What a wild week it has been on the religion-news beat, with the Vatican sexual-abuse summit blitzi rolling over into the long-awaited United Methodist special conference on marriage, sexuality, church tradition and the Bible.
Please allow me to pause and grab something out of my GetReligion “guilt file” — as in an important story from the Vatican coverage that I didn’t have time to address at the time.
Early on in the Vatican summit, I wrote a GetReligion piece with this headline: “'Abuse of minors' — Rare chance to hear New York Times sing harmony with Vatican establishment.” I found it interesting to see the world’s most powerful newspaper sticking really close to the Catholic establishment’s media-message line that the conference was about the clergy sexual abuse of children and that’s that. What about seminarians? What about the abuse of teen-aged males? What about the nuns? I thought it was strange.
I stand by that post. However, that doesn’t mean that the Times didn’t offer other coverage that turned against the Vatican tide.
So let’s flash back to this important headline: “The Vatican Is Talking About Clerical Abuse, but Italy Isn’t. Here’s Why.” Things get interesting at the very beginning, in the anecdotal lede:
SAVONA, Italy — On camping trips, Francesco Zanardi and other boys from his local parish always dreaded being called to sleep in their priest’s tent.
“We all knew what would happen to the boy in the tent,” said Mr. Zanardi, who said he was first abused by his priest at age 11.
Speaking in Savona, a port city in northwestern Italy that gave the church two popes, Mr. Zanardi, 48, said the victimization went on for years, traumatizing him and leading to a substance abuse problem. It also led him to help found Rete L’Abuso, the first support group for clerical abuse survivors in Italy — a country that, in an added indignity, often doesn’t seem to care.
That indifference is largely due, experts say, to how tightly intertwined the Roman Catholic Church is with Italian culture and history. Even today, though the Vatican and its popes don’t wield the power they used to, parish churches and priests often play a central role in the life of a community.
Note these words — “first abused by his priest at age 11” and the “victimization went on for years.”
In other words, what we have here is a classic case of grooming a post-pubescent male as he enters the teen years.