In March 2006, the editors decided to try something new—and terrifying. We started a blog. With the help of several regular contributors—including David Gibson, Robert Imbelli, Cathleen Kaveny, Joseph Komonchak, and Margaret O’Brien Steinfels—Commonweal begat dotCommonweal. For eighty-five years, the magazine has provided a forum for well-reasoned, civil debate. It seemed only natural to host that kind of conversation on our Web site. Readers agree: our Internet traffic has tripled since we launched dotCommonweal. Yet subscriber surveys show that a relatively small percentage of readers are aware of our Web site. To remedy that, we introduce a new feature that will highlight selections from the blog. (Opinions expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily the magazine.) See you online. —The Editors
ON HIS HIGH HOBBYHORSE
From Associate Editor Grant Gallicho’s blog post “They Always Send a Limo,” which corrects Catholic League President Bill Donohue’s claim that the sexual-abuse scandal is really a homosexual scandal:
As made clear by the scholars conducting the USCCB-commissioned study of the causes of the crisis, homosexuality is not a predictor of sexual abuse. Yet Donohue thinks that because 81 percent of the victims were male the real cause was homosexuality. And if that isn’t enough to convince you, Donohue asserts that three-quarters of the victims were postpubescent, noting that the American Pediatric Association says boys start puberty at age ten. In other words, the more postpubescent male victims we find, the more likely it is that we’re looking at a gay problem. Obvious, isn’t it?
Not quite. First, John Jay researchers did not measure the pubescence of victims. They collected two sets of data about victims. One, the “Cleric Survey,” recorded the victims in the following age groups: 1–7, 8–10, 11–14, and 15–17. Researchers presumed that victims aged 11 to 14 were postpubescent; according to the Cleric Survey, 50.9 percent of victims were aged 11 to 14. That’s why on page 56 of the “Nature and Scope” study the researchers claim that “the majority of alleged victims were postpubescent.” It’s not clear to me why John Jay would make that claim, given that researchers didn’t collect data on victims’ pubescence and that the DSM-IV defines a pedophile as someone with recurrent sexual desires for prepubescent children “generally aged 13 or younger.” The American Pediatric Society actually says that for males the onset of puberty—not its conclusion—usually occurs between the ages of 10 and 14. So why would John Jay presume that victims between 11 and 14 years of age were postpubescent? What’s more, according to the “Cleric Survey,” nearly 73 percent of victims were 14 or younger.
John Jay also collected individual surveys for every victim about whom there was data. The “Victim Survey” has a different age breakdown. Table 4.3.2 of the “Nature and Scope” study shows that 60 percent of victims were 13 or under. Granted, the “Victim Survey” data set isn’t as large as that of the “Cleric Survey,” but it is broken down more carefully. Again, it remains mysterious why a bullet point in the “Nature and Scope” study summarized only one set of data about victims as: “The majority of alleged victims were postpubescent, with only a small percentage of priests receiving allegations of abusing young children” (4.2 Summary). As far as I can tell, that conclusion doesn’t follow from any data collected by John Jay.
THE EYES OF FAITH
From Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak’s blog post “Duc nos quo tendimus,” which reflects on the relationship between discernment and authority.
Some decades ago, Albert Descamps, a Belgian scripture scholar, wrote a fine essay on teaching authority in the church. With a touch of humor, he quoted from a verse of the Panis angelicus, “Per tuas semitas duc nos quo tendimus. Ad lucem quam inhabitas.” (“Along your paths lead us where we tend: To the light in which you dwell”), in order to make the point that there is a view that has no difficulty acknowledging the authority of a person who leads us where we already want to go—the Duc nos quo tendimus notion of authority….
The ability to discern divine authority is itself a gift of God. The First Vatican Council taught that saving faith is impossible without the light and inspiration of the Holy Spirit that make assenting to and believing the truth a free and meritorious act of which the word suavitas (pleasantness, delight) may be used. St. Augustine spoke of the need of “inner eyes”; St. Thomas said that the principal cause of faith is the inner impulse of the Holy Spirit; Pierre Rousselot wrote of “the eyes of faith,” and Bernard Lonergan of faith as “the eyes of love.”
All of which I take to mean that nothing can take the place of conversion—intellectual, moral, and religious. The converted are likely to discern correctly who may and should be trusted and to trust them; the unconverted are likely to trust the untrustworthy and not to trust the trustworthy. Unfortunately, it is also the case that people who occupy posts that only the trustworthy ought to occupy sometimes are not themselves trustworthy because they are not converted—intellectually, morally, religiously—and when that happens in the church, a grave crisis can ensue. There really is no substitute for conversion, and that is the work of the Holy Spirit.