Again I find myself having to apologise for an incredibly long post, but there’s a lot to get in. If you’re only interested in the Bill Donohue part I suggest you skip to just above where the video is, the rest of it is about the Vatican’s reaction to the media coverage.
It’s completely unsurprising to see the reaction of high-profile Catholics to the revelations about the abuse scandal and its subsequent cover-up. As early as Palm Sunday, just a few days after the revelations about the Pope’s involvement in the Wisconsin case, Ratzinger himself dismissed the reports as ‘petty gossip’, whereas L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, described the media’s coverage of the scandal as a “clear and ignoble intent of trying to strike Benedict and his closest collaborators.” In a shocking display of paranoia and lunacy, the Pope’s personal preacher likened the media coverage to “the collective violence suffered by the Jews.” That’s strange, I don’t remember hearing about any journalists rounding priests up onto trains at gunpoint and taking them off to be murdered. I don’t remember hearing about any violence at all, for that matter. Talk about shooting the messenger!
The Pope’s own words are particularly revealing, claiming that his faith gave him the “courage of not allowing oneself to be intimidated by the petty gossip of dominant opinion”. How about the courage to step forward, admit that the Vatican (and he himself) has made serious mistakes, and take measures to try and get justice? Real measures that will make a difference, not just internal investigations that usually either go nowhere or just end up with someone being de-frocked, relying on divine judgement to provide actual punishment instead of jailtime. Measures like turning Cardinal Bernard Law over to secular justice instead of giving him a cushy job in the Vatican, safe from prosecution. Measures like calling for the resignation of Cardinal Sean Brady who was involved in a case where children were forced to sign oaths of silence. Why has the Pope not done these relatively simple things? Because it’s not absolutely necessary yet in order to save the reputation of the Church. I am increasingly starting to believe that the only reason they’ve even admitted these cases is because denying it would be an incredibly bad PR move. Look at the way they’re pretending like this is the only blemish on the Church’s otherwise spotless reputation, ignoring the Pope’s contribution to the HIV/AIDS death toll, the sexual abuse of women in the Church, and the Church’s role in the Rwandan Genocide, for example, neither of which have merited an apology from the Pope, because they’re apparently not serious enough to threaten the reputation of the church to such a degree.
National leaders of the Catholic Church were also quick to defend the Pope. Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, said that Pope Benedict was not an idle observer and that his actions spoke as well as his words. I fail to see how he can claim that when child abuse suspects are sitting under the Pope’s protective wing. He also said that the Pope introduced measures to help stop the abuse, although the ones that he listed are, quite frankly, things that anyone in their right mind would have introduced and are hardly trailblazing stuff. Even if they had been, the Pope’s later actions do not justify what he did earlier in his career with his involvement in the Munich and Wisconsin cases. I also noticed here in the Portuguese press that Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, the most senior member of the clergy in Portugal, said that there was a conspiracy against the Church and the Pope. He also claimed that keeping the abuse allegations secret was something ordinary to any kind of family and that dirty clothes shouldn’t be washed in public.
And so we come to Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, who opens his flabby jowls whenever anyone comments on anything remotely Catholic. The Catholic League took out an advert in the New York Times (the same publication that revealed the allegations about the Pope’s involvement in the Fr Murphy case), where he tried to defend the Vatican from what he perceives as attacks by the media, rather than revelations. He makes a lot of claims about the Fr Murphy case which I don’t really want to get too deep into, although I’ll point out that he says:
Cardinal Ratzinger, now the pope, was the head of the office that was contacted. There is no evidence that he knew of it. But even if he did, he would have had to allow for an investigation. While the inquiry was proceeding, Murphy died.
- to which I call BULLSHIT! The records revealed by the New York Times showed that Fr Murphy had already admitted that he’d abused around 200 deaf children. The bishop of his diocese had written to Ratzinger personally asking for action from his office. The bishop received no response, and the New York Times speculated that it was on the basis of a letter from Murphy himself to Ratzinger, saying that he wanted to die with dignity in the priesthood.
But that’s not the claim I want to focus on. I mentioned in my post analysing the Pope’s apology that in the past, abuse was blamed on homosexuals within the Church, but I foolishly believed those days were firmly in the past, particularly as the Church now needs to save some serious face. I was apparently wrong. Bill Donohue’s last claim in his ad reads:
The Times continues to editorialise about the “paedophilia crisis”, when all along it’s been a homosexual crisis. Eighty percent of the victims of priestly sexual abuse are male and most of them are post-pubescent. While homosexuality does not cause predatory behaviour, and most gay priests are not molesters, most of the molesters have been gay.
