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Mar. 27 2010 - 3:24 pm | 48,041 views | 27 recommendations | 266 comments

The Catholic Church is a Criminal Enterprise

The Holy See’s reaction to both stories has been swift. An unsigned editorial this week in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano attacked the New York Times by name, accusing the paper of willfully ignoring the “truth” of Ratzinger/Benedict’s record and of attempting “to instrumentalize, without any foundation in fact, horrible episodes and sorrowful events uncovered in some cases from decades ago.” The media, it continued, showed a “despicable intent of attacking, at whatever cost, Benedict XVI and his closest collaborators.”

Earlier in the week, New York’s archbishop, Timothy Dolan, used his blog to dismiss the New York Times reports and defend the pontiff’s record by arguing that authorities outside the church also are culpable. Stories about sexual abuse by priests were “fair” if “unending,” he wrote. But he condemned the media for portraying child sexual abuse “as a tragedy unique to the church alone. That, of course, is malarkey.”

via A pope with a problem – latimes.com.

Anyone who’s interested in losing his lunch should read the above-mentioned blog entry by New York archbishop Timothy Dolan in defense of Pope Benedict; the archbishop’s incredibly pompous and self-pitying rant is some of the most depraved horseshit I’ve ever seen on the internet, which is saying a lot.

One expects professional slimeballs like the public relations department of Goldman Sachs to pull out the “Well, we weren’t the only thieves!” argument when accused of financial malfeasance. But I almost couldn’t believe my eyes as I read through Dolan’s retort and it dawned on me that he was actually going to use the “We weren’t the only child molesters!” excuse. Dolan must have very roomy man-robes, because it seems to me you’d need a set of balls like two moons of Jupiter to say such a thing in public and expect it to fly. But this is exactly what Dolan does; he bases his entire defense of the Church on the idea that others are equally culpable. The relevant section of his piece:

What adds to our anger over the nauseating abuse and the awful misjudgment in reassigning such a dangerous man, though, is the glaring fact that we never see similar headlines that would actually be “news”:  How about these, for example?

–    “Doctor Asserts He Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since Dr. Huth admits in the article that he, in fact, told the archdiocese the abusing priest could be reassigned under certain restrictions, a prescription today recognized as terribly wrong;

–    “Doctor Asserts Public Schools Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since the data of Dr. Carol Shakeshaft concludes that the number of cases of abuse of minors by teachers, coaches, counsellors, and staff in government schools is much, much worse than by priests;

–    “Doctor Asserts Judges (or Police, Lawyers, District Attorneys, Therapists, Parole Officers) Ignored Abuse Warnings,” since we now know the sober fact that no one in the healing and law enforcement professions knew back then the depth of the scourge of abuse, or the now-taken-for-granted conclusion that abusers of young people can never safely work closely with them again.

The most revolting part of this response is the last bit about how “no one knew… back then” the depth of the scourge of abuse, or the fact that child molesters cannot be allowed near children ever again once caught. Dolan is trying to get us to focus on the 1962 case, but the truth is that as recently as this last decade, the Church’s doctrinal office elected to proceed with church trials for less than 10% of the 3000 cases of abuse reported to them between the years of 2000 and 2010.

And just a few days after this blog entry of Dolan’s, the Times would come out with another story indicating that the current Pope, then a Cardinal named Joseph Ratzinger, seems to have quashed an effort to bring a serial child abuser named Lawrence Murphy to a church trial. The inaction of Ratzinger’s office resulted in Murphy being allowed to die “in the dignity of the priesthood,” which was his wish as expressed in a letter to then-Cardinal Ratzinger in January 1998.

So while schools, parole officers, judges, lawyers and therapists may have been deficient in their understanding of child abuse back in 1962 (although I’m sorry — it could have been 1562, if someone molested my child and was allowed back in the priesthood, I’d be reaching for an axe), the Catholic church is alone among all of them in continuing to not get it since then. Despite massive public scandal over the course of what now is decades, they continue to deflect and shield child molesters as a matter of institutional routine. The ugliest part of the New York Times story wasn’t even the involvement of Ratzinger in this mess but the fact that three successive archbishops failed to do anything about Murphy, a man who apparently molested upwards of 200 children.

(And not only did he molest these children, but he clearly was not forthcoming about his crimes when examined by experts in sexual abuse . In the notes of one such expert there is a telling notation: “Denies sexual contact with anyone not named in outside complaints, i.e. admits to sexual contact only with those accused of!” The expert included that exclamation point, too.)

So this monster who was known to the highest authorities in the church to be a monster was allowed to die an active priest who was allowed to work with children for 24 years even after he was exposed, until the end of his life. For Dolan then to lay all this off on 1962 mores is disgusting all by itself and totally disingenuous.

But even worse — what does Dolan’s whiny deflecting and excuse-making say about the church as an arbiter of ethical values? These pompous assholes run around in their poofy robes and dresses shaking smoke-filled decanters with important expressions on their faces and pretending to great insight about grace and humility, but here we have the head of the largest Diocese in America teaching his entire congregation that when caught committing a terrible sin, the appropriate response is to blame the media and pull the “All the other kids were doing it, too!” stunt!

I was raised Catholic but stopped going to church at the age of 12. I was a complete idiot at that age with regard to almost every other area of human knowledge, but even I knew back then that the church was a scam. There are good and decent people working as individual priests, but the institution as a whole is a gang of cheap charlatans preying on peoples’ guilt feelings (which of course are cultivated intentionally by the church, which teaches children to be ashamed of their natural sexuality) in order to solicit a lifetime of contributions.

