Open Thread for Episode #737: The Failure to Protect Children

In the next Atheist Experience episode, we’ll explore yet another failure of Christianity: the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal.  Consider this post an open thread for comments.


  1. gwen says

    It is not just an astounding failure to protect children, it is the work put forth to protect and hide the abuser. The deeper you look into the matter, the more difficult it is not to accept that this has been going on since the founding of the church, it is such an ingrained culture. There are 19th century abuses coming to light in Australia, I cannot believe it is an isolated incident. Alaska has villiages where everyone has been a victim of sexual abuse for generations, preyed upon by the church. The law has spent a long time looking the other way, and I cannot believe priests are not mandatory reporters. How in the hell did that happen?

  2. King of New Hampshire says

    I hope the episode isn’t just another joke fest or bash party on the Catholic church. That’s getting a little old.

    I’m not defending the Vatican. Raping children is, horrifically, only one of their many crimes against humanity and not the worst. Imagine that! Raping children is not the worst thing they’ve done. But we’re getting no where going on about how evil the church is.

    Obviously, Pope Ratzy isn’t going to do a damn thing willingly, and most of the world’s governments are in shock that Ireland’s PM dared to say, “No sir, I don’t like it.” That’s the extent of the authorities’ actions against the Vatican, if I’m not mistaken. A few raids on smaller churches, sure, but nothing against the Vatican. No, I’m afraid that the leaders of planet earth are too busy hiding their own skeletons to denounce child buggering. At least, I hope it’s a conspiracy to turn a blind eye, because the alternative is that our world leaders find nothing wrong with raping children.

    I’m afraid it’s up to those of us with the magic super-power of “thought” to do something. But that means we can’t just wave our hand and go, “Well, that’s what happens when you let religion have it’s way. Rape and incest.” One, it’s not helpful, and two, it’s damn stupid. Religion does not equal sexual predation. Authority does not lead to rape. Unquestioning, dogmatic, brain washed, fear for the soul authority can exist without anybody losing their underpants. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but the two are not inextricably linked.

    I think we need to find out why this happened, how this happened, and how to prevent it from happening again. The Catholic church is founded on lies, sure, but it’s not founded on getting old guys hooked up with little boys.

    Since we know that the church isn’t really getting messages from any deity, we know that this was just a group of people looking out for their own self interest. That’s hardly an excuse for the Vatican, but it does mean that if we don’t figure out what happened and why, and if we don’t accept this as a human failing rather than just Christian… well, there are many other organizations out there with a keen eye for their own self interests.

  3. Das Boese says

    Okay the episode hasn’t aired yet, still I’m gonna throw in my 2 cents.

    Sadly it’s not just a failure of religious institutions, but in many cases a spectacular failure of government, in countries all across the globe. What’s worse, it’s still going on right now. Both in the countries where these things have been uncovered, where the church and its lackeys are doing their best to claim that it’s isolated incidents and not endemic to their culture, as well as in countries unaffected so far, where there seems to be little interest by politics, media or law enforcement to investigate the possibility that this is indeed a widespread, global issue.

    It’s definitely like that here in Germany, maybe viewers/readers from other countries could offer additional perspectives?

  4. kingofnothing says

    @king of new Hampshire

    “I hope the episode isn’t just another joke fest or bash party on the Catholic church. That’s getting a little old.”

    the catholic has not and can never be bashed enough. any person that still claims to be a member should be ashamed to be a part the catholic church.

    Maybe as an organization they are too powerful to have any real punishment, but we can never let them forget that we are aware of their actions.

  5. Mr. Dave says

    I think the Catholic church has long since spent all of its good will capital defending against the never ceasing and ever increasing allegations of its terrible, predatory conduct upon children by twisted, perverted, so-called men of god and we owe them nothing but to punish the institution for its transgressions. We show little tolerance for actions of this type by any other person in society and I cannot see where these people deserve any special favor or protection. They should be yanked from the pulpit, taken to jail and charged just the same as anyone else without hesitation and those guilty of hiding them subjected to the same. It is time for the kid gloves to come off and the iron hand of justice to deliver the punishment this scum needs to learn that they are not so morally lofty that they exist above the laws they preach to every one else. These people hope daily that we will become bored with these accusations because they are so commonplace now and that we become as callous as they are to the pain and suffering they cause. I say we should deliver pain and suffering to them and show them that their fairytale god is no shield against reality.

