Columnists > Voices

The real abusers

Clergy abuse of bodies and minds is rooted in denial of truth

Issue: "Bureaucratic burial," June 29, 2002

So now that the Catholic bishops are back home, trying to sell their compromise to the people in their pews and to a host of other critics, it's time to ask this hard question: Are there still some even worse child abusers out there, not yet called to account for the awful things they have done?

Yes-by the thousands and tens of thousands.

This is not just some rhetorical device to make an abstract and theoretical point. I am talking about abuse of children so severe that Jesus said those who do it should be thrown into the ocean with huge stones tied to them so that there's no way for them to resurface and become repeat offenders. And I am telling you that even after a massive cleanup in the Catholic church, these evil abusers are out there in enormous numbers.

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Not that what has happened in Roman Catholicism is not terrible in its own right. They are saying so themselves. "This is a harsh day," confessed Cardinal Edward Egan to parishioners in New York after the bishops' meeting a couple of days earlier in Dallas. "We are all outraged, scandalized. We need to pick up the pieces, and we will."

Nor is it clear yet that either the Roman Catholic hierarchy, or especially the secular media who have been so fixated with this scandal, have been honest either with themselves or with the public they serve about the uniquely homosexual nature of the problem. Both the church and the media have tried hard to suggest this is just a general problem with adults abusing children-as if that sad picture might somehow mask the harsher reality that this is overwhelmingly an issue of adult homosexual men taking sexual advantage of young boys.

In "Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse," a new paper published by the Family Research Council, Dr. Timothy J. Dailey statistically and scientifically highlights the unmistakable correlation between the two. It is a link that simply must be acknowledged by both the church and the media if any long-term correctives are to be put in place.

But, of course, it is all but impossible for such an acknowledgment to be made in today's politically correct culture. And it's precisely at the point of that refusal that we find the colossal assemblage of child abusers I mentioned earlier.

For if it is terrifying to tamper with a child in a manner that for the rest of his life leaves him struggling with his own sexual identity or with his ability to relate to other humans, how much worse is it to confuse a child about his own identity as a creature of God-and about how he can be properly related to that God? The first offense, as most reasonable folks in our society (but not all) seem now to agree, is so bad that at the very least, those found guilty of it should be removed from their jobs and from all further contact with children. But the second, Jesus says, is worthy of capital punishment!

Specifically, the behavior that earns this incredibly strong response from Jesus in three of the four Gospels (Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2) is simply causing one of "these little ones" to sin. But given the nature of the people to whom Jesus was talking, it's not likely that the sin He was warning them against was something as blatant and unsavory as tempting some little boys to engage in activities most people thought of as sinful. The really insidious danger was that the Pharisees would teach little children to be blind to their own sin-and indeed by failing to see sin as sin, to walk the rest of their lives in sinful paths.

Such is precisely what most of our society today does with our children and adolescents. We have relativized truth. We tell our young people in so many words that there is no such thing as right and wrong. We say that all religions are valid, that all value systems have equal potential for working. Our state educational systems, from preschool all the way through our big universities, are rooted in such pluralistic doctrine. Even much of private education buys into the same thinking. And the media-the same ones whose newscasters cheer for anything that makes a church look bad-spend the rest of their time indoctrinating their listeners that there really is nothing ultimately good or bad.

And our young people have believed it. By the millions, and by the tens of millions, they have believed it. Even people who call themselves evangelical Christians have more and more questions about absolute truth.


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