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Saturday, May 04, 2002

QP Saturday

Will Vehrs
News from the Caption Contest is not good. Fellow members of The Refuge submitted wonderfully original material, yet failed to impress the cheeky, but scrupulously whimisical Dodd. Perhaps the non-dueling Dodd was distracted in his judging by the knowledge that he had to leave early to catch "Spiderman." You can find his review on Ipse Dixit.

"Rags," Dan, and Ray were out in force for the contest, but JulieC was nowhere to be found. Rumor has it that at least one entry mysteriously failed to appear. While that cannot be confirmed, congratulations to "Rhonda," this week's winner. We invite her to join The Refuge, where sore losers meet and mingle.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Pedophile Protestants?

Tony Adragna
Aziz Poonawalla of unmedia (who said nice things about QP) starts his "principled and pragmatic" response to The Scandal by stating "the disclaimer", and goes on:
The main solution - to an outside observer - would be, get rid of the celibacy requirement for priests. But, we have to respect that celibacy is a doctrinal issue and it's solely the purview of the Church to decide that. It is not appropriate for anyone, Catholic or non-Catholic alike, to opine on it. Only the Pope can change that and it's only the Pope's counsel as to whether it should be changed. The issue of the Pope's age or apparent senility is irrelevant also - if you abide by Catholic doctrine, then the Pope's position and authority are divinely supported and influenced. Bottom line - discussion of the Celibacy issue is off-limits.1
On "the disclaimer", he's got a point, and I'll overlook the understandable errors (i.e. the discipline of priestly celibacy is founded on church law, not doctrine). I do take exception with his footnote 1:
1 No pedophile scandals in the Protestant Churches that I am aware of though. I'm sure God and the Pope already know this.
Yes, "God and the Pope" do already know - that the Catholic Church does not compare disfavourably to other faiths, or even other Christian denominations, in the context of pedophilia and sex abuse in general..

The Christian Science Monitor cites an annual "representative" survey by Christian Ministry Resources of sex abuse cases:
James Cobble, executive director of CMR, who oversees the survey, says the data show that child sex-abuse happens broadly across all denominations– and that clergy aren't the major offenders.

"The Catholics have gotten all the attention from the media, but this problem is even greater with the Protestant churches simply because of their far larger numbers," he says.

Of the 350,000 churches in the US, 19,500 – 5 percent – are Roman Catholic. Catholic churches represent a slightly smaller minority of churches in the CMR surveys which aren't scientifically random, but "representative" demographic samples of churches, Dr. Cobble explains.

Since 1993, on average about 1 percent of the surveyed churches reported abuse allegations annually. That means on average, about 3,500 allegations annually, or nearly 70 per among the predominantly Protestant group, Cobble says.

The CMR findings also reveal:

• Most church child-sexual-abuse cases involve a single victim.

• Law suits or out-of-court settlements were a result in 21 percent of the allegations reported in the 2000 survey.

• Volunteers are more likely than clergy or paid staff to be abusers. Perhaps more startling, children at churches are accused of sexual abuse as often as are clergy and staff. In 1999, for example, 42 percent of alleged child abusers were volunteers – about 25 percent were paid staff members (including clergy) and 25 percent were other children.
Note: " even greater with the Protestant churches simply because of their far larger numbers..." -- but how do rates of incidence compare?

I couldn't find CMR's survey, so I don't know how many members of the clergy were :"included" in the 25% of cases attributed to "paid staff members", nor the breakdown of Catholics v. Protestants, but Philip Jenkins, professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, author of Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis, gives us a clue. Far from the 5 or 10 percent figure widely cited, Jenkins uses data from Archdiocese of Chicago records spanning 40 years and comes up with a rate "0.3 percent of the whole body of clergy."1 [that's zero point three percent - Update: I previously had the "point" and "zero: reversed - Tony], and a rate less than 2% for all sexual misconduct with minors in the Catholic clergy. Is that good?

Of course not! But if it's true that the sex abuse problem in the Catholic Church is not worse than anywhere else, including among other clergy,.it does suggest that "the scandal" is about more than the immoral and illegal sexual misconduct of a very small percentage of Catholic priests.

