Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

The View from the Core by E. L. Core
America's Small Town Webzine

 Volume 1.5  Front Page March 11, 2002 

The View’s Featured Webpages

Recent columns, essays, and news articles

This section is being discontinued. Reading and selecting items of current events to post here consumes too much time and energy. Besides, many of the items are already “old” news by the time The View comes out. I think I’d do better to concentrate on articles of more permanent interest. ELC
Articles of more permanent interest

Six months ago today, Muslim terrorists massacred 3,000 innocent, unsuspecting civilians, from around the world, in New York City. Lest we forget:

Whooping It Up: In Beirut, even Christians celebrated the atrocity (Italian journalist Elisabetta Burba)
“Where were you on Sept. 11, when terrorists changed the world? I was at the National Museum here [in Beirut], enjoying the wonders of the ancient Phoenicians with my husband. This tour of past splendor only magnified the shock I received later when I heard the news and saw the reactions all around me. Walking downtown, I realized that the offspring of this great civilization were celebrating a terrorist outrage. And I am not talking about destitute people. Those who were cheering belonged to the elite of the Paris of Middle East: professionals wearing double-breasted suits, charming blond ladies, pretty teenagers in tailored jeans. Trying to find our bearings, my husband and I went into an American-style cafe in the Hamra district, near Rue Verdun, rated as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. Here the cognitive dissonance was immediate, and direct. The cafe’s sophisticated clientele was celebrating, laughing, cheering and making jokes, as waiters served hamburgers and Diet Pepsi. Nobody looked shocked, or moved. They were excited, very excited.... Back in Italy, I received a phone call from my friend Gilberto Bazoli, a journalist in Cremona. He told me he witnessed the same reactions among Muslims in the local mosque of that small Lombard city. ‘They were all on Osama bin Laden’s side,’ he said. ‘One of them told me that they were not even worthy to kiss his toes.’”

Anti-Americanism blamed on college teachers (WT)
“Professors and administrators are to blame for anti-American sentiment on college campuses today, according to a report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. More than 140 college campuses in 36 states have held anti-war rallies denouncing the country’s military actions in Afghanistan, the report says. The document — ‘Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It’ — concludes that many professors and administrators are quick to clamp down on acts of patriotism, such as flying the American flag, and look down on students who question professors’ ‘politically correct’ ideas in class.”

In war, grownups can’t play silly games (Mark Steyn)
“But the six-month suspension of normal politics is taking its toll on Democrats. ‘We seem to be good at developing entrance strategies,’ Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia’s porkmeister par excellence, whined the other day, ‘and not so good at developing exit strategies.’ Well spotted, senator. Here’s something else that will shock you: Churchill didn’t have an ‘exit strategy’ for World War II.... You don’t have exit strategies when your national territory’s been attacked; you have a responsibility to see the war through to the end.... The headline on Jules Witcover’s column in the Baltimore Sun read, ‘Democrats Ask Tough Questions On War.’ In fact, tough questions would be welcome. But Byrd’s and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s criticisms are pathetic: They’re about spin, posturing, about how it’ll play on TV. In war, grownups don’t have time for silly games in the congressional schoolyard.”

A series on Environmentalism @ NewsMax by Diane Alden:

The Green Matrix (Part One)
“The people who rule the green matrix seek to centrally plan our lives. They have adopted the same philosophy as those who drove the peasants off the land in Russia. They are of the same mind as the Red Guard in China. They are willing to sacrifice science, the truth and freedom, as well as the well-being of humans and the environment, in order to promote their utopian vision for the world — a vision that considers man a cancer on the land. Strangely, the term ‘green matrix’ comes up in many of their studies, claims and policy papers. But this isn’t a movie. It is the new totalitarian vision.”

The Green Matrix (Part Two): They Blinded Us With Science
“The more serious problem, however, is that over the years agencies have been co-opted by those with a much larger agenda in mind. It is not just about listing one species and shutting down one or two forests for public use, i.e., ‘managing federal lands.’ As the greens say, ‘Think globally and act locally.’ That mantra is at the core and heart of U.S. environmental policy. It is fair to say that in the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service ‘science’ got dumped years ago. It was a process that began in the ’70s but received official imprimatur under Bill Clinton in 1993. At that time, philosophy replaced ‘science.’ Conservation biology became the ‘science,’ and ‘ecosystem management’ and ‘precautionary principle’ the tools. The end game was to reconnect ‘ecosystems’ from the Yukon to Mexico.”

Being reasonable about faith when we all ignore God (Hanna Clark)
“This fact versus faith dichotomy relies on a gendered and racialized conception of the human mind and soul (or are they even separate?). White people are seen as rational and logical, living in the world of logic and ideas. People of color are seen as more spiritual, irrational and emotional. The same can be said of men (they’re rational) and women (they’re irrational). And the same can be said of Macalester atheists (rational) and the rest of us (irrational). The problem is that Atheism is just as based on faith as any other religion. At Macalester, religion is often seen only as an institution that tries to exert control. There’s a knee-jerk reaction to the imposition of rules and social mores, and all religion and spirituality is thereby ridiculed. It’s ironic that so many people use a patriarchal and racist ideology to critique what they think is an engine of oppressive authority.”

