It's very politically correct to bash Catholics, and the media are the evangelists of political correctness. There are real problems in the Church with pedophilia, but the media have taken the opportunity to escalate the situation to show Catholicism in the worst light possible. The media just plain old reeks on this issue and on the Middle East issue as well, as Wanda noted (new thread?). They make Israel seem to be the big, bad bully in everything and forget that several Palestinian terrorist groups (some with Arafat's sympathies) want nothing else but the eradication of Israel as a nation.
I would desperately like to hear from some of the victims of abuse in a positive way. I would like to hear at least one report of how their case was handled with great compassion and understanding... that the victim was beleived and justice sought. And that if there was a cover up it was truly to spare the victim more pain, and the perpetrator was dealt with properly. Surely there is some story out there like that.
I s it media bias? Wouldn't it be great to hear a positive story.
Ana, there are surely many stories like the one you seek to hear. I think in an overwhelming majority of cases, the victims were believed, and were dealt with compassionately. Only, diocesan leaders believed their priests were "salvageable," and so they sought to handle the case without calling attention to the victim or the incident so as to give the priest a fighting chance somewhere else. In retrospect, this seems foolish, but at the time, they were acting in good faith based on counsel from mental health professionals who are having to eat a lot of crow, too, these days.
Increasingly, I'm not happy with the use of the word "cover-up." There have been some, for sure, but that was not always the intent. The media don't seem to be distinguishing between real cover-ups and other responses, which is unfortunate.
Can you clarify your point in distinguishing between those who molest young children vs. those who molest children who are 9-12 yrs. old? Are you saying one is worse than the other? Are you saying the action taken against those who do such things should be different? I'm not sure where you are coming from.
Here are some more articles, from all over the political and philosophical spectrum, that touch on the distinction between pedophiles and ephebophiles. Can anyone gather, from within the context of these articles and/or from within the context of the other questions I have raised in this forum, how relevant or irrelevant this distinction might be to the manifold issues being discussed in this thread?
S-t--r---e---t--c--h beyond a grasp of the obvious, for instance, such as the irrelevance of this distinction in determining criminality or sinfulness , please! Finally, these are not rhetorical questions; this stuff is new and very different to me (and very quickly will be getting old and worn out).
pax tibi, all
I don't think you are saying the abuse of post pubescent aged children is "not as bad" as the abuse of pre pubescent children? It shouldn't matter. Both acts are perverted and should be dealt with in the same manner.
I read all the articles you posted back there and though, I'm not exactly sure what you were looking for in the way of replies, but the one thing that stood out to me in these articles was the fact that all of them either 1)wanted to question celibacy as a requirement for Priesthood or 2)wanted to approach homosexuality as the issue. Neither, in my opinion, is relevant to any of this. My understanding in the "classification" of these victims, is that one is generally considered 13 years or younger...and the other 16-18 years or younger. Both should be treated as equal offenses I think....however, beyond the 18 year old limit, then you go into an entirely different legal setting. Not that the legal setting diffuses the damage to victims...but rather that it is approached in a different way both in the courts and in some people's minds. I did notice that some articles cited the fact that policemen, scout leaders, etc....people seen as "protectors and leaders" were all in a situation that made it easier to abuse. At least, they acknowledged that it isn't just Priests...and some even cited that ALL clergy has to deal with this. I think it most unfortunate that this entire set of events is being used to harm the Catholic church. Quite frankly, I don't understand it. Perhaps I'm naive, but I flat don't comprehend how one set of "believers" can treat another in such a way..nor how the general public can point such accusing fingers when this problem is certainly not confined to any one named church...nor even to a church period.
Once again, the media has proven that their slant has an agenda all it's own.
Steve and tk and all,
Let me clearly state that, by raising this pedophilia versus ephebophilia distinction, I am not trying to lead anyone toward any preconceived conclusions of my own or anyone else. This particular distinction is just an example of how involved this whole issue is, how complicated. I'm sure there are other distinctions that I am unaware of that would contribute to a more heavily nuanced discussion from a much more informed perspective.
I do have some tentative conclusions and preconceived notions but I am not going to share them here (yet, anyway). Rather, I am going to stay in the Socratic mode (it'll be a good change of pace for me, a pedagogical skill I need to better cultivate, along with being more mindful of my audience, for instance) and try to stimulate more discussion and help to raise even new and better questions.
Thanks to both Steve and tk for raising some of these questions (and offering some answers, too).
