Monday, March 22, 2010

The Myth of Pedophile Priests

As more pedophile priest scandals blow up across Europe we should be ashamed of the offenders and those who sheltered them and oppressed the victims. The guilty should be weeded out, removed from office and handed over to the civil authorities where they are guilty of crimes. Systems to avoid abuse must be established and rigorously maintained, and victims should be justly compensated for their suffering.

However, Penn State professor Philip Jenkins (who is not a Catholic) has written the most objective book on the subject, and he summarizes his arguments in this excellent article. In light of his work, we should remember some basic facts and principles:

  • Priestly celibacy is not the issue - married men are more likely to abuse children than unmarried
  • Most child abuse takes place within the home.
  • All religious groups have pedophile scandals, and the Catholics (while the largest religious group) are at the bottom of the list statistically.
  • Child abuse is prevalent in all areas of society: schools, youth organizations, sports, etc.
  • Statistically, of all the professions, Christian clergy are least likely to offend. Doctors, Farmers and Teachers are the professions most likely to abuse children--not clergy.
  • Among clergy offenders Catholic priests are least likely to offend.
  • Catholic cases of pedophilia make more headlines because of anti Catholic prejudice and because the Catholic Church is bigger and more lucractive to sue.
  • Pedophilia and Euphebophilia are different problems. The former is sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. The latter is attraction to teenagers. Most cases branded 'pedophila' are actually 'euphebophila.'
  • Most of the cases of euphebophilia are homosexual in nature, however the politically correct do not want this problem to be associated with homosexuality.
  • The number of Catholic priests guilty of pedophilia is very small.
  • What we now call 'cover up' was often done in a different cultural context, when the problem was not fully understood and when all establishment organizations hushed scandals. They did so for what seemed good reasons at the time: protection of the victims and their families, opportunity for rehabilitation of the offender, the avoidance of scandal to others. It is unfair to judge events thirty years ago by today's standards.
  • When lawsuits are looming people smell money. We must be wary of false accusations.
  • The accused must be entitled to a fair hearing. The church should insist on hard proof of the abuse, and for the sake of justice, ensure that the innocent are not prosecuted.
  • When guilt is established the offender must be punished, not sheltered.
  • Distinctions must be made between types of abuse. Some offenses are worse than others. Verbal abuse or corporal punishment during a time when that was acceptable, while lamentable, is not the same as sexual abuse or extreme physical abuse.
  • Sexual abuse of an adult, or a sexually experienced older teenager is wrong, and damaging, and should be punished, but it is not the same as the sexual abuse of a younger, innocent child.
  • Number of offenses must be considered. One lapse is not of the same seriousness as repeated, persistent and premeditated offenses.
I am in no way wishing to be soft of pedophiles and those who covered for them, however justice and truth demand an objective analysis of the facts. Father Dwight Longenecker


Anonymous said...

The primary issue for many concerned Catholics is the reprehensible way the church hirearchy chose to deal with pedophile priests.

Every last one of them should have been SENT TO PRISON for breaking the laws against such despicable conduct that exist in every civilized country in the world.

Instead, to the everlasting disgust of many of us, too many of our bishops and other Church leader felt free to ignore the laws of men (as well as of God) and shunt these child predators down the road to another parish where they could cause untold additional damage to other innocent children and their families.

The Catholic Church is dead to me.

Vianney1100 said...

It is aparent that you or a family member was hurt by someone within the Church. I know this is a dreadful thing that happens as it happened to my family as well. I agree with what you say about sending them to prison. Unfortunately, in almost all the cases the statute of limitations has expired and nothing can be done to make this happen. The way the bishops handled things for the most part, were the way our society handled this problem for decades. I have read recently that this same problem happened in the 1100's in the Church. At that time the Church took care of the problem herself. The perverts were chained and locked in a cell in a monastery or similar place, made to do manual work and only after many months could they walk the grounds accomanied by two monks at all times. They were never allowed to be anywhere near children after that.
This is what should happen to those who cannot be punished by civil law. I believe, with the exeption of the chaining and imprisonment, that it does in most cases. However, not all. My family was affected by this problem through St. John's University in Minnesota where I and one of my brothers attended, plus one of my other brothers went there for camp. To make a long story short, the place is filled with sexual perverts of varying degrees. Many monks and priest are supposedly confined to the grounds but again, this is not the case. One of the worst perverts leaves the grounds, city, county and state quite frequently. How do I know this? Because he takes vacations with my brother's mother-in-law who is a generation his senior. One of his fetishes must be for a mother figure.
The point I am trying to make is that there are many bad sinners in the Church, but the Church herself is sinless because she is the bride of Christ. I encourage you to pray, as I do, for the conversion of the Church's sinners and a return to fidelity to the Church's head, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church will then come alive for you in the splendor she was given to us in as it has for me.
I will pray for you.
God Bless you and the peace of Christ be with you.

Unknown said...

Thanks, V-MC!

Interesting information.