Weeks ago, I wanted to talk about the priestly sexual battery case in my diocese.
Some other news item kept coming up every time. I found myself talking about gingerbread and the government shutdown, and then the March for Life happened, and suddenly it was almost February. All this time I felt like I couldn’t let this pass without comment, and all this time I haven’t known what to say.
I still don’t, but that’s never stopped me before.
I’ve never met Father Foxhoven, for the record. He was at a church far removed from the ones I attend. I have met some of his family, and I can’t imagine how his inexcusable behavior must be grieving them as well as the victim and everyone else involved. That, and that this happened in the Diocese of Steubenville, are my only connections to the events.
It was revealed that the priest was committing statutory rape with a minor member of his congregation, when he confessed to her family and the bishop that he’d gotten her pregnant. He’d been grooming her for three years; she was seventeen at the time of the impregnation. The bishop immediately removed his faculties and turned him over to law enforcement, and I felt for a moment that the only silver lining of this horrible story was that at least the bishop had acted decisively and without keeping it a secret. Then I found out that Father Foxhoven had been suspended for a week in 2017 for “inappropriate contact” with that same juvenile, but the bishop hadn’t warned the congregation.
Father Foxhoven waived his right to trial and plead guilty at once, which is about the only thing I can say to his credit.
The victim and her mother tried to get the priest a lighter sentence, saying they were “losing a friend.”
The victim apologized to him, at his sentencing, for the pain she said she believed that she brought on him and on her family.
Let me say that again: a seventeen-year-old girl apologized to the priest who groomed her as an altar server and then got her pregnant. She apparently views this as her own fault.
Months ago, everyone in the country was justly up in arms about priestly abuse of teenagers and younger children– though I quickly noticed that all the talk was about abuse of boys. There were girl victims, girls who had gotten pregnant, in the Pennsylvania Report. Father Thomas Skotek even paid for his victim’s abortion. But what I heard was talk about a gay mafia molesting our innocent boys. The boys were innocent, to be sure, but I saw that the victimization of girls seemed to be being overlooked in the shuffle, and I remarked as much.
This past weekend, I’ve been informed that discipline– not doxxing or assault, which I absolutely condemn, but discipline, high school expulsion or suspension and the like– for teenage boys caught behaving horribly in public should be out of the question. I was told that demanding it is “child abuse.” I’m told that teenage boys have absolutely no capacity for leaving or deescalating a situation where they’re being heckled or harassed by obscenity-shouting beat preachers (whose behavior I also condemn). They can’t be expected to just walk away. Teenage boys can be expected to harass and shout at young women in public themselves, it’s part of being a kid and not really dirty or shameful. They have no way to know it’s racist to chant along with a Native American who approached and alarmed them or make the Tomahawk Chop or anything that looks like it at him with their hands. I was told that “not 2 in 100” teenage boys has ever heard of minstrel blackface or knows it’s offensive. Teenage boys don’t know the history of the Civil Rights movement; it’s too obscure. Teenage boys don’t know how to not look intimidating or bullying. Teenage boys can’t respect their elders. Teenage boys are innocent of any wrongdoing and must be defended from every consequence, because they are teenage boys.
Meanwhile, a teenage girl stood before a judge with her mother and apologized to her statutory rapist. Her statutory rapist who was a priest and ought to have been a protector and a role model. Her rapist, found guilty in a court of law of three counts of sexual battery by his own admission. The teenage girl pleaded that he be treated leniently and apologized to him, and to her family.
It’s not that this isn’t about race, it is, but it’s also about gender. I think most people who have been teenage girls, know that there are two sets of rules, for boys and girls, in our society. Boys will be boys but girls must be angels. Boys can only ever be victims, but it’s only with difficulty that a girl can be recognized as a victim. The judge in this case knew she was a victim, thankfully, as did law enforcement. Even her rapist acknowledged that she was. But the girl and her mother couldn’t see it that way. And some in her congregation apparently still see her statutory rapist as a good person.
I wasn’t going to bring up this weekend’s news again, but I can’t get it out of my head– the contrast. Those conservative Catholic school boys who can do no wrong, because they are teenage boys, and the teenage girl from the desperately conservative Catholic diocese of Steubenville telling the priest who raped her that she was sorry for being his victim.
Boys will be boys and girls will be shamed.
(image via Pixabay)