Thursday, April 1, 2010

Child abuse is child abuse, and people who enable and cover up child abuse are criminals

You would think the above statement wouldn't need to be said, but recent behavior by Catholic church officials and defenders have made me think otherwise.  Bill Donohue appeared on Larry King Tuesday to claim that because most of the boys were post-pubescent, it was homosexuality, not child abuse that was plaguing the Catholic church.  Sinead O'Connor quickly put him in his place, asking him to clarify the exact age that demarcated "post-pubescent."  "12 or 13," was the reply.  I cannot even begin to explain how morally repugnant it is to blur the line between homosexuality and child abuse.  But, just to help Donohue and others who may be confused, let me spell out the difference: C-O-N-S-E-N-T.  If you use fear and intimidation to coerce others into sexual acts with you, you are a sex offender.  If you cover such behavior up, you are a criminal.  If you defend it on national television, you are an a**hole.

For more on the abuse and the Church's role in aiding and abetting it, see O'Connor's (an abuse victim herself) excellent opinion piece in the Washington Post.  Over at the NYTimes, Maureen Dowd speculates the church gave up its credibility for lent.  Read about the Vatican's refusal (including the current pope) to defrock a priest who molested over 200 deaf boys, when they had specific knowledge of his crimes, here.  Also check out this 2006 report on the pope's role in covering up abuse.  And, for a different opinion, read an Op-Ed that defends the pope as a part of the solution to the widespread abuse and institutional indifference.

What do you think?  Should the pope resign?  Can the Catholic church really change its ways and get its credibility back?  And do you believe, like me, that both those who committed abuse and those who covered it up should be tried in civil courts?


  1. Donohue's argument sounds almost as delightful as the legal argument (referenced at the end of this NYT article) that dismissed a sexual harassment case of an unpaid intern because wasn't "an employee." I had no idea you could legally sexually harass any unpaid person you have power over. Isn't that wonderful?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. It is totally unacceptable for “special” institutions to be outside law enforcement and the criminal justice system. I most recently ran into this issue when writing about sexual assault on college campuses, where perpetrators frequently face university-administered penalties, not jail.
    However, it seems to me that these organizations (universities, the Church, etc) are largely protected by codes of silence, not law enforcement complicity. When the cops are brought in people go to jail. We have to somehow empower victims of crimes and their families to approach law enforcement at the time of the crime to correct these widespread abuses. I realize this may be extremely difficult for the victims, but it’s the only way to catch the bad guys, since they clearly aren’t going to turn themselves in!


Commenting is now open, but we'd love it if you chose one username so other commenters can get to know you. To do this, select "Name/URL" in the "Comment as" drop down. Put the name you'd like others to see; the URL is optional.

Any profanity, bigotry, or synonyms for "[ ] sucks!" will be deleted. We welcome criticism as long as you're making a point!