Defense of Clergy Pedophilia Persists

Defense of Clergy Pedophilia Persists December 10, 2015

Editor’s Note: Instead of the podcast about the movie, “Spotlight” that we hoped to post, we have a fascinating, albeit frustrating explanation for why it’s not ready.   The upside is that this incident has helped frame a defense against defenders of the Church.   They are simply wrong, according to evidence that the Catholic Church itself no longer denies.


By Catherine Dunphy

We will soon feature our first Rational Doubt podcast.

Mary Catherine Linda

In it, former Catholics, Mary Johnson, Linda LaScola and I review Spotlight. It’s the Tom McCarthy film about the Boston Globe’s 2002 investigative report on the systematic cover-up of sex abuse cases in the Boston Diocese by then Archbishop Bernard Law.

For those of you who have read my book, From Apostle to Apostate, you’ll know that the pedophilia crisis played a significant part in my loss of faith – so when it came to review the film I knew a lot about the Church’s strategies to deal with its so-called “bad apples.”

We will be posting the podcast shortly – as soon as we are able to get over a hurtle that popped up when the editing and operator of the recording studio I had booked informed me that he did not like the subject matter of the podcast.

“Hi Catherine. I finally got to listen to a little bit of the phone interview. Please tell me that this isn’t yet another opportunistic attack on the Catholic Church!!! If it is, I can’t do it. I have watched this witch hunt evolve and have experienced first hand the media frenzy exploiting the acts by a few misguided individuals in an attempt to discredit an entire organization and all the sacrifices made by its membership who gave up their lives trying to bring dignity and eliminate the suffering of those born into poverty or subjected to atrocities in the name of greed, discrimination or entitlement. Please tell me I’m reading your message wrong!”

So at the eleventh hour, I lost our podcast editor who is also the person my publisher had booked to record the audio version of From Apostle to Apostate.

I wish I had known in advance about the audio guy’s attitude about sex abuse in the Church. What can I say? Live and learn. Luckily, I’ve found another studio for the book taping.

There are a few things I’d like to point out to the audio editor and others with a similar attitude about the Catholic Church.

Sistine Chapel, the Vatican
Sistine Chapel, the Vatican

First, the Catholic Church can take care of itself; it’s been doing fine for the past two millennia.

Second, this movie and the discussion surrounding it are not about disputed facts. This is not a witch-hunt; it’s a revealing of known details that even the Vatican does not reject.

In its review, Vatican Radio called the movie “honest” and “compelling” and said it helped the U.S. Catholic Church

“to accept fully the sin, to admit it publicly, and to pay all the consequences.”

Luca Pellegrini on the Vatican Radio website wrote that the Globe reporters,

“made themselves examples of their most pure vocation, that of finding the facts, verifying sources, and making themselves—for the good of the community and of a city—paladins of the need for justice.”

Also, referring to the systemic worldwide sexual abuse of children as the work of “a few misguided individuals” is the language of collaborators who are more interested in having the church continue to meet their needs than in seeking justice for the victims and an end to this pathology.

This is an uphill battle; one that Stanley Tucci’s character, Mitchell Garabedian, characterised perfectly.

“They control everything. I’m not crazy, I’m experienced.”

I don’t know how not to be angry with the church – and pew sitters for that matter – when it comes to the scale of this crisis of child abuse.

So, what’s a former Catholic girl to do?

Pick up and move on, I guess, while trying not to recoil at the recollection of angry Catholic faces bent on blaming the victims all the while offering them up as a burnt sacrifice.

For additional reading on the film, the Boston Globe and Clergy sexual abuse of minors please click on the links below.

Spotlight Notes

Southdown Treatment Centre in Canada for Priests

From Wikipedia:

Movie Actors and Characters

The Spotlight Team

Reactions from the Catholic Church

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of the Archdiocese of Boston said Spotlight illustrates how the newspaper’s reports prompted the church “to deal with what was shameful and hidden.] Vatican Radio, official radio service of theHoly See, called it “honest” and “compelling” and said it helped the U.S. Catholic Church “to accept fully the sin, to admit it publicly, and to pay all the consequences.” Luca Pellegrini on the Vatican Radio website wrote that the Globe reporters “made themselves examples of their most pure vocation, that of finding the facts, verifying sources, and making themselves—for the good of the community and of a city—paladins of the need for justice.”

