Priestly abuse a problem? Yes. Big problem? No. It’s “organized moral panic”.

On MercatorNet from Italian sociologist Massimo Introvigne, whose books I have read with interest… I recommend his book on Hammas… comes this with my emphases and comments.   The piece is on the long side, so I will give you just a bit of it.


Moral panic flares again

Is priestly paedophilia a problem? Yes, says an Italian sociologist. Is it a big problem? No.

Why is there talk again of paedophile priests, based on a case in Germany, which drags in people who are close to the Pope and now even the Pope himself? Does sociology have something to say about this or should we leave it completely to the journalists? I believe sociology has much to say, and it must not remain silent because of a fear of displeasing some.

The current discourse on paedophile priests – considered from a sociological perspective – represents a typical example of "moral panic". The concept was coined in the 1970s to explain how certain problems become the subject of "social hyperconstruction". More precisely, [NB] moral panics are defined as socially constructed problems that are characterised by a systematic amplification of the true facts in the media or in political discourse.

Two other characteristics have been cited as typical of moral panics. First, problems that have existed for decades are reconstructed in the media and political accounts as new or as the subject of a recent dramatic increase. Second, their incidence is exaggerated by statistics plucked from the air which, while not confirmed by academic studies, are repeated by the media and inspire persistent media campaigns. Historian and sociologist Philip Jenkins, of Pennsylvania State University, has emphasised the role of "moral entrepreneurs" in the creation and management of panics whose agenda is not always revealed. [I don’t know about you, but I think this is really interesting…] Moral panics do not bring any good. They distort the perception of the problems and compromise the efficacy of the measures which should resolve them. After a harmful analysis inevitably there comes a harmful intervention.  [Consider how the media has reconstructed a wrong from decades ago into a huge issue today, both ignoring what the Church has actually done and even making what the Church is doing more difficult.]

Let there be no misunderstanding: at the origin of moral panics are objective and real dangers. They do not invent a problem; they exaggerate its statistical dimensions. In a series of excellent studies, Jenkins demonstrated how the issue of paedophile priests is perhaps the most typical moral panic. Two characteristic elements exist: a fact which serves as a starting point, and an exaggeration of this fact by moral entrepreneurs.


But there have also been many sensational cases of priests who have been falsely accused. Indeed, these cases multiplied in the 1990s, when some legal firms recognised they could reap million dollar returns even on the basis of mere suspicion. Appeals for zero tolerance are justifiable, but there should also be zero tolerance for defaming innocent priests. Nor do the numbers change significantly from 2002 to 2010. The John Jay College study already noted a "significant decline" in cases in the 2000s. New investigations have been rare, and sentences extremely rare, as a result of more rigorous controls introduced by American bishops as well as the Holy See.

So, does the John Jay College study tells us then, as one often reads, that 4 percent of American priests are paedophiles? Not at all. According to the research, 78.2 percent of the accusations involved minors who had advanced beyond puberty. Having sexual relations with a 17-year-old is certainly not a beautiful thing, and much less so for a priest, but it is not paedophilia. Therefore, only 958 American priests were accused of true paedophilia over 52 years, 18 per year. There were only 54 convictions, a little less than one per year. [The statistics, therefore, point to this as a homosexual issue.]


[QUAERITUR:] Why are old and very often well-known cases being exhumed in 2010 on a daily basis, always attacking the Pope? [By, in primis, Hell’s Bible… the New York Times…] This is paradoxical if one considers the great severity of then Cardinal Ratzinger and of Benedict XVI on this very theme. The moral entrepreneurs who organise the panic [I think that is a phrase you should remember] have an agenda which is increasingly clear and which is not essentially the protection of children. [EXACTLY!  And I have made that point here.  They are not interested in protecting children.  Read this next part carefully….] This is a time when political, juridical and even electoral decisions in Europe and elsewhere are being made about the abortion pill RU-486, euthanasia, the recognition of same sex unions. Only the voice of the Pope and the Church is being raised to defend life and the family. The reading of certain articles in the media shows that very powerful lobby groups are seeking to silence this voice with the worst possible defamation — and unfortunately an easy one to make — that of favouring or tolerating paedophilia.  [That has the ring of truth.]