The stupid, immoral, and some say unforgivable conduct of the heirarchy is one element of the problem that has risen to the level of scandal -- I'll repeat: if these priests had been dealt with properly at the instant of the abuse, then we would still have suffering victims, but not "scandal". 'Nuff said.

What about homosexuality? Yes, that's certainly one aspect of the behaviour that has caused "public outrage". The Catholic Educator's Resource Center argues in its 10 Myths about Preistly Pedophilia:
"Homosexuals are three times as likely to be pedophiles as heterosexual men. Although exclusive pedophilia (adult attraction to prepubescent children) is an extreme and rare phenomenon, one third of homosexual men are attracted to teenage boys (Jenkins, Priests and Pedophilia). The seduction of teenage boys by homosexual men is a well-documented phenomenon. This form of deviant behavior is the most common type of clerical abuse and is directly connected to homosexual behavior"
The Catholic League's William Donohue issued a statement on March 28 making the case that, “The best evidence suggests that the rate of priest pedophilia is about the same as found among the clergy of other religions. It runs between 2 and 5 percent. The rate in the general adult population is 8 percent." OK - the rate of homosexuality in the general adult population is somewhere between 2 and 4 percent, yet the rate of pedophilia in the genreal adult population is 8 percent. That means CERC's argument either assumes the percentage of the general population that is homosexual is much higher than between 2 and 4 percent, or Donohue's 8 percent rates of pedophilia isn't correct. And Donohue's assertion -- that homosexuality is the problem -- doesn't fit his argument: if every single adult homosexaul in the general population was a pedophile, then we would still need between 4 and 6 percent of the heterosexual population in order to equal 8 percent.

Further, if the sexual orientation of the priesthood breaks down to the same hetero:homo ratio, then the suggestion is that every homosexual priest is a pedophile. Or if the hetero:homo ratio of offenders breaks down the same way as in the general population, then there's a suggestion that between 1 and 3.75 percent heterosexual priests are pedophiles, making heterosexuals between 50 and 75 percent of all priest pedophiles. This begs a couple of questions that I would like answered: (a) how many of the priests who molested teenage boys are actually homosexual, as opposed to heterosexuals engaging in opportunistic sex, like those Afghan pederasts (one of the criticisms of Kinsey's survey2 is that his study included conduct in a population -- prison inmates -- where the only opportunity for sex is with persons of the same gender), and (b) what's the ratio of incidences of hetero conduct:homo conduct -- we're still only hearing about the molestation of boys, even though we know for certain that priests also molest girls.

Why isn't the media asking these questions? I suppose that the Catholic Church has gotten more attention to its sex abuse because it's easier to make the connections between incidents in separate locations -- the Catholic Church is a monolith, but most Protestant congregations aren't viewed as "a Church". I guess homosexuality gets all the attention because the conduct is not just immoral sex, but "deviant" (never mind it's bad enough that sex abuse is abusive no matter the orientation). That the traditionalists and radicals are getting air time to push their agendas is probably because the sincere outrage, expressed by us who care about the victims, doesn't make good "scandal."

Suggestion, suppositions, and probabilities -- that's all I can offer as opinion until I get some real answers. The only answer we all agree on is that we've got to end the danger to our children -- we can get there a lot quicker if we stop pointing our fingers and start talking rationally about solving the problem.

1page 83 - "the whole body of clergy" is limited to the Catholic clergy of the Archdiocese of Chicago.

2Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948)

Monday, April 29, 2002

National Review Out-of-Line!

Tony Adragna
Jonathan Adler tweaks Punditwatch over in The Corner (scroll down to "PRE-BREAKFAST HISTORY") for missing "past (and future?) Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu at his finest." Hey - I can't even get Will to watch The McLaughlin Group (on which he would have picked up a replay of John's 1995 prediction vis a vis Islamofascist terrorism targeting CONUS), but Adler expects him to watch the entire broadcast of Meet the Press. Give it rest Adler!

