Context: the essential thing missing from Coverage of Cardinal Pell's Testimony
This post from Austen Ivereigh on Catholic Voices blog speaks about what is missing from the coverage of Cardinal Pell's Lenten testimony on abuse:
"Pell has honestly named the point which consistently gets ignored in the coverage of child sex abuse, especially in relation to the Church — namely, the vast gulf of moral awareness and empathy that separates our time from the 1970s-80s.
Back then, people didn’t much know or care about child abuse. There was a generalised social silence. Victims hardly ever complained. It wasn’t seen as a police matter, and if the police were informed they tended to pass the matter onto the bishop to deal with.
To the extent it was a problem — as it was, clearly, for bishops at the time who had to decide what to do with their priests — the focus was always on the perpetrator, not the victims. It was seen as a sickness that needed treatment and time away on leave, like alcoholism, followed by rehabilitation in the form of another parish assignment. When Cardinal Pell recalls the discussion about Ridsdale being conducted in vague, euphemistic language, he exactly captures the time. The words “paedophilia” or “child sexual abuse” barely existed in common parlance.
The same euphemisms were deployed by organizations such as the North American Man-Boy Love Association which argued for the legalization of sex with under-age children, whose members (they included one of Boston’s most notorious paedophile priests, Paul Shanley) were interviewed on the media as part of a nationwide debate about the frontiers of legitimate sexual expression. To look back at such debates now is to be amazed. No one, it seems, thought of the victims. Barely anyone, it seems, imagined there were victims.
As Hugo Rifkind recalls, as recently as 1989 in the UK the late disc-jockey John Peel was so relaxed about sex with the underage that he told a funny anecdote in a newspaper interview about accidentally receiving fellatio from a 13-year-old. Nobody alerted the police or appeared even to notice."
Read all of this article here, it is an important help in understanding all of this in context.