20 May 2011

No smoking gun

A recently released study titled the John Jay Study on Causation and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States has received relatively little media attention.

The Anchoress suggests the reason for a lack of attention when one would expect a great deal of it lies in the fact that the report does not present a smoking gun (with my emphases):
The lack of a “smoking gun” is the cause of the thud. Lots of people with agendas were looking for a causation report shooting bullets inscribed with their agendas — bullets that would validate their beliefs that the dreadful sins committed by a small minority of our priests, and then damnably mishandled by some bishops, were rooted in the discipline of celibacy (a stupid argument, of course, since most victims of child sexual abuse encounter it within their own non-celibate homes, and while most humans experience periods of celibacy within in their lives, it never leads them to exploit children) or that homosexuality was the culprit, which is another weak argument.


But this is where the Jay study has great value: no matter what hopeful agenda one may have attached to the outcome of this study, it’s results suggest (to me, anyway) that it may be time to abandon all agendas and face the fact, finally, that Catholicism did not cause these crimes and does not foment sexual abuse toward minors, and to admit that this crime is not a problem peculiar to the church and therefore neatly folded and packed away as such.

Up to now, the issue of sexual abuse of minors in institutions has been dramatically focused upon the Catholic church because, let’s face it, it’s shameful and reprehensible for these things to have happened within the church founded by Christ. It was an is an appropriate focus. But in the face of this report, perhaps it ought no longer be the sole focus of our attention. It might, finally, be time to look at sexual abuse in other institutions, as well — even the secular institutions and the public schools — if we are ever going to come to understand the nature and scope and reality of the problem.

As reputable a study as could be mounted has declared that yes, the church failed, gravely, to do the right thing, and this is a great shame and a mortification that will reverberate through the church for generations — perhaps past our lifetimes. But the church, we see now, did not “cause” the abuse.

We are a culture that loves scientific studies and we look to “experts” and authoritative voices to tell us why things happen, and how we are supposed to address them. But I suspect that additional studies by equally reputable agencies, done on other institutions, will land with equally inconclusive thuds because the problem of child sexual abuse involves something deeper than the psyche, itself.
Please be sure to read her entire post.

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