  6. Das Boese says

    Calling out the catholic church for their institutionalized transgressions against humanity never “gets old”, nor should it.

    Let’s not pretend that systematically enabling and protecting vile pedophiles is the only problem with the church. It’s merely the worst in a veritable panoply of criminal activities and immoral actions that they continue to get away with.

  7. Jdog says

    I think it’s generally accepted that it happens because the Catholic church mandates celibacy for its employees. Some of the priests may have entered the priesthood in order to control their immoral urges, others may have developed them over a lifetime spent suppressing their normal urges, and both categories surely attempted to lean upon an unproven entity for support.

    I don’t think the “oh no, not again” comment is valid. If you’re arguing that it’s getting old because the show has covered it before, then that’s because the show isn’t catering to a long-term atheist audience (we’re mainly here for the fireworks and maybe to pick up some good counter-apologetics); they’re trying to attract theistic callers (who are probably not regular viewers of the show). Also, looking back through the archives, I’ve only seen one other episode in the last 3 years that comes close to being directly about this topic: #685, on Religion and Sex, with guest host Darrel Ray. If you’re arguing that it’s getting old because everyone does it or because you personally feel it amounts to hand-waving, then you promote the risk of letting it get pushed under the carpet again. For example, just because the Chinese government commits human rights abuses and most of us cannot directly do anything about it doesn’t mean we should stop calling them out on it.

    Ultimately, saying “stop bashing the Catholic church”, regardless of the way you want to spin it, is an endorsement of ‘suffering in silence’. It’s not productive.

  8. says

    I hope we see some analysis. What are the ingredients and conditions that have cause this horrible situation? (“Celibacy”, trust, authority to start). Should be a great and informative show.

  9. sansdeity says

    No, no, no, no! Do not link celibacy with wanting to have sex with children! If you, for whatever reason, found yourself celibate for any length of time, could you ever imagine yourself looking out of the corner of your eye at a child and thinking, ‘ well, its been a while…. maybe, just this once…..’? No, at least I hope not. Paedophilia is a sexuality you are born with, just like hetero- and homosexuality and has nothing to do with sexual activity per se. Your assertion that it happens because of enforced celibacy is dangerously wrong and is a huge red herring that totally misses the point and leaves children exposed to danger. To sum-up, paedophiles are definitely NOT just people who cannot find an adult to have sex with!!!!!!!!

  10. AnneH says

    The pedophilia is one of the many reasons why I’ve left the Catholic Church.

    The lack of accountability, of consequences, has a lot to do with the Sacrament of Confession, and Absolution. If a Catholic confesses their sins to a priest, no matter how heinous, then *poof* it’s automagically as if the rape (in this case) never happened. It’s an easy out. They never have to make any amends to the scarred children or their families.

    The Catholic hierarchy holds itself above the law.

  11. Bruce says

    If, as suggested by Cesar, DNA is a language that is “read” by a mind for duplication, does a photocopier have a mind too?

  12. King of New Hampshire says

    Ultimately, saying “stop bashing the Catholic church”, regardless of the way you want to spin it, is an endorsement of ‘suffering in silence’. It’s not productive.

    And if I had indeed said such a thing, then you might have an argument. But I said no such thing. In fact, in the very next paragraph, I explain what I mean and explain that I do not wish in any way to defend the church.

    Raping children is, horrifically, only one of their many crimes against humanity and not the worst. Imagine that! Raping children is not the worst thing they’ve done.

    My point, clearly stated in my original post, is that only bashing the church is not going to get us anywhere. I’m sorry to come back at you so strongly, but I do not appreciate you putting words into my mouth and then using such imaginary text to attack me. It’s rude and inconsiderate.

