In an article published by MSN on Saturday, March 20, 2010 you were quoted as saying “misplaced concern for the church's reputation and inadequate methods of choosing priests had contributed to decades of sexual abuse by members of the clergy”. As an outside observer of the Catholic Church, a sex abuser survivor and an outraged citizen I must respectfully challenge you on your observations.
Whereas I do agree in part with your first comment, I don’t believe that concern for the church’s reputation is the cause for decades of abuse, merely the justification for it to go unnoticed and for priests to go unpunished. Had organized religion as a whole adapted a zero tolerance policy years ago with regard to child abuse, holding clergy accountable to the same laws and punishment as any other citizen, a more impactful result might have followed. The Catholic Church as well as many other religious organizations could have put policies on place that would have improved their reputations by putting the needs of their loyal followers first, but instead they chose to protect the abusers. Do you have enough facts now to put such policies in place?
With regard to the methods of choosing priests, I can only use my experience as an abuse survivor to offer any suggestions on how the problem of child abuse is so chronic within the Catholic Church and how individual responsibility must also be combined with change of policy towards the sexuality of people, especially priests.
Many people have challenged the policy of celibacy as the root cause of this problem. Perhaps it is a contributing factor, however if sexual release was the only issue then why is there a chronic problem of priests having sexual relationships with boys and not adult woman? Maybe we need to dig deeper and gather statistics of the childhoods of these priests? Were they abused as children? Statistically over 30% of all abused children go on to repeat the cycle of abuse as adults.
Perhaps we need to look at normal age appropriate sexual behaviors of children and adolescents and compare those behaviors to the policies of the Catholic Church. It is normal for children to explore their bodies and even engage in certain types of age appropriate experimentation as the normal cycle of maturation. These behaviors should be explained to children without shame or fear of sin. To do otherwise encourages silence in children when confronted with an abuser.
In the settings of most religious schools children are separated by gender and grow up isolated and uninformed as to the changes occurring within their own bodies. Same sex experimentation is frequent, yet carefully kept secret for fear of sinning a horrible sin, being betrayed by your own body’s urges and having no one to talk to. As potential priests pass through college and into the priesthood these past sexual experimentations might be all that is known to them as the laws of celibacy take over and lock in memories of a past where “pleasures of the flesh” are no longer acceptable. Longings of past sexual relationships with young friends as adolescents might provide temptations in the shape of current alter boys and choir children. For many priests, those temptations might prove too great as there is no other sexual release. So what is the solution?
• Modernize religious school settings and do not isolate boys and girls
• Teach age appropriate sex education to children in religious schools
• Teach practical child abuse prevention in religious schools
• Prosecute clergy who break the law as any citizen to break the cycle of abuse
• Adapt policies regarding no one on one situations with priests/children, similar to public schools teacher/student
• Review celibacy laws to see if there is still a practical application in modern church policy.
I don’t feel as the leader of the Catholic Church you must abandon your religious beliefs to solve this problem; however there are compromises and modernizations that must be made to core policies. I would think any organization that makes changes to protect their children will in turn protect their future.
President / CEO
Edited by enemywithin (03/20/10 12:16 PM)
Silence Hurts. Together We Can Heal.