I think this pedophilia versus ephebophilia distinction can make for a good heuristic device, a good teaching tool, but maybe some of you can come up with some other issues that are important and that are perhaps being overlooked, too?
If the underlying problem is one of ephebophilia versus pedophilia, how might it impact:
1) clinical diagnosis?
2) psychological evaluation?
3) therapy of the offender?
4) therapy of the victim?
5) criminal justice administration and penalties?
6) civil remedies?
7) ecclesiastical law administration?
8) ecclesiastical pastoral care of the offender? the victim?
9) screening and prevention processes?
10) views on celibacy?
11) views on homosexuality?
12) add more questions
13) Does this problem have to do more with psychological illness or willful violations of chastity?
14) Are there differences in prognoses for both offenders and victims?
In addition to asking how it might impact such items above (a merely descriptive exercise), you can address how it should impact them (which is a normative exercise).
After considering this issue in light of the questions and answers you've formulated above, do your answers have any implications for how the Church (or other institutions, mental health-related) should deal with other abuses of power and sexual impropriety (which may not be criminally wrong but which are certainly serious ethical breaches, terrible moral lapses and gravely sinful)? What should the standards and guidelines be vis a vis the relative severity of this or that crime (ecclesiastically and civilly/politically), the relative harm done to the victim/community, the relative sinfulness, etc? Which standards should be the same and which different?
p.s. And, por favor, don't ask me if I am saying this or that. I am not clarifying answers but am trying to evoke questions (with your answers)
Good list of questions, jb. These are the kinds of issues that I hope bishops around the world will be considering as they draw up their policies.
I think you make a strong point, jk, that no matter what one calls the behavior, if it's done to a minor then it's abuse and ought to be treated as such. There may be a different clinical profile for these different levels of pedophilia, however, which might help to inform the kind of response Church leaders make.
Steve, I agree that zero tolerance ought to be the norm--especially for new cases. A problem in applying it retroactively is that there have apparently been a number of priests and even bishops who've committed abuses years ago--20 or more in some cases!-- then went through rehabilitation, and have had an exemplary record since. Somehow it seems unjust to remove the from the priesthood in the name of a newly enforced zero tolerance. I think full disclosure for those cases is just, with ongoing evaluation and accountability.
Good discussion! I appreciate the civil tone you are all bringing to it.
jk1962 wrote: I did notice that some articles cited the fact that policemen, scout leaders, etc....people seen as "protectors and leaders" were all in a situation that made it easier to abuse.
What do others think about this element of opportunism? Does it seem to be, more or less, ubiquitous and not limited to one form of abuse or another?
jk1962 wrote: At least, they acknowledged that it isn't just Priests...and some even cited that ALL clergy has to deal with this. I think it most unfortunate that this entire set of events is being used to harm the Catholic church.
In everyone's reading and listening to the news, are y'all getting the same impression as me, that most authoritative sources don't cite the incidence of pedophilia among Catholic priests as being any higher than any other segment of the population? Contrastingly, are you being left with the impression that the incidence of homosexuality among Catholic priests may be substantially higher?
Another thing I have questioned in my mind is, notwithstanding the criminality of the behavior, does ephebophilia per se have any status as a psychiatric disorder for which there is a distinct clinical diagnosis (it appears to be somewhat of a neologism, a relatively newly coined term)? In the same way that healthy heterosexual males might be physically attracted to post-pubescent teenaged girls and would only desist from becoming sexually active with them because of statutory reasons (if in fact they just so happened to even know their age), might homosexual males similarly be attracted to post-pubescent teenaged boys? In either of these cases, with the heterosexual or homosexual male, do psychiatrists or psychologists necessarily give such attachments clinical status, pathologically, beyond what might otherwise be considered merely a paraphilia or fetish? Perhaps none of this is so clear cut as to provide unambiguous answers to these questions? Doesn't this move rather quickly, however, to the issue of rehabilitation? vis a vis the prognosis of the offender? In other words, even in a zero-tolerance and one strike you're out environment, does an ephebophile stand a better chance of getting cured, possibly even to the same extent as a repentant heterosexual priest who had a tryst with a post-pubescent teenaged girl (criminal) or who had an affair with a married woman even? When devising a zero tolerance policy how might they fold all of these considerations in? Does it seem that, like Steve and Phil have suggested, zero tolerance will indeed become the norm for at least the criminally classified abusive activities? Notwithstanding all of the above considerations and setting aside the consideration of those who are strictly and clearly and clinically diagnosed as pedophiles, and whatever the percentage of homosexuals in the Catholic priesthood, would there be any reason to believe that the percentage of unchaste homosexual priests would differ from the percentage of unchaste heterosexual priests? There has been much talk about how all priests, the overwhelming super-super-majority of priests, are good, holy and chaste servants, but are suffering a taint and a stigma because of the sins and crimes of very few. Is there any indication that the homosexual priests are going to be more stigmatized by the media? or the public? or the hierarchy? or won't this become an issue, especially once considering the pedophile versus ephebophile distinction and the overwhelming number of boys versus girls that are victimized? Whether it is true or a misperception, do the perceptions that there is a growing, sexually active gay subculture in the Catholic priesthood influence the number of heterosexuals entering the vocation (being mindful of many other reasons others have already cited about post-Vatican II vocation rates and patterns)?
