Abuse as a gender issue?

Two unrelated comments on the causes of the abuse crisis caught my eye today. One from an emeritus bishop, the other from a religious sister and teacher. The reason these two people’s comments caught my eye was that they both say similar things. Similar dubious things.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson, former auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Sydney in Australia, blamed the absence of women in the Church, in an interview. “If the feminine had been given greater importance and a much larger voice, the church would not have seen anything like the same level of abuse and would most certainly have responded far better.” Nice claims, but is there any proof? Can sexual abuse be limited to a mere gender issue? What about the claims from people who say they were abused by religious sisters? Robinson’s quote is a good soundbite, but I wonder about the validity.

He also claims that some priests guilty of sexual abuse of minors were unaware they broke their vow of celibacy. “That’s what the vow of celibacy refers to, being married. If it’s not an adult woman, then somehow they’re not breaking their vow.” I find that frankly unbelievable. Celibacy is about being married, yes, but since the Church upholds that active sexuality belongs within marriage, I don’t see how any sexual act, let alone sexual abuse, can not be  considered a violation of the priest’s vow.

Robinson thinks that the Church needs another ecumenical council to review the teachings about celibacy, sexuality and women. Please, we’re still trying to find our bearings following the previous council…

Belgian Sister Monica van Kerrebroeck also sees the crisis as a gender issue. “I am convinced that this would not happen as often with more women in the church and in important positions. In the first place it is statistically proven that women are far less than men prone to pedophilia and secondly, I think that women respond far more radical to these things. That what I do, at least.”

Would the secrecy of offenders and those around them suddenly be any less if more women would occupy high positions in the Church? Because that is often a major issue: offenders keep their crimes secret and victims are too afraid to step forward (see the Kröber interview I posted earlier). Women may be less prone to pedophilia, I don’t know. But even so, unless one actively replaces men with women, the total level of prospective offenders would remain the same, and that won’t change unless one tackles the true root: faulty formation and preparation.

Sister Monica went on: “We must thoroughly consider the automatic and mandatory coupling of celibacy and priesthood, and the laity must be taken much more serious. The Church did originally not start with ordained priests [Ahem… tell that to the Twelve…], but with experienced laymen, who were given a natural authority [You mean, like ordination?]. That’s what we must return to. To me the Church is not the pope and the bishops [Are they not exclusively the Church, or not at all? An important distinction]. The Church is the people [But most of all Christ, right?].”

 Sister Monica confuses the issue with all kinds of unrelated things. What is she concerned about? Abuse, celibacy, priesthood, the form of the Church, the role of the laity, the role of the bishops, authority? Wanting to return to the old Church of the first centuries can only be a good thing if one completely forgets the past 2,000 years of Tradition. The Church developed and grew, not just because it could, but because, as Christ promised, the Holy Spirit guided her. Suddenly saying, “Oh well, this is no good, let’s start over”, is denying the work of not just countless men and women, but also of God Himself.

Does that mean we can’t change anything? Of course not. The Church must constantly develop and change, but that does not mean we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Considering the abuse crisis as a gender issue is like trying to solve a crossword by filling in a Sudoku. The problem (or confusing mess of problems) does not fit the alleged solution.

Finally, I don’t think that an increased feminine influence in the Church is bad. Neither do I think that an increased male influence is bad. What we need is real men and real women, so to speak: clarity. The genders, after all, complement each other, but the one should not try to be the other. It’s something that goes back as far as Genesis.

Source for the Robinson comments.
Source for the comments by Sr. Monica


The Kröber interview, now available in Dutch

Early this month I wrote about an interview with German forensic psychiatrist Hans-Ludwig Kröber about the alleged relation between celibacy and pedophilia. Now, thanks to Taquoriaan, that interview is also available in Dutch. An interesting read with some very thought-provoking conclusion from a man who knows what he’s talking about.

The interview is now also available in English.

Celibacy and fairness

As the abuse crisis developed and increased, the search for a root cause was on. Obviously, no clearheaded thinker would expect to find a simple reason for a social problem as complex as this. Yet, some less clearheaded people do come with their suggestions. Celibacy has been frequently pointed out be a, or even the, cause of sexual abuse of minors. Obviously, this doesn’t even begin to explain why the major part of known abuse cases occur within families, or why other social and professional groups which don’t require their members to be celibate also know abuse cases within their ranks.

A very good rebuttal of these thoughts comes from German forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hans-Ludwig Kröber. Yesterday an interview with him was published in Cicero, a ‘magazine for political culture’. Dr. Kröber is pretty certain about his knowledge when he says: “You are more likely to get pregnant from kissing than become a paedophile because you are celibate”.

At the moment I only have the interview in its original German, but I have it on good authority that an English translation may soon be available. When it is, I’ll link to it.

I found the first mention of this interview at a new website created by the people of Mercatornet: Just B16 is an answer to the very skewed (on purpose or otherwise) media reporting about Pope Benedict XVI. From their first article:

“We feel that ill-informed, unjust and vicious attacks on Benedict’s credibility will ultimately undermine the credibility of human dignity itself. MercatorNet is not a Catholic publication, although the editor and the deputy editor are both Catholics. We have always steered clear of ecclesiastical disputes and doctrinal quibbles. But our rule of thumb has always been to cover religious issues if they appear on the front page of the New York Times. Since the sex abuse scandal has sent the New York Times into a feeding frenzy worthy of the most lurid tabloids, with front-page articles nearly every day (at least in March), we feel that Just B16 is hardly compromising our editorial principles.

“We are unencumbered by starry-eyed naïveté. We accept, with great shame and chagrin, that there are paedophile priests and that there are delinquent bishops and cardinals. But we will try to put these in context and we will refuse to be cowed by bullying, abuse and perverse misinterpretation”.

The last line certainly expresses an intention that certain media outlets can learn from.