When I see a Catholic priest chanting his ridiculous incantations and waving his holy smoke over someone’s gravesite or at a wedding, the vibe I get is exactly the same as the one I get watching a plumber groan and moan and babble gibberish about all the different things wrong with your kitchen pipes, when in reality all he had to do was replace a washer. It’s the same as picking up your car after an oil change and listening to the mechanic rattle off a list of charges totaling thousands for the nineteen extra things he looked at under your hood, just out of concern for your safety… And when you protest, no, there was nothing wrong with my alternator, I’m not paying for that, he tries to bullshit you — oh, yes there was, trust me, if we hadn’ta fixed that, your car woulda died on the highway within a week.

That’s all the church is. They’re a giant for-profit company using predatory salesmanship to sell what they themselves know is a defective, outmoded, basically unnecessary product. They’ll use any means necessary to keep their market share and if they have to lie and cheat and deflect and point fingers to keep the racket going, they’ll do it, just like any other sleazeball company.

But I think it’s time we started considering that what the church is is even worse than that. It’s possible we should start wondering if the church is also a criminal organization that in this country, anyway, should be broken up using RICO statutes.

One of the few areas where I agreed with George Bush was in the notion that a country providing safe haven to terrorists should itself be treated as a terrorist organization. Morally this isn’t a difficult one to figure out; a country that keeps house for a bin Laden and doesn’t assist other countries in trying to catch him is a rogue state, one that should be booted out of the community of nations.

We don’t permit countries that harbor terrorists to participate in international society, but the Catholic Church — an organization that has been proven over and over again to systematically enable child molesters, right up now to the level of the Pope — is given a free pass. In fact the Church is not only not sanctioned in any serious way, it gets to retain its outrageous tax-exempt status, which makes its systematic child abuse, in this country at least, a government-subsidized activity.

Somewhere underneath all of this there is a root story that has to do with celibacy. The celibate status of its priests is basically the Catholic church’s last market advantage in the Christian religion racket, but human beings are not designed to be celibate and so problems naturally arise among the population of priests forced to live that terrible lifestyle. Just as it refuses to change its insane and criminal stance on birth control and condoms, the church refuses to change its horrifically cruel policy about priestly celibacy. That’s because it quite correctly perceives that should it begin to dispense with the irrational precepts of its belief system, it would lose its appeal as an ancient purveyor of magical-mystery bullshit and become just a bigger, better-financed, and infinitely more depressing version of a Tony Robbins self-help program.

Therefore it must cling to its miserable celibacy in order to keep its sordid business scheme going; and if clinging to its miserable celibacy means having to look the other way while children are serially molested by its sexually stunted and tortured employees, well, so be it.

If you look at it that way, the church’s institutional behavior is far worse than is commonly believed. It’s not just a matter of an intractable bureaucracy responding too slowly or too insensitively to some scattered accidents of fate. This is more like the situation of a car company that continues selling a cheap but faulty brake system because it has calculated that it stands to make more money selling the cars than it does to lose in lawsuits. The only difference is, a car company can fix the brakes if it wants to. What the Catholic church is selling is by definition faulty. It can’t change, or it will be out of business. So even if not changing means kids will be continue to be molested, it doesn’t change.

I think Chris Hitchens said this once, and I agree with him; if I were a person that made that kind of moral choice, I think I’d have to kill myself. But these guys not only don’t kill themselves, they go out in public ranting about how wronged they are and how they’ve been fucked over by the evil New York Times for airing out their dirty laundry. Again, I admire the balls, but seriously, they must know the game is almost up. Sooner or later people are going to catch on, the state is going to make a move, and there’s going to be a hell of a lot of church property going up for auction along with the seized Escalades of DEA-busted drug dealers. Or maybe not in this lifetime — but one can only hope.


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  1. collapse expand

    Of course Ratzinger (what a name) just declared they “will not be intimidated” by sex abuse accusations.

    What the hell is that supposed to mean? Like they are the victims?


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    The White house is a criminal enterprise, too….maybe they can join forces with the church….and have the world’s first nuclear armed pedophiles

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    Jesus Matt, I never thought I would see you get so riled up you would agree with both Bush and Hitchens. Were you molested by a priest when you were 12? Is that why you left the Catholic religion?

    I myself am agnostic but have seen that the church can and does serve a very useful purpose in many peoples lives. I agree there is no defense for child molestors but I’m not ready to elevate sex above the potential existence of God.

    As for the ‘terrorists’, this is a debate I would pay to have with you. The CIA, in an effort to profile future terrorists, stated “the transformation of an individual to
    a terrorist is triggered by oppression, suffering, revenge, or desperation”. Given that the United States supports many of the corrupt regimes responsible for this ‘transformation’ who are the true ‘evil-doers’? Its like having a neighbor who beats his dog and because your neighbor’s friendship is financially beneficial you do nothing to stop the beatings. Then when the dog breaks loose and attacks your children you blame the dog.

    You can sit in your comfortable life and make pronouncements like ‘nothing justifies terrorism’ but until you can provide viable alternatives to the oppressed, suffering desperate people of the world maybe you should just thank God that you, and the people you love, are not blessed with their lives.

    It never fails to amaze me that even the most enlightened ‘haves’ seem to be so willing to tell the ‘have-nots’ to just get over it and accept their lot in life.

    I don’t profess to know the meaning of life but I pray its not the arrogance, greed and obsession with sex and consumption which increasingly represents the ‘American Way of Life’.

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      Your defense of institutionalized pedophilia and torture of children is indefensible.

      To use your reasoning, if Al-Qaida serves a purpose in many peoples’ lives then their terrorism can be excused?

      Or this:
      “I agree there is no defense for child molestors but I’m not ready to elevate sex above the potential existence of God.”

      Huh!? What does the potential existence of God have to do with the institutional torturing of children? Do you honestly think child molestation and sex are the same?

      Moreover, your sophomoric take on terrorism overlooks the fact that what the Catholic Church is doing to innocent children is the very definition of terrorism. In fact it’s worse because terrorizing innocent children is as low as one can get.

