Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


How the cultural Left paved way for pedophilia

posted by Rod Dreher

Before you say anything, this is not one of those rants in which the writer accuses liberals of poisoning the minds of the young with dirty movies and stuff. This is from the German magazine Der Spiegel, and it’s a story about how the Left — as in, the activist Sixties radical left in Germany — went berserk in literally sexualizing children. It’s jaw-dropping stuff, how pedophilia was considered “progressive” by the radical German left. Here’s how it begins:

In the spring of 1970, Ursula Besser found an unfamiliar briefcase in front of her apartment door. It wasn’t that unusual, in those days, for people to leave things at her door or drop smaller items into her letter slot. She was, after all, a member of the Berlin state parliament for the conservative Christian Democrats. Sometimes Besser called the police to examine a suspicious package; she was careful to always apologize to the neighbors for the commotion.
The students had proclaimed a revolution, and Besser, the widow of an officer, belonged to those forces in the city that were sharply opposed to the radical changes of the day. Three years earlier, when she was a newly elected member of the Berlin state parliament, the CDU had appointed Besser, a Ph.D. in philology, to the education committee. She quickly acquired a reputation for being both direct and combative.
The briefcase contained a stack of paper — the typewritten daily reports on educational work at an after-school center in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood, where up to 15 children aged 8 to 14 were taken care of during the afternoon. The first report was dated Aug. 13, 1969, and the last one was written on Jan. 14, 1970.
Even a cursory review of the material revealed that the educational work at the Rote Freiheit (“Red Freedom”) after-school center was unorthodox. The goal of the center was to shape the students into “socialist personalities,” and its educational mission went well beyond supervised play. The center’s agenda included “agitprop” on the situation in Vietnam and “street fighting,” in which the children were divided into “students” and “cops.”
Pantomiming Intercourse
The educators’ notes indicate that they placed a very strong emphasis on sex education. Almost every day, the students played games that involved taking off their clothes, reading porno magazines together and pantomiming intercourse.
According to the records, a “sex exercise” was conducted on Dec. 11 and a “fu**ing hour” on Jan. 14. An entry made on Nov. 26 reads: “In general, by lying there we repeatedly provoked, openly or in a hidden way, sexual innuendoes, which were then expressed in pantomimes, which Kurt and Rita performed together on the low table (as a stage) in front of us.”
The material introduced the broader public to a byproduct of the student movement for the first time: the sexual liberation of children. Besser passed on the reports to an editor at the West Berlin newspaper Der Abend, who published excerpts of the material. On April 7, 1970, the Berlin state parliament discussed the Rote Freiheit after-school center. As it turned out, the Psychology Institute at the Free University of Berlin was behind the center. In fact, the institute had established the facility and provided the educators who worked there. Besser now believes that it was a concerned employee who dropped off the reports at her door.
A few days later, Besser paid a visit to the Psychology Institute in Berlin’s Dahlem neighborhood, “to take a look at the place,” as she says. In the basement, Besser found two rooms that were separated by a large, one-way mirror. There was a mattress in one of the rooms, as well as a sink on the wall and a row of colorful washcloths hanging next to it. When asked, an institute employee told Besser that the basement was used as an “observation station” to study sexual behavior in children.
It has since faded into obscurity, but the members of the 1968 movement and their successors were caught up in a strange obsession about childhood sexuality. It is a chapter of the movement’s history which is never mentioned in the more glowing accounts of the era.

Got that? This wasn’t just a project of a bunch of dirty commie German hippies. Top German academics were involved in this thing. The report quotes mainstream German textbooks of the day that openly lament the “de-eroticization of famly life.” More:

In the debate on sexual abuse, one of the elements is confusion as to where the line should be drawn in interactions with children. It is a confusion not limited to the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was precisely in so-called progressive circles that an eroticization of childhood and a gradual lowering of taboos began. It was a shift that even allowed for the possibility of sex with children.
,,,Sexual liberation was at the top of the agenda of the young revolutionaries who, in 1967, began turning society upside down. The control of sexual desire was seen as an instrument of domination, which bourgeois society used to uphold its power. Everything that the innovators perceived as wrong and harmful has its origins in this concept: man’s aggression, greed and desire to own things, as well as his willingness to submit to authority. The student radicals believed that only those who liberated themselves from sexual repression could be truly free.

If you can stomach it, read the whole thing. Warning: Spiegel does not hide details, which can be very, very disturbing. Lee Podles, the Catholic writer who has been a withering critic of the Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse problem, writes on his blog:

Although Der Spiegel has given extensive coverage to clerical failings, it also keeps raising the uncomfortable question: Why is it so bad if priests have sex with minors and OK if Roman Polanski and Daniel Cohn-Bendit have sex with minors? Is the fuss about child molestation in the Church simply a cover for anti-clericalism or anti-Christianity? Shouldn’t sauce for the clerical goose also be sauce for the artistic and political ganders?

