News Commentary: Predatory Priests

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Say What?

NY Times:  Vatican Sees Campaign Against the Pope

Apparently the Vatican considers sexual abuse of children a matter of “attraction” rather than predation.

In a public interview, “Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna, the director of a tribunal inside the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s doctrinal arm,” (NY Times, 3/14/10), admitted that the church had received 3,000 accusations of sexual abuse by priests in the past ten years and then made the startling calculation that 300 have been accused of pedophilia in the past nine years.  What happened to the other 2,700?

It’s not the math;  it’s the definitions.  A paragraph missing from the current online version of the Times article but existing in the printed version of the Sunday Times states, “We can say about 60 percent of the cases chiefly involved sexual attraction towards adolescents of the same sex, another 30 percent involved heterosexual relations, and the remaining 10 percent were cases of pedophilia in the true sense of the term;  that is, based on sexual attraction towards prepubescent children.”  Someone must have quickly retracted all that, realizing what had been revealed about the church’s understanding of sexual abuse.

And then there’s the part about sparing the aging priests (60% of the cases) from the undue strains of trial (though they were disciplined in some other way).  Only 20% of the cases went to trial and of those some were acquitted.

Just for clarification:  the sexual abuse of children (and teenagers are still children) involves the abuse of power and the eroticizing  of fear.  What turns on the perpetrators is the child’s terror.  Sexual abuse is not about attraction.  Remember, informed consent requires the power to say no along with the understanding of what is happening.  Children do not have either.  Where the abuser is a priest, there is also the betrayal not just by a trusted authority figure but also by the god the child worships.

The Vatican still has a long way to go in its dealings with victims of abuse and the men who prey on the children in their care.