Phil had written earlier: I don't really think pedophilia is an acting out caused by sexually-frustrated, basically-normal, heterosexual (and even homosexual) priests. What would they say about ephebophilia per se and sexually-frustrated homosexual priests? Also, there have been numerous posts discussing the incurability of pedophilia and the recidivism rate --- would all of the same observations apply to ephebophilia (again, not just from a criminality angle but also pastoral and clinical perspectives)?
Again, let me reiterate, I am not trying to contrive leading questions but am trying to convey the complexity of the issue and am suggesting that, just looking at the first three pages of Shalomplace posts (including my own contributions), which have been as civil and insightful as any you'll ever come across in cyberspace or elsewhere, we have hardly scratched the surface. There have been some preliminary observations offered here that seem to be valid from what I have read: There is some biased Catholic-bashing (a LOT). There are some trying to connect the dots (as Phil described it) between their pet liberal and or conservative Catholic agendas and the present crisis, although I wonder if just because some biased folks are trying to connect the dots doesn't mean some of them shouldn't be connected. There are sexual abuse victims whose views the world still hasn't heard (and may not, for manifold reasons). There are other innocent victims, too, the tainted and stigmatized priests who are faithful and chaste and dedicated to the welfare of us all.
Questions remain (at least on some fronts).
Wow, QuiEst....you HAVE done a lot of thinking about this and you raise some really interesting questions. Something came to mind as I was reading your list of questions and further questions in the second post. Several years ago a female teacher, Mary Latourneau (sp?), not only had an affair with a 12 year old student, but also bore two of his children. She was in her mid thirties I THINK..can't remember for sure. She was imprisoned and in a follow up report I saw recently, even though the boy was about to be 18 (probably already is now), she still had to serve out her prison sentence for having sex with a minor. I'm wondering...how much different is it for a Priest/Pastor/fireman/policeman etc. to be caught in such an affair regardless of the fact that it might be a same sex affair? And as Phil pointed out, is it fair to penalize Priests who perhaps committed the crime 20 years ago, had treatment and has had no other incidence? I would think that ousting them would not be the answer...perhaps restitution of some sort to the victim?
Another thing that came to mind because within my own family this has happened....what about those who set out explicitly to "lure" the above stated persons to commit these acts for the express purpose of revenge, monetary gain, general dislike of authoritative figures? Now...I'm certainly not saying any of the victims in these cases did that, but I know for a fact that some children are used by their parents for just such things. And is there any instance where something that might have been an innocent gesture is misconstrued to be presented as an offense? Again..I'm not saying any of these victims have done this, but we would be lying to ourselves if we didn't address the fact that this DOES indeed happen. How do we go about proving beyond doubt that something which took place years and years ago actually was as stated by either the victim OR the offender?
Hmmm I think I'm only asking more questions..lol. I must say I hadn't thought of the rehabilitative factor when older victims (sorry I forgot to paste the exact sentence) are involved..nor any of the other questions you asked in this regard QuiEst.
One thing you have stated that is definitely clear..there is much more to this than a simple pat answer or a simple reason.
jk, you ask some good questions, all right. Another I've wondered about is what about people who come forward saying they were abused when they weren't? After all, it now seems that, for the abused, "thar's gold in them thar hills!" And there is! But how does one actually prove that one was abused? What if it's a bogus charge from someone who just wants money, and who maybe has an axe to grind about Catholicism in the process?
