The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

How could it happen?

For some handy answers, James Martin, S.J. has pulled together a number of the conclusions drawn from the National Review Board that investigated the scandal in this country.  

It shows how complicated the problem really is — and how it can’t really be boiled down to just one or two causes. 

And he adds to that a few ideas of his own:

1.) Some American bishops, mostly elderly men, were themselves uncomfortable, for a variety of reasons–some personal, some cultural, some familial, some related to their formation–discussing any matters of sexuality, particularly homosexuality, as well as the more frightening topics of pedophilia and ephebophilia, and the terrifying prospect of child sexual abuse. Again, this may be even more pronounced in Ireland and Germany among bishops and clergy.


2.) Some bishops here were hampered by the inability to discuss the possibility that the scandal would lead to dramatic change in the church. If one fears a discussion of difficult church issues (celibacy, clerical culture, episcopal authority) one will naturally be more afraid of an issue that might provoke open up such discussions.

3.) Some bishops were unable to accept personal responsibility or their own sinful (sometimes criminal) actions. From the beginning of the crisis, many of the bishops seemed to confront the crisis in the manner of a C.E.O., rather than as a Christian pastor. Some seemed to have forgotten that an essential part of the traditional “sacrament of reconciliation” (that is, “confession”) in the church is penitence: the need to make amends for one’s sins. It is not simply enough to confess, to admit sinfulness, and to beg for forgiveness from God and the person you have offended. One needs also a “firm purpose of amendment” and the willingness to engage in some form of penance. But public penance, like the resignation of Bishop John Magee in Ireland last week–is too rare.


And of course, like anyone else, clergy are subject to the law of the land, and, if found guilty of crimes, should be be treated like anyone else.

Around the time that the scandals were breaking in the U.S., a Catholic sister I know said that the Christian response was at odds with what she called the “corporate response.” Quoting from the parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel of Luke, she described what a Christian response from an offending bishop would have sounded like: “I have sinned against God and you, and I no longer deserve to be called your bishop. I will resign and spend the rest of my life praying for victims.” Beyond any criminal penalties to be paid, such an action might have been understood by Catholics. Tragically, some bishops, the “teachers” par excellence in the community often ignored the treasures of their own Christian heritage


4.) When cases of abuse were raised prior to 2002, some bishops viewed the media as adversaries. Prior to the crisis, Cardinal Bernard Law said that he “called down” the power of God against The Boston Globe. Despite some lingering anti-Catholicism in the American media’s coverage of the crisis (for example, their facile conflation of celibacy and pedophilia, the overlooking of abuse in other professions, and their stereotyping of all priests as abusers and all bishops as conspirators), the church needs to be grateful for the role of the media for revealing what the church itself was unwilling to confront. The “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” adopted by the U.S. bishops in their meeting in Dallas in 2002, would not have happened without the Boston Globe.

Read it all. The summary of the Review Board is especially valuable.

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posted March 29, 2010 at 12:34 am

Below is the best explanation of the issue of priest abuse. As to the bishops, many back then were being told by the so called experts in this area that once they had treatment, it was safe to put them back into their jobs, best in a new location. Of course everyone knows now that the homosexuals attracted to teenage boys never lose this attraction and again as it says below, made up about 80-90% of the abuse cases. If the bishops and seminaries done as they should have and ruled out homosexuals, the vast majority of these things would never have happened.
The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the US and abroad was a matter of homosexuals preying on adolescent boys, not one of pedophilia, said the Vatican’s representative at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. It is “more correct,” said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males, than pedophilia, in relation to the scandals.
“Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90 per cent belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17,” said Tomasi. His statement is backed up by a report commissioned by the US bishops that found that in the overwhelming majority of cases the clergy involved were homosexuals, with 81 percent of victims being adolescent males.

report abuse


posted March 29, 2010 at 10:24 am

Greta, Tomasi is redefining the words “adolescent” and “homosexuality” in order to reach those conclusions. The plurality (40%) of victims in the US were 5th-8th grades boys. I don’t know how much experience you have with this age group, but only a small segment of boys in this age range is through puberty. Girls are a totally different story — the average age of menarche is 11, while with boys the average age of (physical) sexual maturity is 14.
Or, from a different perspective, if you add together the 40% the victims who were boys who had not finished puberty to the 20% of the victims who are girls, you can say that the majority of victims were sopranos and altos at the time they were abused.
In the larger population of male sex abusers, men who abuse boys in the 5th-8th grade range are usually heterosexual in their relationships with adults. Often the abusers are married and have children. (Then their children’s friends become victims.)
If you are serious about preventing abuse of children in the future, you can’t fool yourself into thinking that heterosexual men are automatically “safe” and boys who haven’t completed puberty are “safe”.
The folks loudly proclaiming that “the problem is homosexuality!” are accessories to the abuse of the next generation of victims.

report abuse


posted March 29, 2010 at 1:27 pm

This problem has only now reached the surface. Many Government Agencies have covered up the problem, for so long, that we will never have a complete understanding of the issues of abuse.
In Ontario over 50 million dollars were spent on an inquest that had a rather odd mandate which resulted in one police officer who blew the whistle being sent to jail even though he was the only one who stood up for children that were abused. As well a teacher who spoke up against sex abusing teachers from being allowed in Ontario schools was fined a $1,000 and suspended from teaching for two year, a penalty of over $181,000 in fine and penalty. The Catholic Teachers of Ontario supported the suspension and fine and when asked to assit the member for legal help turned him down without any investigation of his case.
It is a sad day when so few people will stand up and speak up while good people are thrown in jail and financially destroyed.
Good citizens concerned about children have been asked to speak up for the sake of children. If you say nothing expect more abuse!

report abuse


posted March 29, 2010 at 10:43 pm

The issue falls into the area of political correctness instead of fixing clear understanding of the issues. My comments were around the fact that many do not want to admit that 80% of abuse was with boys between 11-17 years old, 81% of victims were male with male priests. Seems like we have males going mostly after boys between 11-17 years old. That is classic ages for Homosexual attraction to what they call twinks. It is huge in the homosexual community. This means that if the few priests out there are compared to the population at large, we are not hearing about one heck of a lot of abuse. If protection of kids under 18 are the issue, then where is the media. Search Google for this type of thing and all you get is priests.

report abuse

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