These more or less Masonic lobby groups show the sinister power of technocracy which was raised by Benedict XVI himself in his encyclical Caritas in veritate and in the denunciation of John Paul II, in his Message for the World Day of Peace of 1985. They warned of "hidden aims" – alongside others which are "openly promoted" which are "directed at subjecting all populations to regimes in which God does not count".

This is truly a dark hour. It takes one back to the prediction of a great Italian Catholic thinker of the 19th century, Emiliano Avogadro della Motta (1798-1865). [NB:] He predicted that after the devastation caused by secular ideologies [the 20th century rise of totalitarianism and world wars] an authentic "demon worship" would spring up [! I think we can find some examples of that now.] which would attack the family and the true concept of marriage. [The rise of aggressive homosexuality.] Reestablishing the sociological truth about moral panics over priests and paedophilia will not of itself resolve the problems and will not stop the lobby groups. But it is a small and proper tribute to the greatness of this Pope and to a Church which is wounded and defamed because they will not be silent on the issues of life and the family.

This is a strong tonic.  WDTPRS kudos to Massimo Introvigne.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Andy Lucy says:

    Thanks for hipping me to Introvigne’s work. Looking forward to reading some of his writings.

  2. TNCath says:

    Well puy! The sexual abuse of minors is not something confined to the Catholic priesthood, either. Nonetheless, no one expresses consistent outrage against any other institution in the world than the Catholic Church. That said, the “organized moral panic” created by the media has less to do about priestly abuse and more about an organized panic against the influence of the Pope and the Catholic Church on the world. In other words, the media and others who disagree with the Church are afraid of the moral authority only she can carry.

    The forces of Good, (the Church) vs. Evil (the Devil)have been a part of human history from the beginning of time and will continue to exist until Judgment Day. Right now, the Devil is having a field day from the “smoke” with which he has polluted the Church, which has caused some very bad behavior on the part of some clergy, religious and laity. But, as Christ said, “Take courage, for I have overcome the world,” and “I will be with you always, even until the end of time.” Good will ultimately triumph over the Evil One; we just might have to undergo a lot of suffering, penance, and purification for it.

  3. TNCath says:

    Correction: “Well put!”

  4. The-Monk says:

    Sociological panics? That’s great social science theory to explain group behavior. But, history is instructive in that the Church has always had its enemies who were all too willing to capitalize on its members’ sins with the goal of undermining the holiness of the Catholic Church. In the past, however, much of this was notorious—related to heresy—and battled out in the public realm.

    What is different in the case of allegations of pedophilia (which, in most cases, was ephebophilia) is the issue secrecy, like Eve and Adam in the Garden. There is no doubt that some Church leaders (including cardinals, archbishops, bishops, pastors, and provincials of religious orders/congregations) covered up/hid/denied the facts of what is nothing other than completely reprehensible and immoral behavior (and, in many instances, involved their chums during the “Golden Age of U.S. Seminaries” in the late-1940s, 1950s, and 1960s). This is the U.S. Catholic Church’s self-inflicted Achilles heel that provides its enemies their fodder to exploit in any way they wish.

    The sad irony today is that what the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has inflicted upon itself and should serve as an abject lesson for others to learn from is spreading…Ireland and Germany today and, I suspect, the Roman Catholic Church of the EU sooner rather than later too, as more and more cases are made public. Why are these prelates not learning how NOT to proceed? All they are doing is feeding the sociological panic of the type that Dr. Massimo Introvigne discusses. [Great point.]

    However, there’s more at work here than Dr. Introvigne’s sociological analysis suggests. The Church’s enemies have sunk their teeth into a what is nothing other than a great issue for them to tear down the Church: its leaders’ hypocrisy. That’s a very difficult, if not impossible charge to counteract when your mission is one of moral clarity and those charged with proclaiming that moral clarity with the greatest amount of moral clarity have implicated themselves directly in the cover up/hiding/denial. The only thing that will begin to counteract this evil, as Benedict XVI wrote to the Irish bishops, is for the ordained to re-connect to their spiritual roots, confess, and atone for the sins of commission and omission. “In my weakness is my strength,” St. Paul noted.

