Miranda Hale’s been on a break from posting, but has come back with a doozy, an analysis—”A worthless and dangerous report“— of the 143-page report by The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (link to the report is on her post). You might have heard that this report is something of a whitewash, for it pins the pervasive sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests not on the priests themselves, but on the permissiveness and “deviant” behaviors of the Sixties and Seventies. But it’s even worse than you thought. Miranda has a thorough (but not overly long) analysis, so go read it.
The three things that horrified me the most (and there are many things to criticize) were these:
1. The report seems to have been almost entirely financed by the Church itself or by Catholic organizations. Half the funding came from the conference itself, and much of the rest from groups like the Knights of Columbus. Now this does not necessarily discredit the report, for I doubt that any other organizations were willing to do the study, but it’s always a bit worrisome when an organization—particularly one with a history of suppressing information and whitewashing its actions—investigates itself. And, sure enough, the findings largely exculpate the Church, blaming sexual abuse on the social and sexual climate obtaining several decades ago. What’s equally worrisome is that much of the data are based on self-reporting by the Church itself: things like its interviews with offending priests and summaries thereof conducted not by outside investigators, but by the Church itself.
2. If the priests weren’t to blame, what was? As I said, the report implicates the wild and wooly Sixties and Seventies. Miranda notes that the report
attempt[s] to connect this supposed “peak” in sexual abuse cases (again, remember that all of this data comes from the “censuses” they sent to the dioceses) to the concurrent shift in cultural norms/”social indicators” (36) and rise in “deviant behaviors” (46), primarily “divorce, use of illegal drugs, and crime” (36), arguing that: “[t]he documented rise in cases of abuse in the 1960s and 1970s is similar to the rise in other types of “deviant” behavior in society, and coincides with social change during this time period” (46).
As she points out, this is correlation, not causation (and when was “divorce” a “deviant behavior” equivalent to sexual abuse of a child?). One might as well also note the rise of moustaches on men during the same era; maybe that had something to do with the abuse, too! The report further claims that seminaries simply failed to prepare priests-in-training for the social changes of this era. Well, I was a young man in the sixties and seventies, and I don’t remember that society licensed the sexual abuse of children back then. Further, I distinctly remember that child pornography, which of course is connected to child sexual abuse, was also seen as a serious crime in those days.
3. To minimize its malfeasance, the report simply redefines pedophilia as sexual abuse of a child 10 years old or younger. But the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—the “DSM,” which is a handbook used by mental-health professionals to diagnose problems—sets the cutoff age at 13. Granted, any such age is somewhat arbitrary for diagnosing a disorder, but what’s rankling is that the Bishop’s report otherwise relies on the DSM for recognizing the symptoms of pedophilia!
By arbitrarily lowering from 13 to 10 the age at which child abuse is considered pedophilia, the report manages to lower the percentage of “pedophilic” acts from nearly 73% of total abuse to only 22%. That’s nothing other than a blatant manipulation of data to make the Church seem less culpable. It’s disgusting.
The more I learn about the Catholic Church, the more I see that, as an institution, it’s so nefarious as to border on evil. I don’t know how more liberal or open-minded Catholics can, in good conscience, remain in the Church. Let us see if a sizable number of Catholic laypeople raise a hue and cry about this report. I doubt it.
And we’re supposed to pat this Church on the back because its official doctrine is friendly to biological evolution?