Monday, September 16, 2013

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: "Narcissism . . . Is the Most Determinate Factor in the Sexual/Spiritual Abuse Crisis of the Church," A Footnote

In the thread discussing Dennis Coday's National Catholic Reporter article noting the sentencing of Father Shawn Ratigan for possession and production of child pornography--I discussed this thread yesterday--Colleen Baker responds to Becca Robinson's surmisal that "no doubt" Ratigan took pictures of boys by stating,

No, they were females, some younger than two. One of the saddest aspects of this abuse crisis is the under reporting of attacks on girls. There was more speculation about this earlier in the crisis, and one reason given for the discrepancy was that the sexual violation of boys was considered far more egregious, so it was far more likely to eventually be reported. Of course this has it's alternative assumption for girls--as in oh well, it's to be expected to some extent. In any event, the girls as victims aspect of the crisis got totally buried by the 'it's a gay priest' meme, since it was the easiest explanation for the discrepancy in victims. 
In the meantime female victims were revictimized by being purposely ignored for the sake of the 'gay priest' meme, and many have still not come forward.*

As Colleen astutely suggests, the malicious intent of some Catholics like Becca Robinson and Purgatrix Ineptiae, aided and abetted by Father Joseph O'Leary (see the first link above for a discussion of this), to spin the abuse crisis as all about gay men molesting boys diverts attention from the fact that those abused by priests include girls. That's what Ratigan's case is all about--and this is what makes the attempt of the aforementioned folks to slip the meme of gay priests abusing boys into the discussion of the Ratigan story mind-boggling.

As Colleen also notes, the attempt to frame the discussion as all about gay priests slipping across a line separating boys from adults does a grievous injustice to the many girls who have been abused by priests and other Catholic authority figures. Though Father O'Leary has now claimed both at this site and at NCR that I misrepresent his plain words, he responds to Colleen's analysis in the NCR thread linked above with the following exceedingly clear statement

I wish the politically correct would admit that many of the cases of clerical sex abuse are explicable as ordinary gay guys slipping over the line between minors and adults, often only very fleetingly, and thus have nothing at all to do with pedophilia. Bilgrimage and others go berserk if one says this, and prefer to rant very unjustly about priest-rapists.

I'm not sure how Father O'Leary's point could be plainer: [M]any of the cases of clerical sex abuse are explicable as ordinary gay guys slipping over the line between minors and adults.

And it's that point, echoing and reinforcing the ugly homophobia with which Becca Robinson sets this entire thread going, with Purgatrix Ineptiae piling on and slinging around more slurs about diseased gay men and anal rape of boys, that Father O'Leary now wants to deny he made.

Because I support SNAP and survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic authority figures, I happened to attend a SNAP meeting last week. Those who go to SNAP meetings are naturally expected to respect the privacy of others attending these meetings, and so I wouldn't dream of talking in any detailed way about the horrifying stories I heard at this meeting. 

But this I can say without violating the confidence of anyone who attended that meeting: every single individual there seeking support was a female who had been violated by a Catholic authority figure, or someone representing a female seeking support after she was violated as a minor by a Catholic authority figure. Every painful case we discussed dealt with females who had been sexually abused by Catholic authority figures. The SNAP official leading the meeting was a woman who was raped repeatedly by several priests when she was a young girl.

SNAP has noted over and over again that at least half of those coming to SNAP meetings for support are women. Because of the underreporting of cases of abuse of female minors by priests and other Catholic religious leaders, SNAP has set up a special section of its website to deal with recent stories about female victims of clergy sexual abuse. As Gary Schoener, a Minneapolis therapist cited in one of the articles linked on this page, notes, of the abusive priests evaluated by his own therapy group, more have abused girls than boys. The article quotes SNAP leader Terrie Light, who notes that the media have seemed transfixed by the meme that priests always abuse boys, and who states, "Everything's always about the altar boys. It's like nothing ever happened to the girls." 

Just this morning, as I scan the set of articles discussed in today's issue of the email newsletter of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC), I spot this article from the West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota, which states that a press conference was held in St. Paul last Friday at which two women spoke out about the abuse they claim they suffered as minors at the hands of Father David A. Roney in Willmar.

No one denies that a significant percentage of the minors abused by priests were boys. What this discussion is about, however, is whether that fact is an explanatory fact regarding the abuse crisis. It's about whether sexual orientation is at the root of the abuse crisis. 

If the abuse crisis is primarily about gay priests "slipping over the line between minors and adults," to use Father O'Leary's words seconded by Purgatrix Ineptiae in the NCR thread under consideration, then what on earth are we to do with the case of Father Shawn Ratigan, who took pornographic pictures of girls aged 2-12? And why on earth are we discussing the gay priests meme when the case under consideration is that of Father Ratigan?

If sexual orientation explains the abuse of boys by priests, then does sexual orientation explain Father Ratigan's gravitation towards little girls? Or should we really be discarding the factor of sexual orientation as the primary explanatory factor here--as Mark 13 Fs eloquently informs Father O'Leary in the NCR thread on which we're focusing--and talk instead about matters like pathological narcissism and the lust for power over others? 

Should we be talking about pedophilia instead of sexual orientation, that is to say? And, if so, are we actually derailing the discussion of the pathological narcissism and lust for power that are at the very center of pedophiles' abuse of minors when we claim, as Father O'Leary does, that "many of the cases of clerical sexual abuse are explicable as ordinary gay guys slipping over the line between minors and adults"?

And when we derail the discussion we really need to have if we're to resolve the abuse crisis, do we do a spectacular injustice to the many females abused by priests when they were minors, as Colleen insists in the thread under consideration? We have known for several years now from the John Jay Study commissioned by the U.S. Catholic bishops themselves that (in the words of David Gibson), "[T]he researchers found no statistical evidence that gay priests were more likely than straight priests to abuse minors — a finding that undermines a favorite talking point of many conservative Catholics."

We have also known, as Father James Martin reports at America as he comments on the findings of the John Jay Study, that "the rise in the number of gay priests from the late 1970s onward actually corresponded with 'a decreased incidence of abuse—not an increased incidence of abuse.'" 

And so why on earth are we still having this discussion about how--O'Leary again--many of the cases of clerical sex abuse are explicable as ordinary gay guys slipping over the line between minors and adults? And having it when we're examining the case of a priest sentenced to prison for having taken pornographic photographs of little girls, for God's sake?

I have to conclude, as I concluded yesterday, that there's something exceedingly sick in the fixation of some Catholics on blaming gay men for every social ill under the sun. And a church that does not work to combat that soul sickness will eventually find that the sickness has gotten inside the very soul of the institution itself, to the great detriment of the institution.

*Colleen is correct that it came out as Father Ratigan was under investigation that the pornographic photographs he had taken included girls younger than two. In speaking of the photographs as photographs of girls aged 3-12, I have been citing the summary of Ratigan's case at the Bishop Accountability site, which notes that when a cache of pornographic images was initially found on his site, those were of girls aged 3-12.

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