Dawkins minimizes the harm of child sex abuse, and finds something much worse

(Note: While in general I’m against giving any attention to Andrew Sullivan, because he is an unbalanced and semi-deranged individual and should not be in the media, I quote below an interesting statement by Sullivan sent by a reader about the reasons for priestly sexual abuse of boys.)

Blogger Nora Brinker in Germany sends this statement by Richard Dawkins that she came upon at his website, written in 2006:

Odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is, I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.

Happily I was spared the misfortune of a Roman Catholic upbringing (Anglicanism is a significantly less noxious strain of the virus). Being fondled by the Latin master in the Squash Court was a disagreeable sensation for a nine-year-old, a mixture of embarrassment and skin-crawling revulsion, but it was certainly not in the same league as being led to believe that I, or someone I knew, might go to everlasting fire. As soon as I could wriggle off his knee, I ran to tell my friends and we had a good laugh, our fellowship enhanced by the shared experience of the same sad pedophile. I do not believe that I, or they, suffered lasting, or even temporary damage from this disagreeable physical abuse of power. Given the Latin Master’s eventual suicide, maybe the damage was all on his side.

Nora comments:

This is incredible. So sexual abuse is something a nine-year old finds mainly funny and doesn’t it create a great feeling of belonging among abused boys. Ernst Junger said: “At orphaned altars, demons dwell.” Sic!

LA replies:

Ever since I can remember, it’s been a truism in our culture that sexually abusing a child is the worst thing there is, the very touchstone of evil. But now we find out there’s something worse, much worse than sexually abusing a child: raising a child as a Catholic.

As I’ve seen from my interactions with Randians, the greatest hatred in the world is arguably not the hatred of Jews, it’s the hatred of God and of people who believe in God.

April 14

Tony S. writes:

Great post on the minimization of child sex abuse.

It isn’t just Dawkins who thinks there is something worse than sexually abusing a child. It’s Andrew Sullivan as well.

I’m still astounded by this March 25 post from The Daily Dish:

“Well: imagine you are a young gay Catholic teen coming into his sexuality and utterly convinced that it’s vile and evil. What do you do? I can tell you from my own experience. You bury it. But of course, you can’t bury it. So you objectify sex; and masturbate. You cannot have sexual or even emotional contact with a teenage girl, because it is simply impossible, and you certainly cannot have sex with another teenage boy or you will burn in hell for ever … so you have sex with images in your own head. Your sex life becomes completely solitary. It can be empowered by pornography or simply teenage imagination. Some shard of beauty, some aspect of sensuality, some vision of desire will keep you sexually energized for days.

Now suppose your powers of suppression and attachment to religious authority are also strong—perhaps stronger because you feel so adrift you need something solid to cling onto in your psyche. And you know you cannot marry a woman. But you want to have status and cover as a single man. If this is the 1950s and 1960s, it’s into the Church you go. You think it will cure you. In fact, it only makes you sicker because your denial is buttressed by their collective denial. And the whole thing becomes one big and deepening spiral of lies and corruption.

Many of these tormented men have arrested sexual and emotional development. They have never had a sexual or intimate relationship with any other human being. Sex for them is an abstraction, a sin, not an interaction with an equal. And their sexuality has been frozen at the first real moment of internal terror: their early teens. So they tend to be attracted still to those who are in their own stage of development: teenage boys. And in their new positions, they are given total access to these kids who revere them for their power.

So they use these children to express themselves sexually. They barely see these children as young and vulnerable human beings, incapable of true consent. Because they have never had a real sexual relationship, have never had to deal with the core issue of human equality and dignity in sex, they don’t see the children as victims. Like the tortured gay man, Michael Jackson, they see them as friends. They are even gifted at interacting with them in non-sexual ways. One theme you find in many of these stories is that until these screwed up priests’ abuse and molestation is revealed, they often have a great reputation as pastors. As emotionally developed as your average fourteen year old wanting to be loved, they sublimate a lot of their lives into clerical service. But they also act out sexually all the time.”

This is different from Dawkins. Sullivan only hates the believers he terms “Christianists,” but his sensitive appraisal of the situation of homosexual priests shows that for him the scandal (better: the solution to the scandal) is also very much rooted in the issue of “bringing up.” In other words, the “agency” that brings about abuse isn’t the abuser, but the authority of the Church and its “repressive” teaching on sex.

I left this comment on one of E.D. Kain’s posts at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, in which he continued, marginally, his critique of Sullivan’s “aesthetic obsession” with Benedict XVI:

Sullivan draws different lessons because the core of his problem with the Church has only indirectly to do with sexual abuse per se and much more to do with a hierarchy and repressive traditionalism that caused the sexuality of “young gay, Catholic teens” who go on to become priests to be “frozen at the first real moment of internal terror” (speaking of which, I have yet to see him condemned for basically calling the scandal, in the words of Bill Donahue, a “homosexual crisis”). So for him a reminder is “powerful” when it undermines the authority of the hierarchy and allows him to say, over and over, “we are the Church.”

LA replies:

What is it specifically that astounds you about Sullivan’s comment?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 13, 2010 01:25 PM | Send

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