    Only today, I’ve read that the Archbishop of Canterbury is lecturing the Roman Catholic Church about its leaders’ failures. This only feeds those who are exploiting the frenzied sociological panic, and I wouldn’t be surprised that this is nothing other than “pay back” on the part of the Rev. Dr. Williams for Benedict XVI’s invitation to disaffected Anglicans. Anyone who knows anything about the Anglican and Episcopalian denominations can only believe that the Rev. Dr. Williams ought be extremely careful about the ground he is treading: the problem is not limited to the Roman Catholic Church…and he knows it. The Rev. Dr. Williams’ words are very likely to come back and haunt him one day.

  5. gmaskell says:

    Someone asked me once “what is it?”…. I’ve been searching. And I keep saying “it is what it is”…. Is this part of IT! No, this is all of IT. Good vs Evil. The evil one attacking the family. Right on! Fr. Z. I love our pope!

  6. shane says:

    Atheist Brendan O’Neill on ‘why humanists should not join in this Catholic-bashing’:

  7. Rob Cartusciello says:

    I was agreeing up until the part about the Masons.

    I find it difficult to believe such a conspiracy theory.

  8. SonofMonica says:

    Yeah… you can’t really end your article about busting up moral panics by trying to create one about Masons and demon worship….

    That said….

    REJOICE, O MOTHER CHURCH! Jesus is up and about. :-)

  9. Well, the Masons were a serious enough threat for Pope Leo XIII to publish an encyclical against them…and it is still a violation of canon law for Catholics to be Masons.

  10. Sandy says:

    Too bad the main stream media will not point to logical and intelligent writers such as this one, or articles such as the one that you posted yesterday, Father, from the Lutheran theologian. Good article in your link, shane, and I agree, Anita – why would the Masons be any less of an evil threat than they used to be.

  11. PostCatholic says:

    Ih. Amplification nothing. Go wade into ocean of scum: the thousands of pages of actual chancery documents over at Bishop Accountability. The facts speak for themselves: For decades, including recent decades, there was both systematic abuse of children by members of the clergy and religious orders and extensive conspiracy to conceal the crimes by the episcopate and church administration. The story keeps rebounding because it is the utmost betrayal of the trust of parishioners—and of their dollars. This is not a panic, it disgust with (and yes, perhaps schadenfreude over) with church concerning the facts.

    Also, the bit about the Masons strikes me as silly there’s an external criminal conspiracy to expose Catholic bishops into criminal conspirators? I think as you’ve said before, Rev. Zuhlsdorf, let the truth out and the chips fall where they may, and the Church can move on. Statements like last week’s from the Vatican are only prolonging its misery.

    I’d like to address your broad brush dripping with tar. I realize and accept the fact that the majority of the abusers are guilty of same-sex rape. It does not follow, however, that the problem is one of homosexuality. You are guilty of a post hoc ergo propter hoc error here. The problem is acts of rape and sexual aggression on children and teens. Other factors may explain the preponderance (n.b. not the exclusivity) of the homosexual nature of these crimes. To name a few:

    An all-male culture such as the Catholic clergy may be (or, may have been?) disproportionately attractive to homosexuals;

    In addition to attracting people with religious fervor, the role of clergy often attracts people who themselves have backgrounds of abuse or personality disorders that result in unhealthy desires for control, respect, etc (this is part of the reason for psych batteries prior to admission to seminary).

    Not all of such attacks on children and teens were by abusers who exhibited fixation on children as a primary sexual motive. That is to say, not all (though certainly some) were pedophiles or hebephiles in a clinical understanding of those words but were motivated by other reasons. It follows then that because there was more opportunity for abusers to spend time with boys rather than girls (training altar boys, running boys groups, etc.) that there was more likelihood that boys rather than girls would be victimized by this type of predator. (In the literature I’ve read about this, this type of perpetrator is often called “regressive” rather than “fixated”.)

    I won’t go on, though I really can for quite a while. I think it’s well to be careful and open-eyed about the complexities that drive these criminals, and the situations and institutional cultures in which they are able to thrive. It seems to me from my reading to be something much larger than “disordered sexuality.”

  12. Grabski says:

    Excellent example was the ‘child abuse at day care centers’ in the 1980s, where people were prosecuted for acts which could not possibly have been committed, yet there were convictions. The Amiraults in Boston are the leading example, as is a day care center in the state of Washington.

