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March 31, 2006



It's hard to speak about abuses with numbers, it's hard when you know that there's childs involved.

But I think it's the only way to respond to "all the priest are corrupt and potentialy abusers" or "sexual abuse it's the result a celibate" or "women's and marriage to priest, Now¡".

Interesting analysis


I find it hard to believe that there are not some indicators that those near the molesting priest might not observe however - sometimes you don't see signposts if you're not looking/expecting them. We sometimes dismiss events/observations as something other than a real indicator and much later realize in hindsight that we weren't giving our instincts enough credit. I can think of a couple of instances of this - one where a good friend's husband made a pass at me (but I didn't credit it with intent until he later became known as a womanizer).

On another note, former priest (laicized in the aftermath) Mike Baker (Los Angeles) was in our parish years ago and was universally adored - tall and stocky, always smiling and outgoing, great sermons, available for conversation - we all loved him! And he lived in the rectory with 3 other great priests (still) and they didn't see it...!


Read "Priests for a New Millenium" by Archbishop Tim Dolan of Milwaukee, a collection of his homilies to seminarians as rector of the North American College in Rome.

The warning signs for a general failure to be a faithful priest are there, and as Dolan points out, the temptation is to ignore or downplay what's apparent, even for other priests in the same rectory.

From memory:

*Too much nightlife, going to restaurants multiple times a week and rolling in after midnight. There is no discipline to this lifestyle, and it's simply a respectable version of being a wild bachelor.

*Not offering Daily Mass, including on your day off, including if you are not assigned a public Mass. Offering Daily Mass is a basic definer of the priesthood.

*Liturgy of the Hours, see above.

*"Office hours," not literally but simply an honored commitment to being pastorally busy for a full day's work and not lazing in the rectory on the computer or TV. We think of priests as always busy because of the shortage, but individual priests need to be self-starters, and if they aren't it's a bad sign. Dolan calls it "zeal."

*Distracting and excessive hobbies, priests certainly need fulfilling hobbies but Dolan cites the foodie who spends literally four hours a night cooking dinner, the motorcycle enthusiast who is gone on trips every few weeks, the techie who is on the computer literally eight hours a day, etc. Again, another way of being a bachelor, not a priest.

*Not having a healthy network of family and friends that includes fellow priests. The priestly loners are ripe for problems, as are those whose relationships are all with lay people, as are those whose entire life is a clerical cocoon.

Read the book, each chapter is a homily and it is a great read. If more bishops read this book we would be in better shape.

Old Zhou

That there were "there were no warning signs for the typical abuser, who is a priest in his late 30s who has been ordained 11 years" does not surprise me at all.

The "typical abuser priest" is just a normal priest, able to sin like anyone else, like a parent, a step-parent, a teacher, a fireman, a policeman, a doctor, a coach, a scout leader.

What do all these "no warning signs...typical abusers" have in common?
Authority, in some form, over those whom they abuse.

If there are no structural safeguards built into the environment, into the society, then, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, sooner or later some "nice person" with no "warning signs" is going to become a sexual abuser.

It is human nature, contaminated by sin.

And it is not usually the "new guys," under close observation, that think they can get away with this. No, it is those in their positions for 10 or more years, who have shown that they are "trustworthy," who are left with little supervision, that think they can get away with it.

And, starting from the 1960's, many of the social structures in the lives of diocesan priests were turned upside down, or abolished. Many who lived in community with other priests now lived alone, or drifted from place to place. And society, in the 1960's to 1980's was on fire with free love and sex, between any two persons. All sex was viewed as good in many places in the 1970's, even with children.

Tangent: last night I public radio I heard a little bit of a segment on the 50th anniversary of The Pill. The older women were disappointed. They witnessed the "promise" of free sex that the Pill gave them in the 1960's and 1970's turn into paranoia (and need for condoms) as more and more sexual diseases became apparent since the 1980's (AIDS, herpes, chlamydia--things unknown in the 1960's and 1970's). Younger women are much more sexually cautious and anxious today than women of their age 30 or 40 years ago, as "they have so much more to fear from sex than just babies."
--End tangent

The 1960's and 1970's were bad in many, many ways, and, as a culture, we just started to come back to our senses in the mid-1980's. This is one of the social factors that enabled these "no warning signs" nice priests.


I'm inclined to agree more with the "warning signs" noted by Archbishop Dolan quoted by Fortiterinre above. It's not merely being placed in a position of power that makes someone an abuser -- that comes close to sounding like a claim that, given the opportunity, anyone will be an abuser. I simply don't believe that.

The Dolan analysis rings truer: Self-indulgence and lukewarmness, manifested at first in ways that are relatively small (not necessarily sinful) but forming a consistent pattern, leads almost inevitably to more serious problems down the road. This is true for everyone, by the way, whether clergy or laity, married or single.


"We know that sexual abuse is underreported . . ."

They say this about rape and sexual assault generally, but I don't see how anyone can know something if there is no evidence for it, that is, no report of it. This is, at most, merely an assumption that "sexual abuse is underreported." On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence demonstrating that the most falsely accused crime is sexual assault. Believe it or not, a mere accusation is not conclusive evidence of guilt. Plenty of innocent people have been accused of sex crimes. When you lump these falsely-accused priests in with those that are actually guilty, its no wonder that you can't see a red flag or warning sign.


Warning Signs - If the psychological screening being performed (if it is performed at all) is just looking for specific "pedophile" keys, chances are they aren't going to find warning signs. Most of the cases weren't pedophilic in nature and, to my knowledge, there are no warning signs for those with a "taste for chicken."

Under-reporting - scientific analysis of the sexual histories of general populations corrected for demographics reveal that the vast majority of those who state that they were sexually abused as children or adolescents do not report this abuse to any authority.

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