Blame It on the ‘60s

May 18, 2011

According to the New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major papers, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will be releasing a report later today that analyzes the causes for the increase in sexual abuse of pubescent and prepubescent minors that the Catholic Church experienced in recent decades.  The good news about the report is that it expressly avoids blaming gay priests, indicating that sexual orientation had no causal link to abuse of minors.  If boys were abused more often than girls, it’s principally because priests had more access to boys than girls.

But the most interesting finding of the report is that the “permissive culture” of the 1960s and 1970s was a significant factor in causing some clergy to engage in abuse.  Huh?  Does this mean that some priests listened to too many renditions of songs like “Love the One You’re With” or “Magic Man”?   This finding seems questionable at a number of different levels, besides its sheer implausibility. First, hundreds of millions of individuals had their characters formed during the 1960s and 1970s. Few of them had sex with minors. Moreover, isn’t the Church supposed to be an institution that emphasizes individual responsibility?  Putting the blame on a “permissive culture” seems to be a convenient way to avoid accepting and assigning responsibility.  Then again, for an institution that still teaches we are subject to temptations from the devil, perhaps we should not be too surprised.

The blame the “permissive culture” narrative, of course, dovetails nicely with the Church’s longstanding disapproval of the cultural and legal changes that began to take place in the 1960s, such as rock music, “revealing” clothing, sex outside of marriage, oral contraceptives, no-fault divorce and so forth: basically any conduct that suggested individual autonomy and a refusal to be bound by the chains of tradition. See, this is what happens when you stop listening to Holy Mother Church! Of course, priests were raping boys! What else could we expect in a culture where we allow spouses to dissolve a loveless marriage?

Interestingly, although I have not had an opportunity to see the actual report yet, there does not appear to be a cultural explanation for the Church’s determined efforts to cover-up the abuses—conduct nearly as reprehensible as the abuses themselves. Perhaps the Church hierarchy can blame this on the inspiration they received from Nixon.


#1 rommey on Wednesday May 18, 2011 at 11:54am

Every time there was a “Commission” or a “Hired Independent Research Center” brought in by the Churches, what we had was a crude attempt to whitewash the issue to avoid any responsibility. This time is just more of the same. But as preposterous attempts go, this one shows that the Churches are running on empty, neither credible excuses nor founded justifications are provided for the Bishops’ callous handling of the subject.
What calls my attention is that the same is seen in the halls of Congress and in the States’ governors and legislatures. Forcing unto the folks abuses under the color of authority is not reserved only for the Churches. Isn’t it time that we should start cleaning the mess up and demand truth in advertising within our politics and religions?

#2 Konrad Talmont-Kaminski (Guest) on Thursday May 19, 2011 at 1:08am

I think the ‘hippies made me do it’ meme fits very nicely with the ‘we were all good celibates till the 60’s’ meme. And they’re both just about as closely related to truth. Having said that, it is a most disturbing thought that this kind of thing has been going on for centuries and it is only now, with the increased invigilation of the church, that these practices are seeing the light of day. How many generations of children, how many hundreds of thousands of lives?

#3 rommey on Thursday May 19, 2011 at 6:21am

As part of a research for a historical fiction I am working on, I came across historical data on the Children Choirs that gained fame around the 10th century and until the end of the 16th century. The barbarian practice of castrating children to prevent the changes in the voice that puberty unleashes was much more common than the historians who had paid attention admitted. It wasn’t a Catholic thing either, as it was found among the Anglicans and Calvinists at the end of the period I searched. We cannot blame the individuals within the churches who were directly responsible for this atrocious crime. We have to blame the barbaric beliefs embodied in the Christian Church which justified the holiness of the practice.

#4 rommey on Thursday May 19, 2011 at 6:56am

With the Internet watchfulness, it is increasingly more difficult for the Churches, Christian, Islamic, whatever, to get away with holy edicts making right the wrongs in their behavior. This watchfulness already is turning people away from their superstitious creeds and forcing them to examine the real nature of their beliefs…

“Only with a true understanding of how religious beliefs are begotten in our conscious mind, we will be able to find a cure to this insanity.”

Debates of the kind we find nowadays, everywhere, are of the gotcha kind, and easy to be defeated back and forth. These debates are predicated on demonstrate that the opponent is wrong in some aspect of their position, therefore spuriously concluding that it makes the existence (for one side or the non-existence for the other) of gods proven. Neither can prevail under those conditions.

#5 Ophelia Benson on Friday May 20, 2011 at 5:23pm

Surely, though, the church is supposed to be better than the surrounding culture, not helplessly subject to it. Doesn’t it make people better? Aren’t priests closer to god?

#6 asanta on Monday May 23, 2011 at 2:35am

They would also like to have the laws changed so they can’t be charged with molestation if the child is 10 or older. Despicable…

#7 johndbraungart on Tuesday May 31, 2011 at 2:16pm

I loved the above comment: “aren’t priests closer to God?” Let’s hope not, as the God of the Bible is guilty of crimes against humanity that far outweigh the worst criminals in history. The God of the Bible is perfectly sadistic as well as perfectly masochistic, and perfectly schizophrenic to boot. Don’t forget, it is a Catholic article of faith that God impregnated his own mother so that she could give birth to Him, so that He could be tortured and sacrificed to appease His own demand for blood atonement. Now, if we expect people following that example of morality to be the caretakers of our children, who really is to blame?

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