      The rest of your post is nothing more than sophistry if not unenlightened and off topic.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        That’s the great thing about these blogs…you can misinterpret what I wrote and ascribe meanings I didn’t intend and then run off and hide content in your inviolable belief in your inherent superiority.

        To be more explicit (not that it will matter), my point is that Matt’s foe here doesn’t seem to be a few child molesting priests or even the entire Catholic church but rather God himself and perhaps even the meaning of life. In addition, I think there is a pretty interesting debate to be had over the place and value sex plays in our society. This isn’t to say there is any defense for adults abusing children (in ANY way) but rather to question why we as a socity get so riled up by the holiest of holies…our own reproductive process.

        My further point, is that people who want to elevate ‘terrorism’ as the understood and accepted standard by which all evil should be compared don’t get a free pass from me. When and where did the public debate over the morality of this nonesensical ‘war on terror’ take place and why wasn’t I notified?

        The two issues are tied together by their supposed representation of ultimate evil and because we are apparently supposed to take this common evaluation of both the place of sex in our society and the nature of terrorism as a matter of faith.

        An intellectually honest debate on both these issues is long past due.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          If your point really is “that Matt’s foe here doesn’t seem to be a few child molesting priests or even the entire Catholic church but rather God himself and perhaps even the meaning of life.” then you might want to put down your thesaurus and pick up a dictionary and book on logic. Your arguments make absolutely no sense.

          (1) Matt can’t have as a foe “the meaning of life”. How is that statement logical? The meaning of life can’t be anyone’s enemy.
          (2) Matt quite clearly states that it’s wrong for the church to aid and abet people who commit crimes. By protecting criminals and not reporting their crimes, the church is a criminal enterprise. Moreover, by its failure to report crimes that it knew of, the Vatican leadership are also criminals.

          Lastly, terrorism and pedophilia are not linked because, according to your screwy reasoning, they are both a matter of faith.

          Pedophilia has nothing to do with faith. Matt re-iterated his point that pedophiles are probably likely to choose professions that give them easy access to children. There’s a difference between correlation and causation.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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            Holy crap, how does someone with the I.Q. of broccoli even manage to get on the Internet,let alone have the audacity to tell ANYONE they need a book of logic?

            The meaning of life is actually a tormentor for many people. Since Matt seems to dismiss the possibility of God I wonder how he addresses this fundamental question. He seems to elevate ‘normal sex’ to a ridiculous level of importance in his life but I doubt even he would go so far as to say the human reproductive process is ‘the meaning of life’.

            Terrorism and pedophilia are linked because many people, including Matt, apperently believe they represent the ultimate in evil. Since I don’t agree with this sentiment and am not aware of any intellectual debate where this matter has been settled it follows that people who believe this must do so as an article of faith (that’s sarcasm for anyone not capable of recognizing it).

            It is legitimate to be outraged when people in positions of power and authority abuse anyone, in any way, but Matt jumps the tracks when he advocates shutting down an entire religion because of the actions of a small minority. How does someone who gets all sanctimonious about the rights of Gays to be in the military decide its okay to treat the faith of 100s of millions of people with such disdain and even derision?

            Its saddening for me to say but apparently when it comes to sex Matt is no better than the right-wing extremists he so often, and justifiably, mocks.

            In response to another comment. See in context »
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      For what it’s worth, I did not take your post as a defense of institutionalized pedophilia.
      I thought it was bizarre to bring terrorism into the argument in order to bolster his claim that the Catholic church should be disbanded.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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      Great response.
      I really think Matt’s in over his head addressing this topic.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        Thanks for the support Larry. It is all too often the case that a nuanced perspective dies of loneliness on blogs like this.

        I think Matt is doing valuable work when it comes to politics and expecially the banks but here his emotions seem to be interfering with his judgement. What these child molesting priests did is disgusting but it is disgusting because any abuse by adults against children is disgusting…not because it involves sex. The sexual aspect of the abuse only serves to sensationalize it. The world is full of all manner of evil and I am more than willing to speak out against all of it but in a world where our government currently engages in preemptive invasion, unjust imprisonment and killing using bombs and cowardly drones, not to mention torture, it strikes me there might be a better use of our time and emotions than going back 50 years in a witch hunt in an attempt to destroy a religion. Matt acknowledges that “schools, parole officers, judges, lawyers and therapists may have been deficient in their understanding of child abuse back then” but still wants to hold this church to a higher standard. Perhaps he believes we should hang Thomas Jefferson in effigy for owning slaves.

        I hope there is a judgement day and these priests, and anyone who knew what they did and protected them, gets what they deserve but this hysteria because this concerns sex and children reminds me of the McMartin preschool ritual abuse cases of the 1980s. Again, this is not an apology or a defense of any sort for the priests who engaged in these acts but this is far from the worst acts perpetrated by one group of humans against another and no matter how terrible these acts are it is still no reason to align yourself with the likes of Bush and Hitchens!

        But of course any discussion of this issue beyond hang all the priests and burn down the Catholic Church means I am defending them and must be a closet pedophile myself.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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          “It is all too often the case that a nuanced perspective dies of loneliness on blogs like this.”

          I’d call it the rule! Thanks for doing a much better job of saying what I keep trying (in vain) to express. Too many on both the right and left think that virtue is something that plays off evil–that is, they’re sure if they go after the most vile targets, their own morality is safe and pure. But being good is a thing of personal house-keeping. Religion teaches us to look first at our own behavior. Just as Logic 101 teaches us to test our own assertions before we try to tear down someone else’s.

