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Blood and Boys

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I freely admit that’s an ugly, sensationalistic title, but what an interesting coincidence that two reports on child molestation by Catholic priests were released today, just two days after Mel Gibson’s deeply “Catholic” bloodbath of a film about the last 12 hours of Christ’s life was set loose upon the land.

I wonder if there is any connection whatsoever between the conservative Catholic theological elevation of the Passion (the bloody torture and execution of Jesus) over the Resurrection (wherein His divinity was made manifest and believers’ salvation confirmed) and the statistics released today revealing that AT LEAST (with 14% of precincts not reporting) 4% of Catholic priests have been accused of molesting children since 1950 – not that I have any idea what that connecton might be.

And then there’s that whole celibacy, anti-marriage thing, which, logic would seem to dictate, would tend to attract more than its share of men who don’t like women ANYWAY, and a goodly number who don’t even like adults.

While I am repelled by an obsessive emphasis on the bloody death of Christ over His teachings of love, forgiveness, and redemption (and the Church seems to have no problem with that), I am also gratified and encouraged that the Church finally had the courage and fortitude to make its dirty laundry public, and to at least appear to be willing to genuinely address the monumental problem of spiritual leaders – conduits between God and man in the Catholic tradition – taking advantage of their station to ruin the lives of their most vulnerable charges.

You can be sure these particular fishers of men are glad I am not God, as I would condemn the fuckers straight to hell – do not pass Go – along with the bishops who enabled their crime sprees with full knowledge that the lives of innocents were at stake.

The reports:

    More than 10,600 children said they were molested by priests since 1950 in an epidemic of child sexual abuse involving at least 4 percent of U.S. Roman Catholic clergy, two studies reported on Friday.

    The reports’ release brought an apology from Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and complaints from victims that the reports focus on the actual abusers but not on the bishops who failed to stop them.

    One of the reports, written by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, revealed that 10,667 children were allegedly abused by 4,392 priests from 1950 to 2002. But the report said the figures depend on self-reporting by American bishops and were probably an undercount.

    ….Most victims were male, and of those, the largest single age group was boys 11 to 14 years old. Alleged abuses ranged from touching, with or without clothing, to oral sex and sexual intercourse.

    Some $572 million has been paid in damages to abuse victims, the report said, but noted this did not include $85 million paid by the Archdiocese of Boston, where the sex abuse scandal first grabbed headlines two years ago, and that 14 percent of dioceses who were not able to provide figures.

    ….The second report, a 145-page examination of the causes and context of the priestly sexual abuse crisis, was crafted by a panel of prominent Catholics who found systemic problems in the way candidates for the priesthood are chosen and guided. This report did not dispute the hard numbers of abusive priests and their victims reached by the John Jay researchers.

    “It’s always bad when a child is abused, but when the abuser wears a collar, it’s worse,” said attorney Robert Bennett, a member of a panel. “Much of the blame, unfortunately … must be placed on the higher-ups.”

    The panel found two main factors contributing to priestly child sexual abuse, Bennett said at a news conference: dioceses failed to keep “dysfunctional and psycho-sexually immature men” out of the priesthood, and candidates for the priesthood were ill-prepared for lives of celibacy in a highly sexualized age.

    “At heart, what we are talking about is not only a … personnel crisis; it’s the age-old question of right and wrong, good and evil,” Bennett said.

    ….This panel used interviews with 85 bishops and cardinals, Vatican officials, experts and a handful of victims to look at the culture in Catholic seminaries, where priests are trained, and chanceries, or church offices, that it said tolerated moral laxity and a gay subculture.

    “The picture that emerges, sadly, is one of those who broke faith with their people, their priesthood and their religious values to use their sacred position to prey on the young and the vulnerable, instead of safeguarding them with the tender love of Christ himself,” Gregory said at a news conference.

    “On behalf of the bishops and the entire church in the United States, I restate and reaffirm our apologies to all of you have been harmed by those among us who violated your trust and the promises they made at their ordination,” he said.

    ….The report recommended: further study and analysis of the problem; better screening and oversight of candidates for the priesthood; more sensitivity and effectiveness in responding to allegations of abuse; greater accountability of bishops and other church leaders; better interaction with civil authorities, and meaningful participation by church members. [Reuters]

That sounds pretty wishy-washy to me – what is needed is the equivalent of the war on terror. Is the Church up to it?

Bishop Wilton Gregory says it is:

    America’s top bishop declared Friday that the days of sheltering sex abusers in the Roman Catholic priesthood were “history” as two reports showed how pervasive assaults on minors have been over the last half-century, and that church leaders bore much of the blame.

    “The terrible history recorded here today is history,” said Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Victims of molestation countered that they remain skeptical of church leaders’ good faith.

