40 Myths About the Catholic Church–Catholic Priest = Child Molester

I’ve thought long and hard about this topic and how to treat it.  In fact, I’ve started to write it more than once then scrapped what I’ve written.  For one thing, any defense of the Church on this issue can be easily twisted into the support of child-abuse.  In my case, nothing could be further from the truth.  No child should ever be subjected to sexual abuse; not one; not ever!  I am not condoning the behavior of any of the men who committed this terrible crime.

I thought about quoting the many statistics that show that this is a problem of society at large and not just a problem of the Catholic Church.  That would be boring and wouldn’t convince anyone who’s decided to hate the Catholic Church to change their mind.  All I’ll say is this.  Studies show that the percentage of Catholic priests who have these tendencies is no higher than any other large group of men.  It has nothing to do with celibacy.  Married men are just as likely to be child molesters as single men.  Male public school teachers, Boy Scout leaders, athletic coaches, protestant ministers, and male police are just as likely to abuse a child as a Catholic priest.  Women can be child molesters, too.  It’s been reported that child sexual abuse is rampant in Hollywood.  The casting couch isn’t just for young starlets any more.

So, why is the Catholic Church singled out when the matter of child sexual abuse is discussed?  And, why does every online discussion, and many articles and news reports about the church eventually turn into an attack on the Church’s history of abusive behavior by a small minority of priests?  It’s because the Church is an easy target and no one in the media has ever been called out for being anti-Catholic.  Catholics are the only group in America who can be the victims of discrimination and downright hateful treatment and no one complains, not even Catholics.  In fact, there are a lot of people who call themselves Catholics who excuse whatever type of unCatholic behavior they choose to do with the excuse that the Church has lost its moral authority by virtue of the sex scandal.

Let’s get some things straight.  First, a small minority of priests (and deacons) have committed grave sins against the young people who were in their care.  Second, some of the Bishops bungled the situation, mostly because they didn’t know what to do.  Remember, until not so long ago, the psychiatric community believed that child abusers could be cured.  If the people whose job it was to deal with mental illness didn’t have the answers, it’s not a big surprise that the Bishops didn’t know either.

Third, we are talking about a mental illness, three mental illnesses actually.  Pedophilia, which is not what most of these cases is about, is an attraction to prepubescent kids.  Hebophelia is the attraction to kids between 11 and 14.  Ephebophelia is the attraction to male children in their late teens.  Most of the cases where priests have been accused of molesting people have been cases of ephebophelia.  

In spite of what the medical community once believed, there is no known cure for these illnesses.  As we’ve learned, moving a child molester into an environment where kids aren’t present isn’t effective, unless the environment has bars on the windows.  Even then, when the abuser is released, he (or she) goes right back to their old habits.

So, what’s the point of all this?  My point is that the bad actions of some members of our clergy do not negate two thousand years of good works done by the Church.  In fact, since the scandal broke in the United States, the Catholic Church is a very safe place for children.  The Church has imposed very strict standards for entry into the seminaries and has adopted a zero-tolerance policy for abusers.  Anyone who has anything to do with kids in the Church must take a class on child abuse and pass a state background test.  Here in Saint Louis we must also take a monthly test.  Will this stop all child abuse?  Of course not.  But it does make the statement that our Church is not a safe haven for molesters.  There are also strict rules in place covering the reporting of even the suspicion of abuse.

It’s worth pointing out that, try as they might, the media are having a hard time finding current cases of abuse by clergy.  What they are reporting on are charges of abuse that happened 30, 40, even 50 years ago.  Often these charges are made against priests who have died and can’t defend themselves.  The Church is perceived to have deep pockets.  Does that mean that all of these charges are get-rich-quick schemes?  No.  But some of them are.

To wrap this up, it’s absurd to say that the bad actions of less than 4% of priests, priests who were suffering from a mental illness, takes away the Church’s moral authority.  The Church has never abused a child.  Employees of the Church have, as have employees of every large employer on earth.  No matter what some individuals have done, nothing changes the fact that the Church does have moral authority.  She received it from Jesus himself.  As we know from our Holy Week observances, scandals are as old as the Church.

On the day that Jesus established the priesthood, Judas sold Him out for 30 pieces of silver and the man Christ chose as the first Pope denied Him three times.  People are not perfect.  Far from it.  But the Church will go on.  He promised that the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against it.  As far as the abusers and those who failed to deal with them properly, Jesus told us in yesterday’s Gospel,

“Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.”

5 Responses

  1. Its not the molestation as much as it is the cover and protection of the abusers by those with “moral authority” They simply din’t use what they were given.

