The Roman Catholic Church of Pennsylvania has been in the news recently, as a report detailing the widespread coverup of at least 1,000 molested children by no less than 300 Catholic officials has gone public. What has been particularly distressing is how unsurprising this news is to the majority of the country. Part of the reason is because for decades we have watched people like the Catholic League’s President Bill Donohue deny and victim blame in the most mind-bending ways possible.
The Catholic League’s Bill Donohue is what you get when you cross a talking dung beetle with central casting for a corrupt Irish official in a 1970s cop show. Donohue is probably best known for being the “tough talking” religious zealot that is sent out like a bulldog to throw cold water on any and every allegation against the Catholic church, while also attacking any and every LGBTQ civil right, because something about LGBTQ “relations” really gets under his skin and sets fire to him.* On Thursday, Donohue released a thesis called “Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report Debunked.”
Donohue opens up with a “Myth” and “Fact” style. The first “myth?” That over 300 priests were “found guilty” of “preying on youngsters.” This is an interesting thing since no one has said they were “found guilty,” as in a court of law. Donohue quickly jumps on this “myth” that no one said and quickly debunks it. He proceeds to try to cherry pick some of the investigatory claims, and in doing so you can see, he has nothing to go with. He’s one hundred percent complicit in church officials molesting children.
There are some cases that are so old that they are unbelievable. Consider the case of Father Joseph M. Ganter. Born in 1892, he was accused in 2008 by an 80-year-old man of abusing him in the 1930s. Obviously, nothing came of it. But the priest was accustomed to such charges.
In 1945, at the request of Father Ganter, a Justice of the Peace interviewed three teenage males who had made accusations against him. Not only did they give conflicting stories, the three admitted that they were never abused by Ganter. But don't look to the media to highlight this case, or others like it.
While not giving any evidence for his above claim, the idea that an anecdote about a powerful priest having a “justice of the peace” interview kids in 1945 and get a untainted answer, is somehow vindicating of a priest with numerous claims against him—is pathetic. From there, Donohue takes on the idea that the Catholic Church has had a “problem” with this sort of thing. He claims that “Over the past two years,” “.005 percent” of the clergy has had a “credible claim” against him. You’ll just have to believe Donohue. He knows. In fact, he uses the Trumponian “What about ...” argument here. What about every other business, why is everyone picking on us?
To single out the Catholic Church—without ever investigating any other institution—is akin to doing an investigation of crime in low-income 3 minority neighborhoods while allowing white-collar crimes committed in the suburbs to go scot-free, and then concluding that non-whites are criminally prone. That would be a scam. So is cherry picking the Catholic Church.
What’s funny here is that it is hard to tell if Donohue is being ironic. Because, that’s actually how it works in the real world, and it is also false equivalency. If you want something a little closer maybe you can say it would be like not seriously investigating and demanding answers from people like Republican Rep. Jim Jordan as to what he did or did not know about sexual impropriety in the Ohio State wrestling program during his time there as an assistant coach.
Donohue goes in on the attorney general in charge, and his predecessor who he says is out to get the Catholic Church to score points with the public. He also makes the incredibly false claim that coverage of accusations against priests are handled in graphic terms because of the “prurient interests of the public,” while:
The lead story in the August 15 edition of the New York Times is another case in point: on the front page there is a photo of a handwritten note by a young male who describes how and where a priest allegedly touched him. Yet when accusations surface against the likes of Harvey Weinstein, all that is noted is the nature of the offense.
I won’t link here but if you had to read any of the coverage of the Harvey Weinstein accusations you know that you learned far too many graphic things about what a scumbag Weinstein allegedly is.
This is where we get to the umpteenth most inflammatory thing Bill Donohue argues. I’ll put what Donohue is trying to disguise as a semantic argument out for you all to read.
Myth: The priests "raped" their victims.
Shapiro said that "Church officials routinely and purposely described the abuse as horseplay and wrestling and inappropriate contact. It was none of those things." He said it was "rape." Similarly, the New York Times quoted from the report saying that Church officials used such terms as "horseplay" and "inappropriate contact" as part of their "playbook for concealing the truth."
