Mo Dowd, Wrong Again

I am not sure she actually reads more than summary reports on anything, and even if that’s true, I’m not sure she is able to comprehend sentences that do not conform to her worldview, still I am going to take a chance and send Maureen Dowd this piece on what critics and the press got wrong regarding the John Jay study on causality (pdf) and the sex abuse issue within the church.

Dowd, you’ll recall, went full metal mental all over Archbishop Dolan over gay marriage in doing so tried to sneer the study into irrelevance:

In yet another attempt at rationalization, the nation’s Catholic bishops — a group Dolan is now in charge of — put out a ridiculous five-year-study last month going with the “blame Woodstock” explanation for the sex-abuse scandal. The report suggested that the problem was caused by permissive secular society rather than cloistered church culture, because priests were trained in the turbulent free-love era. It concluded, absurdly, that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were causes.

I noted Dowd’s staggering incoherence here, and couldn’t help wondering if she was betraying a bit of subconscious homophobia:

Putting aside the truth that the most child sexual abuse occurs in the home (or, shhh! the public schools!) at the hands of un-celibate men and women, I wonder if Dowd realizes that in that sentence she sounds remarkably like Bill Donohue of the Catholic league and others who argue that the roots of the sexual abuse issue are grounded in homosexuality.

Now Karen J. Terry, the lead researcher of the John Jay report has a few choice words for those who took this very complicated study and tried to distill it into cutesy soundbites or bumper-sticker-speak:

We studied individual priests who abused, the Church leaders who were responsible for overseeing them, and the broader social context in which the abuse took place.

A study of this complexity does not easily lend itself to an accurate sound bite.

Nevertheless, one early media report in a national paper attributed the explanation of social factors as a “Blame Woodstock” excuse, a phrase that went viral and was cited more than 14,000 times within the next two days.

The truth is, at no point in the report did we “blame” Woodstock or simplify the explanation of the abuse crisis to the “swinging sixties,” as some papers reported.

Another fallacy contained in the early media reports included the “fact” that we did not address the problematic actions of the bishops. Critics suggested that since we relied only on data from the dioceses, the bishops influenced the study findings.

Actually, the data for the Causes and Context study came from seven unique sources―a fact overlooked in most media reports. The data were derived from bishops and priests, victim assistance coordinators, victim advocates, survivors, clinicians, seminaries, historical and court documents.

Many media outlets also accused us of being “puppets of the Church.” Although nearly half of the funding for the study was provided by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Review Board―a group of lay Catholics created in the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People ―was tasked with overseeing the progress of the report.

The bishops did not influence our findings in any way.

It is also worth pointing out that I am not Catholic, and I have not historically, nor do I currently have, any personal ties to the Catholic Church.

Read it all. And the report, too, is well worth the read.

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About Elizabeth Scalia