    Here, the process is being used, and the elephant in the room is the strict enforcement of the code: Even if 80% of the cases were same sex, it’s not reallly homosexual.

    Hence, the free pass that Homosexualist Bp Rembert Weakland is getting from the Homosexualist NYT

  13. catholicmidwest says:

    He’s completely right. We’ve been through a bunch of moral panics, which often have a much smaller basis of reality than they seem. The Toyota thing is perhaps such a moral panic, as is global warming and as was the whole child picture on a milk carton thing in the 80s. Oh and the king of all moral panics- Y2K! Who can forget Y2K?

    I believe that moral panics are used to try to change society by political & social groups. Sometimes they’re successful, but sometimes we get a sort of absurdity which many people don’t pick up on. Such tactics can fractionalize society and we’ve suffered that many times.

    The fact of the matter is, as the author says, in essence small but real. The great majority of priests don’t abuse anyone, but a small few do. The idea is what has captivated people. And the fact that the small few weren’t dealt with properly is the key that makes the whole thing eminently exploitable. Sort of like Toyota’s lying, whether that was intentional or not. It’s something that must be avoided if possible because the consequences can be so great.

  14. catholicmidwest says:


    Think this through:

    There are only 2 explanations for the predominance of boys as victims in the John Jay report & all the other documentation:
    a) it was homosexual in nature
    b) it was acting out with boys because boys were the only moving objects in proximity (as you have stated)

    People don’t want to admit a) for reasons of political correctness, (and sometimes because of their own sexual disorders).
    However, if b) is the case, then it means that a certain small number of men were so desperate and evil that they were willing to rape anyone upright and moving just to satisfy their lust.


    No one wants to answer that question.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    Particularly since the kids were still harmed, either way.

    The Vatican has got to get the lead out and learn to move faster. The excuses are getting very old. And they’re digging themselves deeper and deeper by missing things wholesale until they can’t be changed.

  16. Maltese says:

    Nothing is worse than being a pederast, and nothing is worse than being falsely accused of being a pederast.

    But there have also been many sensational cases of priests who have been falsely accused. Indeed, these cases multiplied in the 1990s, when some legal firms recognised they could reap million dollar returns even on the basis of mere suspicion.

  17. catholicmidwest says:

    Yes, once the damage in Boston came to light, the stage was set for a moral panic. But it started with the abuse in Boston, and it spread because I’ll wager there’s scarcely a Catholic alive who doesn’t know somebody this has touched in some way.

  18. Dorothy Rabinowitz does an excellent job outlining the mechanism in place that allows unchecked moral panic to fuel false accusations. She covers the Amirault mentioned above in depth. No Crueler Tyrannies is worth a read if you want to understand how easily this all could happen:

  19. catholicmidwest says:

    There is something very important to remember here: There were no child abuses in some of these school cases, whereas we did have some real ones, but we also got some false ones.

  20. MWP says:

    Organized moral panic = attempt to foist a culture of collective guilt, fear and paranoia on the Catholic Church.

    Collective guilt is not healthy and it is not what the Church teaches. Collective guilt is nobody’s guilt, it’s a secular ritual that is creeping into the Church. In the Church we are to confess our own sins, not those of Mr. X from 1970, especially if we weren’t born yet. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  21. Mrs. O says:

    “According to the research, 78.2 percent of the accusations involved minors who had advanced beyond puberty.”
    I am confused about this number. According to the John Jay Study and recent CARA report, the largest group is KIDS between the ages of 10-14. Now, on the USCCB’s website, when they are breaking this down, pedophilia includes those children up to age 10 where ephopilia include teenagers over 14 (maybe 13). I have written USCCB to see where these children are being included. I am still waiting on a response. I would not put kids 10-14 in advanced teenagers group. BUT if you include the younger children and the 10-14 – then you get 70 + % each time whereas the older teenagers were something like 16%.

    I totally agree that we aren’t to panic. Of course, the pain will still be there because some of this is just horrible beyond belief and we are just realizing the abuse that has gone on.
    For one thing, as a parent, it makes me more aware, more wanting to know what is going on with our children IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, not just our parish. May God help us all.