    I think it’s generally accepted that it happens because the Catholic church mandates celibacy for its employees.

    I do not think this is generally accepted, though it is often rumored. Since, however, pedophilia is not limited to celibate sects, nor has it been shown to be any more prevalent, I have strong doubts. But just as correlation doesn’t prove a cause, a lack of correlation doesn’t always disqualify it either. I’d be interested in seeing your sources on this. It’s the cover-ups and retention of pedophile priests that caused the issue, though; not an abnormally high percentage of such criminals.

  13. jacobfromlost says

    Even without the abiogenesis debate, all one has to do is ask if the materials living things are made of are the same or different from materials found in the environment.

    The fact that they are the SAME should be enough to put the “life only comes from life” argument to bed. Sure, life comes from life structurally, but life doesn’t exist without nonliving environmental materials. Can we live without water? No. Is water “alive”? No. But are living things fundamentally (ie, materially) different from the materials found in their environments? No. Therefore there is no mystery to be solved.

    Once we start understanding what we mean when we say “alive”, it becomes crystal clear that there is no magical element involved. We see no people walking and talking who have no element of water in their physical make up. We see no people walking and talking who have no brain, no heart, no blood. These things are all PHYSICAL, and they are all essential, to living things.

    The fact that we value ourselves and our continued existence is a separate question from the fundamental reality that we are not SEPARATE from our environments, but part and parcel of it. We wouldn’t live for long without oxygen, food, water, heat, or access to mates (who also continuously need oxygen, food, water, and heat) that allow us to procreate. There simply is no mystery here.

    Life is not magic, and therefore does not logically necessitate magic to exist.

  14. Orbital says

    Just wanted to follow up on the caller Ex-Mormon Micheal.

    He rung about his relationship with his current girlfriend whom he was wanting to marry, but her implicit condition was he had to recommit to her Mormon religion.

    I thought it was missed, in the follow up discussion regarding the nature of praying and evidence of miracles, was his strong feelings for his girlfriend, and the pressure he might have been putting himself through to “make this work”.

    I got the sense from listening to this conversation that while happy in his atheism, he’s willing to delude himself in order to develop/continue his relationship with his girlfriend.
    Could this frame of mind be sufficient to make him experience things in prayer sessions.
    Further to this pressure I also get the sense from his initial comments that his girlfriends Mormon faith is more important to her than her relationship to him.

    This might have been the better approach to take, is his emotional feeling in the telephone prayer session is really sufficient to build a life of faith and sustain it through a long term marriage.
    An interesting argument to follow is:
    1.) Would have he been able to stop questioning his newly found faith (if he developed it) based on this feeling?
    2.) Would he be able to maintain a Mormon faith despite already rejecting it earlier on in life?
    3.) If he ended up married to his Mormon girlfriend would he lie and maintain a fake belief to maintain his marriage? Would he be happy doing so?
    4.) Would his future wife maintain the relationship with him if he reverted back to atheism?
    5.) The future of any children would also be an issue?

    I know it sounds harsh, and I may be reading to much into his his statements about her not wanting to “marry outside the Mormon church”, but i don’t see much of a happy future in his relation with her.

    If he wishes to pursue this relationship then perhaps a further discussion with a serious commitment from her to also review her Mormon faith might be in order. At least that way they both can compare “note” and possibly arrive at a mutual understanding that doesn’t require Micheal to undermine his own identity.

  15. laplace says

    “Paedophilia is a sexuality you are born with, just like hetero- and homosexuality and has nothing to do with sexual activity per se.”

    Its a very modern USian view, and therefore – very likely to be mostly bullshit. The ancients clearly didnt think that way at all, and for them it was very much the actual activity, instead of some predisposition. Educate yourself on the Ancient Greece, Rome, hell, even China.

  16. LP says

    Man, I knew as soon as he opened his mouth, Caesar was back. That guy always sounds like Burt from Sesame Street on a handful of downers; there’s no mistaking him.

