Why Do Some Priests Abuse Kids?
This is a question that a lot of people are asking right now, given that child abuse perpetrated by priests is ALL OVER the news, AGAIN. Its an issue that won't go away, and it probably shouldn't either - sexual abuse of children is horrible - I think, one of the worst things a person can do.
So why are they doing it? There are some who claim that there are systemic problems in the church itself that encourage the possibility of abuse of children. I'm not sure about that. Others believe that the abuse is supported by church leaders' hiding these realities from us, covering it up - this may have indeed been the case in the past, but I don't think it is the case today.
Well the first thing I'm going to do is talk about two things that don't cause abuse, but a lot of people seem to think they do.
Some people think that because priests have to repress their sexuality, that they become potential abusers. This would be true IF priests did repress their sexuality - and unfortunately, some do. A HEALTHY celibate life has a priest that has INTEGRATED their sexuality, and found ways to express it WITHOUT having to do so in a romantic relationship. I'm a heterosexual priest - good looking women turn me on - and I'M OKAY WITH THIS. I don't think its a sin that Jessica Alba turns me on, as long as I don't act on those feelings, as long as I remain in control. Its only if I think that it IS a sin, that I HOLD IT IN, that I HATE MYSELF FOR THINKING ABOUT IT - its then that that sexual energy can become dangerous. Because the truth is, we can't turn off our sexuality - it leaks - and if we don't allow ourselves to feel it consciously, we will express it UNconsciously.
The proof that celibacy is not the issue is seen simply in the fact that pedophilia can be seen in other occupations as well, and at times in even greater frequency than found in the priesthood.
Some ignorant individuals have suggested that the problem is homosexuals that go into the seminary and into the priesthood. This is a gross oversimplification of the problem. Pedophiles aren't simply homosexuals - they are a form of sexual predator, that preys in particular on children. Whether they pray on boys or girls is a secondary issue. I think it is possible for a homosexual to live as a healthy celibate, just as a heterosexual can. Again the question is whether that sexuality is repressed, or integrated.
Again, we can look at the statistics - are homosexuals more likely to be pedophiles then heterosexuals? and we will find that they are not.
This having been said, I do think there is a question that should be asked: is a celibate priesthood attractive to people who have repressed their sexuality, particularly in that they can gain acceptance, and even STATUS, by living an (albeit unhealthy) form of celibate life? It would seem to me that determing whether a candidate for priesthood's sexuality is INTEGRATED or REPRESSED should be a top priority for screening, spiritual direction, and evaluation.
So this is what I think are three main ingredients that seem, from my observation, to make up a pedophile. Saying this, I must admit I am not an expert, not a psychologist, and am certainly open to correction on this. They may have one or several or all of these characteristics. It depends on the circumstances, and the degree of severity of the situation.
ARRESTED PSYCHO-SEXUAL DEVELOPMENT
The word SEXUALITY refers to more than just who are are attracted to for the purpose of sexual intercourse. It has to do with the way we interact with everyone and everything. And sexual development goes through different stages of development throughout our lives. Pre-adolescents tend to want to spend their time only with members of their same gender, and may even have strong feelings for their friends. Post-adolescents then become attracted to the opposite gender (normally), but even then in stages of development - initially as curiosity, then they view the opposite sex as being abstract, mysterious godlike creatures, or negatively, as bizarre, alien monsters, then we start to learn how to interact with the opposite sex as different-but-equals.
Now sometimes abuse, trauma, terror, shame, etc., can cause a person to ARREST - that is STOP growing in a stage of sexual development. They can start up again, but this can be very difficult. A prime example of someone who has stopped their development would be the late Michael Jackson. He liked the company of young boys because sexually he WAS a young boy. This doesn't necessarily make him a pedophile, but it MIGHT be one of the ingredients. We will likely never know for sure.
Bear in mind, many can also arrest in an adolescent stage of development - examples are men who surf pornography or go to peelers (strip bars), women who hate ALL men for being sexist, or homosexuals who feel the need to dance around in a g-string at a gay pride march - all of these are about the individual seeking acceptance for their own sexuality, mainly because they haven't yet accepted themselves.
Often due to their own feelings of inadequacy, some feel that the only way they will ever be able to experience of intimacy is by TAKING it from someone else. This causes a person to develop certain predatory instincts in order to satisfy that need for intimacy. This will draw such predators towards occupations and lifestyles that are associated with power over weaker individuals, such as policemen, teachers, ministers, and priests.
Bear in mind that this predatory nature also applies to men who go out "hunting" for women as targets for sex, and to bosses that sexually harrass their employees, or old men who date college students, etc. It is always rooted in the feelings of sexual inadequacy of the individual in question. Someone without such inadequacy is capable of having healthy relationships without needing to be in a position of power to do so.
Not always, but often, sexual predators have no remorse, no guilt, no regret over crimes they have enacted on other people. What causes this? I'm not certain, but suspect that they never developed a healthy conscience due perhaps to parental issues, it could also be a serious trauma early in life, perhaps a severe disconnection with reality, or totally wacked out neuro-chemistry - who knows. Sometimes we call these people sociopaths or psychopaths - not sure. And its hard for us to imagine someone with no conscience - this is probably what leads us to calling such people "monsters," which they're not. But they are messed up, and need help.
Anyway, these are my somewhat educated guesses. I think its important that we educate ourselves on these issues, both so that we can identify the threats, and so we won't persecute the innocent.