  22. Mrs. O says:

    Here is the John Jay Study
    • The largest group of alleged victims (50.9%) was between the ages of 11 and 14, 27.3% were 15-17, 16% were 8-10 and nearly 6% were under age 7. Overall, 81% of victims were male and 19% female. Male victims tended to be older than female victims. Over 40% of all victims were males between the ages of 11 and 14.

    Keeping in mind, boys do not hit puberty till around 14 – well behind girls.

  23. Mrs. O says:

    Here is the CARA for this year:
    More than half of the victims (54 percent) were
    between the ages of 10 and 14 when the alleged abuse
    began. A quarter (23 percent) were between the ages
    of 15 and 17, while 15 percent were younger than age
    10. The age could not be determined for 9 percent of

    The abuse allegations have been tapering off with this year the least – keep in mind those that came forward a majority were from previous years (they are now adults). But also keep in mind, that sometimes children won’t talk or tell so we need to be eyes and ears too.

  24. PostCatholic says:

    Catholicmidwest, the problem is rape and sexual aggression with children perpetrated by adults. Both heterosexuals and homosexuals can with minimal effort find willing adult sexual partners–there is no shortage. Exploiting children for sexual gratification is a pathology.

    In the majority, Catholic clerics who committed these crimes committed them with same-sex victims. This abuse was not exclusively homosexual. Most abused boys, some abused boys and girls, some abused girls. This pattern is at odds with the general incidence of sexual abuse of minors; girls are much more likely to be victims of sexual abuse by an adult.

    So what then explains the anomalous nature of clergy sex abuse? Any number of things, some of which I pointed at earlier. Maybe consecrated life was more attractive to abusers in general; maybe it was more attractive to homosexuals in general and therefore attracted a disproportionate number of gay abusers; maybe there are things about the culture of priestly life that fostered problems. Dr Gregory Herek, a research psychologist in homosexuality at UC Davis, warns us to distinguish between the genders involved in an abusive act and the sexual orientation of the perpetrator, eg. it may be a male-male incident but not necessary homosexual in nature. Why? “The distinction between a victim’s gender and a perpetrator’s sexual orientation is important because many child molesters don’t really have an adult sexual orientation.”

    That’s a charge that’s been levied many, many times at clerics and religious celibates in general–I heard it plenty levied at me when I was a seminarian. Perhaps the charge is unfair for many or most, fair but unproblematical for others. And for a fraction who abuse children, quite fairly and a serious problem indeed. I can certainly relate anecdotal evidence during my time as a seminarian of profoundly sexually confused or naive people with whom I shared a roof. In my narrow experience, this was a fact that often exasperated me and which I had many interior forum discussions with my spiritual advisors about. I digress.

    As anyone would hope, profiling the likelihood of a population to become child rapists is a topic of immense interest to psychology. Psychology wants to understand these people so people with these inclinations can identified before children are harmed. Thus far, what has been shown, repeatedly, is that homosexuals do not have a higher incidence of erotic preference for children.

    And just in case you’re wondering, I’ll volunteer that I am not gay, nor was I sexually victimized as a child by a priest or any other adult. And as a nonbeliever, I really don’t object to the Vatican barring homosexuals from ordination–the less inclusive the Catholic Church becomes, the less influential in my opinion, and that fine with me.

    I just think it is very important that we understand the profile of these criminals, the types of environments and cultures in which they thrive, and ways of preventing them from being in positions where exploitation is facilitated. If homosexuality empirically cannot be shown by science to be the etiology of the problem of clergy sex abuse of minors, or even if it can be shown not to be the most important etiology, we must protect our young people by focusing our preventive efforts on those things that are the major causes. The cost of not getting prevention right is tremendous wasted human potential, destroyed lives, untold pain and even suicides–and this is unacceptable. I’m sure you agree with that sentiment.

  25. PostCatholic says:

    How I wish one could correct errors in grammar and expression after hitting the submit button. I must be more careful.

    I meant to quote Dr Herek more fully:

    “The distinction between a victim’s gender and a perpetrator’s sexual orientation is important because many child molesters don’t really have an adult sexual orientation. They have never developed the capacity for mature sexual relationships with other adults, either men or women. Instead, their sexual attractions focus on children – boys, girls, or children of both sexes.”