          It was great when the left finally started getting some of its own media blowhards (God bless Keith, the finest and most moral of the bunch, and who gave us Rachel), but we need to evolve past our imitation of Fart News. And, speaking of Rachel, I see her as the best hope for same.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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          I was baptised Catholic and my association with the Catholic church ends there. I grew up attennding a mainline protestant church and I cannot say anything about my church scarred me. I am an atheist now because I just cannot square the state of the world with the existence of a just god, not because of any bad experiences with my church. I do, on the other hand, know more former Catholics that are much more virulent in their anti religious beliefs. So, I do wonder exactly what it is that inspires this rancor.
          Still, I don’t know aobut these broad generalizations of the Catholic church, Catholics brought us liberation theology and the Catholic Worker Movement. Both not only minister to the poor, but actually challenge the institutions that create inequality.
          Also, I am adamantly pro choice but I can sort of admire the consistency of being against abortion and the death penalty (and the Iraq war) as opposed to those who fight to make abortion illegal but have no qualms with murdering civilians in Iraq or state sanctioned killing via the death penalty. I understand these are official positions only and the reality among Catholics may be quite different.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
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      “Its like having a neighbor who beats his dog and because your neighbor’s friendship is financially beneficial you do nothing to stop the beatings. Then when the dog breaks loose and attacks your children you blame the dog.”

      That’s how America operates. When I came to realize as much, it put a huge dent in my patriotism.

      I can’t picture an actual debate with Matt, given that his faux technique of arguing is blowhardery in its most basic form. I’m sure it’s not as easy as it looks, but it’s simple in form–all you do is substitute broad pronouncements for actual points while behaving as if reason, democracy, Jefferson, Rolling Stone, science, and Darwin are all on your side. (And don’t worry–no one will track them down to confirm their endorsement.) That way, whoever disagrees with you is an enemy of Darwin, Jefferson, Rolling Stone, reason, etc.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    Here’s what might start some forgiveness moving, a little of that good old-time Catholic drama:

    1) Excommunicate and defrock everyone shown to have participated in the abuse and its coverup; report them to the civil authorities–I believe this is known as “relaxing [them] to the secular arm.” (During the Inquisition, once the “Holy” church had finished racking and pulling fingernails and other picturesque interrogation techniques, it would turn their “criminals” over to civil authorities to be hung, drawn and quartered–pulled into four pieces by horses–and/or burned alive.) It was essential, then as now, to preserve the church’s “purity.”
    2) Collect all the “frocks” in question–to include The Rat’s own.
    3) Erect enough wooden crosses in the St. Peter’s piazza to accommodate all this poofery.
    4) Burn them on global television.
    5) Require The Rat to adopt a sackcloth-and-ashes outfit for the rest of his life and
    6) spend 8 hours every day in silence on his knees hearing the victims describe their experiences.

    That’ll start the atonement.

  5. collapse expand

    I have direct experience with the subject at hand. As a H.S. Catholic seminarian, I and my classmates were seen as easy pickings by our priestly overseers. It didn’t take long for me to figure things out and consequently leave the Church behind in disgust. This was in the early sixties. Little has changed since then.

    Matt is right. Because the Catholic Church provides a safe haven for pedophiles and torturers of children, it should be subject to RICO. The guilty should be imprisoned starting with the Pope.

    And yes, the sexual perversion known as celibacy in which the clergy are required to deny an important part of their humanity serves a role in the ongoing scandal.

    Moreover, the sorry excuse that the majority of the Catholic clergy do not participate in torturing children does not absolve the Institution itself for its support and protection of child torturers. If this was happening in a chain of day care centers instead of under the guise of “religion” the business would have been shut down and the perpetrators locked up long ago.

    The Catholic Church is a medi-evil organization that should have been shut down long ago. It cannot admit wrong and cannot change. In one way or another, those who still apologize for it, donate to it, and continue to participate in it, even if in good faith…are complicit in enabling its horrific practices against innocent children.

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    Great piece, Matt! I totally agree.

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    This is actually funny. Little Matt with his baseball hat is going to bring down the oldest institution on earth. Of course he must bring it down or go to Hell. Because that’s what happens if he’s wrong. I say, let the criminal proceedings begin. If they had anything they’d have jumped on it long ago. Matt just can’t see straight when it comes to the Church. He blames the Church for his sexual guilt, but his inability to control himself began when he left. He might also check out Bela Dodd, who worked unselfishly for the Communist party most of her life and confessed to recruiting thousands of homos into the priesthood for the sole purpose of undermining it. See “School of Darkness” by Bella Dodd.

    • collapse expand

      As School of Darkness, a 1954 book, is completely online, I had a look. Her reference to “homos” isn’t in there, but comes from an alleged 1950s hearing.
      My impression of her is an emotionally scarred and deeply impressionable woman, lulled by the ecclesiastical pomp and piety of the flock, converted into a devout reactionary.
      Do you think testimony in front of the infamous McCarthy panels is something to be credited as accurate information? I find it suspect that the only sources referencing her “1100 homosexuals” (not “thousands” as you exaggerate) and other claims are hardcore reactionary, Catholic, superstitionist, conspiracy paranoia pages. On Nicholas Gruner and his agenda alone, there are some very intriguing information pages.
      “insidious forces of enlightenment”, “freemasons”, “New World Order”, “homosexualism”…
      Naw, sorry, I’m not cool with rabid nutjobs as a source of credible infromation.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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        Forgot to add, apparently she did not name a single one of those homosexuals they allegedly planted. Here we have a worldwide conspiracy of epic proportions, and not even the people who claim personal participation can point to anyone specific.
        This is exactly the same level of nebulous blackening rhetoric we get from alien abduction theorists.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
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    In my view, most of the commentary regarding the role of celibacy in the Church’s sex scandals is off the mark.

