One of the few features of the Vatican responses to the abuse scandal that I can agree with, is that it is incorrect to speak of widespread “pedophilia”, or “child” abuse. They point out, quite correctly, that much of the abuse is not against young children, but against adolescents, and so is more correctly described as “ephebophilia”. Here, though, I part company with the Vatican apologists: the higher age makes he allegations different, but still indefensible. Abuse remains abuse, whatever the age of the victim, and to take sexual advantage of another from a position of power remains abuse, even if there has been nominal consent. But it doesn’t stop even there. The victims of abuse are not just young and adolescent boys, or young boys and girls, but also include many adults, especially religious women and male seminarians. I have written on this before, but have been disappointed that in the present close attention to the worldwide problems of abuse, little has been written elsewhere about the widespread abuse of adults. We should remember that one the accusations against one of the of the most notorious alleged miscreants, Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado of the Legionnaries of Christ, was that he abused both women (with whom he fathered children), and male seminarians, as well as his own children. Before the current uproar led to the resignations of a handful of Irish bishops, the few other bishops to have resigned over abuse were some who had themselves been found to have had sexual affairs, invited or otherwise, with adults. There have also been numerous reports that some leaders of female religious houses, especially in Africa, have pleadedd wiht their local bishops for protection from predatory priests, usually meeting with little success.
Now, a worthwhile piece by Angelina Bonavoglio at Huffington Post goes some way to correct that imbalance. This deals only with the adult women, not the seminarians, but it’s a start.
It was indeed outrageous that Reverend Raniero Cantalamessa, in his Good Friday homily at St. Peter’s Basilica, with Pope Benedict in eyeshot, compared the public denunciation of the Catholic Church hierarchy for harboring child molesting priests to the homicidal viciousness of anti-Semitism.
But there was another reason to be troubled by that homily: Cantalamessa also talked about the need to end violence against women, which is crucial, but he did so without any acknowledgment of the Church’s own culpability in the abuse, endangerment, and intimidation of women.
“Much of this violence,” he declared, “has a sexual background.” Yes, let’s start there. In 2001, a year before the pedophilia crisis hit the news, the National Catholic Reporter analyzed internal Church reports written by two Catholic nuns — a physician who was a Medical Missionary of Mary, and the AIDS coordinator for the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development — documenting the sexual exploitation of nuns by priests in 23 countries on five continents.
One of the most stunning allegations concerned a nun impregnated by a priest, who forced her to have an abortion that killed her, and then officiated at her funeral. Priests were alleged to have raped young nuns who approached them for the required certificates to enter religious orders; to have told nuns that oral contraceptives would protect them from AIDS; and to have used nuns as “safe” alternatives to prostitutes in countries plagued by AIDS — with some priests going so far as to demand that heads of convents make the nuns sexually available to them.
(read the full report)
See also the previous posts on QTC:
SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by priests)
And some books:
Sipe, Richard: Sex, Priests, And Power: Anatomy Of A Crisis
Wills, Gary: Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit