Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Colossians 3:15

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cleanup must go past church

Published in Cumberland Times-News Letters on May 22, 2008

"Unarguably, errors were made. Unquestionably, better judgments
might have been seen. Inexcusably, perpetrators were shielded."

To the Editor:

Remarks made by Jeffrey Davis (“What the church of Rome needs is a good cleansing,” May 8) precisely illustrate Bill O’Reilly’s concern about insatiable secularism put forth in his April 22 column. Unarguably, errors were made. Unquestionably, better judgments might have been seen. Inexcusably, perpetrators were shielded. Presently, though, offenders are being purged; and a secure (we hope failsafe) system of checks and balances is in place to identify pedophiles and block them from admission to seminaries and from holding staff or volunteer positions throughout the Catholic Church. If Mr. Davis were seeking solutions, rather than platitudes, then he could be satisfied.

Reality check: Pedophilia is an ancient and modern-day scourge. The medical term was coined in 1886 by Viennese psychiatrist Richard von Kraft-Ebing from a word used by Greek poets to mean “child-friendship,” according to The practice, as noted in Wikipedia, was “relatively common and accepted in many places, including the United States and England, where the legal age of consent typically ranged from seven to 12 years until the end of the 19th century.” Counterintuitive, wouldn’t you say?

Wikipedia notes that causes are not well understood; and the extent of occurrence is not well known; and while there are behavior therapies, there are no cures. Studies done as recently as 2007 look at brain structure and activity for clues; but earlier studies (1970s) noted in Wikipedia “concluded that at least a quarter of all adult men may have some feelings of sexual arousal in connection with pre-pubescent youths.” Furthermore, psychologist Fred S. Berlin asserts that “attraction to pre-pubescent youths (is) a sexual orientation in itself.” And now hear this: “Some pro-pedophile activists aim to change legal, medical and social views of pedophilia,” Wikipedia notes.

Rather than rail against the Catholic Church, which is doing a model job cleaning its own house, Mr. Davis and others might look at the broader environment and consider how knowledgeable we truly aren’t about pedophilia and how tolerant we don’t want to be of this ill and prepare now to combat the ignominy where it could perpetuate: In flawed human nature (that needs moral discipline) and in the fabric of society (that needs moral law).

In a press conference aboard Shepherd One, upon arriving in the United States, Pope Benedict XVI was asked by reporter John Allen: “The American people are awaiting a word from you…about this crisis. What will be your message for this suffering Church?” Pope Benedict replied: “I am ashamed and we will do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen in (the) future. … [P]edophiles cannot be priests and (we will) help in any possible way the victims (who) will need healing and help and assistance and reconciliation…and we will do all that is possible in the education of seminarians for a deep spiritual, human and intellectual formation…. [I]t is more important to have good priests than to have many priests. … [W]e hope that we can do and we have done and we will do in the future all that is possible to heal these wounds.” (Full transcript may be read at

The Pope acknowledges, though, that a clean-up effort needs to extend far beyond the Catholic Church. What will you do in your home or community or church to protect the dignity of children and yourself from the perpetration of pedophilia – and other social ills and values crises?

Nancy E. Thoerig
Mount Savage