What caused sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests?

Did you see the 152 page report published about the causes of sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic church? You can read a very short new story here which links to a pdf of the entire report. You don’t have to read the entire report since the first several pages serve as a summary of the entire report. The report is being rejected by most who have read it because the most prominent “cause” of the increase of child sexual abuse between the 1970s and 1985 is social and moral degradation. In the words of one radio host…”they’re blaming Woodstock? Really?”

What I want to read in the report is their comments on the culture of seminary training. Just what was going on in the lives of the seminary leaders? It may well be that seminary professors and leaders were explicitly and implicitly creating a culture of boundary violations, sexual abuse. It may well be that perpetrating priests were raised and brought up in the church and seminary under a leadership that encouraged such behavior (even if not outright).

Obviously, I’m not thinking that seminaries are only to blame. A culture of secrecy, a culture of protecting the system and ignoring the victim (or much worse), failure to assess priest candidates (both at initial entry and later), and failure to encourage real spiritual formation are just a few of the facets of this problem. But as a seminary professor, I do bear the responsibility of thematic problems of my graduating students. If one student is a bad apple, I’m not responsible. However, if my graduates begin to exemplify a particular theme (e.g., ethical violations, legalism, arrogance, etc.) then I may indeed be responsible for either (a) encouraging such behaviors, or (b) not identifying the problem behaviors/attitudes and not attempting to remediate the problem.

1 Comment

Filed under Abuse, Christianity

One response to “What caused sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests?

  1. The culture of secrecy is an important part of this ugly truth. What I would underline is that the personal responsibility of those priests who had commited sexual abuse of minors has to be the central fact of that investigation/report. The culture, the education, the mentors have a role, but the main one is their personal actions toward others. They were making the decisions to commit those sins, that is why they are responsible for that.

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