A great take on the document released today by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice …
Statement by David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP 314 566 9790 SNAPClohessy@aol.com [mailto:SNAPClohessy@aol.com]
Four fallacies in new bishop’s abuse report – SNAP responds
Predictably and conveniently, the bishops have funded a report that tells them precisely what they want to hear: it was all unforeseeable, long ago, wasn’t that bad and wasn’t their fault. It gives bishops even more reasons to do avoid what they desperately want to avoid: questioning celibacy, married priests, secular laws, serious reforms or their own virtually limitless power as kings in a medieval monarchy. Here are four of the most crucial fallacies in the document:
–The crisis is and was unforeseeable, the report claims, because child molesters don’t have forked tongues or devil tails and can’t be easily detected. Fair enough. But the report essentially dodges the crucial question: Why don’t bishops quickly out and oust child molesting clerics the first time they sexually assault a child? (And why then, if predators can’t be spotted in advance, do bishops tout their alleged seminary “screening” processes as panaceas?)
–The crisis was long ago, the report claims, because the bishops say so. Never mind the fact that only a handful of five and ten year olds march down to the police station and promptly report their own victimization, so it’s dreadfully misleading and dangerous to assume clergy sex crimes have gone down in recent years.
–The crisis isn’t all that bad, the report suggests, because many of the kids who are or were violated had experienced puberty. Never mind the fact that child sex crimes, no matter at what age, are always illegal, immoral and hurtful. So the hair-splitting between pedophiles and ephebophiles (a distinction that seems to matter to few besides bishops) is, for the most part, at best irrelevant and at worst distracting.
–Most important, the crisis isn’t the bishops’ fault, the document implies. It was what the New York Times calls the “Blame Woodstock” defense. At best, this is naïve. At worst, it’s deceptive. There are at least three reasons why it may appear to some that abuse ‘peaked’ in the 60s and 70s. The first is that victims during those years are old, strong, smart, healthy and desperate enough to finally be able to report their horrific pain. The second is that bishops are much more willing to disclose clergy sex crimes that are beyond the reach of the criminal and civil justice system than more recent clergy sex crimes that could result in prosecution and litigation and embarrassment. And bishops are more willing to acknowledge child felonies committed under their predecessors than themselves.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the bishops’ ‘take-away’ here is: “We don’t have to change a thing.” Thankfully, most people realize that’s nonsense. Most people understand that a feudal system lacking any ‘checks and balances’ is inherently unhealthy and that a culture premised on sexual abstinence and secrecy and self-perpetuation is inherently problematic. Finally, David Gibson writes that the apparent jump in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s, the authors found, was essentially due to emotionally ill-equipped priests who were trained in earlier years and lost their way in the social cataclysm of the sexual revolution.” Lost their way? Please!
The writing on the wall seems clear: We fear that bishops are going backwards and laying the groundwork to recycle and restore proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics to ministry. Because, if those child sex offenders merely “lost their way,” they can clearly be “rehabilitated,” right? Countless times over the past decade, bishops have claimed “We used to be naïve about abuse. Now we understand it better.” But if that’s the case, how can they, or anyone, attribute heinous, repeated sexual assaults on innocent, vulnerable kids as some priests “losing their way.”
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org) Contact – David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, firstname.lastname@example.org), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com [mailto:SNAPdorris@gmail.com]).