    One school suggests that the unnatural pressures of celibacy drive otherwise “normal” adult males to sexual predation–denied the outlets available to men in secular life, the theory goes, they move like penitentiary inmates to the outlets that ARE available. But if that were the case, most of these scandals would involve sexually mature female parishioners–not necessarily legal adults, but post-pubescent women at least. The access and vulnerability are there–from counseling women with troubled marriages, to working closely with single women on church activities, to coping with schoolgirl crushes on a male authority figure, priests would have ample opportunity to stray in this direction. Gay priests would have access in the same ways to sexually mature and potentially responsive male parishioners.

    That the vast majority of these abuse cases involve pre-pubescent boys suggests that another dynamic is at work, which brings us to the second common theory–that the priesthood attracts practicing child molesters who see it as unfettered access to potential victims, with celibacy as the perfect cover. But if this were the case, substantial numbers of priests would have sex-offense records before entering the priesthood–and if their cases followed the tendencies of the secular population in this regard, many would have been victims of childhood sexual predation themselves. I haven’t seen much evidence that either is the case.

    What does seem likely is that the prospect of a celibate lifestyle attracts an atypical concentration of candidates in the first place–people who as young men are troubled and frightened by their own sexual impulses, and imagine that the priesthood will enable them to simply sidestep those impulses in adult life. I suspect that many, many of them imagine at the outset that because of their vows, sex will simply not be a factor in their lives–no “coming out of the closet,” dealing with incredulous fathers, or explaining their unmarried status to nosy grandmothers.

    Of course, sexual impulses are not so easily set aside. In the US, we have a whole officially sanctioned “abstinence” movement, complete with vows and support structures and little tokens, that has utterly failed to reduce teen pregnancy or the rate of STD’s even among its voluntary participants. We have the solemn vow of marriage–which these days seldom survives sexual frustration for long. The human tendency is for sexual impulses, whatever they may be, to overpower our best intentions in the long run–and I suspect that’s the case with priests as well.

    • collapse expand

      This is the on the right track.

      It has always seemed self evident that what was going on was not as simple as the celibate priesthood attracting pedophiles or creating pedophiles, but that the celibate priesthood attracted damaged conflicted individuals who are trying to escape or suppress their guilty sexual inclinations.

      The demonization of sexuality in general does not help. When you condemn pre-marital sex, condom use, homosexuality as equally mortal sins it creates this unhealthy opportunity for pedophilia to be regarded as just another sexual proclivity that must be resisted and repressed, rather than what it is: rape of the innocent.

      Everything gets reinforced by the elevated position of the priest in the Catholic faith (“in persona Christi” anyone?) and the hierarchical and insular structure of the Church/Priesthood. In other faiths there tends to be some moderating, less insular force with real influence or authority: the laiety, women, wives, professional managers, presbyters, etc. In the Catholic church, any questioning of the priest is regarded as insolence.

      Are some other religions less prone to these issues because of differences in the role and regard of the clergy? Sure. Does that make them less evil? Probably. Could you make a case for RICO prosecutions of Catholic clergy that you could not for say Lutheran ministers? Yes. Does that make other faiths less silly? No.

      Matt is right about the role of religion. Organized faiths provided bronze age man with a ordered belief structure that could explain the world. More recently education, hospitals, social welfare and community found sponsors in these sects. And also wars, hatred, genocide etc. You can argue the balance all you want, but technology and the modern state have obviated all rational use for religious organizations so the point is moot.

      Most strongly anti-religious people I know were either raised irreligious, or were scarred by religion. I was neither. At some point you just have to say “magic cloud being?????” and move on. What is astonishing is how few people actually feel free to say this publically. Can you imagine someone being considered ineligible for public office because he expressed doubt about the existence of the tooth fairy?

      Will no one free us from these diddlesome priests?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
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    “it seems to me you’d need a set of balls like two moons of Jupiter to say such a thing in public and expect it to fly”

    Obviously among believers, it does fly. In discussion forums, this is the defence constantly parroted as a favorite, along with “these are all warmed-up old cases”, “this silly stuff wont scratch our 2000 year old fortress”, and “the Church today is way different than back then”.

  10. collapse expand

    Great response Matt Taibbi!

    Yes We seriously need to RICO the Catholic Church – they ARE a Criminal or Criminally-involved organization. I learned that when I noticed huge donations to my church from a well-known NY Mafia Crime family.

    RICO was used before to convict the mafia members but let the Church go free – even though we all know that the Church has been complicit with mafia crimes for decades.

    “Agents even admit to dropping snooping devices into a confessional at a Roman Catholic church frequented by mobsters, as well as a church candlestick holder and a church men’s room.”

    But too many politicians (DAs) “fear” the Catholic church – well start putting them in jail – and removing their Tax-exempt corrupt political donations – and there will be a lot less to fear, for all of us.

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    This has probably been mentioned already but I think the problems with the Church began when they became rich with real estate centuries ago. And so every decision since has been based on protecting assets.

    I suffered the same emotional twists as eveyone raised in the Church and it’s ironic that the education they were famous for providing resulted in critical thinking at an early age which didn’t mesh with their make-it-up-as-you-go philosophy.

    Religions and cults that keep their flock ignorant don’t have that problem. For that reason alone religious indoctrination is a bad idea, imo.

  12. collapse expand

    If you are at a wedding or funeral it should be your Christian duty to tell a drag queen that her purse is on fire.

  13. collapse expand

    This issue probably does not resonate with Matt, but really, never mind celibacy (although I do indeed believe this is a ridiculous requirement). How can you have a quality pool of applicants that excludes half the population?