    He’s had some good points in the past that have made me think he’s pretty sharp in his way, but he really seemed like he was reaching this time. His points weren’t anywhere near as ponderous as they’ve been before. DNA’s not a language; it’s an acidic catalyst. It isn’t “information” because in order to be “information”, something must necessarily “inform” something else: essentially, a mind of some kind. There’s no “mind” involved in catalytically shaping proteins. Like Matt said, it’s just what molecules do when their electrochemical properties are affected by those of other molecules. Is it complicated? Yes. Is it impressive? Yes. Is it proof there has to be a god? Not to me, since we see other chemicals doing the same thing naturally everywhere else.

  17. AtheistSteve says

    DNA isn’t a language and Cesar is making at least 2 big errors.

    First is complexity. Life emerged very early in Earths history, almost 4 billion years ago, and the first cells most likely had a very simple DNA structure compared to current biology after eons of evolution.

    Second is an equivocation error. He is comparing DNA code to something like binary computer code. This leads him to an argument from design. Certainly binary code is designed and each bit is necessary and even critical. Even simple errors can crash a program and require debugging. But DNA has vast sections of “Junk” that don’t code for anything or are vestigal. This would indicate that a designer “God” is a lousy debugger for leaving all this useless information whereas evolution “blindly” shuffling the bits accounts for this nicely.

  18. says

    Even on a basic level, he’s wrong about it being “scientific” though. The claim is unfalsifiable. You can’t prove a negative (that it can’t come from non-life).

    He did that several times, where he just magically goes from assumption to conclusion.

  19. jacobfromlost says

    I absolutely agree with you. It isn’t scientific. I was just pointing out that this approach from theists often leads to debates about abiogenesis, which are pointless in the face of obvious evidence around us. The implications the theist seems to make is that life cannot come from nonlife (as you say), which is an unfalsifiable claim…

    …unless we carefully look at what life IS, and discover that today, right now, it can’t even EXIST without nonliving materials. The nonliving materials are essential to living things, and they are all found in the environment. EXACTLY what one would expect if abiogenesis of any kind were true…which suggests the need for a creator is not a need at all.

    Depending on how you look at it, the claim that life cannot come from nonlife is either A) unfalsiable, or B) already falsified.

  20. Kate says

    near death experiences are not “hooey”. they are DMT trips. DMT is the most insane drug experience you can have, way above LSD, and when you die, your brain releases DMT. DMT makes you hallucinate. pretty simple.

  21. Daumier says

    Does Cesar think acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate are information? After all when you put baking soda and vinegar together, they immediately know they have to have a reaction to create carbon dioxide! It’s like there’s a code behind it.

  22. maddog1129 says

    I remember a number of years ago the American Catholic bishops held a conference to “deal with” the child abuse scandal in the U.S. After a number of days of deliberations, as I recall, the ONLY resolution to gain passage was “zero tolerance for abusive priests.” It was head-banging to me … the thing that made the whole scandal so pernicious was the cover-up, moving the abusive priests around so they could hurt more children. If there was any one thing that should have come from the conference, it should have been “zero tolerance” for higher-ups who covered up. Heads should have rolled. So nothing happened then, and still nothing has happened. The Catholic Church has still mostly failed to address the problem.

  23. grumpyoldfart says

    The mugs in the pews should take a lot of the blame. They go “tut-tut” and say “What a shame”, but next Sunday there they are, sitting in church and dropping their tithes onto the collection plate. The priests are thinking “How easy is this,” and nothing changes.

    If the mugs had protested by staying away from services and withholding their tithes, the Church would have got things sorted in a matter of weeks.

    But the mugs were too afraid of losing their place in heaven – so they didn’t protest – and their children copped it !

  24. Joshua Fisher says

    I grew up Mormon too, and I can tell you that the pressure to date within the church is intense. Mormon females are conditioned from an early age to be submissive to male authority and so for them it is even more difficult to consider dating outside the church. For this Mormon girlfriend the idea of defying her father to marry outside the church could very well be beyond consideration. I can believe very easily that this girl would abandon the relationship if he does not convert back to the faith.

