Thursday, July 22, 2010

"No pedophilia crisis" says Catholic League

"No pedophilia crisis" says Catholic League
According to Dr. William Donohue of the Catholic League, the Catholic Church does not have a "pedophilia crisis." His opinion is contradicted by numerous court documents, statements of the U.S. Bishops, the Vatican, and Pope Benedict XVI, each of whom have condemned the pattern of covered-up case of clerical pedophilia. So if a pedophilia crisis is clear to these officials and to more than 60 million American Catholics, why does Dr. Bill continuously repeat that there is none?
To be sure, he admits to a problem of sexual abuse among Catholic clergy, but in a advertisement published in the New York Times (March 30, 2010), Donohue argues that ... "all along it's been a homosexual crisis." Citing the exhaustive study out of John Jay College in New York, Donohue notes that "Eighty percent of the victims of priestly abuse are male." The male-with-male character is sufficient to change pedophilia into homosexual relations in Donohue's way of thinking. On CNN (Rick's List, March 31, 2010), Donohue summarized this position in his unenviable style: " ...yes, there's a connection between homosexuality and sexual abuse of minors...They can't keep their hands off the boys, don't you get it?"

Perhaps this makes sense in some universe based on locker-room logic. But counting the frequency of male-with-male relations is not the same as scientific study of homosexual behavior. Since Donohue took his doctorate in the social sciences, he strays beyond his field of competence when defining the motives for sexual abuse. Such analysis properly belong to fields like psychology. You wouldn't want a hair-dresser's definition of a "split end" to be applied to a football coach's plays for a "split end" and social science's terms do not always apply to the behavioral sciences. As noted by Andrew Sullivan, Donohue confuses sexual orientation with sexual abuse. Educated discourse among Catholics deserves more sophistication, I think, and clarity of definitions is a good place to begin.

Sexual orientation, which is considered to manifest itself with the on-set of puberty, is about whom you seek to love. "Love" here is more than a physical act, but includes search for companionship, understanding, and support. These qualities are sought by both homosexuals and heterosexuals. The search may go badly, with exploitation and meanness intruding - for both homosexuals and heterosexuals - but the orientation is realized between mutually consenting adults.

Pedophilia, on the other hand, is about control of an adult person over a minor. It is clear from the John Jay data on clerical abuse that most cases (73%) took place before the minor turned 14, with more than a fifth (22%) being perpetrated on victims younger than 10 years of age. Children 13 or younger seldom function sexually as adults. But because the legal age of a minor includes all those under 18, the sociological numbers include many teenagers who approximate adulthood. The John Jay numbers show that the frequency of abuse diminishes as the minor grows older. Donohue confirms this fact by writing in his July 13th column: " ... if some guy tried to kiss me when I was 17, I would have flattened him." Presumably, the more the victim becomes adult, the less likely it is that the sexual predator can control them. And because such control is at the heart of pedophilia, sexual exploitation of children has been roundly condemned by the Catholic Church.

The vulnerability of the Church in this sordid mess lies principally in a pronounced reluctance to confront predators or take significant action to separate them from ministry. While I have little doubt that Dr. Bill want to end sexual abuse in the Church as much as I do, his faulty analysis is problematic because it might perpetuate the crisis. How can you adopt the proper remedy against what Pope Benedict called "the filth of the Church" unless you have a proper diagnosis? "Flattening" people with your fists may resolve the problem for Dr. Bill, but I doubt it is feasible approach for universal Catholicism.

I think there is an important difference between the abuse in pedophilia and homosexual orientation. Confusing them and using bludgeoning oversimplifications ultimately trivializes both of them. These, however, are not trivial issues.

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