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Blame Anyone but the Abuser

On the latest Global Pulse episode, host Erin Coker reviews global coverage of sexual abuses in the Catholic Church. Watch the episode below and share your thoughts!

It seems some Catholic commentators who refuse to criticize the Catholic Church are using the myth that homosexuality and pedophilia are one in the same. While researching the subject for this week’s “Global Pulse,” I expected to find outraged Catholics lashing out against the church’s handling of allegations of sexual abuses by priests. While I did find many Catholics who were appalled by these crimes and how the church has often hidden them, I also found former Senator Rick Santorum and the advocacy group The Catholic League, who have taken a different route. Instead of seeing the crisis as an opportunity to root out elements of abuse in their church, they have used the scandal in an effort to cynically link pedophilia and homosexuality.

Back in 2002, in an article for the website, Santorum admitted his dismay at the long string of sexual abuses, but saw it as a reflection of the liberal corruption of society. “It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning ‘private’ moral matters such as alternative lifestyles.” There should be no confusion as to what Santorum means when he says “alternative lifestyles." Somehow, the senator reasoned that homosexuality was the primary motivating force in pedophilia.  As an argument, it benefited his agenda in two ways. By equating homosexuality with pedophilia he was able to demonize all homosexuals, a group he clearly sees as abhorrent. More importantly, by using this argument he was able to portray the priests not as perpetrators of heinous crimes but as victims of a society gone wild. After all, he stated, “Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected.”

More recently, the Catholic League, a far-right advocacy group, took up the theme. The group recently took out an ad in the New York Times responding to an earlier Times article stating that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) helped cover up the abuse of over two hundred deaf boys by a priest in Wisconsin. The League ad countered the Times article by saying, “The Times continues to editorialize about the ‘pedophilia crisis,’ when all along it's been a homosexual crisis,” and justified its denial of pedophilia by stating, “most of the victims were post pubescent.”

So let me get this straight. Because some of the abuse victims were 13 or 15, instead of 7 or 9, it’s not pedophilia? Of course it is…but are pedophiles gay? According to one of the few studies that has attempted to understand the sexual orientation of pedophiles, the answer is, mostly no. “…child molesters cannot be meaningfully described as homosexuals, heterosexuals, or bisexuals…because they are not really capable of a relationship with an adult man or woman. Instead of gender, their sexual attractions are based primarily on age.”
In any case, the hetero-homo debate is meaningless in this context. Instead of focusing on the mental illness that is pedophilia, commentators like Rick Santorum of the Catholic League are confusing the issue by framing it in terms of homosexuality. With this kind of denial and blame shifting, the chances of constructive action are diminished. I guess we should expect they will continue to make excuses for church officials, lash out at legitimate media attention, and blame homosexuality (not pedophilia and church secrecy) as the root of the problem.



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