  25. Azure says

    There is actual evidence that suggests that once sexuality is set, it is set. People who have fetishes like golden showers, sadomasochism, or are pedophiles probably can’t change their sexual predilections anymore than someone can ungay. Obviously, people with golden shower and bondage fetishes can find partners to consent to the activities, whereas the pedophile must inhibit his sexuality for the rest of his (or her) life. I can provide citations from psychological research to back up this claim if necessary.

    HOWEVER, most child molestation is not done by pedophiles. Most molestation is a crime of opportunity, That is, sadly, (usually men) do molest because they get aroused and children are available. This is not saying that by any means that all men would molest children given the opportunity. I am saying that of men that do molest, they typically do so NOT because they have orientation towards children, but because they have a severe problem with inhibiting deviant behavior when an opportunity arises. I realize that is hard to believe of those of you with a functioning frontal lobe that allows this to be unconscionable, but it is actually better that way. It is much easier to treat someone so he or she does not reoffend if they were an opportunist, but sadly when someone is truly a pedophile it is very hard for that individual to not reoffend,

    Given, that most child molestation is a crime of opportunity, it stands to reason that men with no access to sex and plenty of opportunity might have higher rates of child molestation than an organization that allowed the members to have sex. Unfortunately, I can’t find a study that actually does a good job of comparing the rates of molestation by priests to that of men in the general public.

    My guess is no. The overall abuse rate is probably about the same; the number of people attractive to the priesthood to try to suppress (with the supposed help of some deity) their pedophilia is probably balanced out by many asexual and low sex-drive individuals.

    I think we can all agree that the cover-ups of the known cases of abuse are reprehensible regardless of the rate of pedophilia in the priesthood.

  26. King of New Hampshire says

    Educate yourself on the Ancient Greece, Rome, hell, even China.

    Okay. I will. I honestly never even thought of doing that. Thank you. Where can I find the peer reviewed scientific literature of ancient societies’ psychological experiments, the ones that don’t condone murdering your demon tainted child or splashing pigeon blood on the face of your mongoloid progeny? Seriously. Show me where the ancients investigated the causes of deviant behavior beyond attributing them to Satan or trickster gods. If you can produce just one single shred of proof that the ancients seriously studied this behavior I’ll happily retire from this conversation and go “educate myself.” Until then, I suspect you will busy yourself looking for such mythical evidence, right?

  27. says

    How about this analogy:

    DNA isn’t information any more than train tracks are information. Sure, the train tends to follow the train tracks to particular destinations, but that’s purely due to the physics and motion, not because train tracks are encoded data.

    Or, if one is looking for a more natural example – rivers. Streams and rivers force rain into following a particular pattern, and following a particular path. Rivers, however, are self-forming and have contain no encoded information.

  28. Vall says

    What Ceasar is doing is to deliberately misunderstand or misuse the word “language.” It’s the same as people who say “only a theory.” They clutch to one specific definition because the idea falls apart without it.

    Ceasar is kinda fun for a few minutes, but then you realize his opinions only go one way. He will pause, and act like he is listening, but nothing sinks in. They tried to get him on the “language” thing, but it hits a wall. He doesn’t care about truth or how to get it. I haven’t missed him.

    So I agree with the comments here, mainly I wanted to see if my gravitar crap is working.

  29. sansdeity says

    ‘Its a very modern USian view, and therefore – very likely to be mostly bullshit. The ancients clearly didnt think that way at all, and for them it was very much the actual activity, instead of some predisposition. Educate yourself on the Ancient Greece, Rome, hell, even China’

    What an odd comment. Are you suggesting that anyone could engage in such behaviour if denied access to ‘normal’ partners? I am not attracted to men, or children. No matter how long I went between sexual encounters I would still not be attracted to men, or children. I don’t think that is a particularly ‘…modern USian view…’ and it certainly isn’t ‘…bullshit.’ As for educating myself re your suggestions,I have an advanced degree in History, with a particular interest in Greece circa 600BCE so I’ll only take lessons from you if you are Professor level or above. Perhaps you could exchange Ad Hominem for reasoned discourse and actually address the important issues. Good Day to you, Sir.