    A happy Easter to those celebrating it.

  26. Mrs. O says:

    Thank you for saying this:
    “The distinction between a victim’s gender and a perpetrator’s sexual orientation is important because many child molesters don’t really have an adult sexual orientation.”
    There seems to be almost a push to make this or that problem (homosexual) when it is a little more complicated than that.
    I do not think the ban of active gays in the seminary will or should go away. It needed to be cleaned.
    But, these that abuse the children are of a different strip and it has to do with maturity – sexual maturity which for what I have seen, seminaries are addressing this.
    This is a good thing.

  27. catholicmidwest says:

    I don’t feel any guilt over this, if that’s what you’re getting at, MWP. I didn’t do anything.

    I’d like to tar and feather a few abusers though. It’s their fault and the fault of the bishops that babied them and allowed them to continue.

  28. catholicmidwest says:

    And if you think those bishops were few in number, think again. Many dioceses had at least one continuing problem, and that problem almost always wasn’t dealt with til the lawyers and the press arrived on the scene.

  29. catholicmidwest says:

    So what then explains the anomalous nature of clergy sex abuse? Any number of things, some of which I pointed at earlier.

    a) Maybe consecrated life was more attractive to abusers in general;

    Reply: Yes, perhaps they thought it would give them cover, and they were right. Being a priest for most of the 20th century was to be beyond criticism for many Catholics, NO MATTER WHAT THE PRIEST DID. This is wrong.

    b) maybe it was more attractive to homosexuals in general and therefore attracted a disproportionate number of gay abusers;

    Reply: Apparently true. Probably because, for these few people, it provided cover, a steady supply of subjects to abuse, and other gays to commiserate with.

    c) maybe there are things about the culture of priestly life that fostered problems. Dr Gregory Herek, a research psychologist in homosexuality at UC Davis, warns us to distinguish between the genders involved in an abusive act and the sexual orientation of the perpetrator, eg. it may be a male-male incident but not necessary homosexual in nature. Why? “The distinction between a victim’s gender and a perpetrator’s sexual orientation is important because many child molesters don’t really have an adult sexual orientation.”

    Reply: So you’re telling me that these people are so depraved that, lacking an adult orientation, they will literally rape anything that moves. Again, I ask, BY ANY METRIC WHATSOEVER, HOW IS THIS BETTER THAN THE OBVIOUS EXPLANATION, WHICH IS THAT THEY WERE CHICKEN HAWKS????

  30. catholicmidwest says:

    The last post should have had some quotes. I was replying to Post Catholic in his post at 10:26PM Last night. I don’t think you’ve said anything new, PostCatholic. I just think you like to make a short explanation longer.

    Another thing: It’s really necessary to look at both the means and the ends, when looking at moral arguments. You’re stuck on the means, PostCatholic.

    These people may have done what they did for a lot of reasons, which all seem to boil down to a small handful of similar motivations–lust, disordered personalities, opportunity, and so on.

    The OUTCOME, however, is clear, both in terms of the carnage among those young people who were affected and in terms of the outrage we are facing now. The fact that Catholics don’t seem to GET that is part of what’s fueling the outrage.

    We could go a long way toward making this better if we didn’t engage in the graphic display of whining we’re putting on. It’s starting to become unbelievable out there, folks. Dealing with the problem with some degree of class would be much better and much more believable.

  31. PostCatholic says:

    Because your explanation isn’t obvious? What is a “chicken hawk”?

    I don’t read that statement as they’re “so depraved that, lacking an adult orientation, they will literally rape anything that moves.” Rather, I think it’s saying that these criminals are so immature as to not be able to enter into adult sexual relationships and therefore resort to exploitative measure to obtain their sexual gratification. So how do we recognize that immaturity? Is there anything we do anything about it? What is the nexus between that and homosexuality? If homosexuality does not cause people to be child sexual abusers, as medicine seems tells us that it doesn’t, what does and what is the Catholic church going to do about it? It can do whatever it likes about homosexuals in its clergy for all I care, on whatever grounds it believes about the immorality of homosexuality, but that still leaves the problem of high incidence of sexual predation by clergy to address.