The Pristine Myth (Katie Bacon interviews Charles Mann)
“For years the standard view of North America before Columbus’s arrival was as a vast, grassy expanse teeming with game and all but empty of people. Those who did live here were nomads who left few marks on the land. South America, too, or at least the Amazon rain forest, was thought of as almost an untouched Eden, now suffering from modern depredations. But a growing number of anthropologists and archaeologists now believe that this picture is almost completely false. According to this school of thought, the Western Hemisphere before Columbus’s arrival was well-populated and dotted with impressive cities and towns — one scholar estimated that it held ninety to 112 million people, more than lived in Europe at the time — and Indians had transformed vast swaths of landscape to meet their agricultural needs. They used fire to create the Midwestern prairie, perfect for herds of buffalo. They also cultivated at least part of the rain forest, living on crops of fruits and nuts.”

Diagnosis: Delusional (Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak)
“People need to feel right about themselves. Not just good — right. Morally right. For some people, hating America provides an inexhaustible source of unearned moral stature. They can’t be right unless their country is wrong, always and forever wrong: an attitude empowered by the quaint notion that dissent is somehow automatically morally superior to consent, and refusal to participate a greater good than support. Sadly, there is much in this country to criticize. We’re far from perfect, and in many ways the intensity of our self-scrutiny stands as a badge of our virtue. But there comes a time when some overweening emergency takes precedence.”

A three-part article in The Atlantic:

What is the Koran? (Part 1)
“Some of the parchment pages in the Yemeni hoard seemed to date back to the seventh and eighth centuries A.D., or Islam’s first two centuries — they were fragments, in other words, of perhaps the oldest Korans in existence. What’s more, some of these fragments revealed small but intriguing aberrations from the standard Koranic text. Such aberrations, though not surprising to textual historians, are troublingly at odds with the orthodox Muslim belief that the Koran as it has reached us today is quite simply the perfect, timeless, and unchanging Word of God.”

What is the Koran? (Part 2)
“Deviating from the orthodox interpretation of the Koran, says the Algerian Mohammed Arkoun, a professor emeritus of Islamic thought at the University of Paris, is ‘a very sensitive business’with major implications. ‘Millions and millions of people refer to the Koran daily to explain their actions and to justify their aspirations,’ Arkoun says. ‘This scale of reference is much larger than it has ever been before.’”

What is the Koran? (Part 3)
“Gerd-R. Puin speaks with disdain about the traditional willingness, on the part of Muslim and Western scholars, to accept the conventional understanding of the Koran. ‘The Koran claims for itself that it is “mubeen,” or “clear,”’ he says. ‘But if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn’t make sense. Many Muslims — and Orientalists — will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Koran is not comprehensible — if it can’t even be understood in Arabic — then it’s not translatable. People fear that. And since the Koran claims repeatedly to be clear but obviously is not — as even speakers of Arabic will tell you — there is a contradiction. Something else must be going on.’”

Response to Terror (Austin American Stateman)
“This is an eight-part series by The Washington Post describing the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the highest levels of government.” (The original WP series, Ten Days in September, is posted below. ELC)

Correctness Crack-Up (Stephen Goode and Christopher Jolma)
“But the response to Sept. 11 at U.S. colleges and universities might be bringing about a bigger, more profound transformation that’s now in its earliest stages. It’s change that challenges and may undermine — the gospel of political correctness, which has ravaged U.S. schools for nearly two decades. It’s a transformation, too, that may bring an end to the power held at American universities and colleges by the left-wing 1960s activists — many of whom long have held senior and tenured positions at American schools and have used those positions to preach the same tired left-wing politics and anti-Americanism they began so loudly advocating 40 years ago.”

Campus Capers (David Horowitz)
“In any case, the media blackout of my book makes my current campus speaking tour something of a necessity. I have one additional agenda, moreover, which is to cast a spotlight on the rampant political bias in the hiring of faculty at American universities. This repression of conservative viewpoints — an academic McCarthyism that puts McCarthy’s puny efforts to shame — is blatant, unconstitutional and illegal, but ubiquitous nonetheless.

What will it take to persuade? (Balint Vazsonyi)
“The brutal murder of journalist Daniel Pearl has shaken even our own television news analysts. That is significant, since some of our most highly visible — and highly paid — commentators had never known a foreign terrorist they didn’t like. Well, that might be a bit harsh. Let us say instead, they had never seen a foreign terrorist whose ‘cause’ they didn’t respect. But this was too much, even for them. Are we mad enough yet?”

