Over the past 30-plus years or so, I have heard some Catholic conservatives try to blame the church’s “pedophilia” crisis on gays in the priesthood.
But for every Catholic activist that I’ve heard veer in that direction, I have heard 100 or so stress that the “pedophilia” label is inaccurate and misleading.
Why? By definition, true pedophiles are driven to have sex with pre-pubescent children. While this ongoing Catholic scandal has involved cases of pedophilia, those crimes are relatively rare and it’s accurate to stress that true pedophiles act out against children of both genders. This fact frequently appears in news reports as evidence that homosexuality plays little or no role in this ongoing crisis.
Those who dig into the facts know that most Catholic sexual-abuse cases involve ephebophilia — intense sexual interest in post-pubescent teens. The overwhelming majority of Catholic clergy cases involve adult males stalking and abusing young males.
So what’s the big idea? To be blunt, men who want to have sex with teen-aged girls tend to have sex with teen-aged girls. Men who want to have sex with teen-aged boys tend to have sex with teen-aged boys. Men who want to have sex with women tend to abuse or have sex with women (including nuns). Men who want to have sex with men tend to abuse or have sex with men (including seminarians).
Right now, the Catholic establishment wants to talk about the sexual abuse of “children.” Conservative Catholics want to hear frank talk about the abuse of teen-agers and adults, including the sins and crimes of bishops, archbishops and cardinals.
With all of that in mind, let’s look at the New York Times coverage of a crucial press conference staged ahead of the Vatican’s much anticipated assembly, with this title, “The Protection of Minors in the Church.”
The original name for the gathering was “The Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults in the Church.” That’s a very, very important edit.
Here’s the headline on the Times story: “Vatican Hopes Meeting on Child Sex Abuse Will Be a Turning Point.” Spot the key word in that equation? Here’s the overture:
VATICAN CITY — In the decades since the crisis of clerical sexual abuse of children first exploded, the Roman Catholic church has struggled to resolve a scourge that has eroded its credibility, driven away the faithful and stained its priests, bishops, cardinals and popes.