The Punditwatcher only has one head, on which there are only two eyes and two ears (I supspect that Will has an athletics sports thingie competition plugged into one ear, but that's nunya), and he still manages to cram a lot into Punditwatch on top of having a real life (you know - a regular job, family, child in grade school, and DIY chores around the house). I don't wanna hear anything but kudos for Will.

Besides, I consider tweaking The Punditwatcher a point of personal privilege reserved to me!

What say you on Bibi's comments, Will?

I'll tell what I think: he's engaged in polemic for personal political gain. The point Netanyahu is trying to make might have some validity, but the argument he's using is rediculous:
"[...]But if you look at the thousands, thousands of conflicts for national liberation and for equal rights in the 19th and 20th century, hardly any produced terrorism. Martin Luther King didn't use terrorism. Mahatma Gandhi in fighting for the liberation of India from Britain didn't use terrorism. The peoples of Eastern Europe in fighting--struggling to bring down the Berlin Wall didn't use terrorism. In the 19th century, the Poles, the Czechs, the Greeks, the Italians, all fighting for their independence, never used terrorism. And neither did most of the people who fought for these freedoms."
I could look at the history of terrorism and point out that the methodolgies employed pre-date any understanding of those methodologies as wrong, and were employed in both good and bad causes. Zealots used terrorism as early as their 1st fight against Roman occupation. But, Since Bibi stipulated "conflicts for national liberation and for equal rights in the 19th and 20th century", I'll address those specifics.

In the later part of the 19th and early part of the 20th century terrorism was mostly not about "nationalism", but about "anarchy". That doesn't mean that the struggles were any less about "liberation" and "rights" -- the anarchists were seeking their ultimate right to be liberated from governments that they thought were oppressive. In the cases where the conflicts were actually driven by nationalist motivations and the quest for independence from foreign powers, the revolutionaries certainly did employ terrorism in its broadest definition -- the use or threat of violence, especially assasisnation, bombing and kidnapping, for a poltical purpose.

As the 20th century progressed, terrorism became more a tool of nationalist movements in their fights for "liberation". The Italian Fascists used terrorism in an internal struggle for control of the country. The NAZIs were terrorists from the begin, using violence to gain and keep control of Germany, and exporting terrorism to the Sudetenland, Occupied France, and everywhere else the Schutzstaffel's hobnail boots tramped. We don't consider their struggle one of "national liberation", but they certainly did.

The IRA (at least the "Provisionals") still considers itself to be fighting for the "national liberation" of Ireland: they've come a long way since the failed Fenian insurrection in 1867 -- downhill all the way, from "freedom fighter" in the truest sense to plain ol' terrorists. And the UVF still concerns itself with defending the "rights" of Ulster Protestants -- originally from the Irish Catholics who might want to oppress them, and now defending their self-determination to be at "Union" with England.

Yes, Gandhi believed in non-violent resistence to British rule, but not everybody fighting for Indian independence shared Gandhi's beliefs. When independence did finally come, violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims over the partition -- that violence persists to present.

Martin Luther King was an adherrent to Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence, but not everybody fighting for civil rights in the U.S. shared King's philosophy. Armed militant groups arose in the late '60s and '70s, wrapped themselves in the cloak of "liberation" and "civil rights", and proceeded down a path of terrorism.

Let's not forget the most relevant (to Bibi) conflict for "national liberation" -- Israel's fight for independence. I seem to remember that Irgun and the Stern Gang were once considered terrorist outfits for engaging in acts cited as terrorism.

And how does Bibi define "terrorism"? If he want's to make a distinction at "targets" -- bombing military installations versus killing innocent civilians -- then I've got no problem with the definition. I suspect, though, that he prefers the broader definition, which gives rise to the "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" fallacy from the defenders of the methodology of terror, and justificatrions for delegitimizing valid grievances of both parties.

Bibi's trying to make a valid point: oppression needn't lead to terrorism -- there's no "root cause" other than the terrorist's assertion that the act is in furtherance of a "cause". Unfortunately for Bibi's argument, all of the cases he cites, and some that I added, include instances of terrorism in addition to what were otherwise legitimate means and ends. The distinction he's trying to make between the Palestinian "fight for national liberation" and all of those other struggles is a distinction that doesnt exist, as even his own argument admits when he says, "neither did most of the people who fought for these freedoms" [emphasis added - it's an admission that some of the people did use terrorism].