Exactly right. But as the Spiegel report says, some on the German Left who were involved in this say today that it didn’t count as pedophilia, because hey, the Leftists meant well and were doing it for the good of the children (like Lee Podles says, this is what pedophiles always say to justify their crimes). What’s more, these prominent Leftists denounce those, even their critics on the Left, as aiding and abetting anti-progressive forces by bringing all this up now.
Is it time to purge the German Church by confronting hidden sexual abuse and purifying memory by dealing with what was done to children? Absolutely. But the German Church is by no means the only German institution and group that needs to be held to account for what was done to children by those in charge. Did we ever have anything comparable in the US? I’m sure there were crazy hippie communes that did sick stuff like this, but if you read the Spiegel report, they’re not talking about fringe figures; this involved people who were sympathetic within the Establishment, and young adults — like the radical Daniel Cohn-Bendit — who went on to become Establishment figures in Europe today. It is unthinkable that figures who had this kind of open advocacy of pedophilia could get anywhere in American political or academic life. Right?
I would also like to know to what extent this Leftist anti-bourgeois pedophilia culture penetrated radical circles elsewhere in Europe. Anybody here know? One wonders if the leadership of the national Catholic churches — I’m thinking right now of the Belgian church, and retired Cardinal Danneels, one of the Roman Church’s most progressive top churchmen for decades — assimilated any of this so-called progressivism in the way they thought about sexuality. It was not unheard of here — remember the self-styled progressive street priest of Boston, Fr. Paul Shanley? — but it’s not my impression that U.S. society degenerated like European society did in that same period.
UPDATE: Let me say to you who are about to write a comment saying that I’m a rat bastard for “blaming” pedophilia on the cultural Left: Save it! Read, and re-read, what I’m saying here. I’m not saying “cultural radicalism caused pedophilia,” in Germany or anywhere else. There is no one cause for the eroticization of children, either clandestinely, in church circles, or anywhere else. This post is only about a particularly deranged cultural attitude powerful in self-identified progressive circles in a particular time and place, which might help explain why people who ought to have known better — Christians, especially Christian clergy — gave way to a persistent human evil that ought to have been fought. That is all. If you think I’m trying to “blame” pedophilia on the cultural left (in Germany, or anywhere), you’re deliberately misreading what I’m saying here.



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hlvanburen

posted July 4, 2010 at 10:34 pm


Rod Dreher: “One wonders if the leadership of the national Catholic churches — I’m thinking right now of the Belgian church, and retired Cardinal Danneels, one of the Roman Church’s most progressive top churchmen for decades — assimilated any of this so-called progressivism in the way they thought about sexuality.”
A question that arose as I read the article was how the abuse of children in the Catholic Church (many of such incidents which predate the rise of these Kinderbrothels) might have set the stage for such deviant behavior. Is it possible that children who had been abused within the Church began behaving in this manner as they entered adulthood?
Cause-effect relationships are complicated. It could well be that the climate of the time, the sexual looseness and depravity of that society contributed to the abuse within the Church. But it could also be that the abuse within the Church and the resulting damaged victims coming out of that were among those who instigated this deviance with later children. As the investigation of these abuse cases, both secular and clerical, goes forward I hope that more light is shed on both the timeline and the cultural cross-contamination between these two philosophies.



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MH

posted July 4, 2010 at 10:35 pm


You really should add “in Germany” to your title.



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hlvanburen

posted July 4, 2010 at 10:51 pm


BTW…some new information regarding the raids in Belgium last month.
news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/10501668.stm
Belgian child sex abuse police probe death threats
Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Sunday, 4 July 2010 12:30 UK
An inquiry into church sex abuse in Belgium has been running for years
Police investigating claims of child abuse by Belgian clergy have told the BBC they are probing death threats against witnesses and magistrates.
Last month police raided a meeting of Belgium’s Catholic bishops as part of their investigation, seizing computers and documents.
They even searched the tomb of at least one cardinal, prompting an angry response from the Vatican.
The country is one of several where the Church has been shaken by abuse claims.
The investigation into child abuse allegations in Belgium’s Catholic Church has already prompted extraordinary scenes, says the BBC’s Dominic Hughes in Brussels.
But now the investigation has taken an unexpected turn.
Officials say that police are also looking into threats to the lives of some witnesses and magistrates connected to the case.
Jean Marc Meillure, a spokesman for the public prosecutors office, confirmed that an investigation was under way.
“There are some threats against certain people around the case, and the prosecutors office is investigating that,” he told the BBC.
He said the threats had been made against people who gave the authorities information or made a complaint, or against some magistrates.



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hlvanburen

posted July 4, 2010 at 10:57 pm


MH: “You really should add “in Germany” to your title.”
Headlines are designed to draw attention to the story. It’s a small thing, and in this instance not incorrect save for the lack of specificity.
The story seems to set the beginning of this behavior in the late ’60s. The perpetrators of this abuse in these schools would typically have been from 20 to 30 years old at the time, placing them at school-age roughly from the ’40s to ’50s.
Does anyone know if the investigations into the instances of abuse in the Church in Germany has progressed to a point where a timeline can be drawn? Mr. Dreher’s assertion about the “progressive” tilt of society contributing to abuse in both secular and religious settings works primarily if the timelines coincide. However, if abuse was present in a widespread manner in the Church during the 40s and 50s (or possibly earlier) I think a case could be made that the sex abuse in the Church at least contributed to the disgusting behavior outlined in this article.
Does anyone have more info on the investigation into the German Catholic Church?



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John M.

posted July 4, 2010 at 11:50 pm


I seriously doubt that the “cultural left” influenced figures like Maciel or the systemic abusers like those who ran orphanages in Canada. The Shanley reference here may be legitimate, but as you know, church pedophilia predates the sexual revolution by decades.
Perhaps looking for some pattern in Europe is a worthy pursuit, but not as some distraction to the real issues of clericalism and abuse of power.



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Peter

posted July 5, 2010 at 12:18 am


The idea that the Catholic church in Europe was taking its cues from German socialists and intellectuals seems far-fetched. It’s nice to think that it is something more than power and sex and control and corruption, but ultimately you will be disappointed.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 5, 2010 at 12:34 am


You really should add “in Germany” to your title.
It’s already maxed out — I can’t make it any longer and keep it to one line, like we’re supposed to. Anyway, anyone who troubles to read the first two grafs knows we’re talking about Germany.
The idea that the Catholic church in Europe was taking its cues from German socialists and intellectuals seems far-fetched.
It’s not so far-fetched. I’m not talking about blaming the cultural left for child sex abuse within church ranks. If anything, the Church ought to have been a bulwark against this sort of insanity. What I’m talking about, though, are deeper cultural currents that were running through Europe at the time. The Church doesn’t exist outside of its time and place. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if leaders of the Church in some European places fell into the same insanity as the cultural Left, though in a somewhat different way.
Maybe I’m overreacting here, but I sense in one or two of you a reluctance to try to understand why this happened in the Church, if one’s inquiries look to extra-ecclesial sources of the problem. I understand the concern about trying to shift blame (e.g., the people who always yell about abuse in the public schools whenever clerical sex abuse is brought up — as if that were any kind of answer to the question). But it’s neither fair nor helpful to rule out trying to understand the broader cultural context in which this stuff occurred, to try to understand the myriad habits, beliefs and behaviors that made it possible.
Anyway, if Germans are going after the Catholic Church and its institutions there for fomenting child sexual abuse — and I think they should, if there is just cause — then by all means turn also on the leftists who did the same thing in their own circles and institutions. Why are children who suffered at the hands of pedophile priests any different from children who suffered at the hands of “progressive” educators and cultural leaders?



