Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pedophile Priests: The Wrong Question

Today, the Catholic Church (actually, the U.S. Bishops) released the results of a study on pedophilia in the priesthood, and came to a weird conclusion.  Pedophilia was caused by the '60's man.  The '60's.  Or rather, the social turmoil of the 1960's created stress, which lead priests to rape children - mostly boys because boys were more available.

Um. . .no.  Pedophile priests didn't abuse kids because of the social turmoil of the 1960's, they did it because they were pedophiles.  And why did pedophiles join the priesthood? Well, for the same reason why bank robbers rob banks - because that's where the money (or, in this case, access to children) is.  Every profession that has access to children - teachers, coaches, children's ministers (in Protestant churches), clowns, daycare workers and priests - has its share of pedophiles because these professions give pedophiles access to children.  And most pedophiles would prefer to gather their victims quietly than to kidnap kids off the streets.

In other words, it was inevitable that some priests would be pedophiles.  But in most instances, when it is discovered that a daycare worker, for instance, has been molesting children, the daycare worker is reported to the police, removed from contact with kids, and the daycare worker is not left in a position to harm children. Not so with priests - they were left in positions of power over children for, in some cases, decades. 

Now, in some respects, the study is correct.  The social turmoil of the 1960's and 1970's may have had an effect. As fewer and fewer young men joined the priesthood, the Church tried to protect itself by keeping as many priests as it could, abusers included.  Why else would bishops continually send pedophile priests back into situations where they could abuse children rather than send them off to a monastery?  Ultimately, the shortage of priests was the problem, not social turmoil. 

It is noted that the number of cases of sexual abuse by priests has dropped in the past thirty years, and that's a good thing.  That may be the case that the bishops now view abuse cases differently and are more proactive, or that parents are less likely to leave their kids alone with anyone, including a priest.  But ultimately, that won't solve the problem of shortage of priests, which caused this problem, not the 1960's.

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