Fact: This is an obscene lie. Most of the alleged victims were not raped: they were groped or otherwise abused, but not penetrated, which is what the word "rape" means. This is not a defense—it is meant to set the record straight and debunk the worst case scenarios attributed to the offenders.
Furthermore, Church officials were not following a "playbook" for using terms such as "inappropriate contact"—they were following the lexicon established by the John Jay professors.
Examples of non-rape sexual abuse found in the John Jay report include "touching under the victim's clothes" (the most common act alleged); "sexual talk"; "shown pornography"; "touch over cleric's clothes"; "cleric disrobed"; "victim disrobed"; "photos of victims"; "sexual games"; and "hugging and kissing." These are the kinds of acts recorded in the grand jury report as well, and as bad as they are, they do not constitute "rape."
As for the accusation that Church officials described sexual misconduct as "horseplay," one would think that there would be dozens of examples in the report where officials described what happened as nothing more than "horseplay," especially if it is part of the Church's "playbook."
Donohue’s mind seems to be trying to twist and turn logic into some kind of Harry Potter horcrux. Let’s very quickly debunk Donohue’s blasphemous bullshit right here. The New York Times article he continuously attacks can be found here. There are literally two mentions of the word “rape” throughout the entire piece. The first mention is about a specific allegation of rape. The second is this:
Church officials followed a “playbook for concealing the truth,” the grand jury said, minimizing the abuse by using words like “inappropriate contact” instead of “rape”; assigning priests untrained in sexual abuse cases to investigate their colleagues; and not informing the community of the real reasons behind removing an accused priest.
“Tell his parishioners that he is on ‘sick leave,’ or suffering from ‘nervous exhaustion.’ Or say nothing at all,” the report said.
He follows up this dumb with the place he’s wanted to be the whole time—attacking “the gays.” Donohue has always contended that any sexual misconduct problems in the Catholic Church were an issue of gay priests. That has always been his assertion.
Let me repeat what I have often said. Most gay priests are not molesters, but most of the molesters have been gay.
In order for this to be true for Donohue, there is no such thing as pedophiliac priests. If there were, that would be a different issue. Instead, Donohue—who has argued a few paragraphs above that there is no problem with priests sexually assaulting younger Catholics in their care—argues that if there is a problem (but there’s not), it’s a “gay thing.”
It catalogs horrific instances of abuse: a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out; a victim tied up and whipped with leather straps by a priest; and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a young girl and arranging for her to have an abortion.
So, being a gay man that is into men … will rape young girls because … they’re gay? He proceeds to point to a study done at Jon Jay University that on one level supports his assertion that pedophiles aren’t the problem. However, neither are gay men—in the same study.
The report concludes that the vast majority of clergy sex offenders are not pedophiles at all but were situational generalists violating whoever they had access to. Pedophiles, by definition, seek sexual gratification from pre-pubescent children of one gender and target this age and gender group (especially while under stress). Clergy sexual offenders in the Church were more likely to be targeting whoever was around them (and they had unsupervised access to) regardless of age and gender.
The researchers conclude that there is no causative relationship between either celibacy or homosexuality and the sexual victimization of children in the Church. Therefore, being celibate or being gay did not increase the risk of violating children. So, blaming the clergy abuse crisis in the Catholic Church on gay men or celibacy is unfounded.
Donohue knows this but those goddamn gays won’t get their hooks out of him!
It won't help to say that the John Jay report did not conclude that homosexuals committed most of the offenses, even though their own data undercut their interpretation. The professors played the self-identity game: they said that many of the men who had sex with adolescent males did not identify as gay. So what?
Donohue then says the New York Times has always shilled for homosexuals. He goes on to say that the church tried their best to help the people who had been molested—even though according to his original argument, no one was really raped and most of these priests were falsely accused. According to Donohue, the problem is that church officials believed in psychiatrists and the medical community too much and America was let down by the psychiatric community. In conclusion Donohue wants bad guys to be punished and innocent people to be protected, y’all. But this whole thing is a conspiracy by the Catholic Church’s critics to weaken the church’s “moral authority.”
It’s hard to understand the mind of a man so consumed by his fear of homosexuality.
*Maybe it is Queen Mab?