How The Left Undermined America’s Security (David Horowitz)
“Underlying the Clinton security failure was the fact that the Administration was made up of people who for twenty-five years had discounted or minimized the totalitarian threat, opposed America’s armed presence abroad, and consistently resisted the deployment of America’s military forces to halt Communist expansion. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was himself a veteran of the Sixties ‘anti-war’ movement, which abetted the Communist victories in Vietnam and Cambodia, and created the ‘Vietnam War syndrome’ that made it so difficult afterwards for American presidents to deploy the nation’s military forces.”

The cost of academic integrity (Walter Williams)
“College budgets depend on admitting warm bodies. That means we can’t expect college administrators to do anything to stop unprepared students from being admitted, courses dumbed-down and fraudulent grades given. Boards of Trustees tend to be yes-men and women for the president, so we can’t expect anything from them.
The money spigot needs to be turned off. Alumni, foundations and other charitable donors — not to mention taxpayers — should be made aware of fraudulent practices and academic dishonesty.

The Plains vs. The Atlantic: Is Middle America a backwater, or a reservoir? (Blake Hurst)
“The combination of progressive taxation and urban real-estate prices ensures that almost nobody on the coasts has more spendable income than the highest paid people in Franklin County or the rest of rural Red America. People here in Missouri’s small towns can buy a beautiful older home for less than $100,000. Brooks makes much of the fact that he literally could not spend more than $20 for a meal in Franklin County. The fare in Red America is a bit limited. You can’t buy one of those meals with a dime-sized entrée in the middle of a huge plate, with some sort of sauce artfully squirted about. But you can buy a pound of prime rib for ten bucks. Class-consciousness isn’t a problem in Red America, because most people can afford to buy everything that’s for sale.”

Proof that the classics speak to everyone (Katherine Kersten)
“For 35 years now, we’ve been hearing that ‘the classics’ — the great books of the Western world — are largely irrelevant in today’s classrooms. Why? Most were written by dead white males. Obviously, then, they can hold little meaning for females or for black or Hispanic kids. Everyone knows that if young people are to be moved or inspired, they need books whose authors ‘look like them.’ Try telling that to the students at Wilbur Wright College, a two-year community college in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago. Students at Wright are predominantly black, Hispanic or from immigrant families. Wright is for kids who aren’t ready for four-year colleges. Yet students there are flocking to a Great Books program and lining up to read authors like Plato, Cicero and Dante.”

Why the Muslims Misjudged Us (Victor Hanson)
“Two striking themes — one overt, one implied — characterize most Arab invective: first, there is some sort of equivalence — political, cultural, and military — between the West and the Muslim world; and second, America has been exceptionally unkind toward the Middle East. Both premises are false and reveal that the temple of anti-Americanism is supported by pillars of utter ignorance.”

Parsing out grammar (Linda Chavez)
“I learned how to diagram sentences in elementary school — or what we used to call, appropriately, grammar school.... Progressive teachers and their professional associations, especially the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), believe diagramming sentences is make-work that bores students and turns them off to writing. So they banished diagramming from the classroom years ago, along with most grammar instruction. ”

Slouching Toward Bias: A Neo-Conservative Critiques the Media (Poynter)
“‘The media, notably certain powerful big city dailies and the network news divisions that generally follow their lead, reflect a worldview that is not only distinctly liberal in character, but hostile to those who hold alternative views.”

The Education of Abraham Lincoln (Eric Foner)
“He read incessantly, beginning as a youth with the Bible and Shakespeare. During his single term in the House of Representatives, his colleagues considered it humorous that Lincoln spent his spare time poring over books in the Library of Congress. The result of this ‘stunning work of self-education’ was the ‘intellectual power’ revealed in Lincoln’s writings and speeches.”

Ten Days in September (WP)
“This series is based on interviews with President Bush, Vice President Cheney and many other key officials inside the administration and out. The interviews were supplemented by notes of National Security Council meetings made available to The Washington Post, along with notes taken by several participants.”

Lost Boys (Amy Benfer)
“Suddenly, the debate among researchers is focused on the boys: Are they behind because of the girl empowerment movement? Are they being shortchanged in the classroom simply because they are boys?”

Skewed News: Fair and balanced coverage requires diversity of opinion (Cathy Young)
“Neither Goldberg nor McGowan allege a deliberate vast left-wing conspiracy to distort the news. Rather, they convincingly argue that news coverage is often influenced by a knee-jerk bias stemming from the journalists’ own views on political and social issues.”

Why We Don’t Marry (James Q. Wilson)
“Marriage was once a sacrament, then it became a contract, and now it is an arrangement. Once religion provided the sacrament, then the law enforced the contract, and now personal preferences define the arrangement.”

This View’s Column

Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing

Perfidious Priests and What Must Be Done About Them (Part One)

The column is also available on This View’s Column page, without the links on the left- and right-hand of the page.