  30. Ermine says

    paedophiles are definitely NOT just people who cannot find an adult to have sex with!!!!!!!!

    How many exclamation points is that? Hmmm, are you wearing your underpants on your head? You’re definitely showing the signs..

    While your contention as such is correct, it doesn’t have much at all to do with the subject at hand. First off, “pedophile” does not equal “child molester”, and that is at least part of what Laplace was saying. Most child molesters are NOT pedophiles. Most instances of child molestation are caused by “normal”, heterosexual friends or relatives who take advantage of the opportunity, NOT by predatory pedophiles. The facts and statistics strongly contest your assertion.

    No matter how vehemently you may contest it, people who can’t get their preferred fare pick less palatable alternates all the time. Do you really think that prison rape is being committed by homosexuals? No, it’s otherwise completely heterosexual men, picking an alternative outlet because they have the opportunity and the power to get away with it.

    No matter how long I went between sexual encounters I would still not be attracted to men, or children.

    …And so of course, because you think that about yourself, you feel like you can then claim the same for absolutely everyone, rather than any -real- evidence you might find, like the statistics on prison rape or the ubiquity of jokes about people having sex with animals when they can’t get a woman. Well, that makes perfect sense!

    You are wrong. Whether you like it or not, your assertion that people won’t use children as substitutes is confounded by quite a bit of real-world evidence that they DO. Now, are you going to continue to belabor the point, or would you like to get back to the real world and the subject at hand, which has little to do with pedophilia and quite a lot to do with trying to protect children from abuse?

    # to Azure, though I agree with a good deal of what you say, there’s one part I find that I must comment on:

    It is much easier to treat someone so he or she does not reoffend if they were an opportunist, but sadly when someone is truly a pedophile it is very hard for that individual to not reoffend,

    Excuse me? What exactly are you trying to say here? That real pedophiles can’t help offending? That the rate of recidivism for sex crimes committed by pedophiles is higher than that of other people?

    See, I’m a heterosexual, but even if I see a naked woman who’s a perfect 10 in my book, I’m STILL not going to rape her, no matter how turned on I might be at the time. Just because a pedophile is sexually attracted to children, it doesn’t mean that they’ll ever give in to their urges and molest one, any more than I’ll ever rape someone. The problem with pedophilia is that children -cannot- give informed consent, so any sort of sexual relations is rape. But you see, not only does “pedophile” not equal “child molester”, it doesn’t equal “rapist” either. Just as MOST celibate priests manage to live out their lives without committing rape, and MOST teachers manage to teach their students without raping their students, so too can a pedophile. It’s only the ones who are also RAPISTS who are a problem, and it’s the rape that is the problem, right?

    Some very small fraction of pedophiles are rapists, just like a far larger number of ‘normal’ heterosexuals, and even some ‘normal’ homosexuals, men and women both. Shouldn’t we try to worry about the ones who are actually the problem – the rapists, not “pedophiles”? I’ve got nothing against people going after the rapists with every hammer in their toolbag, but I do object to seeing one group of people tarred with a brush that’s obviously meant for a different, far-more-deserving group.

    Words -mean- things, and if you use them incorrectly, it becomes much harder to reliably communicate. If people would stop trying to use the wrong words just because they’ve seen them used in that context previously, this would be at least a little easier. Could you two think about what you’re saying before you say it, please? That’s all I ask of you, Azure. Sansdeity needs a little more work than that, I’m afraid. Among other things, s/he could stand to look up the definition of ‘Ad Hominem’ as well, at least if s/he doesn’t wish to look foolish for accusing people of it when it wasn’t there!

  31. Vall says

    If you have to explain your first statement in the following paragraphs instead of building on the idea, you may want to re-examine that statement.

    Greta Christina posted a video of her awesome “Angry” speech. In it she points out anger is a very useful tool to bring about change. When you suggest silence you are not only endorsing the behavior of the church, you are trying to take away one of our most useful tools.