Friday, January 22, 2016

Footnote to Discussion of St. John's Abbey Story: NCR Thread Filling Up with Homophobic Charges That Catholic Abuse Crisis Is Rooted in Homosexuality

A footnote about what I posted earlier today regarding the documents just made public by St. John's Benedictine Abbey in Minnesota, re: monks credibly accused of having abused minors: as happens so often in the toxic, homophobic context of American Catholicism when stories about sexual abuse by Catholic clergy are made public, a string of people have already logged into the thread discussing Brian Roewe's story to sling around the usual accusations about homosexuals abusing boys. Check out the thread started by Marty Eble's comment setting that line of discussion rolling.

As Chrizmart points out in this thread, Eble appears to conflate homosexuality and pedophilia. As Romero adds, people doing this as abuse cases are under discussion appear intent on doing it. They want to link the abuse crisis in the Catholic church to homosexuality — though 

1. SNAP reports that half of its members are women; 

2. The John Jay study, as it assessed the data provided to it by the U.S. bishops, flatly stated that there is no correlation between homosexuality and the Catholic abuse crisis;

3. Men who abuse girls (and they're in the majority, if we look at abuse of minors as a whole and not in the Catholic clerical context), are not ever accused of doing this because they are heterosexual;

4. It has long been pointed out that it's entirely expected that more males than females would be abused by Catholic clergy, when they have had much more access to the former than to the latter.

In general, there's no point noting that the offender is a "homosexual" when it's obvious the situation involved same-sex contact. We don't describe garden-variety rapists as active or practising heterosexuals. Not only is it redundant but, as David points out, it tends to take down a whole class of people.

The comment by David to which Sarasi is referring states,

OK Ephebophiles. Still not homosexuals. Why don't we just call them what they are instead of trying to bring down a whole class of people with them. They are sexual predators - period.

And then (defending David and Chris), Sarasi adds:

It's already obvious what gender the victims are.

But that's not quite accurate. One of the priests about which St. John's has just released documentation is Father Richard Eckroth. See the report about him at the Behind the Pine Curtain website, "Women Accuse St. John's Abbey Priest of Abuse," in which two courageous women, Helen Olson and Elizabeth Vessel, report that Eckroth raped them when Helen was 11 and Vessel 7 (Vessel says that her sexual abuse by Eckroth continued until she was 11). 

This report states, 

From 1971 to 1976, Eckroth routinely took small groups of boys and girls — children of friends who worked as St. John’s, or children from nearby parishes — to a cabin near Bemidji, Minn., for overnight visits, Klassen said. 
The cabin on Swenson Lake is owned by St. John's Abbey as a place for vacations and retreats for the monks in the Benedictine monastery.*

Vessel says that Eckroth put a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone what he had done. 

Are we to conclude that Richard Eckroth raped little girls because he was heterosexual? If not — if we are willing to grant that he was a pedophile who exhibited a serious psychological aberration leading him to molest minors sexually — then perhaps we should drop all the rhetoric about priests who abuse minors doing so because they're homosexual. Or, at the very least, out of fairness and decency, we should agree to correlate the sexual abuse of female minors by adult men — which is far and away the more common form of child sexual abuse in society at large — with heterosexuality, and say that men who rape girls do so because they are heterosexual.

I flagged Eble's comment when it first popped up at the NCR site, because I have come to view these ugly, hate-filled charges that the abuse crisis in the Catholic church is correlated to the homosexual orientation of priests as a form of hate speech. I think any Catholic site that continues to allow people to use its discussion forums to spread this kind of rhetoric should ask itself if it's lending its discussion spaces to the dissemination of hate speech about LGBT people.

*As this report also notes, Richard Eckroth "has been identified by the Stearns County sheriff as a suspect in the 1974 stabbing deaths of Mary Reker, 15, and her sister Susanne, 12, of St. Cloud."

For my source for the photo of the abbey church at St. John's, Collegeville, see the posting to which this posting is a footnote (first link above).

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