It seems like just yesterday that the news of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church broke. Priests, billed as ministers of the Lord and trusted for spiritual guidance, were charged with inappropriate relations with children. When those charges turned out to be true, the backlash was severe. Now, a study commissioned by Catholic bishops in the U.S. say that the sexual abuse scandals—you know, the ones where some priests couldn't keep their hands off of little boys—are no reflection of the Church itself. Rather, the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s are to blame.
Poor monitoring of priests and the high stress associated with the social and sexual turmoil of the times are the primary reasons for abuse, according to this Woodstock theory. The men found themselves unprepared to deal with the temptations and social upheaval of the times, thus falling victims themselves to the expanded permissiveness of society. Essentially, they lost their way.
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The argument comes as a result of a study funded primarily by Catholic organizations and conducted by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.
When news of the sexual scandals broke, many immediately jumped to two conclusions in an effort to explain why. First, that the priests who committed the acts of abuse were gay. Second, that the culture of the priesthood—celibate and all male—was to blame.
But the report quashes those explanations, the homosexuality scapegoat in particular. Gay men began entering the priesthood at a time when sexual abuse declined—the late 1970s through the 1980s. Though more boys than girls were victimized, it was not due to homosexuality, say researchers. Rather, priests had more access to boys than girls in parishes, schools and activities. And while the victims were young, the report states that only five percent of the perpetrators displayed behavior consistent with pedophilia, and less than a quarter of the victims were deemed prepubescent, or under age 10. Ripple-Effected Souls: Spouses Of Sexual Abuse Victims
Although the report, titled "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2002" did not seek to justify cases of sexual abuse, critics are calling foul on several of the findings. One such complaint: the results do not include any recommendations for reforming the system, including limiting the power of bishops.
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And for some, the Woodstock argument just isn't enough. Kristine Ward, chairwoman of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition, told the New York Times that the cultural explanation didn't explain abuse cases in the Catholic Church that occurred outside of the U.S., like in Australia, Ireland and South America. Says Ward, "Does the culture of the U.S. in the 1960s explain that? It's hard to believe."
What do you think about this "Woodstock" theory?