And here is a video where he defends his statement.
As evidence for his assertion, Donohue cites this study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004, which found that “81% of all the victims have been male… and that 75% are post-pubescent” to use his own words. Now I’m no psychologist but I’m not sure that just because the victim was male and post-pubescent, that makes the abuser a homosexual, or makes the problem a ‘homosexual problem’. I certainly don’t find 13 year old girls attractive even if they are post-pubescent, and I doubt that changes significantly among the homosexual portion of society. It appears to me to be a much more complicated situation than Donohue is making out, particularly when you take into account the fact that rape is rarely a case of someone being hopelessly attracted to their victims. It seems to me to be less a case of sexual attraction and more to do with opportunity to offend or some kind of psychological condition. I’d also say that he is confusing the act of sexual abuse with a sexual preference. But like I say, I’m no psychologist, so I don’t know. I just think it’s a rash judgement for Donohue to make based on the data he presents.
Next I went and looked for that study to see if his figures were right, but actually I didn’t even have to go past the first mandate for the study, which reads:
Examine the number and nature of allegations of sexual abuse of minors under the age of 18 by Catholic priests between 1950 and 2002.
Yes, to justify his claim that most victims of abuse are male and post-pubescent, he’s using a study which only investigated the allegations of sexual abuse of minors under the age of 18. So not only is he making a rash conclusion based on the data, but the data itself is skewed. Bill is caught in the awkward position of saying that it’s a homosexual attraction when the victim is post-pubescent, but then also arbitrarily cuts off his dataset at 18 years of age, ignoring a lot more abuse cases.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do agree with Donohue on one thing – it is overly simplistic to refer to the abuse scandal as a paedophilia crisis, for several reasons. Firstly, the term ‘paedophilia’ refers to a sexual preference, not the act of sexual abuse itself. It also only refers to the preference of pre-pubescent children, as opposed to hebephilia and ephebophilia. This is also why it is dangerous to brand anyone who has sex with a minor with such an emotionally charged word as ‘paedophile’ – it could well be a 19 year old having a relationship with a 15 year old, which isn’t particularly perverted or even all that unusual, although it is illegal. In any case, calling it a ‘paedophilia crisis’ also ignores the abuse of adults which is carried out by clergy.
But instead of responsibly exchanging that term for ‘abuse scandal’ or something similar, Bill decides to label it a “homosexual crisis”. So let’s see if we can take a look at the stats for over 18′s. They’re quite difficult to find because there haven’t been an awful lot of reports on it, but I do remember reading a piece recently posted by Tessera, regular contributor to Layscience.net, where she reported that up to 95% of abuse victims are actually adult females. Now I’ve been trying to track down where she got that figure from, but all I can find is this paper, citing a national study called Chaves and Garland (I presume the author means Chavez) on page 7, and I can’t find it. In any case it says women make up 96% of those abused. This website also seems to be happy to say that 95% of abuse victims are adult females, although the situation gets a bit more complicated because we’re not talking just about abuse in the Catholic Church. Here is some further reading if you’re interested.
So it seems here that Bill could be completely wrong. The majority of the abuse victims are adult females, and it is only when we look specifically at minors that most of the victims are male. As I’ve already commented, that seems to me to be a more abnormal phenomenon, and can’t be put down to homosexuality. Funny that a guy who, as he says himself in the video, has a doctorate in Sociology and claims to “not [be] unacquainted with how to read the social science data” seems to have failed to correctly read the social science data. But of course Bill doesn’t know when to shut his trap and he goes on to imply a link between celibacy and the number of homosexuals in the church, saying:
“They’re [Bill Mayer etc] saying that if you got rid of celibacy, the priesthood wouldn’t be so attractive to homosexuals, therefore you wouldn’t have the molestation problem. Actually I agree with that!”
Of course he’s completely twisting the words of Bill Mayer, but I have no idea how he thinks that celibacy makes the church attractive to homosexuals. None whatsoever. In any case, the idea that celibacy is the cause of molestation is plausible, but also seems to be a myth. Tessera cites a study showing that whilst 3.1% of regularly churchgoing women have been sexually abused, actually the majority (2.2% of the total) of those women were abused by married clergy. (Edit: I should point out that this alone doesn’t discount celibacy being a cause of molestation. What is more relevant is the proportion of abusers within celibate churches, not the proportion of women abused by celibate abusers. However I’m happy to take the word of people in the field that it’s not a major cause.)
So Bill’s on the crotch-kicking list. Maybe when it gets to about 5 people I’ll actually write it down and stick it on my wall.