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Peter

posted July 5, 2010 at 12:42 am


Why are children who suffered at the hands of pedophile priests any different from children who suffered at the hands of “progressive” educators and cultural leaders?
They aren’t, on the most basic level. But the church’s role in child abuse is a special kind of horror because it is the church. The professors at the Free University of Berlin don’t have an embassy in Washington, missions all over the world, and a spiritual leader who believes he defines Christianity for the rest of Christianity. It’s like comparing a crime committed by a street thug with a crime committed by the Mafia. They are both bad, but one has much greater consequences.
Let’s also not forget the pedophilia wasn’t created or even popularized by those German intellectuals. Nabakaov, who often dined with William F. Buckley, was populairizing it at least 30 years earlier in his short stories and 15 years early in Lolita.



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JSP

posted July 5, 2010 at 1:20 am


“It is unthinkable that figures who had this kind of open advocacy of pedophilia could get anywhere in American political or academic life. Right?
…it’s not my impression that U.S. society degenerated like European society did in that same period.”
Rod, are you making these statements so that, in a facetious vein, you spark debate? Or, are you really not aware of the history of such figures being active in the U.S. during this period?
If it is the latter, I suggest that a good intro into what was happening “this side of the pond” is the documentary, produced (ironically) by Britain’s Channel 4, in 1998, called:
“Secret History: Kinsey’s Paedophiles” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htAUysRPvNs).
Two of Kinsey’s team members, Paul Gebhard and Clarence Tripp, are interviewed. YouTube has the whole program and the drop-down menu under the clip gives further references. The so-called “dark side of the research” (as the documentary calls it) is presented in all its ugliness.
For those who are demanding a timeline, the whole sordid story (re. Kinsey and the North American reality) begins in the 40’s.
I hope it opens our eyes to the scourge of child abuse in all areas of society.
One other thing: as a male survivor, I really wish those who continually twist any reference to abuse in other spheres as a means to bash the Catholic Church would just stop. I am no defender of priests or bishops who perpetrated these crimes (and the lay people who kept quiet as the abuse was going on, often in plain sight). But, while the church deserves to be criticized and penalized for its shameful mishandling of this horror, can we stop instrumentalizing [and revictimizing] those who have suffered for the mean purpose of pursuing agendas and grinding axes? For example: Is it possible that one can look at an exposé of pedophile experiments in Germany and then seriously pose the question [as some commenters have done here] that perhaps the “leftists” or “progressives” might have actually been victims of a priest abuser and that’s why they carried out their disgusting experiments – are you serious?!
When we are abused by a family friend, or a parent, or a teacher or a sibling or a neighbour or a minister/rabbi/imam, do our stories not count or are they less “horrific” because they supposedly “pale in comparison” with abuse perpetrated by a priest? In case your thought process hasn’t reached this conclusion as yet, let me help you: turning victims into a cudgel to be used in your personal crusade is …. abusive! You don’t really care about us — you are just using us … just as others did in the past.
Thank you, Rod, for forcing us to look at the whole reality and shine the mirror on our own bailiwicks and comfort zones. That’s how we will stop this cancer from spreading.



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Broken Yogi

posted July 5, 2010 at 3:45 am


I think the attempt to locate the source of child abuse in anything going on in the 1960′s, or even earlier in this century, just shows a massive ignorance about the history of child abuse. Unforunately, the sexual abuse of children is one of the oldest practices on earth, and it’s present everywhere, in every culture, including of course the Catholic Church and the priesthood probably since near its beginnings. The “traditional” world always was pervaded by the sexual abuse of children, it just kept it “in the family” and among friends, so to speak. One of modernism’s virtues, not much appreciated by some, is not just the exposure of this kind of scandalous activity, but the vilification of it – again, something that was not always the case. Children have never been much appreciated or respected, and not until modern times has that seriously been changed, to the degree that the sexual abuse of children is rooted out, exposed, and severely punished. It used to be “no big deal”, and “nobody’s business”. Looking at these kinds of exposed scandals and imagining we are seeing something new here is incredibly naive, and really looking in the wrong places. If you want to know where child abuse got its start, look to the “traditional family”.



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Geoff G.

