The Catholic Abuse Blame Game

The Catholic League says gays are the real problem in the priesthood. But it's a convenient way to escape the reality of its own sins.

UPDATE: The Vatican was served with court papers in connection with sexual abuse allegations at a Milwaukee school for deaf boys. The suit names Pope Benedict XVI and two other Vatican officials.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights seems to have misplaced its dictionary. Recently, the conservative group made a statement (via a full page ad in The New York Times) blaming homosexuals for the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, adding that the abuse has been exaggerated by the media.

There are two things gravely wrong with this statement. The first: Gay people aren’t the problem. Pedophiles are. And they come in all shapes and sizes – and in Roman collars.

The other issue I have with this response is that rather than standing up for the safety of its children, the league has somehow lessened these cases of abuse in hopes of sparing the Catholic Church any further embarrassment. But I have a message for the league and the church: It’s too late. When the church decided to cover up this scandal rather than deal with it fairly and honestly, it lost its right to accuse anyone of anything. It doesn’t get much worse than child rape. And to somehow attack the accusers is inexcusable behavior – especially coming from a so-called “place of God.”

The group even goes so far as to say that the abuse isn’t technically rape, and that many accusations describe things like “inappropriate touching.” These horrific attempts to somehow lessen the accusations should be unacceptable to all Catholics. It’s just a question of when church goers will start to make their upset known…in the collection box. Until then, supporting an institution that has essentially condoned child abuse is as good as endorsing it. Too many Catholics are turning a blind eye to this widespread abuse – blaming everyone and everything, from homosexuality to atheists – for what comes down to pedophiles in the church. Period.

The group also suggests that anyone who comes forward, like a 70-year-old man who may have finally gotten the courage to tell what happened to him at the hands of an abusing priest 60 years ago – are akin to liars. The group believes that most of these “so-called victims” are out for financial gain.

But there’s something very wrong with this logic.

Why are so many of these survivors of abuse struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, find it impossible to have a relationship, and find it just as hard to get and keep jobs? These are classic effects of sexual abuse at a young age. To suggest that these survivors – who may have struggled with facing what happened, not to mention talking about it – are somehow gold diggers is outrageous and cruel.

By blaming the victims, the Catholic League is attempting to distract people from the reality: that not only did a staggering number of priests sexually abuse children (inappropriate touch and rape) but that the church covered it up so as not to risk soiling its reputation. One crime is as heinous as the next.

But the league defends the relocating of abusing priests – still.

“The exact same thing happened in the teaching profession,” reads the ad. “Indeed, moving treated teachers to new school districts is so common that it is called ‘passing the trash.’ While moving treated priests is no longer tolerated.”

The league also seems to have no trouble calling the attorneys who prosecute the sexual predators as “sick,” as in the case in Philadelphia where the D.A. has brought charges to more than 20 pedophile priests. “It has gotten so bad that the dioceses are now being sued for ‘wrongful death’ in cases where an alleged victim kills himself.”

But the church should be held responsible for what happens to abuse victims who were assaulted at the hands of priests, especially when the church – rather than turning those priests over to law enforcement as is customary in any abuse case – scrambled to hide the evidence and protected the abusers. By sending these priests to other parishes, they introduced them to a whole new flock of fresh kids on whom to prey. In any other situation, the church would be called an accessory. And the bishops and other administrative heads should be prosecuted as such.

Throughout this entire litany of excuses and twisted ideology, the Catholic League spends all of its time defending the church – and as a result – essentially defending child molesters. As someone who recently discovered that a former priest from my former parish in Central Pennsylvania – a priest who was DJ at our junior high school dances, a priest who taught the awkward boys in my class how to dance, and a priest who also gave the “sex talk” to these same boys, is also accused of molesting a boy who was roughly the same age as me and my classmates – it’s stunning to me that the Catholic League could possibly defend the behavior of priests who took advantage of peoples’ trust to gain access to their children.

It gives a whole new meaning to blind faith.

I can’t help but wonder how many people I know may have been impacted by sexual abuse in the church – and how many other secrets are being kept about what really happened. As a last ditch effort to save face, it was only a matter of time that the church would attempt to use the accusations of sexual abuse as a way to further attack gay people. It’s easier than pointing the figure at the real enemy: themselves.