    ….The reports also raised questions about whether bishops who sheltered accusers should resign. Bishops answer only to the Vatican, not each other. Still, the review board urged them to find a means to hold each other responsible for failures to protect children.

    Asked whether errant church leaders should step down, Gregory said only that “each case has to be judged individually,” then he noted that many of the “bad decisions” in abuse cases occurred decades ago.

    “Fortunately, most of those bishops are no longer in service,” he said. Gregory also noted that, since the abuse problem rose to national prominence two years ago, 700 accused priests and deacon have been removed from Catholic dioceses.

    ….Only 2 percent of abusers were sent to prison for what they had done. [AP]

Pathetic.

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About Eric Olsen

  • Dawn

    While we will all be reminded that the crimes of the few cannot be held against the many, it would seem that a religion that holds itself as the superior standard of Christianty could use a little humility,rather than fall on the cross of its own hubris.

  • http://jeffbrokaw.net/weblog/ Jeff Brokaw

    Read “Goodbye Good Men” by Michael Rose – it’ll curl your hair.

    Rose says that the priesthood had no trouble attracting candidates before the 60s, celibacy or not. Not so coincidentally, that is when many of the seminaries started to fall into the hands of radical homosexual activist types. They have the power to kick out anybody who doesn’t toe the company line, and the company line is whatever those who run the seminary say it is. So for the last 40 years, many thousands of perfectly worthy priesthood candidates have been kicked out because they refused to buy into the gay thing, and now we have shortages.

    The seminaries are the root of the problem, but we don’t hear anything about that in the media, do we?

    Read the book. Knowledge = power.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    I wrote a little screed about this myself, last night.

    I was raised Catholic and I have a hard time understanding why people stay with the church, including my own family members. It’s just been plain WRONG and hypocritical so many times.

  • http://theapologist.blogspot.com CW Fisher

    Eric, outstanding essay. You nailed it, so to speak. Being Catholic I won’t deny it hurts, but neither will I deny I’m Catholic. I urge you and Dawn and everyone else to have at it — open season — and I’m not being sarcastic. I’m sincere. We’re just other Christians who need your help.

    Anger, outrage, ridicule will be part of the process of healing far beyond our lives. What we are addressing here is centuries old and cloaked in many layers of secrets. Expecting the church to heal itself in the absence of God is like asking a tooth to bite a tooth, or a Congress to review its own pay scale. The healing will begin in the form of scourging from the whips of you and Dawn, but it won’t hang dead on the cross until the last pedophile is off this earth.

    I was baptized in a Congregational church, raised Methodist, later Presbyterian, became Lutheran as an adult, came to my senses, came to again and became Catholic — and when story about pedophile priests broke I was enraged. I still am. They betrayed our trust, irreversibly damaged the lives of thousands of God’s children, which to me is the rape of God Himself. And yes, it was the church that did it by creating and harboring these murderers of spirit.

    Forgive them I do and am, as I’ll try again tomorrow. I want them in jail and I want them studied. I want them to devote the remainder of their lives to fixing the problem they made. They can’t. But I want them to try anyway. And I don’t want them to try to pray their way out of it. In fact, I’d take away their crucifix and rosaries and even their Bible. Because they tried that once and it didn’t work.

    Thanks for writing this. I still wish you’d stop trying to pin this on Mel, or even worse Jesus. Believe me, the Catholic church hasn’t forgotten the resurrection. You are in error about that. Christ died for all of us and it hurt. The movie is about his death. There will be others about his life and afterlife. Not this one. Say whatever you feel necessary about the Catholic church, its bishops and priests, and its members, lapsed like me, or like the millions who return to their faith many times a day without a thought to the sins of the fathers, but the sins of their own doing.

    But I ask not to spit on our bloody Christ. Mock what you don’t understand, but don’t kill him again. Outrage is, in the end, rage. And rage…. well, maybe you should see that movie again….

  • Eric Olsen

    CW, thanks for all that on several levels. I am not mocking anyone, least of all Jesus, nor do I minimize His sacrifice, nor do I question for one second the faith of tens of millions of good Catholics, but the structure they cling to is perhaps in need of another Reformation.

  • http://theapologist.blogspot.com CW Fisher

    Agreed. Thanks.

  • http://theapologist.blogspot.com CW Fisher

    By the way, I’ve been meaning to ask. The BC banner was gray on Ash Wednesday as I recall. Coincidence?

  • http://www.benjaminscole.blogspot.com Benjamin C.

    Eric:

    I don’t you’ll have to worry about sending those child molesting f*****s to hell. I’m quite sure God will take care of that himself.

  • Eric Olsen

    CW, Actually, we were grey on Tuesday for the Grey Album protest.

    Benjamin C, in His infinite wisdom he appears to be much more forgiving than I.