Friday, April 15, 2011

A Reader Writes: In the Abuse Discussion, "The Vast Majority of Female Victims Have Been Silent"

It's strange, isn't it,  how the deceptive meme Bill Donohue is still peddling in his expensive full-page ad in the New York Times keeps cycling around, no matter how often it's been completely disproven--and shown to be part of a disinformation campaign designed to shield from public scrutiny the responsibility of the Catholic bishops for the abuse crisis and its cover-up?  And strange how people--interestingly enough, usually clerics--who claim to be critics of Donohue and the bishops on many other scores are willing to assist them in continuing the disinformation campaign about how the abuse crisis is all about homosexuals.

It's all about gay priests abusing young adolescent boys, they keep wanting us to think.  We last had a thorough go-'round on this blog about these issues back in October 2009, when I reported on the latest (that is, as of October 2009) attempt of both the Vatican and Bill Donohue to spin the abuse crisis as all about the gays.  Reader responses in that discussion were so valuable I then posted a subsequent piece gathering those responses together.

As readers contributing to the conversation in that posting note, abundant evidence suggests the number of girls abused by priests is equal to that of boys, and this fact is disguised by the John Jay study (whose data depended entirely on the self-disclosure of data by the U.S. bishops).  Readers also noted that there are equally strong suggestions that the abuse of female minors by priests is "vastly under-reported" for a number of well-understood reasons that have everything to do with the stigma women (or girls) usually endure when they report sexual molestation by men.

These conclusions have been confirmed and confirmed again by those with the greatest knowledge of the abuse situation, its scope and its causes, and of the wider range of data the bishops refuse to disclose, beyond those they made accessible to the John Jay researchers and make accessible in the annual "audit."  I'm speaking here of networks of survivors of clerical sexual abuse like SNAP, who have more information about these matters than anyone except the bishops--and the bishops aren't talking.  Not with any transparency.

They still want to control and spin the abuse narrative.  And according to groups like SNAP, one of their premier ways of trying to do that it is to pin blame for the abuse crisis on the gays.  As SNAP officials note, when half of SNAP's membership consists of women, we need to exercise strong critical suspicion of the dominant narrative line the bishops and Bill Donohue want us to keep swallowing.

And now it's April 2011 and Donohue thinks he can still run with his gay-priests-as-cause meme, and to all appearances, he continues to be effective--insofar as, on blogs like this, we're right back into that same thicket of disinformation all over again.  As if the conversations we had in 2009 got us nowhere.  As if Patrick Wall's clear, unambiguous conclusions about the John Jay "study" mean nothing (and, again, Wall knows more than almost any of us about the abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic church and the real data that lie beneath the tip of the iceberg the bishops have let us see).  As if SNAP and its testimony mean nothing.

As in October 2009, I want--yet again--to highlight a very valuable response posted here yesterday by a reader of my posting citing Patrick Wall two days ago.  Sr. Miriam writes*:

A 60 year who has sex with a 15 or 16 year old is considered criminal statutory rape in most states. A 60 year old doctor who has sex with a 15 or 16 year old in most states is considered civil malpractice. A 60 year old priest who has sex with a 15 or 16 year old of either sex is guilty of both statutory rape (criminal) and malpractice (civil). It doesn't become more horrifying if the victim is a male than if the victim were a female.

That point of view is an insult to women even if jury do award a greater sum to male victims of clerical abuse than female victims of clerical abuse regardless of the age. This is why more women have remained silent about the abuse and why it has been more financially beneficial to attorneys to bring to trial male sexual abuse survivors than female. This fact has been repeated over and over again by Richard Sipe, namely what has yet to become public is the vast number of minor aged females victimized by priests, the vast number of nuns victimized by priests, and the vast number of vulnerable women victimized by priests. 

The John Jay numbers are based upon "credible" accusations of person who have actually sued the church. The John Jay report represent what is public information, namely a lawsuit, and not what knowledge the church actually had of reported abuse where no lawsuit was filed. As such, the John Jay report is not an accurate figure to rely upon. The number of reported abuse that didn't involve attorneys and public lawsuits has never been made public by the Church. 

These facts 1) attorneys have rewarded male victims more than females and attorneys have brought forth cases of male abuse and ignored female abuse 2) females have been less likely to sue due to a higher bar and lower financial reward 3) John Jay's report is only the numbers associated with law suits and not the actual number of reported sexual abuse reported to Church authorities. The law suits were mostly male, the victims have been equal among males and females and may be actually greater among females. This has always been a theory of Richard Sipe, namely the vast majority of female victims have been silent. 

And because Sr. Miriam and Patrick Wall and Richard Sipe and SNAP are, as far as I can discern, clearly right in their conclusions and Donohue is not, I remain disinclined to slog back into the morass of that misleading discussion about ephebophiliac gay priests as the real cause of the abuse crisis in the Catholic church, no matter how many comments some readers strew across the recent pages of this blog to keep Donohue's false meme alive.   I trust one set of responses to the abuse crisis because that set seems to me intent on getting to the heart of the problems and resolving them.

The other set of responses, which colludes with the bishops and Donohue to keep the clerical old boys' club alive, doesn't seem to me to be headed there at all--to understanding and addressing the abuse crisis effectively.  And because I'm committed to the former, I think it's a colossal waste of time to continue engaging the false narrative Donohue and the bishops want to feed us.  Too much real work remains to be done, to spend my time addressing that red-herring argument all over again.

*I've introduced paragraph formatting in Sr. Miriam's response; otherwise, I've made no changes in her valuable and well-written response.

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