Remarks this week by Cardinal Tarcisio
Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, that homosexuality was one
factor behind clerical sex abuse problems set off a media firestorm
attacking the truthfulness of the claim, even forcing the Vatican press
office to clarify the context of the remarks.
Writer Selwyn Duke, in an article in
Thinker, explores the issue
of the role of homosexuality in the Church scandals in terms of language
Claim that the abuse was homosexual
in nature, and you’ll hear accusations of intolerance, bigotry, and
backwardness. “Don’t be ignorant,” say the apologists. “Haven’t
you heard about psychology and the ‘determination’ that homosexuality
and pedophilia are completely different things?” Well, I will ask
if they’ve heard about word definitions.
If these critics are so enamored of specificity and categorical rectitude,
they should know that the abuse in question is not
pedophilia. This is because pedophilia refers to sexual relations with
prepubescent children, and virtually all the victims in the Church scandal
were adolescents. Thus, it is correctly classified as
ephebophilia (attraction to older adolescents) or
hebephilia (attraction to pubescent children). If you’re going to embrace
psycho-babble, then babble correctly.
Duke goes on to explain that linguistic
imprecision can be a quite effective tool for propaganda:
It is the height of silliness to
scream about incorrect labeling and feign intellectualism and then yourself
apply a word wholly inappropriate to the transgression. Of course, though,
such contradiction is understandable. Those guilty often don’t know
the facts about the abuse and/or don’t know esoteric labels such as
hebephilia and ephebophilia (which, of course, belies any claim of intellectualism).
Yet there can be another motivation: If you aim to demonize a target,
nothing quite packs the rhetorical punch of “pedophilia.”
And people thus driven cannot plead ignorance — they are liars.
Finally, he calls to stand back from
high sounding labels and apply a bit of common sense:
As for me, I’m a simple sort, a
man with little use for newly-minted psychological terminology. And
I’ll provide my perspective: Regardless of a boy’s stage of development,
he is undeniably male — the same sex as the priest abusers. And most
of the abusers targeted only members of the same sex. Now, what do you
call same-sex attraction?