Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 13, 2003
Letís put a perspective on this scandal
By FR. RON ROLHEISER, omi
Itís a sickness and not a question of somebody not having proper willpower.
A naive understanding of the nature of pedophilia is also one of the reasons why bishops made some mistakes early on. Unaware of the real and deep nature of this as an illness, some believed the perpetrator when he said, ďIíll never do it again.Ē The perpetrator was sincere in saying that and they were sincere in believing it, but, as we know now, thatís a dangerous naivetť, both ways, akin to an alcoholic (not in treatment) promising to never drink again.
Pedophilia is an awful disease because something awful caused it.
The anatomy of the illness can help us to understand it: A pedophile is someone who is sexually attracted to a pre-pubescent child.
What causes this? The literature in the area suggests that a reason
for that attraction, is not to do with sex but with the particular trauma the perpetrator experienced as a child, namely, some trauma killed the child in them and the pathological sexual attraction to children exists in the pedophile because his or her own childhood was stolen.
If we keep all of this in mind, it can help us not to fall off either side of a delicate tightrope that needs to be walked on this issue: On the one hand, we can never be too careful regarding sexual abuse. Anything that makes light of it or exposes children to undue risk must be vigorously fought.
Understanding pedophilia as a disease helps us not to be unduly scandalized by the fact it also afflicts some priests and religious, as do other diseases.
Nobody is exempt from the human condition and learning that there are some priests who suffer from a disease that afflicts many, many people shouldnít lead to the conclusion that a whole system is shot through with hypocrisy, that bishops are more concerned about self-preservation than the gospel, or that vowed celibacy is, in se, an unhealthy condition. Illness is not the same as hypocrisy.
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