It wasn’t my Fault: How Priests Have Rationalized Their Abuse of Minors

I have drawn the information below from the same 2011 Report to Catholic Bishops on Sexual Abuse by Catholic Priests that I have referred to in previous posts on this subject. It is possible that, with the increased understanding since that time of the harm sexual abuse does to victims, the excuses given by priest abusers would be somewhat less blatantly self-serving. Their distancing of themselves from the act of abuse is consistent, however, with the way the Church still “covers it up” with secrecy until forced to act by external agencies like law enforcement or the media.

The priests interviewed for the 2011 report generally found a way to direct responsibility for their abuse away from their “true” selves to their “sick” selves (the part of them addicted to substances, for example). Or, worse, toward their victim’s seductive or sexually precocious behavior, or toward  their families’ failure to protect them. The priests’ behavior was therefore, according to them, incorrectly labeled “abusive.” Or, still worse, since they were responsible only to God, and they had already been forgiven for their abuse by God through confession (the sacrament of reconciliation), no one below God (their parishioners, their bishops. the courts, for example) had any right to judge them. This posture of superiority conveniently left them undeserving of any corrective action whatsoever (psychological treatment, transfer to another school, parish or diocese, removal from ministry, or criminal prosecution.)  Even if their abuse was demonstrably criminal, these priests remained, in their own minds, innocent.

Other excuses are also painful to hear.  The abuse “happened only once,” “happened long ago,” was consensual or, since it fell short of intercourse, was “not sex.” Some priests romanticized the abuse as a “relationship” on a more spiritual level than “just sex.” Other priests blamed Church authorities, who had treated them badly by not training them for a life of celibacy, If they had, the priests argued, they dsc04280might never have chosen to be ordained.

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