posted July 5, 2010 at 4:12 am


Rod:
Maybe I’m overreacting here, but I sense in one or two of you a reluctance to try to understand why this happened in the Church, if one’s inquiries look to extra-ecclesial sources of the problem.
I think you’re over-analyzing the subject here. Pedophiles were and are drawn to the Church for the same reason gay men used to be: it was and is a socially acceptable place where men are not expected to marry and raise a family.
Beyond that, however, I think pedophiles were particularly drawn to the Church because a parish priest is such an authority figure, both for kids and for many adults. Moreover, he has ready access to children, especially if there is a school attached to the parish (as used to be more common).
Even if an abused kid summons up the courage to report the priest, who would you believe? A kid who’s probably acting up anyway? Or a highly respected member of the community? (And please note, as Dan Savage does in his regular Youth Pastor Watch section that pedophilia and ephebophilia are routinely found in other faiths too; it’s the access to kids and the authority figure status that matters, not the faith)
The evidence suggests that sexual abuse by priests has been going on for decades at the very least. I’d suggest you re-read the story on the Irish priests, where abuse dated back at least to the 1930s, or in Canada, where abuse of various kinds (perpetrated by teachers of various faiths, including Catholic priests) went on in residential schools from the 19th century on.
The point is that pedophiles go wherever they can get easy access to kids, can hide behind the cloak of authority and can evade notice. Whether that’s as a priest, a psychologist, a teacher or whatever, they’re going to do whatever is easiest to get what they want and escape the consequences.
In a way, blaming the actual pedophiles for the problem is counterproductive; they’re always going to be with us. What’s important is to create systems that deny them opportunities to abuse kids and to remedy the situation when abuse does happen, not sweep it under the carpet. That’s why it’s important to hold the hierarchy’s feet to the fire (just as it was important for Besser to go after people in the Freie Universität sanctioning this abuse).
Yes, it’s fun to try to run some mental contortions and figure out a way to pin the sex abuse scandal on “leftists” and “progressives,” especially since this scandal is largely a failure of a conservative institution. But the idea that Roman Catholic priests (or indeed, evangelical youth pastors) in the US or Ireland or Canada abusing kids in the 1930s absorbed pedophilia from the zeitgeist of the ’60s in Berlin is rather far-fetched. It completely ignores the fact that a predator is a predator and an enabler is an enabler regardless of politics or creed.



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Cultural conservative?

posted July 5, 2010 at 6:36 am


“Yes, it’s fun to try to run some mental contortions and figure out a way to pin the sex abuse scandal on “leftists” and “progressives,” especially since this scandal is largely a failure of a conservative institution. But the idea that Roman Catholic priests (or indeed, evangelical youth pastors) in the US or Ireland or Canada abusing kids in the 1930s absorbed pedophilia from the zeitgeist of the ’60s in Berlin is rather far-fetched.”
We’re edging into straw man territory here, Geoff.
1. No one is trying to pin the scandal on leftists.
2. No one is suggesting that the 60s zeitgeist caused abuse in the 30s, or even that the 60s counterculture was the main cause of the sex abuse scandal.
But it does not seem inherently implausible that those who were exposed, during their university education, to some of the worst excesses of the 60s/70s “counterculture”, and who went on to become Catholic priests or religious, might have been affected by the prevailing atmosphere of their time, especially re. their attitudes to sexuality.



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MH

posted July 5, 2010 at 7:41 am


Geoff G., good post.
Cultural conservative, while not on this thread, Rick Santorum blamed Boston ‘liberalism’ for the Roman Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal. So there’s a desire to preempt an obvious tactic that was used in the past.



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Ian

posted July 5, 2010 at 7:44 am


Yes, we had this leftist support for paedophiles here in the UK, some years later than on the Continent.
In the late 1970s various leftist groups started supporting paedophile organisations. This lasted for a few years, then was dropped. In my opinion the Marxists were not generally interested in paedophilia itself, but in destabilising the moral basis of majority Western society.
If you look at the website link, you can see how two prominent Labour cabinet members, both radical feminists from wealthy families, had been part of the National Council of Civil Liberties leadership, which supported organised paedophile groups in that timeframe. Harriet Harman is presently leader of the Labour Party. There is no indication that these bigtime leftists were paedophiles themselves, but they have at various times supported almost anything seen as contradicting ‘bourgois’ values.



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Hector

posted July 5, 2010 at 8:07 am


‘The Left’ is supportive of pedophiles? Really?
Everyone knows that the far left _in Germany_ had a nihilist and pathological streak, exemplified by people like the Baader-Meinhof Gang. (Let’s not get into the crimes of the far right in Germany). The pedophile educators are another example of it. I’m not sure how that equates to ‘The Left’ being guilty of suborning pedophiles. I don’t like it when critics of the Catholic church blame celibacy for the sex abuse scandal (my priest back home is a celibate Episcopalian, and I admire anyone who feels themselves called to that), and it’s equally absurd when conservatives like Rod blame the bogey of Socialism. How about instead of trying to blame vast nefarious cultural trends, we start with a simple premise: some people are monsters who like to rape children, and those people need to be identified, tried, convicted, and locked in prison for the rest of their lives.



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MWorrell

posted July 5, 2010 at 8:14 am


Even in the U.S., remnants of this kind of hippie-era sexual liberation insanity are still in evidence today in the Unitarian Universalists’ OWL curriculim and Planned Parenthood materials. My wife left the UU church when they wanted to show gay and straight porngraphic drawings to her children. I don’t have any doubt that fear of prosecution and public condemnation is the only thing that holds sex lib leftists in check, even here and even today.



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Neil D

posted July 5, 2010 at 8:40 am


Every revolution goes too far. The sexual one is no different – just ask people with HIV if they have any regrets. Does openness unleash excess? Probably. Is that an argument for oppression? I don’t know.
It’s easy to pretend that these terrible things weren’t happening all along. Maybe the abuse was something new or maybe it was just more open and then, with the church less powerful in society, the victims felt freer to challenge their abusers.
And let’s be honest about the intense religious faith necessary to become a leader in any religion. These people are not average by any stretch of the imagination. Is it any surprise, then, that some have out of the mainstream ideas just like the leftist radicals?
Yes – the left has a habit of breaking down cultural norms in the name of progress. The record is mixed. Some progress (racial and gender equality) has been beneficial and morally righteous. Since conservatism is, by definition, the maintenance of the status quo, what are we to do? Stand still and tolerate all manner of evil because of the danger of overreach?
How many pedophile religious cults are out there doing terrible things? Extremism finds expression in across the political spectrum.



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Cultural conservative?

posted July 5, 2010 at 8:55 am


MH – I see your point, and perhaps when I said “no one” I should have specified no one on this blog, but I don’t think that the tendency to see a problem through the prism of an ideological hobby-horse is the preserve of conservatives. Liberal coverage of the sex abuse scandal nearly always carries the implicit assumption that the aspects of RC teaching of which it most disapproves – viz. clerical celibacy, “dysfunctional” attitudes to sexuality, and an all-male priesthood – are among its main causes.
There is some truth in this – but there is also some truth in the conservative argument that the decline of asceticism and the rise of sexual liberalism contributed to the post-1960s abuse.
Captcha: “over loosing”. Ha!