What They Knew in 1985 – National Catholic Reporter

High recidivism” Sex, Priests, And Power: Anatomy Of A Crisis  4/1/95 by A.W. Richard Sipe

Church Allowed Abuse by Priests for Years, Boston Globe 1/7/02


Catherine Dunphy 2014
Catherine Dunphy 2014

Bio: Catherine Dunphy – A humanist, atheist and former Roman Catholic chaplain, Catherine is a member of the Clergy Project and former Executive Director. She is author of From Apostle to Apostate – the Story of the Clergy Project, published by Pitchstone Press in July, 2015.

“Rome Sistine Chapel 01” by Michelangelo – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – >>>>>Photo Credits:

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  • carolyntclark

    Linda, disappointing but not surprising. In my previous post on the subject, I noted the unwillingness of some of the faithful, which may be the case with your editor, to fully acknowledge the crimes against the children, in spite of the confessions by the priests. Molestation of children is buried even in secular families with a shameful “dirty uncle”. Punishment and beatings of children is more openly addressed, but it seems that the pelvis enjoys privileged secrecy.
    my earlier post:
    “so sad is that, even as the the whole sordid story is exposed, there is continued support by the “faithful”, many of whom would rather that it not become publicized. I’m familiar with one parish who lobbied the Bishop for the return of their “good Father” after he was removed. I suspect this happened in other parishes as well…..demonstrating the power of religion to keep the sheep dependent on a myth and blinded to logic.” .

    • Linda_LaScola

      Yes, it’s sad — and still shocking to me when it happens. I understand having a lingering fondness for the traditions, but not twisting the truth to justify supporting criminals.

    • RobF

      Not a Catholic, so don’t have a pony in this race, but surely you understand as well that this is perceived by many as an attempt to bring the whole house down, and so a defensive posture is assumed. I have several Catholic friends who are unequivocally and actively opposed to the horrific crimes and the abhorrent cover-ups. Although not completely incomprehensible, calling for a whole-scale dismantling of the RC appears a grave overreach which only discredits the move towards swift and constructive change.

      • Linda_LaScola

        Don’t Worry, I doubt that Carolyn, an ex-nun, is expecting a warm reception from Catholic believers on the subject of clergy rape.

        As for religion being myth-based, anyone who receives a seminary education learns that. It’s not derogatory, it’s a well-known fact.

        • RobF

          Many Catholics are fed up with it, but derision (not to speak of the pandering here) is counter productive and marginalizing.

          Myth and logic are not contradictory, seminary education teaches that. Carolyn’s phrasing is derogatory in any gloss..

          Religion is not the problem Linda, it is people who mis and abuse it.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Seminary trained clergy often do not share their knowledge and understanding of myth with members of their congregation, allowing them and even encouraging them to believe the myths of religion as facts. Their role as clergy is not to educate people as they have been educated, but to comfort them, provide community, teach them the beliefs of the church and keep them in the church.

          • RobF

            Can’t speak for Roman Catholic seminaries, but I know for a fact this is most certainly not true of all seminaries.

            It’s tilting at windmills – given the personal journeys I understand this compulsion but it remains deeply and blindingly irrational.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I know for a fact that most seminaries –even some conservative ones — teach the historical-critical method of Biblical study, which includes understanding the myths that bible stories are based on. I made a study of it and the information is out there and not hard to find. Even some adult education classes in mainline churches teach this.

          • RobF

            Well that’s entirely different from your earlier comment about clergy that do “not share their knowledge and understanding of myth” and “their role as clergy is not to educate people”

            Near Eastern and extra-biblical creation, deluge, redemption stories/mythologies, and the fact that biblical authors didn’t exist in a cultural/imaginative/religious vacuum, are common knowledge and shock to no one (except strict literalists perhaps). No secrets there!

          • Linda_LaScola

            No it’s not entirely different – it’s additional info in line with earlier comments.

            And it’s not “common knowledge.” For instance, there are very sophisticated people who don’t believe that there is no evidence for the Jews living 40 years in the desert.

          • RobF

            Then I must admit in failing to understand you and the point (?) you are trying to make, sorry.

