Cultural Culprits Behind Sex Abuse Crisis

Liberals and conservative Catholics have very different theories as to what factors in church culture contributed to the sex-abuse scandal.

Peter Steinfels, author of A People Adrift, wrote a great article about it in Commonweal. Here's an excerpt, but be sure to read the whole thing.

Steinfels writes: "Many conservatives have blamed the scandal on a postconciliar “silly season” along with a “culture of dissent.” Liberals have emphasized, on the contrary, a repressive culture of denial, silence, and secrecy, again focusing on sex, which marked preconciliar Catholicism and the seminaries in particular. Both decry the continuing force of these tendencies in today’s church. The John Jay data show that substantiated allegations of abuse did indeed “surge” from some point in the 1960s, peak in the 1970s, and later decline, eventually sharply, in the 1990s. But the data also show that the majority of abusing priests were ordained before the council ended and over two-thirds by 1970. On the other hand, the cohorts of priests ordained in 1970 and in 1973–75 contained the highest percentages of abusers.

"These findings suggest that neither the culture of dissent nor the culture of repression may have been as combustible as the convergence of both."

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