|Sexual Abuse of minors by U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops and Priests|
May 3, 2010
No one today has to be convinced that sexual abuse of minors is a deadly serious problem. It is a longstanding and widespread crime—it knows no cultural, ethnic, economic or religious boundaries. The Roman Catholic Church has come under a great deal of scrutiny and criticism in the public forum over the last ten years after the publicity given its pattern and practice of hiding abusive clergy and covering up their crimes. Even the Pope is currently embroiled in the crisis. Some considerations follow:
1. Pedophilia is a psychiatric diagnostic term that is limited to sexual preoccupation or involvement with a prepubertal child (usually under 13 years old) by a person five years older than the victim.1 It is often misused in the media.
2. Ephebophilia is a lay-term that describes sexual preoccupation or activity with an adolescent (usually 13 to 17 years old) by a person at least five years older than the victim.
3. Sexual activity of an adult with a minor (girl or boy under the age of 18 years) is criminal in most civil jurisdictions. This is true of Roman Catholic Church law.*
4. Documents and sources regarding the sexual abuse of minors exist from the early history of the Church until the present.5 Many of them involve clergy violation of young clerics or girls during confession. Notable is the declaration of the Council of Ancyra in 315 that prescribed modes of punishment that persisted into the Middle Ages.6
5. INCIDENTS of sexual abuse of minors in the U.S.
6. Homosexuality is a sexual orientation and in its basic sense parallels heterosexuality; in themselves these terms say nothing about the age, style of behavior, frequency or strength of desire, preferential mode of interaction, or object of sexual excitation beyond a preference for a partner of the same or opposite gender.
7. Celibacy is the promise or vow required of a man prior to his ordination to the RC priesthood that he will not marry and will maintainperfect and perpetual continence.15
1 DSM-IV, 1994.
2 I will generally accept this date range since it corresponds to my ethnological study.
3 CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) Georgetown University.
4 Pepe Rodriguez. Sexual Life of Clergy, 1995. He states that 7% abuse minors.
5 Doyle, Sipe & Wall, Sex, Priests & Secret Codes. 2008.
6 “Any cleric or monk who seduces young men or boys, or who is apprehended in kissing or in any shameful situation, shall be publicly flogged and shall lose his clerical tonsure. Thus shorn, he shall be disgraced by spitting in his face, bound in iron chains, wasted by six months of close confinement, and for three days each week put on barley bread given him toward evening. Following this period, he shall spend a further six months living in a small segregated courtyard in custody of a spiritual elder, kept busy with manual labor and prayer, subjected to vigils and prayers, forced to walk at all times in the company of two spiritual brothers, never again allowed to associate with young men.”
7 Report. February 27, 2004. Pp. 30-7.
8 Directive from the Vatican to all Religious superiors and Seminary Rectors.
9 CDF. Cardinal Franjo Seper. Persona Humana-Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics, 11/7/75.
10 CDF Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Letter to bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons. 10/1/86.
11 Cf. Fr. Donald Cozzens and Fr. Michael Crosby, O.F.M.
12 Estimates from within the clerical ranks vary between 20 and 70 percent. 40 percent homosexual orientation is a safe and conservative baseline.
13 Cf. John Boswell. Same-Sex Unions, 1994; Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, 1980;
14 This figure comes from a 2004 document compiled by a group of priests centered around Catholic University and Washington D.C.
15 Canon 277.
16 Cf. Laeuchli, Power and Sexuality. 1972.
17 Christian Cochini, The Apostolic Origins of Priestly Celibacy, 1990 trans.
18 Cf. Henry C. Lea, History of Sacerdotal Celibacy. 1867.