    One implication of this finding about the maturity of abusers, is that in order to live a psychologically healthy adult life and choose to be celibate, one needs to have formed a mature sexuality and to have tamed mature sexual attractions. When I was in seminary in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, there no talk about how to manage a celibate lifestyle and the natural impulses beyond “pray and go to confession” unless one was lucky enough, as I was, to have someone to talk to on the internal forum who could give concrete guidance. If people don’t or can’t “grow up” to have a normal sexuality, it isn’t enough that we trust them to be celibate.

    There are of course other many things that need correction–screening for personality disorders and mental health pathologies (I was screened once, prior to seminary entrance, at age 17. No priest I know ever underwent a testing battery unless and until there was a problem. If my experience is still typical, it’s not nearly enough.), a culture alert to the safety needs of children and aware of what is inappropriate attention, administrators who are decisive and just in their actions. If the Catholic church sincerely wants to protect children, it will take an intellectually honest look at what causes people to prey on children and act on those findings.

  32. Rob Cartusciello says:

    “Chicken Hawk” is a British & American gay slang word for older males who prefer younger males for partners.

    It is a very real trend among some in the gay community. That there is term for it further evidences its existence.

    The phrase does not necessarily imply merely adolescent boys. It also includes younger looking young men.

    In seminary & religious life certain priests are/were known ‘chicken hawks’. Why so little was done about it is beyond me.

    Michael Rose was not wrong when he described them in “Goodbye Good Men”. The stories he related in that book about ‘chicken hawks’ run true with my own experiences in religious formation. There is a reason I left Jesuit formation.

  33. PostCatholic says:

    Thanks. Is the term analogous to “cradle robber” or “cougar”?

  34. catholicmidwest says:

    PostCatholic, “these criminals are so immature as to not be able to enter into adult sexual relationships and therefore resort to exploitative measure to obtain their sexual gratification” is the same thing as “sticking it to anything that doesn’t get away fast enough.” Same, same. What planet are you on anyway????

    And the end result is also the same: man on boy. And by any imaginable metric, this isn’t better than homosexual man on boy. If anything, it’s WORSE. IT means the perpetrator not only is SITUATIONALLY HOMOSEXUAL but personally SCREWED UP to boot!! HOW, HOW, HOW did no one in the seminary notice???? Were they not paying attention or what? One wonders what they were like too, ahem.

  35. PostCatholic says:

    I think it’s a bit more nuanced than that, catholicmidwest. After all, these monsters were in our midst for a long time and the bishops succeeded in keeping their secrets.


    HOW, HOW, HOW did no one in the seminary notice???? Were they not paying attention or what? One wonders what they were like too, ahem.

    Bingo. Here’s a tale of what transpired in the non-distant at the now-defunct St. Pius X Diocesan Seminary in the Diocese of Scranton. You’d think the handling of that would be enough to shake the confidence in keeping such a rector in place, but nope. He went on to become faculty at North American College in Rome and presently rector of Scranton’s cathedral.

  36. PostCatholic says: change the last bit. The link seems not to work.

  37. catholicmidwest says:

    Earth to PostCatholic, rape is rape. Homosexual rape is homosexual rape. Homosexual statutory rape is homosexual statutory rape. NO MATTER WHETHER THE PERP IS CRAZY, DELUDED, IMMATURE, [FILL-IN-THE-BLANK] OR NOT. OKAY, if the perp is crazy enough, what you really can get is homosexual statutory rape with a twist of pure evil thrown in for kicks. How about that? Better? NO!

    And now that you mention it, isn’t that a little bit of a puzzle that SOME (not all) bishops didn’t even seem to mind? Hmmm. I wonder why??? Hmmmmm. One of those bishops was Rembert Weakland, wasn’t it? Hmmmm.

    I believe you about the rector. That’s the part of the scandal that we don’t have any handle on yet.

  38. catholicmidwest says:

    I should qualify that: There have been some investigations of seminaries and some have closed. I’m not sure where the people responsible for the mischief went, when seminaries were closed, however. I’m not confident that many were laicized and taken off the payroll, which is what should have happened.