For decades, a crisis has been brewing in the Catholic Church in the USA: a crisis of faith, a crisis of morals, a crisis of courage. Scandalous revelations in the fallout from the prosecution of a predatory pedophile among the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston may, finally, bring the crisis to its turning point. The priest was allowed to continue in ministry with little or no supervision, for at least 15 years and perhaps for much longer, resulting in the abuse of 130 children. These revelations — and others since brought to light, or more into the light — have elicited outcries of outrage, especially among Catholics. How could these horrendous activities have been allowed to happen? Why have perfidious priests — some of whom have committed criminal acts — been allowed to continue in sacred ministry? And what must now be done?


In addressing the issue of recent clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the USA, I do not want to make the situation out to be more complicated than it is; nor do I wish to oversimplify. First, I will relate the facts of the situation, as far as I can determine them to be: this will take some time and attention to detail. (Nor will I refrain from comment in the midst.) Later, I will propose my own analysis: how realistic that may be, I do not know.

I rely on recent news reports for the facts of the current situation. Philip Jenkins’ book Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis (Oxford University Press, 1996) is the best source of detailed information, historical trends and wide-ranging analysis. Writers at the National Review Online provide a contemporary viewpoint from well-educated, articulate Catholic laity. And, as always, the redoubtable editor and other writers at the monthly Catholic World Report provide the most insightful extended analysis, outside of books, in the March 2002 issue. (As I write, CWR is available on-line only through January.)

A Review of the Current Situation
(from recent news stories and opinion pieces)

The sorry and sordid story made headlines starting Jan. 6 & 7, when the Boston Globe ran a two-part series recounting the sexual crimes of John J. Geoghan — who had been a priest of the Boston archdiocese before he was finally “defrocked” in 1998 — and the shameful manner in which his superiors had handled his case. The Boston Archdiocese was forced, by court order, to make public its internal documentation of the case. From that information, National Review Online’s Rod Dreher related some facts about how Geoghan had been mollycoddled, in a Jan. 25 column:

  • In 1996, as state authorities were preparing to arrest Father John Geoghan, Bernard Cardinal Law wrote to the man whom he knew to be a serial molester of children: “Yours has been an effective life of ministry, sadly impaired by illness.... God bless you, Jack.”
  • Brooklyn Bishop Thomas V. Daily, who oversaw Geoghan in his previous role as an auxiliary Boston bishop, explained the kid-gloves treatment archdiocesan officials gave Geoghan as “concern of the public reaction.” Said Daily, excusing his own inaction: “I am not a policeman; I am a shepherd....”
  • Newly public Church documents show that Monsignor Francis S. Rossiter, the pastor at Geoghan’s final parish, had been made aware that Geoghan had been removed from several parishes for abusing children. Yet he assigned Geoghan to work with altar boys and youth groups....
  • Even as Geoghan was removed from parish after parish following allegations of child molestation, his superiors, including two cardinals, wrote to him with kindness and warmth....

Dreher continued:

Nowhere in any of these documents is there evidence that the churchmen who so agonized about the welfare of Father Geoghan ever showed concern for the children he was raping and fondling, or their families.

As the scandal in Boston “mushroomed”, bishops around the country decided to take action publicly against priests who had been reliably accused of sexual misconduct. As reported in an article in the Los Angeles Times, Mar. 4, Cardinal Mahony had dismissed up to a dozen priests from service:

None of the priests in the Los Angeles Archdiocese are believed to be involved in any recent cases of sexually abusing minors. Their cases occurred as long as a decade ago, and all had undergone psychological counseling, according to one of the sources.

Nonetheless, since the scandal over the sexual abuse of minors erupted anew in the Boston archdiocese last month, dioceses across the country, including the Diocese of Orange and Diocese of San Bernardino, have been under increasing pressure to rid themselves of any priests with a history of sexual misconduct.

Not all dioceses have waited until the Boston scandal erupted; according to a New York Times piece, Mar. 3, the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, has had a firm policy of dealing with priests accused of sexual abuse:

The priests who have been accused of sexual abuse no longer work in churches. One performs karaoke on Wednesday nights at the Lincoln Jug restaurant in Belleville and another pumps gas at his mother's service station in the small town of Columbia.

In the mid-1990’s, the Diocese of Belleville publicly ousted 13 priests accused of inappropriate sexual contact with children, leaving them in an odd limbo — on the church payroll yet without portfolio [sic], called “Father” but barred from administering sacraments or wearing the collar.

Some individuals have questioned whether some dioceses have actually gone too far in removing accused priests, especially if they have already served without blame for a long time since having fallen. And we certainly must not blithely accept every accusation as true, especially because an atmosphere of frenzy-feeding would make it possible for a false accuser to ruin someone out of malice and spite. I nonetheless find it difficult to understand why it is not thought wise to make sure a perfidious priest does not continue to gain respect and support from the church — social, psychological, and financial — after having committed criminal or otherwise immoral acts with those entrusted to his pastoral care. A second chance, so long as it follows true repentance and the opportunity of asking and receiving real forgiveness from the injured parties, should not be out of the question: a third chance, let alone a 130th chance, certainly should be.