Sorry, even "past (and future?) Israeli PM[s]" don't get to revise history to their own liking.

Two Minute Drill

Will Vehrs
Herewith a few thoughts on a Monday morning:

Complicated Catholic Contretemps I haven't weighed in on the scandal surrounding the Catholic Church for various reasons, but I find myself aligned closely with Tony, a Catholic who knows whereof he speaks. The church is at a terrible disadvantage in media coverage of the scandal: a closed organization, based on faith, hurled into the secular maelstrom without a lot of experience in dealing with "pack" reporting. There is no US spokesperson or acknowledged leader of Catholics in the US. The faith believes in redeemption from sin, but child abuse is a special category. The church is hailed for believing in murderers on death row, but scorned for having believed that child molesting priests might change.

Terrible decisions were made. There has been a terrible cover-up. There needs to be an acknowledgement of responsibility. But I do believe the church is trying to right itself. It's just can't be compared to a secular organization reacting to scandal.

Punditwatch Competition I've always wondered why there weren't many mainstream media counterparts to my Punditwatch, itself a continuation of Slate's long-departed Pundit Central. Now it appears that The New Republic Online is running a weekly column on the Sunday shows. I concentrate mostly on the pundits, not the newsmakers. The newsmakers get plenty of coverage in the Monday newspapers. The New Republic's column so far looks like an opinionated cross between analyzing the pundits and the newsmakers. I thought last week's entry by Jason Zengerle was quite good, analyzing how newsmakers fared under Tim Russert's questioning. Today's piece by Noam Scheiber looks like a partisan screed. A little progress is being reported on the Middle East and he wanted to throw cold water on it while taking shots at the Bush Administration. Anyway, I recommend this new TNR feature as a companion to Punditwatch.

Road to the White House, Part I Today's Washington Post has an article on the number of women running for governor this year. Four out of the last five presidents were governors, so if we are to see a female president, it would most likely come from the ranks of state governors. My pick, which always infuriates Tony, is Maryland Lt. Gov Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a Democrat running for governor this year. She's low on charisma, but has the magical name and the fund-raising capacity.

Road to the White House, Part II Glenn Reynolds has an item on Tennessee Senator Bill Frist's position on cloning. Supposedly, Senator Frist changed his position because he's under consideration as Bush's VP for a second term. Glenn is disappointed because Condi Rice is his choice. Here's my take: Bush needed Cheney to give him foreign affairs gravitas. He doesn't need that anymore--he needs help on the biggest issue on the horizon: healthcare. Frist gives him that. In 2008, however, Frist will need foreign policy gravitas for his presidential run. Bingo--Frist/Rice, an unbeatable GOP team.

Sunday, April 28, 2002

"A Few Sentences" From The Cardinals

Tony Adragna
Punditwatch quotes Bob Schieffer, "Why are they making this scandal so complicated?[...] It must be stopped. A few sentences will suffice."

I respond: They aren't "making this scandal so complicated" - it's not simply about pedophilia or less serious cases of sexual abuse, so it was complicated from the begin. That people are focusing on the Church's deliberations over what to do when nothing illegal or abusive occured is unfortunate, because the Church has actually made several very emphatic statements regarding what will happen when priests are accused of sexual misconduct.

In the past, the Church has only grudgingly cooperated after victims took charges directly to civil authorities. Now, the Bishops have commited themselves to turning cases over to civil authorities when the misconduct is illegal -- that's a big step. Also, the Bishops have decided that the practice of sending sexually abusive priests through "treatment", followed by reassignment, can no longer be "the practice" -- especially in cases of pedophilia. At the very least, if the priest is not to be removed, he will no longer be allowed to work with children.

Those steps address the most serious aspect of the scandal, and have already been implemented.

So, what's all the deliberation in Rome and in Dallas next June?