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baconboy

posted July 5, 2010 at 9:06 am


I think a distinction between primary causality and secondary (or contributing) causality might be helpful here. Claiming that these experiments were the primary cause for pedophilia would be wrong for the reasons people have listed above; the inordinate desire to have sex with children has been acted on both within and without the church for a long time. The primary cause of pedophilia is the sin within the hearts of the perpetrators. However, I think that there is something to the idea that experiments like this can be contributing or secondary causes to pedophilia inasmuch as they either attempt to normalize such acts or provide intellectual support for them — they add fuel to the fire. I know that I am not the only person who has sought to make elaborate intellectual justifications for the things that I know are wrong but want to do anyway. An intellectual culture that would allow people to conduct these kinds of experiments may be indicative of a larger cultural problem that contributes to pedophilia by making it acceptable or normal and in that way it would be at least a contributing cause to pedophilia, but not the primary one.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 5, 2010 at 9:10 am


Hector:
I don’t like it when critics of the Catholic church blame celibacy for the sex abuse scandal (my priest back home is a celibate Episcopalian, and I admire anyone who feels themselves called to that), and it’s equally absurd when conservatives like Rod blame the bogey of Socialism.
Hector, you need to re-read my post, and then rethink your comment. I said in the subject line that I’m talking about the “cultural Left,” which is not always the same thing as the political left. I made clear in this post that the Spiegel story is talking about Germany — and that it didn’t seem to me we had the same problem in the US, at least not to that extent.
Again, why are you some of you so afraid even to consider that some non-eccelesial institutions worked to mainstream pedophilia in the Sixties and Seventies, and even beyond? If you read the Spiegel article, you see that as late as the 1980s, the Green party had a platform statement encouraging the eroticization of children. Why is it taboo to explore the possibility that there were strong cultural currents moving through European society at the time that also likely affected the Church? One big difference between the Old Left and the 1960s New Left has to do with sex and sexuality; in general, the Old Leftists were fairly conservative about sex and morality.
About a decade ago, I interviewed a Dutch cultural historian who told me that Dutch religious leaders, Catholic and Protestant, collapsed en masse when the counterculture’s winds started blowing through Dutch society in the 1960s. He said that their authority and self-confidence had been fatally weakened by the Second World War; they were like a pagoda that had been eaten through by termites. To switch the metaphor, they gave up without firing a shot. It’s no surprise, or shouldn’t be, that the Low Countries have, or at least had since the 1960s, the most lunatic Catholic hierarchies in the world.
We perfectly well know that it’s deeply misleading to say that “liberalism” or “leftism” caused the scandal. A deep cultural conservatism that refused to challenge clerics or bishops, even privately, is also to blame. Conservatives don’t want even to examine the role celibacy might have played in this mess, and liberals don’t want to examine the role institutionalized homosexuality in the priesthood might have played. Nobody likes their sacred cows challenged. But this is a massive and complicated problem, one that cannot be understood by placing certain questions and areas of inquiry off-limits. The worst villains in this thing turn out to be both arch-conservative bishops and arch-liberals. It’s complicated. But Hector, you are usually a careful reader, and I’m surprised that with all the qualifications I provided in this post (right down to the very first sentence!), that you concluded I’m blaming socialism for the sex abuse scandal. That is a judgment as crude as it is plainly inaccurate.



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Jim

posted July 5, 2010 at 9:34 am


Rod,
I love your blog for its willingness to explore difficult propositions. But this is anecdotal thinking at its worst. The story shows what? where? how? If these were conservatives would you make the same conclusions?
The sexual revolution hit liberal and conservative alike. “Anything goes” was a shared anthem. Look at rates for premarital sex, premarital cohabitation, serial monogamy, herpes and STD’s……..the sexual saturation of western civilization was a bipartisan effort…….enjoyed equally by both ends of the political and social spectra.
Interesting story, but it shows what?



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hlvanburen

posted July 5, 2010 at 9:47 am


Cultural Conservative: “There is some truth in this – but there is also some truth in the conservative argument that the decline of asceticism and the rise of sexual liberalism contributed to the post-1960s abuse.”
I think there may well be more than some truth to that, but at the same time it is also worth exploring the notion that abuse within the Church (especially within the Church schools in Germany) in the earlier decades may well have contributed to the extreme loosening of cultural mores that led to the kind of open sexual abuse this article highlights.
My earlier posts were simply taking the legitimate point that Mr. Dreher made and going the next step with it. In no way do I wish to absolve these “intellectuals” of the blame for their actions. But if cultural context of the libertine 1960s is relevant then should we not also consider the context of sexual abuse within the Church in the preceding decades as also relevant contributors to the mess?
In that vein I believe it becomes legitimate to examine the extent to which the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in earlier decades contributed to the culture of the 60s in which this kind of disgusting behavior could take place.



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Heather

posted July 5, 2010 at 9:59 am


Rod, sorry, but despite your protestations and hair splitting over phrases such as “cultural left” versus “political left”, you really do come off as if you are trying to shift some of the blame from a conservative institution (you desparately want to believe in) to a liberal boogeyman.
I was a very conservative evangelical when I entered college. There were all sorts of cultural influnces that conflicted with my faith. And it mattered littled to me! If anything it stiffened my resolve. I believed I was called to follow my faith not cultural norms on campus. So, I can in no way undesrtand why a priest’s exposure to pro-pedophelia sentiment would influence his behavior……….unless he is terribly weak minded….but then if thats the case he’s going to fall to all sorts of bad influences, regardless of whether they are of the cultural left or not.



