The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, May 21, 2002  

"I can figure out what I should be thinking
about the Church scandal myself."

This evening we received a letter from a reader in response to our posting earlier today, "Thinking About the Challenges Facing the Catholic Church." We greatly appreciate the reader having taken the time to share her opinions with us. [Ed.: The letter has been edited for clarity.]

To The Rittenhouse Review:

I came to your web site after reading your comments at I decided to take a look at The Rittenhouse Review, and I must say that I am quite concerned by what you deem to be appropriate and inappropriate thinking with respect to the current scandal facing the Catholic church.

The two articles that were posted as examples of appropriate ways to think about the crisis were very short, made no reference to the details about the alleged criminal acts, and were mainstream, politically correct, and liberally pacifistic. While the two articles that questioned the crimes and those who perpetrated them were very well written, detailed, and questioned why the mainstream media did not identify the sexual orientation of those who allegedly perpetrated the crimes.

The first two articles didn't challenge my way of thinking and didn't include any supporting evidence to believe that homosexuals and those who committed the sexual abuses were not one and the same men. The second set of articles, however, gave a lot more evidence that the homosexuals in the Church were indeed those that perpetrated sexual crimes against young men, and not against young women.

That you would have people take the liberal view without supporting documentation is very disturbing in that you provide no information about what actually occurred in the Boston parishes. As a reasonably intelligent person, the first question I would pose is, "Who are these people that would commit these crimes?" and I want to know more than just "Catholic priests."

Your answers are "Oh it could be anyone but not the gay priests because everyone knows the majority of pederasts are not gay but only heterosexuals that commit power crimes." Yet I have seen more than enough news stories (parental concerns, etc.) that hint at the homosexual orientation of these priests to glimpse an understanding that the majority of the priests committing these crimes were homosexually oriented committing crimes on adolescent boys and not girls.

Please focus more on the facts and less on the editorials of these stories. I would be more interested to know exactly who were the people accused and what was their sexual orientation, then I can figure out what I should be thinking about the Church scandal myself without you having to tell me "think this way and not that way."

Vickie P.

The Rittenhouse Review responds:

We appreciate your taking the time to share your views with The Rittenhouse Review.

First, we would point out that the two articles we noted approvingly were published on the op-ed pages of the Philadelphia Inquirer, a major metropolitan daily newspaper. As such, the space available for the authors was constrained by the lack of space available. We are certain that Colbert (whose essay ran 642 words), as well as Dubé and Rostain (whose jointly authored articled ran to 705 words) have a great deal more to say about the subjects they discussed in today's paper.

By contrast, Dreher and Kurtz wrote their essays for a National Review, a combination web site-magazine that takes advantage of two media that permit considerably greater exposition on the subject at hand. For the record, Dreher's article was 1,037 words, while Kurtz went on -- and on and on -- for 2,525 words. Had the Inquirer been able to provide its contributors with similar space and latitude, we suspect your reaction would have been at least somewhat different from that which you present in your letter.

Your letter takes issue with the fact that we referred our readers to editorials rather than news stories that would contain the necessary facts to help readers make their own decisions about the challenges facing the Catholic church today

We emphasize that TRR is a journal of opinion and that we believe the major metropolitan dailies, in particular the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times, together with such outlets as the National Catholic Reporter and numerous diocesan publications, have done an admirable job of keeping readers very well informed about the facts of the matter at hand.

This simply is not our task. We assume our readers are familiar with at least some of the facts surrounding any issue that we discuss and therefore are inclined to move straight to commentary, critique, and analysis.

To be honest, we are not surprised to learn that the essays in today's Inquirer didn't challenge your "way of thinking." In fact, your letter indicates that you possess deeply ingrained opinions about the issues under discussion, leading us to wonder what, if anything, might "challenge," let alone change, your "way of thinking." That is, by the way, perfectly fine with us.

Your assertion that "the media" has ignored the issue of the actual and presumed sexual orientation of the members of the clergy accused or convicted of molestation is ludicrous on its face. There is not a single national or regional newspaper in this country that we have reviewed on this matter -- and we can assure you we check dozens of papers each day -- has avoided the issue of sexual orientation. The same holds true of magazines, newsletters, and journals, whether of a conservative, moderate, liberal, or indeterminate orientation.

Indeed, the two articles to which we linked from National Review devote considerable attention to the issue of priestly sexual orientation, thereby belying your assertion. Now, we cannot know what newspapers, if any, you read on a regular basis, but if you haven't read "gay this" or "gay that" with respect to this controversy we suggest you expand your reading list.

In fact, we can't help but wonder whether you actually read the Inquirer essays. You maintain that the authors of those pieces "didn't include any supporting evidence to believe that homosexuals and those who committed the sexual abuses were not one and the same men."

This is an odd statement given that the article by Dubé and Rostain states specifically that "there is no link between same-sex sexual orientation (homosexuality), and sexual gratification with young children;" that individuals afflicted by pedophilia and ephebophilia "are generally heterosexual men -- sexual predators who seek out vulnerable victims, usually young girls, for the satisfaction of their own needs;" and that "[t]ypically, abusers of children and adolescents are not gay men. In fact, gay men and lesbian women are involved in fewer than one percent of all reported sexual abuse cases. Both the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists and the American Psychiatric Association have issued policy statements to that effect."

We are, frankly, amused to hear ourselves chastised for encouraging communicants to "take the liberal view." Just to clue you in, the editor's Catholicism is of a very orthodox and traditional variety, albeit with the eccentricities expected of any thinking person.

He would be willing to go one-on-one with you -- or with National Review's Dreher, who has been a Catholic for all of nine years, or NR's Kurtz, who is not Catholic, but Jewish -- regarding the intricacies of the catechism, the history of the church, the biographies of saints, the magisterium, and the devotions and other traditions that previously formed the basis of this once-great church.

Finally, we feel compelled to mention that our use of the phrases "How to think" and "How not to think" were not intended to be authoritarian diktats, but rather reflections of our own positions on the challenges facing the church today. Naturally, readers are free to draw their own conclusions.

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