Saturday, April 14, 2007

One cardinal blames "hippies" for child abuse, another asks for openness and healing

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, arriving in Auckland on the 13th, essentially blamed the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal on the 60s and 70s, where "sexual mores went down as all mores went down." An exceprt from Simon Collins' article for NZ Herald:

Cardinal McCarrick, 76, who retired last year as Archbishop of Washington, DC, said Catholic priests had been caught up in the climate of loose sexual morality in society generally in the 1960s and 70s.

He said the 60s were a time "when anything goes". "It was Woodstock, people were smoking marijuana, and the sexual mores went down as all mores went down."

It was also true that the problem had always existed "and that we have become aware of it just recently".

"Now, having become aware of it, we have tried to do the very best we can to ensure that it doesn't happen."

He said the Church had accepted responsibility for what had happened and "apologised from its very heart to all those people affected".

But he denied that the problem was worse in the Catholic Church than elsewhere because of priests' vows of celibacy.

"Unfortunately it is existing in religious bodies that have married clergy to, at least, the same extent, from what we have been able to figure out.

"When all is said and done, you are still talking about less than one out of 25 priests over a period of 60 years.

"When civil society finally accepts the challenge of making its own statistical survey as carefully and thoroughly as the Catholic Church has, I think we will find that the statistics of the Church are nowhere near as bad as the statistics of the rest of society."

He said Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed last month that priests should remain celibate because Jesus himself was celibate - "despite what The Da Vinci Code and the people who believe in it seem to be saying".

"We believe this is the kind of sacrifice that gives a man the ability to be more like the Lord."

He said sexual abuse was much less likely in the Church in future because all candidates for the priesthood now had to undergo psychological tests for potential abuse, a priest who abused a child would be instantly dismissed, and children were now educated to be alert for any improper behaviour by adults.

Well, I don't really know where to start with this guy. First, less than "one out of 25 priests" is 4%. If he's got that figure right, the RCC doesn't have a problem, it has a disaster.

Second, he blames the apparently loose moral climate of the 60s, and then he admits that sex abuse has always been a problem. And by the way, the sexual revolution was never about having sexual relationships with people who cannot consent, like children.

Third, we don't actually know that Jesus was celibate. The texts are silent as to his marital status. He could have married Mary M, he could have been with the "beloved" (and male) disciple, he could have done both, or he could have been celibate. We don't know. However, he did not instruct priests to be celibate in any of the canon Gospels. Paul commends people to celibacy, but admits that it's better to marry than burn. The Roman Church, with its looming disaster, might want to take another look at his words.

Now, this definitely is not a problem unique to the Roman Catholic Church. Here is a link to a list of cases from other denominations which allow married clergy. I see at least three Episcopal priests and a sexton. Additionally, it's not clear that celibacy necessarily leads to sexual abuse.

However, the Catholic Church has covered the abuse up, and has been hesitant to cooperate with authorities - practically an omerta. Additionally, the current Pope is promulgating instructions to purge gays from the seminaries - incorrectly confusing sexual orientation and pedophilia.

McCarrick is not fit to be a priest. Thomas Gumbleton is another story. He had spoken out on acceptance of LGBTs, and was forced into retirement.

It turns out that Bishop Gumbleton was abused by a priest as a kid, and admitted this publicly, long after this priest had died. In an article dated January 06, he supported Ohio's decision to lift the statute of limitations on sex abuse to allow lawsuits to be filed. The statute is 2-5 years in most states. In 2002, California did the same, and a federal judge upheld the constitutionality of the move. Gumbleton felt that while getting this into the open would cost the Church some money, it would bring healing to the victims. It seems that some Catholics disagreed with him, because Catholic lobbyists fought the measure tooth and nail.

Ohio's Senate passed the above bill, SB17 unanimously. The House passed an amended version that took out the one-year look-back window. Instead, they created a website on the Justice Department, containing the names of abusers. It also did extend the time limits for filing suits; previously, victims had until age 20, and will now have until age 30. Still, as Gumbleton said, it can take a long time before victims are ready to file suits.

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