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hlvanburen

posted July 5, 2010 at 10:01 am


Rod Dreher: “Again, why are you some of you so afraid even to consider that some non-eccelesial institutions worked to mainstream pedophilia in the Sixties and Seventies, and even beyond? If you read the Spiegel article, you see that as late as the 1980s, the Green party had a platform statement encouraging the eroticization of children. Why is it taboo to explore the possibility that there were strong cultural currents moving through European society at the time that also likely affected the Church? One big difference between the Old Left and the 1960s New Left has to do with sex and sexuality; in general, the Old Leftists were fairly conservative about sex and morality.”
Mr. Dreher, it’s not that we are “afraid” to make this connection. It’s that some of us in seeing that connection do not stop at 1960 in our evaluation of the situation. The leftist intelligentsia of the 1960s did not suddenly land here from an alien world and inflict their behavior on this culture in a vacuum. They were a part of the culture in which they were raised, and in Europe a strong part of that culture in the 30s-60s (the era in which many of these intellectuals came of age) was the Catholic Church.
It is certainly appropriate to examine how the behavior of some predators within the Church in the 60s and 70s was influenced by a sexually permissive culture of that time. But what contributed to the culture of the 60s and 70s? What helped set the stage for this rise of a group of prominent people who openly performed these atrocities?
I think it is quite probable that at least part of what set the stage for this is the behavior of the Catholic Church in preceding decades, a behavior that exposed a substantial number of youth to physical and sexual abuse, used guilt to keep them quiet about it, and swept the whole matter under the rug until it burst out in the 60s in these so-called “studies” in kinderbrothels.
If you see some of us as afraid to examine the contribution of secular attitudes towards behavior within the church then I have to ask you…are you afraid to examine the contribution of behavior within the church to the cultural attitudes that led to this abuse of children in the name of “scientific research”?



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hlvanburen

posted July 5, 2010 at 10:05 am


Rod Dreher: “But this is a massive and complicated problem, one that cannot be understood by placing certain questions and areas of inquiry off-limits. The worst villains in this thing turn out to be both arch-conservative bishops and arch-liberals. It’s complicated. But Hector, you are usually a careful reader, and I’m surprised that with all the qualifications I provided in this post (right down to the very first sentence!), that you concluded I’m blaming socialism for the sex abuse scandal. That is a judgment as crude as it is plainly inaccurate.”
In reading past your headline I think most of us understand this, Mr. Dreher. But you do have to admit that many posts you have made in the past have excoriated what you see as the evils of liberal philosophies. Hector is wrong in his assessment of this post and your intention behind it, but I can honestly see how the headline you chose could well remind him of your past Jeremiads against liberal society.



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Rod Dreher

posted July 5, 2010 at 10:25 am


Jim:
I love your blog for its willingness to explore difficult propositions. But this is anecdotal thinking at its worst. The story shows what? where? how? If these were conservatives would you make the same conclusions?
I disagree, Jim. It shows that the eroticization of children in that place and time was not simply something done by deviants in clerical collars, and covered up by the Catholic institution. It shows that leading secular left figures in Germany advocated their own version of it as a good prescription for a “liberated” society. Is it really so difficult to understand that the sexual revolution that shook all Western societies in the 1960s and 1970s also affected the Catholic Church, and other churches? Look, in my tiny hometown, they had key parties back then. Key parties! In a Southern hamlet of 2,000 people! The point in bringing this up is to understand the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests as emblematic, in some ways, of the radical times in which the abuse took place. It is not to excuse it — but then again, people who believe the abuse to be particular to the Roman Catholic Church are denying some important facts. To point this out is not to excuse the Church. Why is this such a hard point to grasp? It’s like for some of you, the abuse scandal is a zero-sum game: either the blame must be contained wholly within the Catholic Church, or the Church gets away scot-free. What sense does that make?
Heater: Rod, sorry, but despite your protestations and hair splitting over phrases such as “cultural left” versus “political left”, you really do come off as if you are trying to shift some of the blame from a conservative institution (you desparately want to believe in) to a liberal boogeyman.
May I ask you how long you have been reading this blog? The idea that I — a Christian who lost his Catholic faith and left the Church over the pedophilia scandal, and who has published acres of criticism and analysis of the Catholic bishops and institution over their failures in this matter — am “desparately” (sp) trying to shift the blame of the scandal away from the Church is just incredibly, incredibly obtuse. I will assume that you are a newcomer to this blog, in which case I advise you to do a search under the terms “Catholicism” and “abuse” to check out my record on the matter. If you have been reading for a long time, and you still make such a claim, then I’m sorry, you’re letting your ideology get in the way of the facts.
Anyway, Lee Podles, who brought this Spiegel article to my attention, is such a strong critic of the Church that he even wrote a book, “Sacrilege,” that was so detailed and unsparing in its criticism of the Church hierarchy in the abuse matter that I literally couldn’t read it; it was too upsetting to encounter all those details again. Lee is second to none in standing up for victims, against his own Church’s hierarchy. And yet, he thinks the Spiegel story puts the Catholic Church in Germany’s problems in a necessary cultural context.
Some of you seem to have a need to believe the Catholic Church is the focus of unmitigated evil in this matter, and that any attempt to understand the scandal in a broader context is advocating for the devil. That’s just wrong.



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Peter

posted July 5, 2010 at 10:47 am


It’s like for some of you, the abuse scandal is a zero-sum game: either the blame must be contained wholly within the Catholic Church, or the Church gets away scot-free. What sense does that make?
Of course, your need to hang everything wrong in society on the sexual revolution during the 1960s is a similar zero-sum game. Sex and sexual abuse didn’t begin in the 1960s or even the 1806s. Priests (and nuns) in Ireland didn’t start torturing and sexual abusing kids because they read Germaine Greer and Playboy or started taking the pill. Maciel wasn’t influenced by Gloria Steinam or the Free University of Berlin.



