Tuesday 4 November 2014


As the below post shows, trying to shift the conversation around institutional sexual abuse from the Catholic Church can be incredibly difficult. For one thing, some Catholic priests have indeed  done outrageously evil stuff. But as long as Catholics are the only ones taking out the garbage and labeling it, compiling lists of accused priests and religious and getting the facts and statistics in black and white, our mountain of garbage is the only historical garbage anyone is likely to see.

John Paul II acknowledged and condemned clerical sexual abuse in 2003--rather late, but before the age of the internet, I'm guessing it was hard to connect all the dots scattered around the world. Anyway, there were headlines.

Benedict XVI, who took swift and decisive action as soon as he could, formally apologized for clerical sexual abuse throughout his pontificate. There were more headlines.

This year, Pope Francis also apologized. There were even more headlines.

And, yes, they did have a lot to apologize for.  For example, there's the 252 American priests sent to jail for abuse between 1950 and 2002. And there's the 6 Irish priests sent to jail for abuse between 1975 and 2011. If the numbers of abusers actually jailed seems small, that's because of the large number of victims. One bad guy can hurt a lot of people before he's stopped. Many teenagers, women and children have been badly hurt. Catholic teenagers, women and children. Our teenagers, women and children. Us. (Why does everyone seem to forget the victims are Catholics, too? And why do morons keep asking us why we're angry about this or that church scandal when we're "not angry about" the abuse? Of course we're freaking angry about the abuse!)

But that's just another reason why the conversation should stop returning to Catholics all the damned time. Any predator of any religion or none can hurt a lot of people. And predators use respected institutions as their hunting ground and shield. All institutions have to deal with this fact, and if all institutions took out and labeled their trash as assiduously as Catholics have been doing for at least the past 12 years, then not only would Catholics stop being a byword for this crap, but predators would have fewer places to hide and thrive.

The more people obsess on institutional sexual abuse as a "Catholic priest problem" the easier it is for abusers who aren't Catholic priests to abuse. ("But he isn't Catholic! But he has regular sex with consenting adults! But he's a feminist! But everybody likes him!") And it brings hundreds or thousands of good Catholic men who wouldn't hurt a fly, men who serve others on subsistence wages, into disrepute. I have many friends who are Catholic priests, and knowing that they get dismissed by strangers as potential abusers, while Jian Ghomeshi, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski still get the benefit of the doubt, makes me livid. 

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