Dear Catholic Church: Are You Kiddin’ Me?

Its latest excuse for sexual abuse—blaming the 1960s—is beyond shameful

I woke up yesterday morning and read the following headline in The New York Times, top of the fold, “1960s Culture Cited as Cause of Priest Abuse.” I immediately spilled coffee all over my just dry-cleaned pants.

Sixteen years, I went to Catholic school. Cracked by nuns. Marched in countless May processions. Forked over endless baseball card dough to the bishop’s fund. Genuflected every time Veronica wiped the face of Jesus during stations. Watched priests get buzzed and turn nasty on vino at seven in the morning as an altar boy.

I know from Catholic.

After dabbing the coffee stain from my pants, I picked up the NYT, braced myself and began to read:

“A five-year study commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to provide a definitive answer to what caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis has concluded that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were to blame.”

Please, go on.

“Instead, the report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s.”

The Turmoil. Of course.

Those of us who were around remember those crazy swinging ‘60s. Anomie. Revolution. Acid. Hendrix. Joplin. Time has come today. Give peace a chance. Can I have a hit of that?

Oh, so very stressful, all that stoppin’ the war stuff. It fired you up, made you want to go out and, oh, I don’t know, molest some little boys. You know, just to cut the edge.

You sad sons of bitches. Is nothing too shameless for you Church bosses?

The study took five years and cost $1.8 million to complete. But here’s all you need to know about the study: The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops commissioned it. And the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops paid for half of it.

The bishops could have blamed the groping of little boys on Tastykake Krimpets if they wanted to. It was their report.

Instead they blamed the ‘60s.

You want a little more outrage?

The study also reported: (1) that it was not possible for the church, or for anyone, to identify abusive priests in advance; and, (2) that fewer than five percent of the abusive priests exhibited behavior consistent with pedophilia, which it defines as a “psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges and behaviors about prepubescent children.”

There are priests and nuns that serve the underclass in the selfless style of Dorothy Day. There remains in many places the Catholic cultural legacy of charity and humility and forgiveness. The Church frequently provides sanctuary to the afflicted and afraid in countries under siege. There are still good things.

But all that is dwarfed by the arrogance and righteousness of pitiful Church leaders who still refuse to put the blame where it belongs: on their own sorry criminal asses.

The report issued by the Roman Catholic bishops defiantly states that when it comes to analyzing the incidence and causes of sexual abuse, “No organization has undertaken a study of itself in the manner of the Catholic Church.”

Amen to that.

Tim Whitaker ([email protected]) is the executive director of Mighty Writers, a nonprofit program that inspires city kids to write.