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Lisa

posted July 5, 2010 at 11:31 am


1973. A Unitarian summer camp in Canada. Run by left-wing, organic-gardening, Vietnamese-orphan adopting, Earth-honoring, anti-war, pro-marijuana, Communist-sympathising, hippie humanists.
Clothing-optional swims for campers and counselors of both sexes. An adult camping session, for which some children stayed over, with nude massages by the lake.
Unsettling. Disturbing. But no sexual approaches to children that I ever observed or sensed. Run by some of the kindest, most humane people I ever met. Would have been a pedophile’s dream, though.



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the stupid Chris

posted July 5, 2010 at 12:57 pm


Rod,
Child Sexual Abuse is not the province of any one ideology, culture, belief system, place or time. Not even “in Germany.” The causes of such abuse are likewise legion, it defies a simple “did this cause that” kind of diagnosis.
Pedophilia predates the rise of the cultural Left by millennia. If you’d like to pinpoint the cause, you may have to travel all the way back to Adam and Eve. Attempting to blame pedophilia on the cultural Left, like attempts to blame it on celibacy, utterly fails to explain this heinous crime.



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rahab

posted July 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm


I tend to agree with the stupid Chris’s comment above. Children have gained more rights and protections under the law in the last 50 years than they ever had before in history, and continued heinous crimes and abuses, like the awful German experiments in this blog post, illustrate how vulnerable they are, and how much they still need to be protected.



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rahab

posted July 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm


Correction: children in the West are more protected now. I don’t know what it’s like in other areas of the world but anecdotes and news stories don’t paint a good picture of what it’s like to be a child in certain parts of Africa or the Middle East, or many other places.



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Beowulf

posted July 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm


In France it was commented the support of the leftist journal Liberation to the pedophile movement of the seventies:
http://www.come4news.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=7046



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Mont D. Law

posted July 5, 2010 at 2:21 pm


Whatever else the cultural or progressive left did they are largely responsible for the changes in the reporting of the sexual exploitation of children and the support for the victims of that exploitation. That this crime is considered a serious one and that children are encouraged and supported in reporting this crime and that it’s perpetrators are treated as criminals – that was the cultural left too.
Finally – it was the cultural left that broke the hold of the Catholic church over huge #’s of people around the world and freed them to object to the emotional, physical & sexual abuse of children that was pretty standard stuff.



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Lee Podles

posted July 5, 2010 at 2:45 pm


I have been unsparing in my criticism of the failures of the Catholic Church: but at least when clerical pedophiles are exposed, they are disgraced. Roman Polanski, who claimed everyone wanted to have sex with thirteen-year-old girls, a she had done, is still celebrated by the European artistic community, and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who let children caress his genitals and caressed theirs, is co-president of the Green Party.
Is it any wonder that the Vatican can claims that attacks on the Church are not motivated by a desire to protect children but by a hatred for Christianity? The attacks may still be valid, but it is hard to stomach criticism for tolerating pedophilia from those who celebrate it.



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elizabeth

posted July 5, 2010 at 3:16 pm


There was plenty of wacko stuff going on in the “cultural left” of the 60s and beyond. The radical guys in the 60s expected “radical” females to sleep with any “comrade” who wanted them, make the coffee and clean up after the radical planning meetings – during which the “girls” best kept quiet. The radical left was as sexist and screwed up as the rest of the culture.
We can thank feminism for demanding that rape and sexual abuse of women and children be brought out into the open and taken seriously by the police, prosecutors and courts. That part of the “cultural left” has served to move child sexual abuse into public awareness and public disgust.
Trying to hang something as fundamental as sexual urges on a movement in a particular decade or century is an exercise in mental gymnastics and nothing more. There is no first cause here. That there can exist, for a period of time, institutions where certain things are tolerated (or not prevented or stopped) does not make those institutions responsible that the behaviors happened in the first place. (I’m not letting anyone off the hook for failing to stop said behaviors.) We have to look to the source of the sexual urges, which, in the case of pedophilia, usually have much to do with having ones psycho-sexual development interfered with in childhood.



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hlvanburen

posted July 5, 2010 at 3:20 pm


Lee Podles: “Is it any wonder that the Vatican can claims that attacks on the Church are not motivated by a desire to protect children but by a hatred for Christianity? The attacks may still be valid, but it is hard to stomach criticism for tolerating pedophilia from those who celebrate it.”
Yet is that sword not also double-edged? We see the Church continuing to battle against full disclosure of how deep the abuse ran within its halls, yet scrambling to call attention to the abuse of children in other quarters (public schools, Protestant churches, and now leftist enclaves of perverted intellegentia). Can you not also see that the claims about how poorly other segments of society have behaved (and to some extent still are behaving) if they were not made by people who are still working to obstruct investigations into their own actions or those of their organization?
I mean, seriously…is the Catholic Church in the various nations truly being as open as possible and as thorough as possible in their investigations of allegations when things like this happen?
http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Accused-priest-given-victims-file-in-new-church-scandal-97145674.html
“Accused priest given victims file in new church scandal
Child protection delegate handed over a confidential file containing evidence of child abuse to the priest at the centre of the allegations.”
Absolutely nowhere in these comments have I seen anyone defend the actions of the leftist perverts in Germany as some would imply with their comments. Nowhere have I seen anyone suggest that there should not be a full investigation of this, or that full justice should be done in this matter.
Mr. Dreher makes a good point in questioning how the attitude of the 60s in which this sexualization of children was occurring contributed to the similar behavior in the Church. I, and I believe others, are asking that we also ask from whence these intellectuals came with their notions? Were they influenced in their youth by abuse they and their peers suffered in the Catholic Church?
Some seem to suggest that the actions of these leftists developed in a vacuum separate from the era in which they grew up. Is that not every bit as foolish as suggesting that the libertine excesses of German 60s culture had no influence whatsoever upon Catholic clerical behavior?
Which came first…the chicken or the egg?



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Mont D. Law

posted July 5, 2010 at 3:24 pm


Lee Podles
No one here is or I believe ever has defended Polanski or some weird German dude no one has ever heard of. So I am not sure what your point is.