  2. Sorry, your description of how bishops handled the problem is not accurate. You say “some of the Bishops bungled the situation, mostly because they didn’t know what to do.”. The truth is that they hid the problem, failed to report it to the poiice, even though a crime, moved them to other places where they could resume their crimes, and failed to consult with parents and victims…….

  3. I think you should both go back and reread the post. I’m not condoning the actions of either the priests or the bishops. They were wrong. However, I don’t believe that the bishops got together and decided to cover up these sins. Based on the information available to them at the time, I believe they were trying to do the best they could to solve a problem about which they knew very little. Today we know better and I still believe that the Catholic Church in 2013 is a very safe place for children.

    We are a Church of forgiveness. If we are to be true to what we say we believe, then we should all be working to see that nothing like this ever happens, though, sadly it probably will. We must be an example to others of faith and forgiveness.

    My point is that through 200 centuries there has never been a priest or a bishop who was without sin. Like I said, on the very first Holy Thursday, one of Jesus’ Apostles sold Him for thirty pieces of silver and the man He chose to be His first Pope denied Him three times. In spite of those sins, the Church managed to move on. Judas’ and Peter’s actions did nothing to change the future of the Church although they were HUGE scandals.

    Thanks to a hostile media and a lot of people who have an axe to grind against the Church, this crisis is made out to be more than it is. There are thousands of good priests and bishops who haven’t done anything wrong. The Church is, has been, and will always be the voice of Jesus in this world. The sins of a few employees can’t change that.

    Every large organization has child molesters in its ranks. We don’t condemn the organizations for their crimes. Only the Catholic Church has been singled out. My faith in Jesus and His Church hasn’t been shaken and yours shouldn’t be either.

    PS. Sorry, David but I’m not going to let you use my blog to sell your book.

  4. The main three reasons people have an ax to grind with the Catholic church about it’s molestation cases is because for one the Catholic church acts very high and mighty (arrogantly better than everyone else and very judgmental of non Catholics) so when things like molesting a child occur not only is society dealing with thoughts about the child they are they are putting those two things together and it pisses people off.

    The second reason people have an ax to grind is because when a Catholic priest molests a child people make excuses for them and then we all hear about priests not being held accountable like everyone else and are moved, hidden and put in positions where they can continue to hurt children.

    The third reason is because when someone preaches and claims to be “living with God” they are set to a higher standard than other people. To many people, the highest standard. Therefore when they turn out to be creeps it’s going to stand out more than cases with just some weirdo disgusting pedofile.

    When a church glorifies that it is above everyone and the only “right” church, you can bet you behind that people are going to be more disgusted especially when that religious sect continues to make that claim.

    • Let me deal with your statements one at a time. But first, do not interpret this as meaning that I am in any way approving child abuse. Far from it. Having raised four children, and having five grandchildren, I pray every day that a cure can be found for this sickness, and it is a sickness. Like most mental illness, it is poorly understood. Referring to the abuser as a “creep”, a “weirdo” and “disgusting” is a case in point.

      As to your first “reason”. The Catholic Church does not think it’s better than anyone else. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that, while we are the only Church that contains the fullness of the Christian faith, salvation is available to all people. We do not condemn other faith traditions even though many of the DO condemn Catholicism on a regular basis. [See, for example Jack Chick’s anti-Catholic web site.]

      Second, no one is making excuses for priests who have been proven, or even creditably accused of, molesting a child. What we do protest is the double-standard in the media that a priest is guilty until proven innocent. By becoming a priest, a man doesn’t give up his Constitutional rights. I would also point out that many other groups, including public schools, scouts, athletic associations, even universities (Penn State) have been known to protect accused molesters. Even in what I would call the “dark ages” of the sixties and seventies when the majority of the abuse took place, priests were often moved into positions where they would have no contact with children. Keep in mind that, at that time, the so-called experts believed that these men (and women) could be cured. Today we know that that’s not the case.

      As far as “higher standards”, that may be true, but priests are human beings and subject to the temptation of sin. On the night before He was to suffer and die, one of the twelve Apostles sold Jesus out for silver, the man He chose to lead His Church denied Him three times, and the other ten ran and hid. There have always been scandals and sadly, there always will be.

      The Catholic Church does not “glorify that it is above everyone” or to claim that it is the only “right church”. I would suggest you reread the original post and my earlier comment. The fact that there are sinful people in the Church doesn’t mean the Church should be condemned. In fact, it proves what Jesus taught us. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Our God is a God of forgiveness, not of condemnation.

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