Donohue: Irish Abuse 'Hysteria'
Ireland’s Ryan report does necessary and important work. For one thing, it explains why many Irish Catholics stopped practicing the faith. Bad example kills faith.
It’s horrifying stuff. But news stories about it seem to prefer strong adjectives to strong statistics. You would expect the opposite. What’s up?
Bill Donohue asks the same question.
Here is what Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberties, had to say (link here):
Reuters is reporting that “Irish Priests Beat, Raped Children,” yet the report does not justify this wild and irresponsible claim.
Four types of abuse are noted: physical, sexual, neglect and emotional. Physical abuse includes “being kicked”; neglect includes “inadequate heating”; and emotional abuse includes “lack of attachment and affection.” Not nice, to be sure, but hardly draconian, especially given the time line: Fully 82% of the incidents took place before 1970. As The New York Times noted, “Many of them [are] now more than 70 years old.” And quite frankly, corporal punishment was not exactly unknown in many homes during these times, and this is doubly true when dealing with miscreants.
Regarding sexual abuse, “kissing” and “non-contact including voyeurism” (e.g., what it labels as “inappropriate sexual talk”) make the grade as constituting sexual abuse.
Moreover, one-third of the cases involved “inappropriate fondling and contact.” None of this is defensible, but none of it qualifies as rape.
Rape, on the other hand, constituted 12% of the cases. As for the charge that “Irish priests” were responsible, some of the abuse was carried out by lay persons, much of it was done by brothers, and about 12% of the abusers were priests (most of whom were not rapists).
The Irish report suffers from conflating minor instances of abuse with serious ones, thus demeaning the latter. When most people hear of the term abuse, they do not think about being slapped, being chilly, being ignored or, for that matter, having someone stare at you in the shower. They think about rape.
By cheapening rape, the report demeans the big victims. But, of course, there is a huge market for such distortions, especially when the accused is the Catholic Church.