  14. collapse expand

    As a practicing Catholic the issues of pedophile priests and the cover-up by the heirarchy have been distrubing. Any association with people of this maligant type is distasteful, and has left most Catholics overwhelmed and confused. While I not only accept the tone of your piece–I am a fan of your work, otherwise–as it is justified in this area. However, I also think that your article is out of line in that it shows not only a lack of your personal acknowledgement or understanding, but outright contempt for regular people who associate with the church as a way to live a spiritual life. The institutional church is just another institution, and like all institutions is prone to corruption, falliblity and in need of constant reform. The point is, there are two issues, and your article is justified in one and offensive in another. I would not excuse any of these monster priest, nor the church officials who were probably the same ones who a generation ago bowed to Ronald Reagan’s anti-socialism paranoia and drove socially conscious South American and other priests out of the priesthood over Liberation Theology. Catholic priests and nuns have been at the forefront of social uplift throughout the world. I believe you are a courageous and effective voice of the people, and deservedly so. But you are not alone, others are quietly doing their part, and with less fanfare. How they go on when they know their institution has corruption I can not explain.

    Now I would like to bring up another point that bear directly on this story and others like it–pedophile priests–and the timing of their appearances in the news. There must be another attack being planned against a Middleast country soon. I would say that even you should be careful that you are being used to supply cover for another heinous crime that might be about to occur. This one to cover the crime you have so ably reported on, the looting of America. It’s so difficult to not be complicit in the criminality of our institutions.

  15. collapse expand

    “…it gets to retain its outrageous tax-exempt status, which makes its systematic child abuse, in this country at least, a government-subsidized activity.”

    Giving another meaning to Frank Zappa’s desire to “Tax the FUCK out of the churches!”

  16. collapse expand

    Matt — just out of curiosity, what is it about celibate priests that gives it a “market advantage” when it comes to Christianity.

    I worship with several ex-Catholics, and they tend to believe they are at a distinct advantage now, studying and worshiping of their own volition, and not taking someone else’s word for everything.

    If anything, the Market Advantage for Catholicism is Brand Identity, and longevity.

    (and when stuff like this surfaces, that’s a real pain to those of us in the non-denominational community who get tarred by that broader brush.)

  17. collapse expand

    A fine piece Matt, and Dawkin’s op-ed in the Washington Post today is its equal, or better:


    And how about Bill Donohue blaming the parents for their children getting molested a few days ago? In this clip, this blowhard exudes evil and desperation:


    I am glad to see minds like yours and Dawkins addressing this. Differing styles, to be sure (the “balls the size of Jupiter’s Moons” comment made me laugh out loud), but some fine writing from you both.

  18. collapse expand

    Once more The Taibbi scores!!!!!!

    Of course, you’re really not suggesting that Benito Mussolini gave the Roman Catholic Church their sovereignty, back in 1929, so they could function as a money-laundering operation during WWI and beyond, are you???

    No…wait….that’s exactly what happened. No wonder they continue their criminal ways.

  19. collapse expand

    My mom is Catholic. She had 5 kids. You’d think she’d be outraged; ranting and railing at the hierarchy for answers about how they’ve handled things. But noooo, she’s not outraged, she’s just “very sad” and treats the ever mounting cases that come to light as aberrations. How many cases have to be uncovered before people like my mom will admit that this is a systemic problem, and that their very own church is sick at the core? Well, that’s brainwashing for ya.

    I told mom that when I was in elementary school, (in the 60’s) I used to hear the boys in the schoolyard warning each other which priests not to be caught alone with. Their discussions came off to me as matter of fact.

    But then too, at that age it was just another matter of fact, that half the Catholic population, those born without penises, werent ever going to be deemed worthy enough to perform most of the church rituals or reach rank of note within the hierarchy. So all these little catholic kids are raised with the understanding that spirituality is largely about genitalia. Sexual discrimination is another reason the Catholic church should not be state subsidized. And when sexual discrimination is systemic to a religious organization, it constitutes systematic spiritual abuse.

    When a child is molested it is a hideous thing. When a child is molested by a priest, it’s doubly hideous, because it’s sexual abuse coupled with spiritual abuse.

    I love your idea about using RICO to break up this giant gang of spiritual terrorists.

  20. collapse expand

    I do not know what compulsion, what deviance causes a celibate male Priest to have sex with a pre-pubescent boy. Not a clue.

    But, this happened in my family. Irish Catholic. My Mom’s parents were born in Ireland. The youngest child, a cousin named Beth, of my mom’s older brother had an intimate relationship with an ordained Catholic priest. This went on for over a year. When he made the decision to stay with the church instead of marrying her, she committed suicide. That was in the sixties.

  21. collapse expand

    “it gets to retain its outrageous tax-exempt status”

    …and listen to soothing music in the Sala Clementina after a “tough week”


  22. collapse expand

    Bust up the church as it would any other criminal enterprise under RICO. Mail fraud, wire fraud, and a life time of fraud by these Jesus Freaks, such as Bush et al. You book them and I will prosecute them at Gitmo.

  23. collapse expand

    At least during the time of the indulgences, the priests and those they conned both thought that they were getting something of value.

  24. collapse expand

    Conclusions: the Catholic Church is corrupt, and corrupt institutions can’t and shouldn’t be saved. That’s why Wall St., Blackwater, and the campaign-finance status quo are, by now, distant memories. And, given all the awful things we’ve done in the same of democracy, it’s a good thing we’re no longer one.

    What else? Oh, and religious people are fine as long as they don’t get too religious and strive to remain aware of their own irrational twittery. Also, once someone or something has passed a certain coolness threshold, it’s throw-away-the-key time, and to hell with a trial. True, even mass murderers get trials, but religion, being both uncool and wrong, isn’t entitled to the favors we’d grant Attila the Hun. And anyone who advocates taking a more tempered approach than (see last item) is an advocate of evil, or at least an apologist for same. When pursuing justice, there’s no room for nuance.

    Well, it’s certainly been fun visiting the conservative blogopshere, but I need to escape back into the progressive portion.

    (What do you mean, this IS the progressive portion?)

  25. collapse expand

    A very rich criminal enterprise that has been in business for a very long time. Agree with you and thank you for having the balls to tell it like it is.