The deliberation is about three distinct issues: discipline of sexually abusive priests, pro-active (preventative) measures to militate against the risk of sexual abuse, and reaffirming the Church's teaching on sexual morality. The issue of "discipline of sexually abusive priests" is addressed in the first three proposals of the Cardinals' "Final Communiqué":
1) We propose to send the respective Congregations of the Holy See a set of national standards which the Holy See will properly review (recognitio), in which essential elements for policies dealing with the sexual abuse of minors in Dioceses and Religious Institutes in the United States are set forth.

2) We will propose that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recommend a special process for the dismissal from the clerical state of a priest who has become notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory, sexual abuse of minors.

3) While recognizing that the Code of Canon law already contains a judicial process for the dismissal of priests guilty of sexually abusing minors, we will also propose a special process for cases which are not notorious but where the Diocesan Bishop considers the priest a threat for the protection of children and young people, in order to avoid grave scandal in the future and to safeguard the common good of the Church.
It ought be perfectly clear from these fairly succinct statements that there's no disagreement on the need to remove sexually abusive priests.

The first proposal is important: less discretion to the local Diocesan Bishop on what to do with sexually abusive priests.

Many people have looked askance at the "notorious" verbiage in 2), but miss the point that the verbiage is a qualifier for "special process". What the Cardinals are proposing is that in cases where there's no doubt of the misconduct -- evidence the notariety -- and is especially destructive, there ought be a method of speeding up what is normally a very lengthy process to remove priests from clerical status.

The Cardinals don't stop there -- they go on at 3) to propose a "special process" in cases where it's not so clear that the priest presents a future danger, but the risk is too great to ignore.

Deliberations over "the process" that the Church decides to follow in achieving the "desired result", and discussions over extraneous matter -- homosexuality, celibacy, etc. -- are all about "Catholics deciding how to be Catholic." Unfortunately, these deliberations have taken front stage, while the Church's unambiguous message on the decision to remove priests who present a danger to children doesn't seem to be getting through.

Bob Shieffer want's "a few sentences", he's got them -- all he has to do is read.

Punditwatch Posted for Cardinal Clobbering

Today's TV Punditwatch has been posted, featuring the pundits teeing off on US Cardinals. There's also a nominee for the next Secretary of State, a link between Karen Hughes and J. Edgar Hoover, and a declaration of one Virginia town as "normal."

Tony Adragna
In response to "If You're Not Catholic, Then Please Shut Up!", susannac asks a good question, and makes some good observations:
Tony, I see your point. There's a lot of opining about the priest sexual abuse issue from people who wouldn't know a Bible or a canon if it bit them on the nose. However, when it comes to unambiguously immoral and illegal behaviors like sexual abuse of children, how can canon override civil law and safety? What nuances are to be worked out there? The first tier of admissions has to be: We were wrong. Everyone associated with it will be removed or disciplined. Safeguards will be put in place to protect the future. We're not seeing that, and from your post you're as frustrated about that as the rest of us.

The second tier - how this ultimately reshapes church structure - is of secondary importance and a church issue, not a public issue. But the church laity shouldn't allow the church hierarchy to hide behind that wall.

Also, I'd like to point out that this is not just about the Catholic church. In the eyes of unbelievers this scandal taints all those who profess God and Christ, thus giving non-Catholic believers a stake in this process. So far, I've been very disappointed in how the Catholic response has played out.
"Unambiguously immoral"?

Yes, definitely. But, to what degree? Is every bit of conduct encompassed by this scandal morally equivalent? If not, then which acts ought we be most concerned about?

Pedophilia is definitely the most serious of the charges, but most of the cases don't involve pedophilia. Rather, the majority of cases that we know about involve post-pubescent boys, and we don't know how many cases involve young women. Yet, there are too many opinions addressing the scandal as if pedophilia is all it's about.

Does the fact that the conduct is mostly not pedophilia make the conduct OK? Certainly not -- it's still unambiguously immoral, but not as immoral as pedophilia.

Sounds like I'm splitting hairs, right? Not exactly, because there's a big difference in morality between and under-age sex and pedophilia.