A Review of Recent Historical Trends
(from Jenkins’ Pedophiles and Priests)

Philip Jenkin’s book Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis, provides considerable background for the current situation. I will quote from the book at what may seem extraordinary length. But the book is 214 pages long, including about 40 pages of footnotes, and I quote but small, fragmented portions of two or three of the book’s ten chapters.

Though not widespread, earlier accusations of clerical misconduct surfaced occasionally through the 1970s. Church officials and mass media alike attempted to deal with them quietly:

Generations of jokes and rumors have helped create a willingness to believe the worst of a celibate clergy, so that the reporting of a few authentic cases of pedophilia quickly leads to acceptance of the most extreme charges about systemic corruption. However, the same religious mythology initially made mainstream media more reluctant to give credence to such allegations, for fear of repeating canards that seemed more suitable for vulgar jokes. (p. 32)

There were certainly cases in the 1960s and 1970s when Catholic clergy were found to be sexually involved with children or adult parishioners. However, the media generally cooperated with the church in avoiding scandal. Clerical offenders were dealt with quietly, usually being transferred from their parishes without obvious publicity, and were required to submit to periods of seclusion and therapy that were neither long nor arduous. (p. 33)

The number of accusations grew dramatically in the 1980s, and unfortunately set something of a pattern to be followed over the next two decades or so:

The major breakthrough in establishing the scale and reality of a “clergy-abuse” problem occurred in the Louisiana diocese of Lafayette in 1984-1985, when Father Gilbert Gauthe was tried on multiple counts of molestation. He was suspected of molesting children of both sexes as early as 1972, and charges involved forcible abuse as well as child pornography. On several occasions, though, church authorities who learned of his misdeeds responded merely by transferring him to new parishes, where the cycle would begin afresh. (pp. 34f)

The Gauthe affair did much to establish the stereotypical characteristics expected of the “clergy-abuse” offender. Apart from illustrating the extensive harm that one individual could do in a position of trust, the case suggested that the church as a whole had acquiesced in the wrongdoing, perhaps even aggravated it, by refusing to take decisive and punitive action at an early stage. The affair set the precedent that failure to intervene should result in serious financial penalties and compensatory damages for the families. (p. 36)

In 1985, a confidential report to the bishops of the USA warned that more vigorous, more rigorous, action was required:

The burgeoning number of scandals evoked deep concern among some Catholic observers, and in 1985 a confidential report entitled “The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Matter” was submitted to the Catholic hierarchy. The authors included Gauthe’s attorney, F. Ray Mouton, and two clerics [priests], Thomas P. Doyle and Michael Peterson.... The group warned of the need to take urgent action in the face of scandals, to react swiftly to complaints, and also to avoid charges of secretive proceedings or cover-ups. (p. 37)

Tragically, either this advice was not followed, or not followed often enough, or not followed well enough.

Cases of abuse have not been confined to the USA; in Canada, one instance culminated in an episcopal resignation because of the way cases had been handled:

The Newfoundland [Canada] cases were the first of the new wave of scandals... In the spring of 1989 attention shifted to the long history of both physical and sexual abuse committed by members of the Christian Brothers order against teenage boys in the Mount Cashel boys home in St. John’s.... During the original clandestine inquiry, some Brothers implicated in molestation had been permitted to leave the province to undertake new assignments. There were no sexual allegations against the province’s archbishop, but he resigned in 1990 under attack for church policies during the earlier investigations and cover-up. (p. 39)

After the number of cases skyrocketed in Chicago, the archdiocese initiated radical changes in its policies:

[In the Chicago archdiocese] in the 1960s and 1970s there had on average been two or three cases each year in which priests were accused of sexual misconduct with minors. The rate rose dramatically to seventeen complaints between 1986 an 1988, and to nineteen in the two years 1990-1991. (p. 41)

In September 1992 the Chicago archdiocese instituted the most comprehensive changes, including a pledge to remove forthwith any clergy accused of child abuse in order to prevent any potential harm to future victims.... Where charges were substantiated, priests would in effect pay for the offense for the rest of their lives. There would be years of therapy and counseling, and after this: “We recommend for each priest that has successfully completed the four year aftercare program: restricted ministry, a mandate restricting access to children, supervised residence, participation in a support group, assignment of a monitor or supervisor for life, and if indicated, ongoing therapy.” The Chicago policy was widely imitated, especially the use of a lay-dominated review board. (pp. 49f)

Imitated? Widely?

