Southern Religion

Cardinal Bertone’s homosexuality/pedophilia myth

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s secretary of state, had it exactly wrong when he asserted Monday that psychologists have shown “that there is a relationship between homosexuality and paedophilia.”

Joe Kort, a psychotherapist and gay and lesbian studies adjunct professor at Wayne State University wrote in Psychology Today:

One frequently quoted researchers on the topic of homosexuality and child molestation, Gregory Herek, a research psychologist at the University of California, defines pedophilia as “a psychosexual disorder characterized by a preference for prepubescent children as sexual partners, which may or may not be acted upon.” He defines child sexual abuse as “actual sexual contact between an adult and someone who has not reached the legal age of consent.” Not all pedophiles actually molest children, he points out. A pedophile may be attracted to children, but never actually engage in sexual contact with them. Quite often, pedophiles never develop a sexual orientation toward other adults.

Herek points out that child molestation and child sexual abuse refer to “actions,” without implying any “particular psychological makeup or motive on the part of the perpetrator.” In other words, not all incidents of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by pedophiles. Pedophilia can be viewed as a kind of sexual fetish, wherein the person requires the mental image of a child–not necessarily a flesh-and-blood child–to achieve sexual gratification. Rarely does a pedophile experience sexual desire for adults of either gender. They usually don’t identify as homosexual – the majority identify as heterosexual, even those who abuse children of the same gender.

Herek has addressed the issue directly writing in Facts About Homosexuality and Child Molestation:

In recent years, antigay activists have routinely asserted that gay people are child molesters. This argument was often made in debates about the Boy Scouts of America’s policy to exclude gay scouts and scoutmasters. More recently, in the wake of Rep. Mark Foley’s resignation from the US House of Representatives in 2006, antigay activists and their supporters seized on the scandal to revive this canard.

It has also been raised in connection with scandals about the Catholic church’s attempts to cover up the abuse of young males by priests. Indeed, the Vatican’s early response to the 2002 revelations of widespread Church cover-ups of sexual abuse by priests was to declare that gay men should not be ordained.

Cardinal Bertone is not only wrong but also fostering an invidious myth which in testament to the wisdom of the average American, has fallen into disfavor in this countryl. As Herek explained:

The number of Americans who believe the myth that gay people are child molesters has declined substantially. In a 1970 national survey, more than 70% of respondents agreed with the assertions that “Homosexuals are dangerous as teachers or youth leaders because they try to get sexually involved with children” or that “Homosexuals try to play sexually with children if they cannot get an adult partner.”

By contrast, in a 1999 national poll, the belief that most gay men are likely to molest or abuse children was endorsed by only 19% of heterosexual men and 10% of heterosexual women. Even fewer – 9% of men and 6% of women – regarded most lesbians as child molesters.

Consistent with these findings, Gallup polls have found that an increasing number of Americans would allow gay people to be elementary school teachers. For example, the proportion was 54% in 2005, compared to 27% in 1977.

The degree to which the church’s problems and the victims’ pain are made worse by celibacy is at worst unclear.

It is clear that by peddling an invidious myth in an attempt to somehow defuse the sexual scandal in which the Roman Catholic Church is awash, Cardinal Bertone has brought additional dishonor on all involved.


April 13, 2010 - Posted by | Catholic, children, Crime | , , ,

1 Comment

  1. Thoughtful article. Thanks. As for Cardinal Bertone, I wonder if he has ever heard the expression: “When you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is … stop digging.”

    Comment by Jan | April 14, 2010

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