The blame game is alive and well in the Catholic Church today.
The clergy sex abuse scandal is a case in point. We’re 20 years in with this scandal, and it’s still rolling. Insofar as their dealings with sexual predator clergy are concerned, the Catholic bishops look like a bunch of drug addicts who promise to get clean and then start using as soon as we turn our backs.
They tell us they’ve finally seen the light. We believe them and dance off, la-la-la. Then it happens again. And they tell us another lie about their latest last time this will happen.
This has reached the point that many Catholics are engaged in an active search for a scapegoat. We want that Judas Goat of old on which to hang this sin and then cast into desert perdition. We want someone, or a group of someones, to blame and purge from our presence so that we can somehow or other manage to, as my colleague Jen Fitz put it, be Catholic when the bishops are not.
The number one group being blamed for the clergy sex abuse scandal is homosexual priests. That is followed by baby boomers, whose death the blame game folks look forward to with glee and delight.
This interesting idea is based on fantasy, not fact. It is a function of the disowning projection, coupled with willful ignorance. Rape, sexual assault and child molesting are not confined to wayward Catholic clergy and failed bishops. Catholic priests are not the only people who do these things and Catholic bishops are not the only people who treat sexual crimes as trivialities that don’t matter much.
Facts are stubborn things, and the facts tell us that rape, sexual assault and child molesting are ubiquitous throughout our society. The facts say that a good many of the people who are talking the scape goat talk have themselves behaved exactly as the bishops have behaved, and not so long ago. They have disbelieved and attacked victims of sexual assault, rape and child molesting and they have protected and lionized the predators who assaulted them.
A rape will occur every six minutes in the USA.
One in five women will be raped at some point during their lifetime.
One in 71 men will be raped at some point during their lifetime.
91% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female.
9% of the victims of rape and sexual assault are male.
One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.
96% of the people who sexually abuse children are male.
The average age at which girls become victims of prostitution is 12 to 14 years old.
The average at which boys become victims of prostitution is 11 to 13 years old.
One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.
90% of sexual assault victims on campuses do not report the crime.
Rape is the most under-reported crime. 63% of rapes are not reported. 90% of child sex abuse is not reported.
Now, let’s look at child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Here are the statistics.
4.3% of diocesan priests have been accused of child sexual abuse. Which means that 95.7% have not been accused.
50.9% of the victims are between 11 and 14 years of age at the time of the abuse.
27.3% of the victims are between 15 and 17 years of age.
16% are between 8-10
6% are under 7 years of age at the time of abuse.
81% of the victims are male
19% of the victims are female
40% of the victims of child sexual abuse by priests are males between the ages of 11 and 14.
The differences between these two sets of statistics paint a startling picture. Sexual predators who are Catholic priests tend to prey on boys. Sexual predators in the larger society prey almost exclusively on women and girls.
It is easy, looking at these numbers, to draw a correlation between what seems apparent to most pew-sitting Catholics, which is that most Catholic priests are homosexual, and the fact that most victims of clergy child sex abuse are boys rather than girls. It lines up. However, it is not so easy to say that rape, sexual assault and child molesting are a homosexual problem. In fact, it’s impossible.
The only conclusion that we can draw from these statistics is that most — not all, most — sexual predators are male. The fact is that 96% of the people who commit rape, sexual assault and child molesting are male.
Yet very few men are sexual predators, just as very few homosexuals are child molesters. Most men have a powerful instinct to protect women and children, not hurt and dehumanize them. But facts are stubborn things, and the stubborn fact is that almost all sexual predators are men.
I want to emphasize the “almost” part of that statement. If 96% of sexual predators are male, then it follows that 4% of sexual predators are female. I would also add that I believe that part of the reason for this has to do with the fact that men’s superior physical strength and privileged positions of power make it easier for the predators among them to operate.
Just about every Catholic over the age of 12 is well aware that most of the Catholic priests they encounter are homosexual. These statistics reflect this. It follows that homosexuals who are also sexual predators tend to prey on other males, and homosexuals who are child molesters, tend to molest male children.
However, if we somehow or other expunged every homosexual from the priesthood, we would not stop predatory sexual behavior among priests. No matter whether our priests are homosexual or heterosexual, so long as they are all-male, we will be drawing our candidates for the priesthood from the group of people from which 96% of the sexual predators come. That makes it inevitable that there will be priests who are sexual predators pretending to be moral and Godly men.
We can switch the victims from little boys to little girls by getting rid of homosexual priests. But we can’t stop sexual predators from getting into an all-male priesthood. Back when we were putting together the first rape crisis center here in Oklahoma, I had a psychologist tell me that “tests show that sexual predators are the same as any other men.” I told him that all that proved was that there was something wrong with his test.
The truth is sexual predators fool a lot of people. I’ve been fooled by them myself. We can’t, with any consistency, weed them out ahead of time. What we can do is stop excusing them when they do dastardly things to innocent people. We can stop blaming the victims and start going after these guys with the full force and total lack of tolerance that they deserve.
The real scandal in the 20-year running sore that is the Catholic priest child abuse scandal has nothing to do with the fact that sexual predators sneak into the priesthood. Sexual predators are in every walk of life in our society. The priesthood isn’t special in this regard.
It isn’t even different that the bishops took the predators’ side of the matter, that the bishops abused the victims with legal actions and spiritual bullying and shielded the predators and allowed them to continue preying on children. This happens in the larger society, as well.
I don’t want to cross the issues right now, but it’s a fact that many of the people who are howling for the heads of every homosexual priest behaved just like the bishops when they were faced with high profile sexual predators in our electoral politics. They blamed the victims and pretended they didn’t believe them. They not only excused the predators, they denied reality to the point that they cast the predators in the role of victims.
The bishops did what the larger society does. They excused predators, blamed victims and used their power to try to force the victims to stay silent.
The difference, the thing that sets off the howls of rage and betrayal from the laity, is that the bishops claim that they speak for God and a lot of us want to believe them. They tell us that priests are another Christ, that when they lift the chalice and the Host at mass, they are standing in for Our Lord at Calvary.
But their actions in the priest sex abuse scandal not only belie these claims, they grind them into the dirt. They say they speak for God, but their actions speak for the serpent.
The rage of the laity is a reflection of how much the laity wants to believe in the Church. But the truth is that the laity is called — called — to take a stand. It is our power, our ability to get into this and force change to happen, that can turn this thing around.
But it is very important that we base our demands on facts and truth. We need to employ great discipline of mind and heart to stick to the facts. It is imperative that we avoid the cheap shots of the blame game.
It would be a terrible injustice to take up torches and go after homosexual priests who have never hurt anyone, just because they are homosexual. The question of homosexuals in the priesthood is a separate thing entirely from the priest sex abuse scandal and needs to be addressed separately. Scapegoating does nothing to stop the instances of rape, sexual assault and child molesting in the priesthood.
We could, if we somehow managed to purge all homosexual priests and replace them with heterosexuals, switch the attacks on little boys to attacks on little girls. But we would do nothing to clean up the priesthood or stop the corrupt abuse of power by the bishops.
The solution is simple. Stop punishing the victims and start punishing the predators.
… to be continued