There have been a plethora of predictably awful responses to this week’s horrendous news coming out of Pennsylvania.
The inimitable Tony Esolen has been commenting on public facebook threads claiming that “church ladies” are in league with gay men and would ruin the church if they were put in positions of authority; I was told he also wants to pin this on female altar servers effeminizing boys somehow. Leila “Bubbles” Miller has been ranting for several days about how this is all Father James Martin‘s fault. She even made an, in my opinion, actionable public comment claiming that Martin has been “grooming” people. Facebook put her in the cooler for three days, but she has promised to continue the tantrum on her blog, which we all await with bated breath. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights has made a disgusting fool of itself as usual, in its claims to “debunk” the Grand Jury Report by pointing out, among other things, that many of the abuse victims weren’t penetrated, therefore they weren’t actually raped. With friends like the Catholic League, the Church doesn’t need enemies.
And the usual suspects are in my combox telling me I’m a naive fool for believing this is more than just a problem with a secret gay cabal that has to be purged from the Church. If only no gay men went to seminary, it’s alleged, no boys would ever be sexually abused by priests. Problem solved.
Laying aside for the moment the issue that a sexual predator and a homosexual are two completely different things, I just have one question.
What about the girls?
Every time I hear people allege that if we just got rid of gay men in seminaries, abuse would go away, I ask, “What about the girls?”
Because girls were abused, you know, according to that report. Raped, even. And I’m literally talking about rape, Bill Donohue. Father Thomas Skotek had to shell out for his victim’s abortion, and pregnancy doesn’t happen if there’s only groping. There was penetration. She’s not the only girl mentioned in the report. And the girls in the report are far from the only girls who have ever been sexually abused by priests. I know at least one of them.
But when something like this comes out, everyone wants to talk about boys. Boys endangered. Boys effeminized by having to share a space with girls. Boys recruited in the schools. Boys this and boys that. Men don’t want themselves or their sons to be alone with a celibate gay man who is an authority figure because they fear he will lose self-control and they might be sexually abused.
But what about girls? What about girls and women?
Why does that fear of being abused by someone who desires them sexually not lead them to empathize with women? This is normal for us. When I bring this up I get traditionalist Catholic combox trolls with silly Latin names telling everyone I’m an ugly land whale who shouldn’t speak about sexual assault, but it’s just the truth. Women and girls have to worry about getting sexually assaulted all the time. And if we had some kind of infallible gay-dar that could detect and eliminate every gay seminarian in the country, women and girls would still be in the same danger we are now.
Why do comparatively few people fear that their daughter will be abused in the confessional by a celibate heterosexual authority figure who loses control?
That does happen, you know. I could name a few cases, not even bringing up the Grand Jury Report.
Surely one of the worst things that could ever happen, as a Catholic parent to a boy, would be that your son would be sexually abused by a priest. I’m not disputing that. That’s a nightmare I don’t even want to imagine. But while we’re worrying over that, who’s watching out for girls?
Half the people in the Catholic Church are female. We get abused too– quite often. Generally speaking, one in five girls will be sexually assaulted in her childhood, compared to one in twenty boys. That form of child abuse is most often perpetrated by someone well-known and trusted by the family. In Catholic circles, priests are going to be on that list.
How many young women are going to become victims, while we’re all obsessing over a lavender mafia?
And how many of them are not going to be believed, because female victims doesn’t fit the narrative we expect?
How many times has this already happened?
What about the girls?
(image via Pixabay)