          • mason

            Disagree…religion and those who use it are where the problem starts and things only get worse from there. “Myth and logic are not contradictory, seminary education teaches that”…I laughed out loud on that one…now go check out the science department in a real University.

          • RobF

            Science and the scientific method of inquiry by definition will not, indeed cannot, speak to matters of metaphysics. This does not necessitate contradiction, and the two are complementary. The trouble starts when either is used to mettle in the domain of the other….e.g. when people use science to attempt to explain how matter caused itself.

          • mason

            Metaphysics: “abstract theory or talk with no basis in reality.”
            That’s why I don’t think there is another domain to “mettle” in other than the sciences. When the standard is “no basis in reality” anything goes, and hence all the theistic myth tales given as “explanations” available for believers.

          • RobF

            I understand your confusion, based on that poor definition of metaphysics.

            “Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it” – from wikipedia

            It’s the kind of stuff deGrasse Tyson and Sagan is/was wont to mettle in, a fruitless endeavor given they attempt (and purport) to use scientific method. It is always fun to watch them squirm through the futile attempts to demonstrate scientifically how it is that matter causes itself. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

          • mason

            No confusion. Just using the dictionary definition that fits theism and the realm of faith with no evidence vs science which requires verification and real evidence. It is more plausible for me to understand the laws and theories of science regarding quantum physics than theism’s totally unsubstantiated claims about ghost deities and magical creation powers. The man behind the curtain has a “Theism” tattoo on his arm.

          • RobF

            I am staunch supporter of science and the scientific method of inquiry, but it has its limits. Boundaries which few naturalists seem to heed, alas. It’s like watching a kid in a candy shop, they just can’t help themselves. Tisk tisk! But one can’t blame them too much, after all – how’s one to substantiate the irrational, unscientific(!) magic of self-caused matter?

          • mason

            It’s true, you are correct, science has its limits. Science is not allowed to use myth and fantasy. 🙂

          • RobF

            We agree about that, my friend!

      • carolyntclark

        Rape is a crime. Child rape is an especially revolting crime. We have laws of punishment for criminals, no matter their social status.
        When some people would rather overlook the horrid crime committed because he is a man of God, the religious faith of those people has blinded them to immorality. And yes, religion is a myth.
        Accessory to crime is accountable. Bernard Law is living the good life in Rome, removed from justice.
        I wouldn’t worry about “bringing the whole house down”. The majority of people will remain in their fantasy.

        • RobF

          I disagree with the tack you have taken, and either the inability or unwillingness on your part to distinguish faith from the misuse and subversion of it.

          But yes, wholeheartedly agree with you re: rape.

          If you haven’t seen it, can highly recommend “Call me Lucky” the story about comedian Barry Crimmins.

          For an amazing account, exemplifying constructive response to destructive insanity, see “Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father” – but be prepared it will grab your heart.

          • carolyntclark

            Rob,… realizing I’m belaboring the point but…
            “unwillingness on your part to distinguish faith from the misuse and subversion of it.” , I’m of the mind that faith IS a subversion- from reality, so that any use is a misuse of logic.
            There are three groups of offenders in this scenario.
            The first are the pedophile priests themselves with whatever psychological aberration they have. They have found a haven in the clergy lifestyle. Obviously they do not abide by faith.They should be exposed, defrocked and relinquished to civil authority for punishment/ treatment.

            The second is the powerful organization of the Catholic Church. There certainly are wonderful people, true believers in the supernatural doing good work. However he hierarchy corruption entailed in protecting the establishment from scandal, paying hush money to victims, manipulating authorities and suppressing the
            media, does not indicate an abiding faith.

            Seems to me the only people practicing faith is group three, the people in the pews on Sunday. I do believe they are like sheep, obediently following what their religion has taught them- don’t question, don’t criticize. Until this expose’ the Clergy were traditionally held in highest esteem and respect. “Father gives such lovely Sunday sermons, he visits the sick, anoints the dying, does beautiful ceremonies. He’s a Man of God”, their connection to an imagined heaven. The dirty whispers circulating about him were denied or overlooked. . Instead of outrage, there’s silence and complaints of persecution.

            I hope there can be a “swift and constructive change”
            in the Church, an institution with moral integrity for the faithful. But in the end it still is a place of delusion.