  39. PostCatholic says:

    Aren’t we saying the same thing, catholicmidwest? The problem is the rape and sexual abuse of children. Whether it’s male-male, male-female or female-female does not matter. The problem to solve is horrendous violence against children, not homosexuality. Understanding where child sexual predators come from, knowing how to identify them and confounding their opportunities to harm others is the task to which Catholics need to address themselves.

    I am saying that the crazy, deluded, immature bit is part of how we identify these bastards and keep them from harming children, so it does matter. What doesn’t matter in this respect is whether they’re straight or gay–that doesn’t indicate their likeliness to hurt children. Perhaps it matters for doctrinal reasons to Catholicism, but that is a different matter.

    Archbishop Weakland was an embezzler, not a rapist–a fact that still disgusts me. St. Pius closed for the quotidian reason that it lacked the funds and the students to keep it open. Which seminaries were closed after investigations? I hadn’t heard of that and I’d like to learn.

  40. catholicmidwest says:

    It does matter, PostCatholic. It’s a fact that man-boy sex was the mode 80% of the time, whether you want to admit it or not. So stop trying to cover it up.

    Rob Cartusciello, whose post appears at 12:06PM (above), mentioned a book by Michael Rose. Have you read it? It will fill you in on details so you can stop supposing you know what happened. The contents have been corroborated by many people as likely. It’s a good read and the story, if not this particular book, will be a part of 20th century Catholic history.

  41. catholicmidwest says:

    Okay, so Weakland’s main squeeze was an adult, meaning only that he wasn’t a little kid. You win on Abp Weakland, like it makes it any better. He was also an embezzler, yes, and a lying one, when he said none of the money came from donations. I remember laughing at the time and wondering what OTHER business he was in that I didn’t know about. The mind boggles.

    There are other seminaries that have closed, PostCatholic.

  42. PostCatholic says:

    I believe you. I’d like to know about them.

  43. catholicmidwest says:

    I can tell you that up until recently, it wasn’t really published knowledge what reasons were when seminaries closed, although something like “not enough enrollment” was usually given as a reason. For some of them, however, that was not the reason.

    Again, I would refer you to Michael Rose’s book. And Google.

    I see that the Vatican, however, closed a seminary in Austria in 2004, giving the correct reason, so maybe they’re learning something. Now, if they’d only figure out how to take names so that these people don’t re-invent themselves and come back someplace else, eh?

  44. PostCatholic says:

    I have the Rose book. Its scholarship was bothering me and I didn’t finish it, although like Rob Cartusciello the stories rang true. (It has a lengthy account of the American College of Louvain; I had some similar observations at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth). I’ll have to take it up again. Actually, the original subtitle of that book was something like “How the church turned away two generations of vocations.”

  45. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s hard to write a book on something like that, PostCatholic. Michael Rose took, and still takes, a lot of heat for telling the story that some people desperately didn’t want to hear. But so many people have corroborated the events and events like them, that I no longer doubt it. In addition, it’s the only thing that matches what I see in front of my face. I’m in Michigan.

    I’ve been to that closed seminary in Michigan that Michael Rose talks about, for an overnight meeting with another group. It’s still maintained as a retreat/conference center. It doesn’t get much business, I’m told. My impressions of the place were tied up with its grand size and its deep creepiness, especially since I had become aware of what happened there long before I went. In this part of the country, some of this isn’t really that much of a secret.

  46. PostCatholic says:

    I believe the anecdotes and events Rose relates. I have my own tales to add to the pile very like them from my not-at-all liberal seminaries, and I’ve already pointed you to a Federal judge’s findings at one of them which is an analog. What I took issue with in the book were statistical and contextual research that I thought was tendentious and understated. I’ll start reading the book again soon on your recommendation; maybe I was hasty.

    Funny you mention the grand size and creepiness of the seminary. I recall St John’s Seminary in Boston being referred to as “Transylvania.” The hardest thing for me about living at St. Pius X Seminary outside of Scranton was the darkness the mostly-empty building kept in to save electricity; the silence and gloominess had a real impact on my mood. The seminary experience must have been very different for the generation ahead of me that lived in full and well-maintained buildings. Maybe that’s part of how the monsters passed through them unnoticed.

  47. Pacheco says:

    Please sign my demand for retraction from the NY Times:

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