Thursday, June 17, 2010

Michael Coren can’t lessen the shame by splitting hairs

So many times when I watch the Michael Coren Show on CTS Television, Coren finds it necessary to correct a guest and remind her or him that, (a) Roman Catholic clergy sexually abuse children at or below the rate others do; and (b) most of the sex-abuse by Roman Catholic clergy is committed by homosexuals rather than by pedophiles.

“While sexual abuse is obviously grotesque, the number of occurrences in the Catholic Church is neither higher nor lower than any other denomination or religion and the same as those in education, sports and any other institution that involves a power dynamic between adults and youth. …

“What these same people seldom discuss, because it runs directly contrary to their politics, is the genuine nature of abuser and abused. Forty years of statistics show that 85% of the latter have been teenage boys. Their tormentors were homosexual men.”

– Michael Coren
Toronto Sun
June 17, 2010

Making these distinctions seems vitally important to Coren. He makes them frequently on his TV show, and he has also taken pains to make this distinction in, at least, one of his columns.

On last night’s show, for example, he insulted regular panelist Marianne Meed Ward, interrupting a valid point she was making to make sure he interjected his hair-splitting claims.

I can see why this apologist for the RCs might want to “set the record straight” regarding the proclivity of RC clergy to sexually abuse children and youth: after all, it is his choice of faith that is being maligned.

Cannot he see though that the real evil here is the fact that young people—children and youth—are being sexually abused? Should anyone really give a rat’s ass about whether the abusers are more or less likely to be RCs or whether or not they are victims of hebephilia or pedophilia? How much does it really matter whether the abused children were ten or 15? In either case they are victims of one of society’s most egregious crimes.

Time and again over several decades, children and youth of different ages have been sexually abused by adult Roman Catholic clergy and members of RC religious orders. And, time and again, those abuses have gone un-reported to civil authorities and been covered up by senior RC clergy. The list of publicly known crimes is long and shameful.

These are shameful criminal acts and unconscionable conspiracies that deny justice for the victims. No amount of hair-splitting will make these acts less heinous.

Roman Catholics have to find a way of dealing with this crisis without trying to make these terrible deeds seem less abhorrent. Only a few week ago, a senior cardinal said the Roman Catholic faithful will not be swayed by “petty gossip” about child sex-abuse allegations.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, Germany’s top Catholic bishop, apologized in March for mistakes he made in failing to report to authorities a case of suspected abuse by a priest in the Freiburg diocese nearly 20 years ago. A mistake, mind you, not a criminal conspiracy, not an appalling lapse in judgment.

I can’t even imagine the pain these utterances must have caused the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of victims of sex abuse when they read these insensitive remarks.

I sense that Michael Coren is writing a book on this subject, but I hope I’m wrong. As are many thousands of other RCs around the world, he does seem genuinely to be trying to come to grips with this difficult and complicated crisis within his church. And for that I cannot criticize him. But, while Coren is an interesting, intelligent commentator on most political and social subjects, on religion—and especially as it concerns Roman Catholics—he’s far too much of an apologist for his faith to do any real good for the victims of these crimes.

And it is the victims and only they for whom I have sympathy. Any attempt to “explain” these crimes can only do more harm than good to the victims.


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  1. Coren has to correct the misconception that all priests are abusing kids. Whenever a priest is arrested there are those who use it to feed their belief that Catholicism is a breeding ground for pedophiles when the numbers no where justify it. The same is not done to the teaching profession or education system when a teacher is caught abusing or having sex with a child. Yes, priests should be held to a higher standard than teachers but the comparison is valid. Only priests and the Catholic Church get tarred with collective guilt when one of their members commits a crime.

  2. Mark,

    Not all priests, but enough to make this a extraordinarily serious issue. And, yes, the entire church has to carry the can on this one, because of the denials and cover-ups over decades. Now its time for the RC church and its apologists to shut up and take their well-deserved lumps in public opinion.

    If priests and many lay persons didn't want to share in the collective shame, they should not have participated in what must have been a broad-based cover up and conspiracy of silence.

    Shame on you for defending this.

  3. Russ.
    Accuracy is important. Mr Coren is only stating facts. You do believe in accuaracy and fact in the media, don't you?

  4. Could you imagine if, instead of criminal charges, an abusive hockey coach was just sent to a different team?