Home > Uncategorized > Catholic sexual abuse study greeted with incurious contempt – ABC Religion & Ethics – Blog

Catholic sexual abuse study greeted with incurious contempt – ABC Religion & Ethics – Blog

It was the way that the Australian press allowed the findings of a recent study into The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010 to sail past with little more than a perfunctory acknowledgement of its existence, much less a serious engagement with its substance and implications, that has left me bristling…

Now, it must be said that Pope Benedict XVI has consistently been more gracious toward the media on this matter than I have been. While he has expressed his frustration at those self-appointed authorities who speak from “the tribunal of the newspapers,” he says that “the media could not have reported in this way had there not been evil in the Church herself.”

Moreover, in a biting riposte to the self-serving and characteristically fatuous remarks by the Dean of the College of Cardinals Angelo Sodano, that the Church is being persecuted by an orchestrated media campaign, Benedict insisted that “attacks against the Pope or the Church do not only come from outside; rather the sufferings of the Church come from within, from the sins that exist in the Church.”…

If you were simply to accept the ABC’s meagre coverage, or that of the Fairfax papers (which could manage little more than to lift the story from the New York Times), you would quickly reach the conclusion that the Causes and Context study somehow exonerates the Catholic Church (it doesn’t), or that it minimizes the extent and depravity of the abuse itself (rather, it quantifies and precisely defines the nature and victims of abuse)…

First, the study confirmed that the sexual abuse of children by priests is not an endemic or ongoing “crisis” within the Catholic Church. As was already clear from the 2004 Nature and Scope study, there was a sudden and disturbing increase in instances of sexual abuse from 1960, reaching its hellish pinnacle in 1975, followed by a “sharp and sustained decline” from 1985 to the present…  In 2010, there were 7 reported cases across the entire Catholic Church in the United States…

Third, perhaps the most significant findings of the study relate to the profile of the priest-abusers themselves…  Those ordained before 1960 tended not to commit abuse until the 1960s and 70s, while those ordained in the 1960s and 70s tended to commit abuse very shortly thereafter. This would suggest that the foetid cultural soil of the 60s and 70s proved uncommonly conducive to the commission of sexual abuse.

It would also suggest that the dramatic influx of seminarians at Catholic institutions in the 1950s and 60s bore along with it a vile cabal of paedophiles, pederasts, ill-disciplined pissants and even outright predators who precipitated the true sexual abuse crisis of the 1960s and 70s…

The introduction of spiritual formation programs throughout Catholic seminaries in the mid-1980s, and the continuing refinement of those programs over the following two decades had a measurable effect on the incidence of sexual abuse by priests, which declined from 975 reported cases between 1985 and 1989, to 253 between 1995 and 1999, and then to 73 between 2004 and 2008…

This line of reasoning has been characterized as the “blame Woodstock explanation,” designed to give the Catholic Church some alibi for its crimes. It does no such thing. Indeed, there can be no more damning indictment than that the Church had so imbibed the proclivities of the age that it reproduced them in its own life…

It should also be remembered that, in the 1960s and especially in the wake of Vatican II, the “punitive approach” prescribed by Canon Law for incidence of clerical sexual deviance (Canon 2359 of the 1917 Codex Iuris Canonici) was widely criticized as being mediaeval, unenlightened and altogether ignorant of the restorative possibilities of psychotherapy.

While it would be wrong to minimize the role played by sheer indolence, inattention and arse-covering expedience on the part of many bishops over the past six decades in allowing sexual abuse within the Catholic Church to reach its hellish proportions, there was at the same time a manifest tendency among bishops to pander to the spirit of the age by adopting the more “pastoral” therapeutic approach of restoring abusive priests through treatment, counselling and relocation.

It is therefore extremely significant that the reinstatement of the so-called “punitive approach” to sexual deviance in Canon Law (Canon 1395 of the 1983 Codex Iuris Canonici), along with John Paul II’s radical reform of seminary life and the spiritual formation of priests – which culminated with his magisterial 1992 apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis – precipitated what the Causes and Context report calls the “sharp and sustained decline” in incidence of sexual abuse in the Church…

The pope… [insists] on the Church’s “deep need to re-learn penance, to accept purification, to learn on one hand forgiveness but also the need for justice.”

via Catholic sexual abuse study greeted with incurious contempt – ABC Religion & Ethics – Blog.

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