|Sexual Abuse Not an Exclusive Specialty of Catholic Priests
By Joseph Tevington
March 6, 2011
For all of my 52 years, I have been involved with Catholic parishes and institutions. As a half century affords a chance to see the dark underbelly of anything, I have my share of dark tales. Even so, I found the grand jury findings presented by the Philadelphia district attorney on alleged sexual abuse by three priests and a teacher to be exceptionally revolting.
My own life, as well as that of my family, has not gone unaffected by the actions of miscreant individuals in positions of power - some of whom happened to be priests and nuns. While my dark tales include Catholic parishes and institutions, my non-Catholic friends have similar dark tales from non-Catholic circles. How has the notion taken hold that sexual abuse is a near exclusive specialty of Catholic priests? The time has long passed to wake up and read the crime reports!
While American tradition values the rule of law and cherishes the notion that accused people are innocent until proven guilty, our country has long evidenced a perverse fascination with the alleged sexual sins of Catholic priests. In 1836, Maria Monk first published "The Hidden Secrets of a Nun's Life in a Convent Exposed!" While Monk's tale of the regular rape of nuns by priests was found to be absolutely fraudulent, many people found those lies far more entertaining and interesting than the truth.
As per Robert P. Lockwood, "Maria Monk was the 19th century woman who claimed to be a nun that finally escaped after years of torture and sexual degradation at a convent in Canada ... It was a fabulous tale and also an out-and out fraud exposed as such almost immediately ... it popularized so many of the anti-Catholic stereotypes that would persist in the American consciousness ... Much of today's secular anti-Catholic stereotypes prominent in the news media, the arts and entertainment are simply Maria's inventions stripped of their religious pretensions."
Sexual abuse is abhorrent, disgusting, and vulgar. Bigotry, calumny, and lies are also abhorrent, disgusting, and vulgar. We should be revolted by the abuse of minors, young adults, and other vulnerable people by those in power - be they clerics, human service professionals, medical professionals, teachers, or any other adults.
Yet, let's first let facts unfold in courts of law (Note to Cardinal Rigali: The archdiocese seems to have passed from an era of alleged cover-up to overreaction. If a priest has not been criminally charged and allegations have not been fully assessed for credibility, why does his name appear in the Catholic Standard and Times? Even if he is later found to be innocent, how will he recover his reputation?)
Sexual abuse does not happen in a cultural vacuum. In addition to the Internet, the advertising, film, magazine, music, and television industries have promoted a culture in which human sexuality is just one more commodity. Pornography is the most blatant example of the exploitation of human sexuality, and someone is buying it! In fact, $3 billion of the $57 billion in annual worldwide pornography profits come from child pornography. As two of every three men in their 20s and 30s acknowledge being regular users of pornography, that suggests a terrifying level of involvement in child pornography. And by the way, a full third of visitors to adult pornographic websites are women.
Those who kid themselves that adult pornography is "victimless" are merely closing their eyes to the 800,000 human beings trafficked each year across national borders: "Approximately 80 percent of transnational victims are women and girls and up to 50 percent are minors. The majority of transnational victims are females trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation."
Much of the work in combating sexual abuse has to start with long hard looks in the mirror.
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