John Allen, reporter
for the NCR, wrote an article in December 2005 about indications of
sexual abuse of minors by priests in Brazil. The fact and the
pattern of abuse by clergy is not new in the United States press,
but the Brazilian and Italian press accounts are notable because the
Latin/Italian churches have been successful in intimidating the
populous and the press about exposing clerical sex to the public.
This is not because it does not exist.
In fact, I think
that the opposite is true. Clergy-sex is taken for granted in South
America just as it was/is in Ireland, but the pervasive Catholic
culture creates an atmosphere that renders open and public dialogue
nearly impossible. There is no reason to hope that priests in Italy
or Brazil are any more sexually restrained than Irish or American
(Cf. Priesthood in Spain: Book Reviews) that Spain’s clergy
are involved sexually with minors to a marked degree.
estimates that 7 percent of Spain’s priest population is sexually
involved with minors. Of the group of sexually active priests he
interviewed 26 percent were involved with minors—14 percent with
boys, 12 percent with girls.
One of the news
worthy elements of the Brazil stories was the discovery of the
diaries of Frs. Tarcisio Tadeu Spricigo and Alfieri Edoardo Bompani.
Spricigo recorded a list of guidelines for seduction of boys.
Bompani wrote detailed accounts of his sexual conquests. Both
priests are now in prison. Some abusers do keep notes or accounts of
their conquests. Father Gary Hayes of Kentucky produced a diary of
the priest who abused him as a teenager as evidence in his trial
against the church.
US studies so far
have underplayed the number of preadolescent children versus teen
victims of priests and bishops. (Cf. John-Jay Report) One reason for
this is that older victims are better equipped to remember,
validate, corroborate, and eventually report their abuse than
younger children. Younger victims are more likely to show up in
medical facilities, psychiatrists’ offices, or prisons with
varieties of presenting problems masking abuse.
A study of men in
Australian prisons revealed that 80 percent reported being abused as
youngsters. Fifty percent of those claimed that a Catholic priest or
brother abused them. Only 25 percent of the Australian population,
however, is Roman Catholic.
checklist corresponds to the modus operandi of many of the
clergy predators know in this country. Rules:
out a boy between 7 and 10 years old. Boys of this age are more
amenable to following.
deprived, lonely, fatherless, and sensitive boys make the best
victims. They respond well to attention, kindness, and
gifts—gestures that make them feel special and protected by a
are two opposite ways to proceed. The first is to get close to the
family of the boy (or girl)—this is the American way. The second is
to be invisible to the parents or guardians. The Brazilian priest
recommends the latter.
O’Grady (the subject of the movie DELIVER US FROM EVIL 2006)
in his depositions, coolly talks about how he went about selecting
victims: his youngest was a 9-month-old girl. He had long-term
abusive relationships with several children (his preference was
boys) beginning at 5-years-old and continuing until puberty.
The John-Jay Study
has also produced a record; it gives the impression that adolescent
boys are by far the preferred target audience for US priests who are
homosexual. The largest number of reported priest-bishop abusers fit
this category. I do not believe that that when all the information
is out and analyzed that that profile will hold up without revision.
There is a great deal under the clerical blankets yet to be revealed
about child abuse.
THE SECRET RECORD
Sooner or later
bishops must face the facts and admit that their priests and brother
bishops who make minors the objects of their sexual activity are but
one visible and criminal aspect of the “narcissistic sinkhole” (as
Fr. Thomas Doyle terms it) of clergy sexual abuse and disregard and
denial of clerical behaviors. If this were not true bishops would be
the first in line to support legislation that makes minor abuse
easier to prosecute.
Why the resistance
to legislative reform that would make all institutions more
responsible for the oversight of its members? (Cf.
LEGISLATION TO PROTECT CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL ABUSE:
Objections and Response, Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D., C.A.D.C.)
structure of minor abuse is the maze of sexually active clergy that
would be exposed if bishops were honest about the problem of clergy
sex. Already in 1993 the Vatican Secretary of the Congregation on
Clergy, Cardinal Jose Sanchez, said for international TV, “I have
no reason to doubt the accuracy of those figures” when a BBC
reporter asked him what was his reaction to reports that
50 percent of priests were sexually active.
Underneath and supporting clergy who abuse minors is a structure of
bishops and priests who have had or are having sexually active
lives. Not all of those relationships are or have been abusive or
illegal: I can name several—and so can bishops and cardinals. Among
almost universal but undulating pattern and practice of
masturbation. (Not compulsive, but more common in times of pressure
and stress.) Jesuit moralists in the 17th Century argued
that masturbation was not a mortal sin. The Vatican forbade them to
Longstanding, loving, exclusive relationship with a woman or man.
(Leading a double life.) This is a relatively common practice across
the board for clergy of every rank.
Understandable occasional sexual contacts that could be classified
as incidental, but responsible and not forming a pattern and
practice. A devout priest does not excuse his behavior; he considers
it a fault and is careful to avoid its repetition similar to the
reaction a recovering alcoholic might experience to a slip. He takes
the fault seriously and does not rationalize or deny it.
Transient relationships with women i.e. Archbishop Robert Sanchez of
Santa Fe who admitted under oath that he had sex with five young
adult women. He also assured lawyers that he had always used
“protection”—condoms. The pattern makes this behavior problematic
and dangerous for exploitation.
Transient relationships with men are also problematic. This pattern
is relatively common between bishops and superiors with young
priests. Cardinal McCarrick’s name was frequently cited by
seminarians from Newark for years.
Behaviors that take advantage of adult penitents in confession or
people in counseling are always abuse boarding on criminal.
This is but a
partial laundry list of clergy behaviors that the church hides under
the category of “sin” therefore marking them “personal and private”
and untouchable. They are nothing of the sort. They may be sin in
the eyes of the church, therefore granting her the jurisdiction to
forgive, hide, and deny. These are behaviors that have to be
honestly recorded to understand their psychological roots and social
implications. They are part and parcel of the problem of sexual
abuse of minors.
30 March 2007
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