Priests molesting boys

The pope is back in Rome and I heard on the news that he is going to address the problem of Priests molesting boys.
I have this question. When this happened, the priests were, sometimes, shuffled off to another diocese and the problem covered up.( sometimes, they did it again.)
Did they think that God did not know what they were doing ?
Did they just think that they had sinned and would be forgiven ?
What about the victims, sure they got money, but their lives were kinda ruined.

It had been that the Church treated it internally, as a sin rather than as a crime. That attitude (thankfully) is changing rapidly.

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I doubt that you are going to be able to find a factual answer for this. More likely, this is going to involve speculation and opinion, or maybe some debate. I’m not seeing enough here for a move to GD, so let’s try IMHO for now.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.

The problem is, those boys need to be taught to keep quiet.

God isn’t the one who signs their paychecks.

I’ve always assumed at least a portion of church leadership doesn’t truly believe their own shtick. The point is to control the masses - mainly in the form of getting them to give them money. When you’re on the receiving end of that scam, it doesn’t matter what you really believe as long as you can keep up appearances. Anyone willing to wantonly molest kids either just doesn’t believe or they believe all will be forgiven, as you also suggest.

It’s hard to know what the Bishops were thinking years ago, let alone the Pope, but I think it’s safe to say that the Church tried to contain the scandal by moving priests around and claiming it was an isolated issue. Even if they thought it was a sin and not a crime that doesn’t change the fact that it was a crime. A crime that victims were reluctant to talk about with authorities, or anyone else for that matter. As a few of the victims began to come forward others felt empowered to do the same, and the scale of the problem became evident. This wasn’t a rogue element in a few isolated churches, but a widespread problem that the Church had ignored for years and then tried to cover up. I think the Church was in denial for quite a while, but once lawsuits were filed they couldn’t ignore it anymore.


They live in a culture where masturbation, a consensual adult non-marital relationship, and child molestation are considered equally sinful and they have to preach that to the masses.

But rape is not about sex, it is about power.

Back in the olden days when there were a lot of priests and nuns, nuns would teach in the grade schools, priests would teach boys in high school, and nuns would teach girls in high school. (Most Catholic high schools were not co-ed.) With few exceptions, they were sadistic. They themselves had been brought up in the Catholic school system where they were taught by equally sadistic people. And they felt that this had set them on the right path and made them people who could demand respect and obedience. When they got to teach in the schools, it was their turn. They could make the rules and pass on the way they were raised and they could rationalize that the kids would be better off for it.

The priests had it even worse. The traditional path to the priesthood was to lock a boy up in a seminary as soon as he graduated eighth grade. The seminaries had high fences, locked gates, and locked doors. Throughout their high school years, their lives would be completely controlled by bitter old men who regimented them and passed on the traditions of how they were treated. Around college time, they would begin to have some more contact with the outside world, but it was still controlled.

Child molestation was not about sex. It was about the power of the priests. The priests were abused and sometimes molested as boys. Their lives were completely controlled. They now felt that the world owed them, that they had earned their privileges. And they could molest a little boy if they wanted to.

And why little boys? Because of their upbringing, in part. Because it would be harder to get away with bullying an adult. And because the adults held them in such awe and reverence, that the other adults in the childrens’ lives would never believe them.

The Bishops had been raised in the same system. Their loyalty is to the institutional church. If word got out about the priests, people might quit the church. Hundreds of souls might be condemned and thousands of dollars might not be collected.

I think the Catholic church has done a pretty good job in cleaning this mess up and you arent hearing many new cases. Most of the problems stopped back in the 80’s. Alot of money went to victims and many priests went to jail.

  1. It wasn’t “many”.
  2. It wasn’t through the cooperation of the Roman Catholic Church.
  3. “Cleaning” does not mean the same thing as “Covering”.

The instinct of those in power is to hush things up and cover up. partly this was to avoid airing dirty laundry, partly it was because back then some things were not discussed… perhaps the hierarchy also feared that part of the blame would fall on them for allowing the offenders to be priests at all. (After all, every church, the Boy Scouts, even congressional pages IIRC - there have been scandals, and generally they were swept under the rug).

The Monica Lewinsky scandal was unique in that a lot of politicians and prominent people behaved like that - just for various political reasons, this time it hit the news in explicit detail. Once one prominent story makes it to the news and people see that (a) it happened and (b) some media are not afraid to report on details - then the floodgates opened. This is what happened to the church, too.

It is more prominent in the Catholic Church for several reasons - first, the more controlled heirachy. The Baptists may have had philandering or pedophile ministers (example,not to pick on one sect) but who would care - and it’s not like there would be a controlling office in Washington or wherever moving the minister somewhere else - he’s fired, he’s on his own to find a new gig.

Second, the celibacy - not just for lack of normal release, but also for selective process. It’s not like a married minister who has a wife to go home to. Plus, in heavily catholic social groups, the mothers were persuaded that one child should go into the priesthood; the schools pushed the same propaganda. A boy reaching puberty who did not experience the same urges, participate in the same locker room banter about which girl had the biggest tits, etc. - possibly thought that it was because God had a higher calling. So those confused, with alternate urges, were likely to choose the priesthood.

then there’s opportunity. Like Boy Scout leaders, like school teachers, the opportunity more often than not was youngsters, and most often young boys. For those so inclined, easy pickin’s. Plus, the prestige of the position meant they were more likely to intimidate the victim into not reporting; and as mentioned above, if parents did raise a fuss, few people wanted to air that dirty laundry and it would be hushed up.