  26. collapse expand

    The average size of Catholic families in the West may be a key overlooked factor in the “Catholic Child Abuse” scandal.

    Circa 1880 in the old country – With 10 children, and another on the way, Ma and Pa Kennedy might have not have thought too much of Father O’Brien’s keen interest in their Pádraig.

    A vocation for the priesthood seemed “right enough” for their effete, quiet boy.

    Fast forward 100 years to 1980 and a new generation of Kennedy’s living in the new world. Young Patrick has just been picked up by Dr Mary Kennedy from server practice at Church. They are driving to piano lessons when Patrick bursts into tears. He informs his Mother that the priest…

    “…messed with my weener”…

    … Mum, and later Dad, the other Dr Kennedy, react with volcanic rage at the news from their only child.

    Twee – but you get the point.

    The church has likely attracted a significant (if not relatively constant) fraction of child rapists to it seminaries over the last millenia or so.

    The change the church may not have foreseen was how declining birth rates in developed countries (e.g the US and more lately Ireland), and the complementary rise in parental input per child, would have impacted the tolerance of parents for priestly shenanigians.

    Basic population ecology. A shift in breeding strategy to increased parental investment vs fecundity is rewarded in more stable environments.

    The church is big – but she may be no match for the drive for Mother Nature to protect her (genetic) investment in the future.

    For anyone interested see -


  27. collapse expand

    Wow Matt what an attack on the church understand all your takes, but sort of feel like it’s a little over the top. As much as I understand your anger, I feel like you’re pilling on a little too much. Not to defend all the wrongs and the poor excuses, there are still many great people who have given their life to the church and many that have helped out a great many people.
    Like you at an early age I started to drift away from the church as many of the things they were teaching either didn’t seem to sense and far to many folks seemed like the ability to say a few prayers to absolve themselves from all kinds of wrongs. It also seemed that teachings of the church with age became more and more perverted by people to fit their own needs. I think we are increasingly seeing this brew up in the Evangelical movement which becomes more and more of a political group that any form of religion.
    Also like you one of my believes is that the church has refused to come to grips with the many difficulties of adjusting to the modern world and agree to do so would be an endgame. The same is true though for all religions and the reason we could never have a religious
    summit by all the leaders from the different faiths to come together and denounce the violence, wars terrorism etc in the world is that that collective group would be an acknowledgment that there just might be
    holes is all their believe systems. This sad truth is unfortunately the main failing of religion as much as they attempt to influence you into adopting their believe systems, they themselves, cannot live up those believes. All religions seem to have many of the same core beliefs, but first and foremost is a tolerance and kindness for others and when your leaders cannot live up to those values it’s pretty difficult to belief in their credibility.
    Love you take on many topics and often tell others that you claims are usually very direct and attacking and probably a lot closer to reality that most folks could ever consider. That being the case, reality is everyones private domain and most folks are a lot more comfortable believing what they’ve been told than doing the heavy lifting of searching for the truth. Keep up the great work. i appreciate your continued efforts to dig for the truth of the matters.

  28. collapse expand

    This shit is not hard to understand. Quit making excuses for violent, predatory felons. What is amazing is the myopic misunderstanding of the “American” constitutional right to religious “freedom”. Given the Catholic gangster (GS) mentality this has had predictable consequences. Unbounded cruelty.
    Who didn’t know these atrocities were happening with at least the tacit approval of the “Bosses”? Just another Haiti reaction. Blame the vics. They must have deserved IT. Tell me some more stories about toothless, southern rednecks, please. Gimmee 5 minutes with’em in the barn.

  29. collapse expand

    I appreciate your insight and uncompromising stance as always. Many of us in the non-believing community are calling for an end to religious tolerance because of incidents just like this one. It’s no secret the atrocities committed by the church during its long existence, and yet there are so many who make excuses. Perhaps it is just sentiment (misdirected *obviously*). Finding a way to address this issue with moderates is the only manner in which we can effect change, and this is something in which I have a lot of interest.

    It is time we stop the morality meme (i.e. that religion is the author thereof) and begin to hold everyone to a higher standard. Does this benefit or cause detriment to the community? Are human beings deriving real, measurable benefit from this religion and/or its practices? So on.

    Because of apologists our work is much harder, and finding real ways to get through to them– articulation and clarity are challenging enough without having to deal with soft issues such as the “feelings” of why religion is so hunky dorey.

    I grew up in fundamentalism, even went to seminary at 17. I left the church because I read the Bible, traveled to another country, and saw that it was all a bunch of bullshit. It is not that difficult for anyone who uses their brain to do.

    I will continue to look for more articles from you while I hone my own arguments to the sharpest edge in my capability.

    In the interim, for your reading pleasure, a well-compiled list of Christian terror through the ages:

    • collapse expand

      “Many of us in the non-believing community are calling for an end to religious tolerance because of incidents just like this one.”

      Right, and committing two fallacies for the price of one: 1) generalizing, without a shred of qualification, across the board and 2) starting with a belief (religion is evil) and “proving” it by wrapping evidence around it, which is the opposite of proving.

      “It’s no secret the atrocities committed by the church during its long existence, and yet there are so many who make excuses.”

      The rules of capitalization demand “Church” for the Catholic Church, because–regardless of what we think of it–it’s a proper noun. But if you actually mean “the church,” then please tell me you’re kidding. Far from a single church, there are more like two zillion. I realize that, when we have total disdain for something, all examples thereof can seem to look and sound alike, but what do we call that attitude when applied to, say, another ethnic group?

      Re your second paragraph, of all the things wrong with it I’ll simply cite your reuse of the conclusion-before-the-test fallacy. Obviously, the simplistic test you propose has no point unless we first presume religion is a harmful force. And why do you presume this? As you explain to us:

      “I grew up in fundamentalism, even went to seminary at 17. I left the church because I read the Bible, traveled to another country, and saw that it was all a bunch of bullshit. It is not that difficult for anyone who uses their brain to do.”