Contrary to much opinion, this is not a “Catholic” problem:

Clergy of most major denominations were to some extent tainted by such cases from the late 1980s. (p. 50)

The Church Mutual Insurance Company reported that by 1993 “it currently has open claims against four hundred non-Catholic clergy and has closed three hundred others since 1984. About half of them concern child sex abuse....” During 1992 alone, molestation charges were brought against Baptist ministers in rural Michigan, in New Orleans, and in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In the last case, multiple allegations of rape and molestation were directed against three brothers from one family, all of whom served as ministers in their respective churches. In 1994 there were molestation cases in Baptist churches in Georgia and in Houston, Texas.... Episcopalians encountered a lengthy series of misconduct cases, many involving minors; insurance claims for church liability in sexual matters rose from an annual average of five or so in the late 1980s to thirty-nine in 1992. (p. 51)

These cases, however, do not garner as much media attention as do those involving Catholic ministers. Many Catholic observers, including me, think this is due partly to a widespread hostility towards the Catholic Church among mainstream media.

(How long, for instance, will we have to wait until the Boston Globe, or the New York Times, or the Los Angeles Times, or the Washington Post does some intensive investigative reporting into Jenkins’ account of the Church Mutual Insurance Company having receiving seven hundred claims in cases of sexual abuse involving non-Catholic clergy in one ten-year span — half of them involving children? Until hell freezes over, that’s how long.)

Now, almost every case in which a priest is accused of sexually abusing youngsters is called “pedophilia”. This is not always the case. In fact, it is not usually the case:

When considered in detail, the cases often suggest sexual liaisons between priests and boys or young men in their late teens or early twenties. This behavior may be reprehensible in terms of violating ecclesiastical and moral codes of sexual conduct, and breaching vows of celibacy, and the power relationship between priest and young parishioner renders it difficult to speak of the behavior as fully consensual. However, it is not properly pedophilia.... We are therefore left with the obscure word ephebophilia: the sexual preference for boys, epi hebe, upon puberty. (pp. 78f)

The Chicago data indicate that less than 2 percent of all serving American priests are or have been involved with minors, about a thousand “pederasts” in all nationwide, with the great majority of this group being homosexual ephebophiles. True pedophiles would be counted at most in the hundreds, and “predators” like Gauthe [and Geoghan ELC]... constitute a small handful of priests accused of abuse, a few dozen at any given time in the whole of North America. To assert this is in no way to play down the damage that can be done by such individuals or to deflect the culpability of any superior who might have tolerated their activities, but it does provide an essential context for appreciating the dimensions of the “abuse problem.” The number of “pedophile priests” has been magnified by a factor of twenty or more. (pp. 82f)

As we can see, though recent revelations have been shocking, the number of individual priests involved does not (for now, at least) seem to be significantly larger than what should have been expected, according to recent studies. The general Catholic population, however, was not made aware of these statistics.

Jenkins attempts some explanations of how the situation evolved over the past 30 years:

Church attitudes were also conditioned by demographic changes within the priesthood, which suffered an alarming decline in numbers from 1968 onward.... In consequence, clergy and seminarians were a scarce commodity whose careers should not be lightly jeopardized. For that reason, dioceses granted a wider latitude in accepting ordinands of suspected homosexual disposition, and were reluctant to take severe action against priests with a sexual predilection for minors. Clerical authorities were predisposed to place their hopes in the efficacy of treatment and therapy rather than punitive measures. (p. 92)

He also responds to assertions by some observers that the clergy-abuse problem is the greatest crisis the Catholic Church has ever faced:

From a global perspective, the “greatest-crisis” language is fatuous. The contemporary abuse issue directly affects perhaps a few hundred priests on one continent, and it fades into insignificance beside such political conflicts as the spread of Islam and Protestantism in the early modern period, the rise of communism and fascism in the early twentieth century, and such intellectual crises as the Enlightenment and the growing hegemony of science and rationalism in the nineteenth century. (p. 167)

But he also warns that the consequences should not be underestimated:

Though falling short of these other menaces past and present, the abuse problem has already had complex effects on North American Catholicism, and there may be serious long-term consequences. Catholic observers frequently note how easily outsiders are misled by the divisive and even vicious tone of controversies with the church; in reality these have little impact on “real” Catholic life, which revolves around the enduring verities of the parish and the Sacraments. In the abuse issue, however, lies a serious threat to exactly these core phenomena that have survived unscathed the decades of skirmishing over matters like contraception and women’s ordination. (p. 167)

More on the Current Situation
(from recent news stories and opinion pieces)

The American scandals are starting, finally, to get the attention of Rome. As reported in an article in the New York Times, Mar. 2:

Many Vatican officials, conservative and liberal alike, say it will take a sweeping reform of the priesthood to stop the pedophile scandals. The liberals want better psychological screening and revamped training in seminaries. The conservatives shift the focus elsewhere, saying that sexual abuse cases in the church mainly involve teenage boys, not young children, and for that reason they say the priesthood should become less welcoming to gays. Priests who said this made clear they were not suggesting that gays were any more likely to be pedophiles. But they said most of the sex cases being investigated did not fit the classic definition of pedophilia.