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Broken Yogi

posted July 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm


Rod,
You might want to read this lecture, The History of Child Abuse
by Lloyd deMause from The Journal of Psychohistory 25 (3) Winter 1998, posted online at:
http://www.psychohistory.com/htm/05_history.html
It gives a fascinating and disturbing overview of the entire history of child abuse to get some perspective on these things.



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Peter

posted July 5, 2010 at 4:15 pm


The attacks may still be valid, but it is hard to stomach criticism for tolerating pedophilia from those who celebrate it.
Specifically–names, not vague sweeping “the left”–who are you talking about?



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Your Name

posted July 5, 2010 at 5:52 pm


“this is not one of those rants in which the writer accuses liberals of poisoning the minds of the young”
“it’s a story about how the Left — as in, the activist Sixties radical left in Germany — went berserk in literally sexualizing children”
“I’m not talking about blaming the cultural left for child sex abuse”
“hey, the Leftists meant well and were doing it for the good of the children”
“to what extent [did] this Leftist anti-bourgeois pedophilia culture penetrated radical circles”
Sure you’re not “blaming” pedophilia on the cultural Left”. We can see that. It’s sooo clear.
The lady doth protest waaay too much in this inistance, methinks.



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elizabeth

posted July 5, 2010 at 5:57 pm


Rod – this is post-Update.
Your argument about the German Cultural Left encouraging/empowering the church to hide its sex abuse horrors is not reasonable and it does not fit with the rest of RC behavior regarding sexual morality.
Pope Paul VI and his bishops did not budge on contraception, premarital sex or abortion (though admittedly some priests did), which were much more widely practiced than the activities described in the referenced article. JP2 was as rigorous as Paul VI. There is/was no hint of backing down from traditional church teachings even in the full bloom of the sexual revolution. If ever cultural influence was ripe to allow the church to loosen its teachings on sexual morality, that was it – not some obscure experiment in a German after school program.
How many church officials even knew about those sick experiments? If they had, wouldn’t someone have raised a stink? They would have been heros. And do you honestly believe that American and Irish bishops were closely following the doings of obscure members of the German wacko-left?
What cultural influences induced the Church to hide the sexual abuse of the 40s, 50s and early 60s? My friend was abused by his parish priest in the early 60s in the Boston area (he is the subject of the film “The Hand of God”). As documented in the film, the cover-up was already well underway.
It is much more reasonable to believe that participants in the cover-up were motivated by fear of bad publicity. They couldn’t face the possibility of losing the authority and prestige of the church, which is to say, themselves.



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Your Name

posted July 5, 2010 at 6:14 pm


“We perfectly well know that it’s deeply misleading to say that “liberalism” or “leftism” caused the scandal.”
But … but – you do it so well, we hardly even realize how misleading you tend to be.
“Maybe I’m overreacting here”
Ya think?
As Heather said above, “despite your protestations and hair splitting over phrases such as “cultural left” versus “political left”, you really do come off as if you are trying to shift some of the blame from a conservative institution (you desparately want to believe in) to a liberal boogeyman.”
Speaking of “letting your ideology get in the way of the facts”, “Rat bastard” indeed!
Re: the sexualization of children: children ARE sexual beings. (Ever hear of them ‘playing doctor’? Sheesh, already.)
Dr. Sue Johanson points out that it takes the average baby boy less than 30 minutes after birth to discover that playing with his penis happens to feel good – and it takes longer than a lifetime to get them to stop ;{O)



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Broken Yogi

posted July 5, 2010 at 8:15 pm


“the eroticization of children in that place and time was not simply something done by deviants in clerical collars, and covered up by the Catholic institution. It shows that leading secular left figures in Germany advocated their own version of it as a good prescription for a “liberated” society. Is it really so difficult to understand that the sexual revolution that shook all Western societies in the 1960s and 1970s also affected the Catholic Church, and other churches?”
Well, of course the Catholic Church isn’t the only place pedophilia existed, either in the 1960s, or before and since. The reason the scandal about the Church is so huge is that, rather than doing it openly as these crazy German leftists did, they did it behind closed doors, while proclaiming themselves to be the protectors of innocence and holiness. The difference is that these leftists were a very small and highly uninfluential bunch, infatuated with the usual radical notions of literally changing everything in the name of “liberation”, but applying that principle to something that hardly any leftists actually thought appropriate, and the experiment obviously failed, and the whole thing was so much repudiated by the “cultural left” that it left no legacy. We are not finding the hidden victims of these pedophile leftists coming out to haunt the left in anything remotely like the numbers we see in the Catholic church scandals. In fact, there’s really not much at all to “come out”, because it seems not to have been hidden in the first place.
The difference is that the “cultural left”, apart from a few crazy extremists, never sanctioned this kind of thing, and never practiced this kind of thing, and never approved of this kind of thing, but actually fought very hard to bring the issue of child abuse to the fore, which was generally opposed by “conservatives”, both in the church and in secular settings. If you want to examine the role the cultural left played in this, it’s generally a highly positive one of both exposing child abuse and teaching people to be wary of sexual abuse. Likewise, feminism played a big role in this, and that’s also a “cultural left” phenomena that was opposed by conservatives. While the early 60′s radicals tended to be macho chauvinists using the sexual revolution to play out their fantasies, this quickly evolved into the whole feminist movement which came to dominate the left in the years to come, and had as part of its ideology the idea of protecting women and children from abuse. And most leftist men became pro-feminist and joined in with this, so the general influence of the sexual revolution on pedophilia was a very positive one. In fact, it’s just about the only source of positive cultural movement to bring an end to child abuse and the abuse of women, which go together. Conservatives for the most part fought this or denied it was a problem. So if you want to put the cultural left and the cultural right side by side and see who did the most good or harm in the area of child abuse, one can certainly point some fingers at both sides, but the greater force for good in this area comes from the cultural left, not the right. It’s pretty much the same with all civil rights issues from this period, whether it’s about minorities, women, or children. Trying to rewrite that broad history to make the left seem culpable of child abuse is rather dishonest.



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