      Those of us who “use their brain” know better than to generalize from our own experience. You experienced the dumbest, least spiritual form of Christianity and concluded, without bothering to verify, that such C. is the essence of all Christianity. Finding meaning in symbols and myths may strike you as a deadly thing, but what about concluding without investigation? Especially if we use those false conclusions as the basis for attacking something? Which causes more harm to the cause of becoming more human?

      In response to another comment. See in context »
    • collapse expand

      To Chris Cherry, Superb posting. Upon collecting my ideas for my comments on this thread, I often felt that I could not have made the points any more vivid and soundly as you did here. Sharp, and very well-written as well.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  30. collapse expand

    Full concurrences here, Matt.

    Significant is your words of the Catholic church being an enterprise. That’s exactly what it is. They’re selling god (and heavenly passage) through legacy and tradition, little more.

    Their history, well before the pedophilia abuse was publicly documented, was of genocidal and paranoia, power-thirsty inquisition and tyranny. For those that feel that these popes, priests, cardinals, bishops, etc., are pipelines and conveyors of divine representation, they ought to take a deeper look.

    This church murdered Bruno and Copernicus, and were on their way (less the recanting) to Galileo, all for claiming things we KNOW are fact today. Seems to me if stanch believers (faith intoxicants) feel that these figures are, and have always been, direct representatives of god, then they should see a serious problem.

    “To assert that the earth revolves around the sun is as erroneous as to claim that Jesus was not born of a virgin.”
    [Cardinal Bellarmino 1615, during the trial of Galileo]

    “To affirm that the Sun …is at the centre of the universe and only rotates on its axis without going from east to west, is a very dangerous attitude and one calculated not only to arouse all Scholastic philosophers and theologians but also to injure our holy faith by contradicting the Scriptures.”

    [Cardinal Bellarmino, 17th Century Church Master Collegio Romano, who imprisoned and tortured Galileo for his astronomical works]

    • collapse expand

      “Their history, well before the pedophilia abuse was publicly documented, was of genocidal and paranoia, power-thirsty inquisition and tyranny.”

      You mean, like that of humanity in general?


      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Uh, no one implied that they were first to exercise inhumanity in general. Ancient armies and conquers (like Attila) shed their share of blood – but they were not professed servants of god and sanctioned by believers to employ such figures while they ran amok of human liberties.

        The issue, and the point here and that of the primary author here, is that this is a sanctioned enterprise thriving and acting in inhumane ways NOW and doing so through resources provided them from blind (or malfunctioning and indifferent) disciples all over the world.

        If this were anyone (or anything) else other than a centuries old for-profit pet creed, society would have insisted that such criminal behavior (sanctioned and protected from outside regulations) be totally disbanded exactly as Matt relays.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
        • collapse expand

          You take an arduous path cwj1963. savio is too busy have knee-jerk reactions to posts to read them critically. She generalizes and places posters in broad categories by writing them off as generalizers who can’t think critically. I keep hoping her trolling will end as I read the contributions made here – contributions from those who are still religious and those who practice no religion. I also hold out hope that she’ll say something more worthwhile than “you said what I wanted to say but with more nuance.”

          Anyhoo, thank you for your effort.

          In response to another comment. See in context »
  31. collapse expand

    >It’s possible we should start wondering if the church is also a criminal organization that in this country, anyway, should be broken up using RICO statutes.

    Yes!! When I read this, I shouted and made an account on your site.

    That’s because 6 hours ago I posted this exact same sentiment on HuffPo. Must be the revelation that the Pope himself is involved. From there it’s not a huge stretch to call it a criminal organization and then RICO.

    Not to cheapen your accomplishment or anything. A lot more people will listen to you than me.

  32. collapse expand

    The latest reports in child abuse cases, at the hand’s of Catholic priests, now surfacing throughout Europe is so %&$#-ing reprehensible it goes beyond words. Pope Benedict XVI’s apology to the victim’s in Ireland comes at a time when apologies are not acceptable and in fact more of an insult according to Sinead O’Connor (see link 1.). The unconscionable act of abusing a child is by far the most despised of crimes and people don’t want apologies – they want guts for garters and heads to roll; They want justice, something the Vatican doesn’t dole out (see link 1.). The Vatican’s failure to act undermines its authority and action must be taken to root out those responsible. Leaving the Vatican to proceed with a canonical investigation into its own crimes is as ludicrous as having Wall Street investigate recent banking fraud and corruption. As crazy as this sounds, the sovereign Vatican can investigate its own crimes. The question is, will they do it? What steps are they taking to protect children from such abuses? The answers to these questions are not so easy to find out. The majority of information available to the public is limited thanks to many of the Archdiocese bishops, the current pope at a time being one of them, who have kept this information from the authorities and the public at large (see link 2.).

    I spent the better part of my childhood and youth in Catholic institutions in the greater L.A. area and while I was fortunate enough to have been spared such abuse, I now know classmates who were not so lucky. I didn’t know such abuse existed until many years later only to discover after the scandal broke in the US. An L.A. Times analysis done in October 2005 revealed a vast scope of priest abuse. Clerics accused of molestations worked in three-fourths of the 288 parishes in the LA Archdiocese. (See link 3.) I have come to learn that in my parish alone, 5 priests were accused of molestation. I don’t know 5 people in my own neighborhood accused of such acts! This is unforgivable!

    1.) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/25/AR2010032502363.html
    2.) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7075237.ece
    3.) http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news/2005_10_13_Guccione_StudyReveals.htm

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    I'm a political reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, a sports columnist for Men's Journal, and I also write books for a Random House imprint called Spiegel and Grau.

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