The author and history professor Garry Willis is both a practicing Catholic and one of Catholicism’s most ardent critics. To his great credit, Willis has been at the forefront of the movement to finally shine a spotlight on child abuse by clergy.
After I read about the exploits of Baptist preacher Jack Schaap, who had sex with a troubled teenager entrusted to his pastoral care and then told her that their extramarital affair was blessed by Jesus, I went looking for something Willis wrote eleven years ago. This is the passage. Emphasis mine.
Priestly pedophilia is … set apart from other varieties by the fact that the seduction technique employs religion. Almost always some form of prayer has been used as foreplay. The very places where the molestation occurs are redolent of religion — the sacristy, the confessional, the rectory, Catholic schools and clubs with sacred pictures on the walls. One of the victims of Father Paul Shanley, of the Boston archdiocese, says that his ordeal began in the confessional, when he confessed the “sin” of masturbation. The priest told him that masturbation could be a “lesser evil” and that he would help him work out his problem. He did this by taking him to a cabin he kept in the woods, where the priest taught the boy how they could masturbate each other.
This pattern occurs over and over — a conjunction of the overstrict sexual instruction of the Church (e.g., on the mortal sinfulness of masturbation, even one occurrence of which can, if not confessed, send one to hell) and a guide who can free one of inexplicably dark teaching by inexplicably sacred exceptions. The victim is disarmed by sophistication and the predator has a special arsenal of stun devices. He uses religion to sanction what he is up to, even calling sex part of his priestly ministry.
Schaap is a Baptist, not a Catholic — but we see the exact same scenario play out, full of faux-holy lecherousness and the kind of betrayal that makes Judas look like a saint. These are kids, for fuck’s sake: many times more vulnerable — and infinitely more susceptible to claims of authority — than those of us who have safely crossed into adulthood.
Willis lays out the ink-black perfidy of this behavior just about as well as anyone could. And for that, regardless of our own God-belief or non-belief, we all ought to thank him.
[image via Catholic Crime]