Monday, February 07, 2005

Sex Offender Roulette

Imagine a group of men. Some of them molest children--boys and girls, but often boys. When the children or their parents have the nerve to complain, the supervisors of the child molesters simply transfer the molesters to another location, where they typically resume their activities. The people in the new locale don't find out about the molestation, because the supervisors keep it secret. And the molesters are in positions of authority and power, such that it's difficult for a kid to say no, or for complaints to get heard. This goes on for 20 or 30 years, with the supervisors basically protecting the molesters, rather than protecting the children.

Except you don't have to imagine, because that's exactly what's been happening in the Catholic church.

Someone I knew (quite well) in high school had been molested by the parish priest. The priest liked to take pictures of my friend while my friend was in his underwear. I don't think there was actual touching, but there might have been. My friend's brother was in a seminary, the family had been very active in the church, etc. As soon as my friend finally told his parents, however, the parents tried to do something about it. The priest was transferred to another parish, and, by the way, given a new car as a lovely parting gift. My friend's family left the church (and the brother left the seminary, for that and other reasons). And, hey, I was 16 or 17 when I found out about all of this, and it so didn't matter to me, in terms of how I felt about my friend, but I also realize now that I had no clue then what it might have meant to him psychologically at the time. It certainly affected him, but his family believed him, supported him, and so on, and he actually told them what was happening, he didn't have to repress it for 20 years.

Can you imagine if a group of atheists did something like this? "Witch-burning" doesn't even begin to describe what would happen. But these were all "holy" men. What's truly bizarre to me is that there's so little outcry, at least outside the community of people who were affected directly. Here's an actual group of actual people who systematically molested children and covered it up. But for the yammerers, the actual molesters are somehow less of a threat than perfectly normal men and women who happen to prefer men and women--not children--of their own sex. The molesters are less of a threat, based on the outcry, than atheists like me. I don't get it.

Update. kStyle's comment below made me realize that I don't actually know what I'm claiming--that there's no public outcry. I think what I mean is that no one seems to be questioning the church as an institution, or seems to be, for example, arguing that these activities are a direct result of the particulars of the institution, whereas such behavior among, say, atheists, would be regarded as evidence of the fundamental depravity of the atheist position or lifestyle. No one seems to be saying that the fact that the priests molested kids, and the priests' supervisors knew about it and covered it up, is evidence of the fundamental depravity or hypocracy of religion. Though I didn't make that very clear above.


Blogger kStyle said...

No outcry? Are you kidding? The Boston NPR station talks about priest sex-offense trials every hour on its new bulletins. It's like: "Fallujah...President Bush...Trial of Shandley". Area Catholics--scores of them, once faithful believers--first stopped giving money to their churches, and then stopped attending. And boy, are they angry. Then the Boston archdiocese closed a good number of parishes, unable afford to keep them open, because of the costs of the lawsuits coupled with parishioners' refusal to gove any money. And the remaining faithful of the churches being closed are pissed because a) why should THEY, the faithful, be punished for these awful priests' acts, and b) many of the communities built their own churches with their own money and now the bishop is closing those churches. So those Catholics are holding 24-hour vigils in thier churches and getting ARRESTED when it's time to close them (because they won't leave); this is on TV every night. And the parishioners being arrested or booted always tell the news teams that it's wrong that the molestation went on, and wrong that this molestation has moreover robbed them of their church. really, you can't ESCAPE this issue; it's constantly in the news, on TV, radio, and in papers. People are very angry and very disillusioned.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

I think this is getting local play in Boston--and I'm glad it's getting so much!--but what I find interesting is that it's Catholics themselves who are pissed off. I don't blame them, mind you. But it's not getting all that much play elsewhere--the Shandley story made it to the AP, of course, and even made it to my local radio station, but I had no clue those protests were going on. The part that bugs me is that the moralizers on Faux news and the wingnut websites want to pretend that it's like Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, i.e., "a few bad apples." And, certainly, no one is suggesting that the Catholic church as an institution had anything to do with it. I'd say it's an open question whether it did, I would have to be convinced by a good argument with solid evidence, but it's not even being asked. thanks for the info, though.

2:11 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

how funny---I guess I assumed it was getting more play nationally. There was an article in the Boston Globe Magazine when the sex offenses first came to light, examining the Catholic Church as a whole, how celibacy became institutionalized in the Church, to what degree the vow of celibacy is actually kept (lots of priests sleep with women, it turns out), whether this molestation is created by the Church as an institution. And people are enraged about the "just transfer the offender" policy---Cardinal Law is a dirty name now.

8:07 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

In fact---here you go:

8:10 PM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

Wow--fascinating! I realized that I'm likely even more full of shit than usual. I do think that it's gotten much more play in Boston than elsewhere (though you'd think that I'd've seen more in Chicago, given the large Catholic population here). Lately we're just getting daily updates on the pope's health. It's also entirely possible that I've just been missing more in-depth coverage (hence the full-of-shit possibility). I think it's unlikely that any major changes to the church as an institution will occur, but I could be wrong about that, too.

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