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Bill Donohue's mission clashes with the Church's

Posted by Garrett Quinn, Less is More  April 12, 2011 11:15 AM

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It would serve Bill Donohue and the Catholic League well if they went through some basic public relations training. Their latest attempt at bomb-throwing is a full page ad in the New York Times that blames the sexual abuse crisis on an overzealous media, scam artists, and, of course, "the gays."

The refrain that child rape is a reality in the Church is twice wrong: let’s get it straight—they weren’t children and they weren’t raped. We know from the John Jay study that most of the victims have been adolescents, and that the most common abuse has been inappropriate touching (inexcusable though this is, it is not rape). The Boston Globe correctly said of the John Jay report that “more than three-quarters of the victims were post pubescent, meaning the abuse did not meet the clinical definition of pedophilia.” In other words, the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia.

Abuse took place in the Church and it handled it very poorly. It doesn't matter whether it was pedophilia or homosexual or heterosexual in nature. People were abused and the Church did nothing for decades. The Church failed not only the victims, it failed its flock. The motivations for the abuse just don't matter.

When the National Review Board, a group of notable Catholics, issued its study in 2004, the team’s chief, attorney Robert S. Bennett, said that “any evaluation of the causes and context of the current crisis must be cognizant of the fact that more than 80 percent of the abuse at issue was of a homosexual nature.” One of the members, Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins, has said that “This behavior was homosexual predation on American Catholic youth, yet it’s not being discussed.” By the way, the figures after 2004 haven’t changed—eight in ten cases involve homosexuality. Worldwide, the Vatican estimates that 60 percent of the cases are same-sex, 30 percent are heterosexual and 10 percent involve pedophilia.

Though the data belie the conventional wisdom, it’s hard to break stereotypes. The assault on priests as child abusers has become a staple in the arsenal of Jay Leno, Bill Maher, Denis Leary, George Lopez, “The View” panelists, and others. So it is hardly surprising to learn that a stranger approached New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan at the Denver airport last month saying, “I can’t look at you or any other priest without thinking of a sexual abuser.” Indeed, most priests I know do not dress in priestly garb when traveling—they’ve had to deal with similar instances.

The fact that Donohue so desperately wants to dismiss the abuse as if it were just another part of the Culture Wars is deplorable. This expensive rant goes against everything the Catholic Church is trying to do right now and that is bring people back into the flock. The Church has mounted a very professional campaign in the Boston area to encourage lapsed Catholics that they're welcomed in the Church. Religious orders like the Franciscans, Paulists and others have mounted similar campaigns to bring people who have fallen away from the Church back into the fold. They reach out to the ostracized and the alienated. They recognize that the Church needs worshipers especially in light of the foundation shaking sex abuse scandal. The scandal drove people away from the Church and using caustic rhetoric to bring them back won't help.

Donohoue likes to alienate people - not welcome and accept. He's looking to make enemies and fight battles over things that don't always make sense. Much of the apologetic work that Donohoue and his organization does hurts the greater Catholic cause. Donohue doesn't represent the Catholicism I know and practice. He is not formally affiliated with the Catholic Church in anyway, something I wish more people knew. He represents the extreme conservative wing of the Church that thinks Church teachings revolve around sex and nothing else. He comes across as a hack that uses his well-funded bully pulpit for self-promotion. He should be dismissed by Catholics who want the Church to grow and not shrivel into some fundamentalist sect limited to pre-Vatican II adherents.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Garrett Quinn began writing for newspapers at age 17 with CNC in his native South Shore. He has been published in BlueMassGroup, RedMassGroup, Pioneer Investigates, and Wonkette. He is a More »

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