If anyone remembers the tenor of the times - many parents did not want to admit or face the fact their child had been molested- they were in total denial, or even blamed the victim. Plus, being intimidated by the church, who would use the full weight of the hierarchy to hush things up and minimize any “misunderstandings”.

Finally, some outright predators ended up in the church too. These seem to be the main offenders who make the news. When I was in a Catholic college in the mid 70’s, there was a minor outrage over some ex-priest who wrote a book suggesting most priests who joined up originally with a fervent belief had lost their religion by the time they were ordained several years later. They were just too comfortable and insecure to drop out and start all over again in the secular world. This may have been a more cynical view, but probably many regarded their choice as “just a job” and did not want to rock the boat. The outright predators probably did not choose to be priests for the opportunities, but finding themselves in the situation, took advantage of it.

The church too late learned their mistakes, and likely now has a more concerted effort to catch and remove the offenders they find instead of trying hide things. But… there’s 50 to 60 years of back problems to deal with.

I really do wonder. When the Pope met with sex abuse victims the other day my thoughts immediately went to the Walrus addressing the little oysters. To paraphrase:

I’m sure that the interests of the Church will still be paramount in future cases, they’ll just be extra careful in covering them up. Maybe if they dropped the insistence on priestly celibacy (which was a later addition to Christianity anyway) they might get healthier clerical candidates, less repressed and screwed-up sexually.

Has there been a single bishop punished for the crimes of shuffling the pedophiles around and covering it up?

I think it’s the opposite. The people up at the top really do believe in their religion. So they recognize that some priests have done terrible things but they feel that publicizing their crimes would damage the church as a whole and prevent it from doing good. It’s a common attitude: “We’ve got to hide the few bad things that exist so we can keep doing all the good things we do.”

This is the part that has bothered me the most. If the priests actually believed in what they were teaching them following through on compulsions would seem a lot less likley. I would be curious how many of these same priests also had alcohol abuse problems.

Priests and nuns are people and some are good and some bad. If the church had said this, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But, they didn’t, they tried to cover it up.
I can’t help but wonder, how much other stuff was covered up. It’s the whole " holier than thou" attitude that bothers me.
Heaven forbid ( pun intended ) they should lose a nickle. Even the pay off was part of the cover up.

I suppose my attitude on reading that was, “what do you expect him to say?”. Basically the people up the ladder screwed up in not calling the cops, in not removing offenders from the church, in not apologizing earlier. But other than “we screwed up, sorry”, what can an organization say?

IIRC at least one or two have been charged for cover-ups. But generally, that happened a long time ago. this has been growing in the news since the mid-90’s, a lot of the worst failures would have been earlier than that. Considering most bishops are already pretty senior, 20 or more years later you’re looking at charging people in their late 70’s or older; and they have likely been retired from their position a long time by now. (Or it was suggested they resign when the cover ups became part of the scandal.)

But then what? Part of the career is that the church takes care of you in your old age… If they take the attitude “one screw-up and your out, even if it was the normal thing to do at the time” how likely are they to keep any but the most incredibly devout priests? “Thanks for a lifetime of service, but that one screwup means now you go find your own old folks home and figure out how to pay for it with no assets.” How do you discipline a retired bishop for something like that? At best, I doubt any provable cases exist against any active cardinal now.

Alcohol abuse is also a problem, especially as some more remote parishes the loneliness can be a factor too.

However, if I actually believed what the bible says, basically Jesus was a communist. the current pope does not go far enough, let alone his self-important first-world adherents. Jesus allegedly said to take all you money and worldly possessions, sell them and give them to the poor. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Priests who drive nice fancy cars, bishops who live in mansions, parishioners with piles of money, etc - nowhere near the ideal of a wandering preacher who basically said it was impossible to be rich and go to heaven.

What you call “one screwup” is what I call “fucking a little boy up the ass”. Just so we are clear.

Yes, it’s not like there was some time and place recently where molesting children was considered “the normal thing to do at the time”. These priests were committed what was seen as a serious crime by the standards of both today and the time when they were committing it.

So while “one screwup and you’re out” is too harsh, I think “one serious crime like rape or murder and you’re out” is a reasonable policy.

Back in the early 2000’s I worked for a children’s advocacy organization. One of my jobs was to keep a database of incidents of abuse by clergy. I can assure you, it’s not just a Catholic problem. Mainline Protestants, fundamental Protestants, Jews, Muslims, storefront churches – hundreds of cases all over the U.S.

You never heard of most of those cases because, for the most part, the other denominations don’t have as strong a hierarchy as the Catholics. A minister in a non-denominational church can go to any other church that will hire him. A choir director at a Baptist church can get hired at a Lutheran church, etc. When those clerics were caught, the individaul churches they worked for did pretty much the same as the Catholic hierarchy – settle with the victim, make sure the offender gets out of town, and hope the news didn’t get around.