As already indicated above, by Jenkins, “pedophilia” is an inaccurate — mistaken, erroneous, just plain wrong — description of most of the activity now being scrutinized. Contrary to the opinion of the priests cited anonymously in that article, some professionals do not hesitate to “suggest” that homosexuals are, indeed, more likely to be sexually attracted to much younger persons than are heterosexuals.

For instance, Catholic psychologist Richard Cross clarifies certain aspects of the situation, in an article in the March 2002 issue of Catholic World Report:

People who molest children fall into two basic types. There are pedophiles who are, strictly speaking, heterosexual (although they might not be exclusively so). These would be men who molest girls, or women who molest boys. Then there is the pederast, who is homosexual.... The most common form of pedophilia involves men molesting girls. The second most common form involves an older girl or a woman molesting a boy. Then you have the third form, which is what we are seeing in the press lately: the pederasts; the adult male molesting the younger male. (This could be either a pre-pubescent male or an early adolescent male.) .... The most recent data that I have seen suggests that there is more abuse of men against girls than men against boys, as I’ve mentioned. That is, abuse by heterosexuals is more common than abuse by homosexuals, or pederasty. However, there is a much smaller percentage of heterosexuals who are molesters than homosexuals who molest. Up to one-third of all homosexuals have pederastic tendencies. (p. 43; emphasis in original)

The Vatican had already gotten immediately involved in another recent case. Though the incident seems to have gone unnoticed, as far as I can tell, in the American press, the archbishop of Cardiff in Wales was ordered by the pope to resign last year, as reported in a Guardian article, Oct. 27, 2001:

The Pope yesterday took the extraordinary step of ordering the retirement of Archbishop John Aloysius Ward, the most senior member of the Roman Catholic Church in Wales, in the wake of a paedophile scandal which has rocked his diocese to its foundations. The 72-year-old archbishop, who had been under severe criticism from clergy and congregations following the convictions of two priests for child sexual abuse offences, was forced to resign despite making clear his determination to stay in office. He had been accused of repeatedly ignoring warnings about the two priests’ conduct.

Indeed, the archbishop had ordained one of those men to the priesthood in 1998, despite the ordinand having already been accused of child sexual abuse, and in the teeth of warnings from a fellow bishop that the man was “unworthy”.

(The precise manner of the archbishop’s exit from office is disputed: he claims that he was not ordered to resign. I interpret the evidence this way: Vatican officials had, shall we say, strongly suggested to the archbishop that he resign or retire early. He repeatedly and publicly refused to do so. After Ward met with the pope, he was told that he must resign or he would be deposed. So he resigned.)

As mentioned above, child sexual abuse isn’t only a “Catholic” problem; it’s not only a “clergy” problem, either. Witness recent news stories:

  • An AP story, Jan. 10: “An Orange County Superior Court judge already facing a federal charge of possessing child pornography was arrested Thursday in a child molestation case more than 25 years old. Judge Ronald C. Kline, 61, was booked for investigation of four counts of lewd conduct with a child under the age of 14, said Irvine police Lt. Sam Allevato.”
  • A story in Insight in the News, Mar. 2: “Steve Elson, a former Navy SEAL and former member of the FAA’s elite and secret ‘Red Team’ that conducted mock raids to test security at U.S. airports, tells Insight that over the years he has been made aware of sexual exploitation of children by traveling U.S. aviation-security personnel. ‘I heard them talk about having sex with young girls,’ he says. ‘Some of them talked about how [the children] were hairless [in their pubic area]. It was disgusting. My impression is that the behavior was pretty well-known. It was kind of a joke.’”
  • A story at NewsMax, Mar. 8: “At a confidential forum, the United States and the international community castigated the U.N. Refugee Agency for the sex scandal surrounding the alleged mass abuse of West African refugee children by aid workers and ‘peacekeepers,’ according to senior diplomats.... The U.S. delegation told a closed-door session of UNHCR’s top executive committee Tuesday, ‘These allegations of abuse by the very people entrusted with care of refugee people are deeply distressing and utterly appalling to all of us.’”

(The New York Times is owned by the same company that owns the Boston Globe. If the NYT has attempted, or does in the future attempt, to investigate charges of child sexual abuse by agents of the UN, which is headquartered in New York, as vigorously as the BG has investigated the Catholic hierarchy in Boston, please let me know. Do not think it necessary to also send contemporary reports of flying pigs.)

Sadly, some clergymen seem to have trouble dealing with the reality that they are sinners, that they have sinned, and that they need to repent and reform their lives. An almost piteously tragicomic aspect of the Boston story comes in the person of Fr. D. George Spagnolia. He had been dismissed from his position by Cardinal Law because of an accusation of having molested a 14-year-old boy in 1971. Spagnolia protested his innocence, refused to leave the rectory as he had been ordered to do, hired a lawyer, and even appeared (with his lawyer) on The Factor, Bill O’Reilly’s program on the Fox News Channel, to state his case.

