"Child sexual abuse in all its varied forms and arenas is a warp in American society."
To the Editor:
Francis DeBernardo, whom Jeffrey Davis quotes ("It is enough to make your stomach churn," June 2), is executive director of New Ways Ministry, a Maryland-based organization of gay Catholics that rebels against Pope Benedict XVI, because he disciplined its founders and denounces its legitimacy implicitly, for members’ non-adherence to teachings on natural law, through his continued firm stance (promulgated during tenure in his former position as enforcer for the faith) on reasons why homosexuals cannot be priests. (Source: Wikipedia.org). Note: Members of other homosexual organizations, like Exodus International, choose to live in accord with church teachings and in communion with the universal congregation.
In the document addressing “Discernment of Vocations with Regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies” (accessible at Vatican.va) approved by Pope Benedict on August 31, 2005, the church sets forth “norms concerning a specific question, made more urgent by the current situation” and states clearly: “[T]he Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’"
It is totally intuitive that the pope should restate forcefully – in establishing his leadership in the midst of the current crisis that implicates priests’ relationships with boys -- a position that prohibits ordination of males who are sexually attracted to other males. No connection is made between homosexuality and pedophilia; however, the pope’s action is a common sense approach to manage the risk of further implication.
Mr. Davis judges that “absolutely only one response was appropriate from the very beginning;” however, it is believed by some, Wikipedia notes, that bishops were “acting on the best medical advice then available” when re-assigning priests after treatment. The online encyclopedia also notes, in considering the daycare center dilemma of the 1980s and 1990s – years leading up to uncovering the clergy abuse -- that this was a time of “rising police interest, investigation and prosecution of such crimes. As such it is not certain that a sudden ‘crisis of abuse’ ever existed; instead the dramatic increase in reported abuse cases may simply have heralded the end of a long-term endemic problem found throughout a number of institutions, both secular and religious.”
Recall the Boy Scouts of America scandal of the 1980s. “Among the first national youth organizations to address the issue of sexual abuse of its members,” Wikipedia notes, the BSA responded “to introduce barriers to pedophiles.” While a few cases still occur (Wikipedia cites documents from August 2007 showing that “since the BSA's Youth Protection Program was introduced, the organization has removed about 180 of its 70,000 leaders each year”), sexual abuse among its four million members “is now extremely rare.” Clearly, internal review and self-reporting in accordance with statutes of existing law – a system that Mr. Davis decries as an “insult” and “effrontery” – works.
Consider just a few more facts. The pedophile ring in Texas has complicated the lives of more than 400 children and overloaded and baffled social and justice workers. In schools, Wikipedia cites the US Department of Education, "nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct.” US Child Protective Services data show, according to Wikipedia, that “83,600 children were determined to have been sexually abused” in 2005, a figure that represents 9.3 percent of all substantiated cases that year. (The numbers cited by Mr. Davis are small in comparison.) Child sexual abuse in all its varied forms and arenas is a warp in American society. And it is a worldwide problem, as illustrated recently by the UN peacekeepers scandal.
The pope does not link pornography and violence in society with the development of pedophiles, as Mr. Davis implies. The salient point of the pope’s message, contained in his address to US bishops (accessible at Zenit.org), is that people produce pornography, film, literature, commercialism that exploit children and perpetuate child sexual abuse; and people make violence easily accessible for viewing by children in their homes, presenting a distorted view of society that demoralizes and confuses children. The pope calls urgently for a renewal of conscience in people within the media and inside our homes; and he states in context: “Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today.” People are called to work in unity toward a day when prevalent child sexual abuse is a closed chapter in American history.
Nancy E. Thoerig, Mount Savage