You both bring up some good points here... sad to say but there probably are some who would be willing to distort the truth to make a buck. Perhaps what is even more frightening are those who misconstrue words or gestures... accusing someone of something that existed only in their own mind... the innocent gesture, the friendly compassionate hug. I coached Little League and taught for awhile and this was something that we were all very careful of... and it was sad that we had to stop and think before giving a child a hug. Some teachers I know would not go so far as to give a child a pat on the back for fear it would be misconstrued. I worked with a pastor who would not meet with a woman alone or go to visit alone. When I applied for the position, they asked if I would be uncomfortable being alone in the church with the pastor. Had never given it a thought and never had an uncomfortable moment there either. It was sad that they felt they had to ask. Yet, with all the talk of sexual harassment in the work place, the church felt they should address it right up front. They required police clearances for everyone who had any contact with the kids too, as suggested by the conference. One way another denomination deals with this issue.
How do you determine if abuse did actually occur? Good question... one reason why I am not sure i agree with the one strike and you're out policy.. one proven abuse and you're out but the proof would have to be there... too easy to hurt innocent people... ruin lives and reputations.
Just rambling a bit here maybe but there are no easy answers.. only lots of questions.
Phil and Wanda,
Yes, yes and yes! You've stated more very important questions. I'm haunted too by that 1 strike thing. Because as we all mentioned, not all cases are true cases and I don't know how the Priesthood works on this, but what if someone IS ousted only to be found out years down the road that the accusation was false? Can they ever go back to the Priesthood...and what about the damage done to THEM? Sadly, the whole abuse scenario has become one of THE hottest topics out there these days and is highly exploited...while on the other hand, many true victims NEVER come forward.
I was watching a discussion on this on EWTN the other day and the Priest on there made a statement that, I have to admit, really convicted me a bit. He was stating things we had to think about in all this..how victims were treated, what kind of legal steps should be taken, what kind of steps within the Church should be taken, etc. He said at one point that something we must be very careful about is that while we sympathize with the victims and want justice to be served for them, we also must not dehumanize these Priests or we would be guilty of the same thing they were. He went on to explain that abuse is an act of dehumanization of the victim..they are not seen as people, but merely as a tool for whatever purpose the offender needs them. And that if we are not careful, we will turn these Priests into a tool for 1)media agendas 2)revenge 3)hate...etc. He named several more things. He talked of how it was our job to lift these people to Jesus for His mercy and His healing and that it would be awfully easy to forget that even though these were horrible acts, even the MOST horrible acts can be forgiven and the persons delivered from the "illness" or "obsession" or whatever the case may be. I had to ponder that just a bit because in my own heart, being a parent in particular, I realized that it would indeed be awfully easy for me to forget that these offenders (the true ones) WERE to be treated humanely and with compassion while still seeking justice for the victims.
One thing I guess I wanted to say, too, is that my heart truly grieves for the thousands of wonderful Priests out there who are now having to face the public every day and feel a sense of shame for their profession and way of life (this was another thing the Priest on EWTN mentioned). Hopefully they have friends and supporters who are showing them that they are loved and appreciated.
You mentioned wanting to hear a good story by a victim of child abuse. This is not a case of a priest abusing though. I can't tell you the good story as a victim but as someone who tried to help a child, who was suspected to be a victim. There was only suspicion based on the five year old's six old brother. I had no peace of mind until I had done what was humanly possible. I was met with denial in the family and was told to mind my own business. Yet professionals told me that is exactly how families react and in most cases that at that age suspicion is all most people get. The victim is usually threatened into silence and manipulated that they would shield their abuser, rather than lose their family. The law enforcement agency and the child protection agency normally go into immediate action based on a suspicion. But professionals dealing with such cases say that such drastic action causes great trauma to the child, it will not give real evidence and the end result is that the child would be returned to the family after long separation for investigation and put under greater pressure and threats by the abuser after it returns. To make one long story short, I made sure that everyone dealing with that child was aware of the suspicion (although I was told to mind my own business), a paediatric professor I discussed the matter with informed the police (the police officer told me not to teach her to do her work when I explained what the professionals thought about rash actions) and finally the child protection agency took over the responsibility of keeping an eye. There was no charges pressed, the child is still within the family and the little girl's father is now married. Knowledge is power and protection for the victim. The family has no excuse if something happens to the little girl. The child protection agency is on guard. Unless the man is an incurable pedophile (which in his case I do not believe, he had been widowed for five years when this thing supposedly happened), the crisis has passed. But of course one can verify that only after the little girl grows up. Unless the disease is beyond all self-control, as the worst forms of pedophilia unfortunately are, fear of exposure is a good medicine.