Beginning in 1973, Spagnolia had left priestly ministry for 20 years, and has since publicly claimed to have been chaste during that time. This turned out to be a lie, as revealed in the Boston Globe, Mar. 2:

Spagnolia also disclosed that in addition to his nearly four-year relationship with Winston F. Reed after leaving the priesthood in 1973, which was reported by the Globe yesterday, he also had a year-long relationship with another man in 1981 or 1982 before resuming a life of celibacy. He had previously said that he had no other sexual relationships after parting with Reed in 1980.

He apologized to his supporters, insisting that he never meant to deceive anyone and lied to protect the privacy of himself and his partners. However it was Spagnolia who brought up the issue of celibacy during an interview with the Globe on Tuesday, insisting that he had lived a celibate life during his 20 years away from the priesthood.

Spagnolia still insists that he is not guilty of the 1971 charge. What moron would believe him now? And what on earth is one to say when a man claims that, by lying, he didn’t mean to deceive anybody?

Hello? Hello?

Sadly, too, some bishops seem to have great difficulty accepting the reality of their own shameful failures in contributing to this sorry situation. Perhaps the most astonishing quotation in this regard, it seems to me, came from Cardinal Law as reported in the Boston Globe, Mar. 10. The Cardinal had met with roughly 3,000 lay leaders from the archdiocese of Boston at a convocation, which I gather is an annual event. He is quoted as follows:

In his response at the end of the convocation, Law said, “In my most horrible nightmares, I would never have imagined that we would have come to the situation in which we find ourselves.”

Say what?

Cardinal Law, you yourself personally were responsible for compounding one Parents’ Nightmare with Another Parents’ Nightmare: a trusted priest abused their children, and a respected bishop allowed the predator to continue his ways. Any other nightmare that has followed was caused by the nightmares for which you were partly responsible, personally.

If that is all the recognition — all the conscience, all the consciousness — we can expect from Cardinal Law and other American bishops, the nightmare has only begun.

This column will continue next time in The View.

© ELC 2002

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Classic articles (that are, or should be, famous)

There is No Time, There Will Be Time
(Peggy Noonan)
Forbes ASAP (November 18, 1998)

“When you consider who is gifted and crazed with rage... when you think of the terrorist places and the terrorist countries... who do they hate most? The Great Satan, the United States. What is its most important place? Some would say Washington. I would say the great city of the United States is the great city of the world, the dense 10-mile-long island called Manhattan, where the economic and media power of the nation resides, the city that is the psychological center of our modernity, our hedonism, our creativity, our hard-shouldered hipness, our unthinking arrogance.”

Networks Need a Reality Check: A firsthand account of liberal bias at CBS News
(Bernard Goldberg)
Wall Street Journal (February 13, 1996)

“There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I’m more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don’t trust us. And for good reason. The old argument that the networks and other ‘media elites’ have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it’s hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don’t sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we’re going to slant the news. We don’t have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.”

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity
(Alan Sokal)
Social Text (Spring/Summer 1996)

“There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ‘eternal’ physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ‘objective’ procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.”

... and, in explanation, ...

A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies
(Alan Sokal)
Lingua Franca (May/June 1996)

“For some years I’ve been troubled by an apparent decline in the standards of rigor in certain precincts of the academic humanities. But I’m a mere physicist: If I find myself unable to make heads or tails of jouissance and differance, perhaps that just reflects my own inadequacy. So, to test the prevailing intellectual standards, I decided to try a modest (though admittedly uncontrolled) experiment: Would a leading North American journal of cultural studies — whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross — publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.... What’s going on here? Could the editors really not have realized that my article was written as a parody?”

The Doomslayer
(Ed Regis)
(February 1997)

“The world is getting progressively poorer, and it’s all because of population, or more precisely, overpopulation. There’s a finite store of resources on our pale blue dot, spaceship Earth, our small and fragile tiny planet, and we’re fast approaching its ultimate carrying capacity. The limits to growth are finally upon us, and we’re living on borrowed time. The laws of population growth are inexorable. Unless we act decisively, the final result is written in stone: mass poverty, famine, starvation, and death. Time is short, and we have to act now. That’s the standard and canonical litany.... There’s just one problem with The Litany, just one slight little wee imperfection: every item in that dim and dreary recitation, each and every last claim, is false.... Thus saith The Doomslayer, one Julian L. Simon, a neither shy nor retiring nor particularly mild-mannered professor of business administration at a middling eastern-seaboard state university. Simon paints a somewhat different picture of the human condition circa 1997. ‘Our species is better off in just about every measurable material way,’ he says. ‘Just about every important long-run measure of human material welfare shows improvement over the decades and centuries, in the United States and the rest of the world. Raw materials — all of them — have become less scarce rather than more. The air in the US and in other rich countries is irrefutably safer to breathe. Water cleanliness has improved. The environment is increasingly healthy, with every prospect that this trend will continue.’”

The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”