Another face of the scandal is homosexuality. Many Christians, including a lot of the Catholic Bishops, view homosexual conduct as worse than adultery. Not everybody shares that opinion. Using scripture as primary source, we see that homosexual conduct and adultery share the same punishment -- death by stoning -- which might suggest that the offenses are at least equivalent. But, adultery might actually be the worse of the two. Why? Because, it's an offense not against some notion of natural law that attempts to fulfill God's will, but against God's edict in the Ten Commandments: "Thou shall not commit adultery."

Why am I talking about adultery when it's clear that the cases are about homosexual conduct? And wouldn't it be more appropriate to talk about a comparison with fornication, since priests aren't married? (adultery requires at least on married person in the relatioship).

I'll answer the second question first. Adultery carries the moral weght that it does because it's not just a sinful sex act, but a sin of infidelity. Priests are not simply unmarried, but commited to the priestly life and all the discpline that being a priest entails. A priest who has sex is not simply fornicating, he's also being unfaithful. The proper morally equivalent act is adultery

Returning to the first question reaveals an even bigger moral dilemma. Problem is that while the majority of cases reported in the media involve homosexual conduct, it's not clear that the abuse is limited to homosexual conduct. Yet, it's been suggested that the solution ought be purging the clergy of all homosexuals, and a "one strike" policy for homosexual conduct, but discretion in case by case judgement involving heterosexual misconduct. As not everyone agrees with this approach, there is much argument(I argue that the distinction between hetero and homo conduct is irrelevant -- they both cause injury to the abused).

Whichever policy the Church decides to adopt, it must conform to Canon Law, because that's how the Roman Catholic Church operates. Asking us to act otherwise is asking to stop being Catholic.


How much of the conduct was illegal, and is it illegal everywhere? What's illegal in one state might be legal in another. What the Church has decided is that in those cases where a priest may be prosecuted, records will be turned over to civil authorities. But, it's also been suggested that the Church will handle internal discipline differently in cases where the conduct is illegal.

In other words, in Alabama, where sodomy is still illegal but the age of consent is 16 for hetero sex, the Church might handle the matter differently than if the conduct was in Connecticut, where the age of consent is 16 year old and there's no hetero/homo distinction. And, because some states have established different ages based on the gender, it might be legal to have sex with a 16 year old boy in Oklahoma, but illegal to have sex with a 17 year old girl in New Hampshire.

Our desire for the Church to treat the problem uniformly runs into even bigger problems when we look at the global situation.

Canon Law

The question posed is, "how can canon override civil law and safety?" Good question!

Civil law says that church law -- no matter the faith -- overrides on the confidence between minister and penitent. Was there in fact a "confidence"?

Yes! Even though these cases weren't strictly handled between a priest and his confessor, they do touch that relationship because the priest at some point does make a confession. OK, the priest can't be compelled -- so what's stopping him from volunteering the information? Canon Law: a priest may not break the seal of confession, and if he does, he may be excommunicated at the discretion of Rome. What about the case file -- how is that protected by the "seal"? That could indirectly break the seal, and the canons proscribe this, too (my sense of what happened is that some of these case files could have been turned over and Rome would have dealt with the breach as a minor offense. But, the Church misused the seal to cover-up the conduct).

So, are we stuck? No, because the law may be changed, or a different reading may allow some flexibility, or the Apostolic See could decide that in certain cases this indirect breach isn't a serious offense.

There goes the impediment to cooperating with civil authorities.

The Second Tier

Reshaping the structure of the Church isn't "second tier" -- it's not gonna happen... it's on no tier... it's of no importance.

A Stake in the Process

That "this scandal taints all those who profess God and Christ" is something I certainly agree with. But, I must vigorously disagree with the notion that this gives "non-Catholic believers a stake in this process." The process is about how Catholics are going to deal with the problem. Non-Catholics have a stake in how Catholics interact with the rest of society, and as this process has some relevance to our interactions with the laws of our society, yes, non-Catholics have an interest in the outcome.

But, the process isn't about changing society -- it's about changing the Church. We can turn to our Christian brothers and sisters for advice, but whatever solution we adopt to remedy the abusive conduct, and to prevent it in future, must be a Catholic solution: that's ultimately Catholics deciding how to be Catholic.