Catholic Church’s blame game hollow

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By Joel Stevens, Associate Editor

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a second. The Catholic Church is blaming the 1960s for its child molestation scandals?
    A five-year study released by John Jay College of Criminal Justice seems to suggest as much.

    The study was undertaken at the request and with the financial support of America's Roman Catholic bishops. The report links the spike in child abuse by priests in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s to, the study says, “the importance given to young people and popular culture.”
    The report goes on to say the emergence of the feminist movement, a growing acceptance of homosexuals and increases in crime, drug use, premarital sex and divorce contributed to an atmosphere where child sexual abuse festered.
    The only thing the study doesn’t seem to blame is television and plate tectonics. Oh, that and the actual clergy who molested children, but I’ll get into that.
    It’s clear there’s no easy answers to the abuse problem that has rocked the Catholic Church for upwards of three decades. To say several diverging and differing factors led to an abuse epidemic we may still not know the width or berth of, is a massive understatement. The church only recently has been even willing to admit there was a problem.
    I’m not doubting the data or the process by which the study gathered its statistics – interviews with clergy, some abusers, some not, from all over the country. But to blame the 1960’s counter culture movement misses the point entirely.
    The 150-plus page “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010” was released a few weeks ago. No, I didn’t read it all but here’s what I gathered:
    n homosexual priests are no more likely to abuse than heterosexual priests
    n celibacy is not at blame
    n seminary screening wasn’t at fault
    n there was no “profile” of an abuser that could have predicted nor prevented such behaviors
    “The most significant conclusion drawn from this data is that no single psychological, developmental, or behavioral characteristic differentiated priests who abused minors from those who did not,” the report said.
    That’s troubling. No, the psychological conclusions are sound, in my opinion. There is no predicting who is an abuser and who isn’t until they are caught. I’m troubled by the fact that the “most significant conclusion” the study found for the problem stops at why and sort of, who. It doesn’t go so far as to ask why exactly church leadership didn’t do more to stop it. As cases piled up and accusations turned into an epidemic the church stood by. They transferred priests, they allegedly paid hush money, offered counseling and denied for decades there was a problem.
    So now there’s a problem. But it’s not the church’s problem per se, at least it’s not their culture of secrecy or archaic polices to blame. It’s the 60s fault. Let’s blame flower children and the civil rights movement for a non-secular, criminal conspiracy.
    No, there’s plenty of blame to go around and the 60s doesn’t even make the list. I blame the priests involved for the decisions they made to violate children; the parishes that hid or dismissed accusations; the archdioceses that tried to sweep crimes under the rug. Most of all, I blame the Vatican for waiting until 2006 to undertake any in-depth investigation and then seemingly wash their hands of the whole ordeal.
    Hippies didn’t commit these crimes, priests did, and the Catholic church averted its eyes.
    Lot’s of people lived through the 60s. Some even survived to tell the stories. Most of them didn’t survive it by abusing children, I suspect.
    The report concludes by saying the abuse crisis is over and that the church is to be commended for improving its screening of clergy and transparency with law enforcement.
    Over? I think thousands of victims of abuse by clergy may differ with that conclusion.