So in dealing with pedophile priests, fear of exposure is a method that could well permanently "cure" some not so hopeless cases.
Sorry, the above post was for Ana, not Wanda.
You might like to read the 29th April issue of TIME - there is an account by a victim, who now works as a law enforcement officer. But it doesn't have a happy ending as the man is still bitter and resentful and obviously still suffering.
For those who are interested to know what the catholic church in the US is doing about the whole issue, it is worth reading the communications of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I recommend highly the communication by Rev. Stephen J. Rossetti, a priest psychologist who has had first hand experience treating pedophile priests.
In order to understand the rage of the public and media when it comes to pedophilia among priests, one must look at everything from the perspective of the victim - the betrayal of trust, the crossing of the victim's biological barrier leaving the victim feeling rotten and psychologically defenseless for the rest of their lives.
Yet I consider this crisis of the Catholic Church as a blessing in disguise for the victims. With sexual abuse and perversions everywhere on the increase, we are truly living in Sodom and Gomorrah times. God needs the mighty hands of the Catholic Church to work out a solution that helps everybody and what better way to do that than reveal it as a problem present among the catholic clergy too? The giant that was sleeping as far as sexual issues and problems were concerned has been rudely woken up. Now the giant will not rest until great things are done towards helping everyone - real healing for victims and abusers alike. I feel confident that the catholic church will do all that is humanly possible with the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit.
It is somewhat amazing to hear Mr. Law and Mr. Shandley("ministers of the truth") say the things they have said in the past couple of days. Mr. Shandley pleads not guilty. I don't know 100% if he is or not but look at the number of people who have accused him and look at what Mr. Shandley's words have been from his own mouth on the whole topic. Now, Mr. Law is taking after Bill Clinton with "I don't recall". The Catholic faith is being more closely scrutinized because these men are not willing to be honest. The longer it goes on, the longer the cloud will hang over the Catholic faith. Had these problems been dealt with when they happened, there wouldn't be such a negative impact on the Catholic faith.
Steve, that's Fr. Shanley and Bishop Law.
And you can rest assured that the Catholic faith is alive and well despite the failings of some of its leaders. Every poll I've seen indicates that Catholics are quite able to distinguish between the truths of the faith and the behavior of Church leaders.
Priya, I think you make an excellent point about how the Catholic Church can and probably will become a leader in helping other institutions deal with the sexual irresponsibility among their ranks. Thanks for your recent contributions!
So despite the actions or non-actions of these 2 men, you are still willing to attribute to them the titles they were given. Those are supposed to be titles that really mean something. I think by their actions, they don't deserve them.
Actually, Steve, I was wrong: it's Cardinal Law; slip on my part, as I still recall when he was Bishop Bernie Law from a nearby diocese.
Titles like "Father," "Bishop," and even "Doctor" are not retained out of deservingness. We can have bad priests, bishops, doctors, lawyers, dentists, counselors, etc., and some may eventually be stripped of their titles. No one has yet done so to Fr. Shanley and Cardinal Law, however, so it's inappropriate to speak of them as Mr.
I can't believe you show more concern for how someone addresses them than for the terrible things both of them have done! You are Mr....I am Mr.... and so are they. Don't make such an issue out of it.
Who said I have more concern about titles than the terrible things these men have done?
E.g., when the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was raging, was there any doubt that Bill Clinton was still President Clinton? Same goes for the clergy in the present situation. They're still priests, bishops, cardinals, etc., and ought to be called by their rightful titles, rather than Mr.
Goodness....I just read on Yahoo's newspage about the Priest in Maryland being shot by an alleged former victim. I surely hope this isn't the way this is all headed...how very sad for all concerned.
Priya, you made some really good points about the fear of exposure being a deterent but this really doesn't help the victim deal with the abuse. In the case of the child... what was done to help her recover from the damage that was already done? Granted, these people have to be stopped, but stopping the abuse does not in itself help the abused heal, as in the case of the cop.
Steve.. I tend to agree with you about the titles, althought I can see Phil's point too. I know I would have a very hard time addressing these men by their titles. The Cardinal's "amnesia" cost him my respect. If he acted according to what he thought was right, he should be able to acknowledge it. I'm sorry, Phil, but I simply find it hard to believe that charges this serious and this numerous can be forgotten.
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