          • RobF

            I’m of the mind that faith IS a subversion- from reality, so that any use is a misuse of logic.

            Yet some people stubbornly cling to the belief that matter caused itself. 😉

          • carolyntclark

            This is true. First Cause, the line in the sand.
            But supposing there is/was a Creator, He/ She/ It cannot be connected to any Religion invented by bogus theologians
            absurdly defining the inscrutable.
            Behold the Cosmos !

          • RobF

            If inscrutability were the sole attribute, I would wholeheartedly agree. A pitiful god you are defining, Ms Carolyn the theologian.

            a Creator, He/ She/ It cannot be connected

            Now be consistent – following your line of reasoning either the Creator is inscrutable or He/She/It is not, and you positively affirm the former. If inscrutable then pronouncements about what He/She/It cannot do is absurd even according to your own logic. 🙁

          • carolyntclark

            No,no. Not being a theologian, I can’t say what He/She /It can or cannot do. But being a human I can say what puny humanity cannot do i.e, understand and define the creator of the magnificent, so far incomprehensible cosmos.
            Who needs Neil deGrasse Tyson or Carl Sagan when we have the irrefutable Book of Genesis. 🙂

          • RobF

            It appears we are in agreement about many things!

          • carolyntclark

            ‘Tis the Season of ♥

          • mason

            irrational theistic faith in the myths is a misuse of human intelligence IMO.. we’re entering a new Age of Reason as America grows more secular and less religious

  • mason

    “Witch hunt” “Opportunistic attack on the Catholic Church” about a “A few misguided individuals” This recording studio operator might not be such an extremist apologist if one of the misguided individuals raped and molested him as a child. Misguided is apropos for someone given bad directions by a GPS navigation system not child rapists.

  • Robert Karma

    The leaders of the Catholic Church love to take public stands on how people should behave. Here in the US, they push for laws that are in accord with the Church’s doctrine. This is why it is so important to call them out on their criminal and immoral behavior. People are far too willing to give respect to an institution just because it claims supernatural authority. The Catholic Church should be treated like any other organized crime organization with no special rights or privileges. The church leaders who enabled the abuse of innocent children and then covered it up should be persecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Just more evidence that the faith-based claims for a deity are without merit and are pernicious to a just and fair society.

  • cadunphy280

    Talk of people messing up religion for me is a non starter. Religion is the people who practice it, whatever one might like to think about God and religion existing in a pristine vacuum separate from human beings. One only need consider the irrelevance of Baal or Ishtar to gain the perspective that “God” is a cultural projection a populist idea that has gained a foothold in the minds of individuals.
    With all that in mind it is in human to scoff at the scale and impact that the Catholics priest pedophilia crisis has had and continues to have in the lives of the victims. Whether that be from the perpetrators or the culture of silence and that permeates the church regarding this issue.

    Trying to draw a circle around religion to absolve it from responsibility is not possible – as it is the very building blocks from which these predators construct their defense.

  • alwayspuzzled

    “The Catholic Church can take care of itself”
    I think the Church’s situation in Europe and the US is much more precarious than this suggests.
    At its peak, the Church was a integral part of the European power structure. It had considerable political influence and owned a hell of a lot of land and serfs. Today, it can’t even successfully oppose a same-sex marriage vote in Ireland, at one time a famously Catholic country.
    The Church is visibly ossifying.
    In the US, the hierarchy has refused (or been psychologically unable) to take the initiative in dealing with the predatory priest scandal. They talk a lot. But Law is safe in the Vatican, Dolan is grandiose in New York, and it would be hard to find a diocese that has not fought tooth and nail (often behind the scenes) to avoid or at least reduce reparations.
    The “loyal faithful” are in a state of psychological denial. A favorite explanation of theirs is that this is all part of a homosexual conspiracy against the Church.
    The Church’s workforce is aging and dwindling (due in part to a pernicious conspiracy led be a blog called Rational Doubt??), and the hierarchy is too paralyzed to respond effectively.
    The Church in Europe and the US is morally and psychologically enfeebled, and it no longer has the political advantage it once had to make up for the enfeeblement. In time, only a fossilized Church will remain in Europe and the US – a self-congratulating, sanctimonious skeleton.
    I am not arguing for complacency. A dying dinosaur can still do a lot of damage.