“Loving the Perps” Redux

“Misplaced Empathy: Loving the Perps” is the single most read blog I’ve done in the past five years. It has had nearly 800 views due to being re-posted by several high-profile bloggers. It was about sexual abuse in churches and how easily this abuse is forgiven and then swept under the rug. One of my points was that folks tend to identify more with the perps due to our Christian mandate to be forgiving, and due to the fact that the perpetrators are pastors and ministry leaders of great charm and power. The victims are almost all children and women, and the perpetrators virtually all men. It is a much bigger problem than THE church (Christ’s body) has ever admitted.

Last evening I saw Spotlight, a new movie that stirred my thoughts again about this problem. It was about a team of investigative reporters from The Boston Globe who in 2002 broke the story about the pervasive sexual abuse of vulnerable youths by priests—and the massive cover up in the Boston Diocese of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and specifically Cardinal Bernard Law. When it was finally exposed there were 249 priests involved in abusing thousands of kids over decades. Because of the power and reach of the RCC there was complicity and denial about this crime at every level including The Boston Globe.

It is an extremely well done movie that has the feel of a 60 Minutes documentary. It has a great cast: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber and Stanley Tucci. It nails the problem at every level and is so instructive it’s almost a primer on the sexual abuse of minors. It goes into things like the careful “grooming” of victims, and the fact that many perps are abuse-reactive themselves—facts of which the general public is typically unaware.

The priests portrayed in the movie preyed on poor kids from broken homes. Their devout Catholic moms saw the priests as right next to God, and the families were usually very reluctant to go public when the abuse came to light. The young boys were all too hungry for attention and recognition by a “caring” adult. Perps are usually bright men who are skilled in selecting their victims and covering their trail. As a counselor who has worked with both victims and perpetrators I found the movie very balanced and accurate. It accurately shows the life-long emotional devastation that results from being a victim.

Both the RCC and Cardinal Law were complicit in continuing to propagate the abuse by reassigning offending priests after a brief period of treatment. More often than not the priest would be moved to another parish and continue to prey on new victims. One of the sad facts about pedophiles is that they typically have dozens of victims and continue to re-offend even after treatment.

Cardinal Law resigned in December, 2002, nearly a year after the story broke. He was reassigned to a church in Rome by John Paul where he continues to serve.


About diospsytrek

I am a licensed mental health counselor in Florida. I am also the author of four books. The books have to do with coping with depression and other mood disorders, and the nexus of psychological problems and spiritual warfare.
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One Response to “Loving the Perps” Redux

  1. diospsytrek says:

    I saw “Spotlight” on Thanksgiving Day evening. It was a great film but it left me feeling rather sad. The sex abuse by priests in the RCC was nothing new to me. It was a problem I’d been aware of for well over a decade. However, my focus in the original article “Misplaced Empathy: Loving the Perps” was stimulated by abuse allegations within several Evangelical churches.
    My background is partially Roman Catholic and I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner earlier that day at St. Mary Magdalen in Altamonte Springs. Primarily one family (with some helpers) has prepared T-day dinner for that parish for over 30 years. The food is great and the event is well organized. They serve about 200 people, and looking around the room I saw elderly and handicapped and Hispanics and other dark-complected folks who were likely recent immigrants– and young marrieds with tiny kids. At our table there was a 65ish Brazilian man who spoke little English, They were mostly folks who were it not for that event would eat alone. The predominant ambiance was Joy. It did not have the sanctimony that one would likely find at a similar evangelical event. The RCC does much good in the area of social justice and protecting the unborn, and it makes me sad that has been tainted by decades of sexual abuse of vulnerable kids. At least it is in the open now.

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