one, Leila!!!!!

  3. Yes – The CC wasn’t making this “how to deal” stuff up on their own. They were consulting experts on this behavior and following the advice and theories of the time.

    I’m just a catechist so my certification lasts 3 years and those who are paid positions/more involved with children (I think) have to get recertified annually. It’s still brutal no matter how you cut it. I’ve gone to the day-long seminars 3 times. In the very beginning, my DRE was so worried because the instructors were saying not only to never hug a child, but to never let a child hug you. Stick your arm out and gently push them away. That’s fine & suitable for older kids, but K, 1st, & 2nd graders hug your ALL-THE-TIME. I walk into my class and don’t have time to put my books down before I literally have 5 kids circling me. At Mass, one of them will see me and come running up behind before I even see them. We were all so worried about how to tell such little kids that they couldn’t hug their teacher when it is just what they do. Thankfully, they “instruct” on appropriateness rather than telling you to stick your Hitler arm out and scar a child for life. Do not get me wrong: There are some great changes that came from this and there is some useful information at all these seminars (reporting laws, etc), BUT there was and is a tendency to go overboard. Your situation is a great example.

    Thanks for the book suggestion. I wasn’t aware of that problem. A little scared to read it, but I will pick it up.

  4. Thank you, SC and Jenny!

    Ann, exactly! These little kids would be scarred for life if they couldn't hug their teachers! What kind of world would that be? I just hate that it's come to that, and I love that we all find a way around it. :) Kids need affection!! It's normal and healthy.

    Yes, the book is difficult. If you read the reviews on Amazon, you will get a sense of it. But it's helpful to know what went wrong (and clearly it's not celibacy that is the issue!). I am so grateful that such a dark stretch of Church history is now mostly over. The young priests today are stellar!! We are blessed.

  5. I agree with Second Chances--keep posting on this if you want. I would love to read more! I feel like you reached into my brain and took everything I was thinking about this issue and put it on your blog. I feel exactly the same way! And the Church-bashers are so scared to truly look at the issue because they're terrified of what they already know--that they're wrong. Like my mom says, look at both sides of an issue--the side with all the anger and hostility is the side that's wrong...they are angry because they know we are right.

  6. Excellent, Leila. I hope I can take your advice re: taking the humiliation. It's tough......but you are right.

  7. this is REALLY good stuff, Leila. THanks!

  8. fabulous post and yes Goodbye, Good men is a must read.

    Thanks for telling me about this post, I'll just have to become a blog subscriber now! :)


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