Matt C. Abbott
Liberal's pope-bashing screed a welcome relief; 'The Catholic Church is not the problem'
By Matt C. Abbott
June 24, 2014

Believe it or not, a liberal writer's recent anti-Catholic, Pope Francis-bashing commentary was music to my ears. A sense of relief, actually.

Anna March, whose article appears at the ultra-liberal Salon news site, lists several examples of why Pope Francis should not be held in high esteem by her fellow liberals.

Ms. March writes (briefly excerpted; click here if you can stomach her article in its entirety):
    The image of Pope Francis is that he is a breath of fresh air, more progressive on social issues than his predecessor and a kinder, gentler pope. But when the facts are examined, you see that he is none of these things. There is an enormous disconnect between who the pope really is in terms of his policies and his public relations image, as crafted by the Vatican's PR man, previously with Fox News. The current PR mission is all about reversing the incredible decline in fundraising under the last pope from the U.S. Catholic Church in particular....

    The new sexist, nun-hating, poverty-perpetuating, pedophile-protecting homophobe is the same as the old sexist, nun-hating, poverty-perpetuating, pedophile-protecting homophobe, but gosh how the media loves him....

    Likewise, it has been widely reported that Pope Francis has struck, as The New York Times called it, 'a more compassionate tone than his predecessors' regarding homosexuality. Where Pope Benedict XVI wrote in 2005 that homosexuality is 'a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil,' Pope Francis said in 2013, 'If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?' In fact, he has judged plenty. Salon compiled his 5 worst quotes on homosexuality. Again, though, the media widely circulated the story about his seemingly revolutionary comments about gays, and the pope's reputation as progressive on gays in the church was set....
Now that's more like it, thank you very much.

I'd much rather see anti-Catholic bigots such as Ms. March bashing Pope Francis instead of misrepresenting him and then praising that misrepresentation – something that has been occurring all too often, I might add. (Yes, I do concede that his style of communicating has made it easy for liberal commentators to misrepresent him.)

Perhaps the pope's "honeymoon" with the anti-life, anti-family secular media is slowly coming to an end.

I sure hope so.

From Thomas Hampson, founder and president of the Truth Alliance Foundation:
    I just came across another article that holds up Catholic priests as central figures in the sexual abuse of children. Do you think they are?

    For a dozen years the Catholic Church has been the target of unrelenting criticism not only because of the sexual abuse exposed by the 2002 Boston Globe's investigative series, but also because of the revelations that the hierarchy covered up the abuses. Most of the criticism is deserved. But not all.

    It's true that thousands of priests in U.S. Catholic parishes were, and are, pedophiles. It's also true that many bishops covered up the abuse, moved priests to other parishes – sometimes to other states and countries, bribed or threatened victims into silence, failed to report the crimes to the police, covered up and destroyed evidence. Some bishops were themselves predators.

    Undoubtedly, there is much more we don't know.

    But this is something I do know: The Catholic Church is not the problem.

    No matter how loudly the media trumpets the ills of the church, those ills don't absolve the real villains – the pedophiles, the predators. And the church isn't the only place that harbors them.

    Our whole society harbors them. They live among us. To focus on a single organization as being a safe haven for predators mischaracterizes the entire problem. Predators follow the prey, wherever they are. It's not like pedophiles hang out in remote areas waiting for some unsuspecting child to wander by. Predators seek jobs and volunteer activities that put them in regular contact with children. They look for opportunities that give them positions of respect, authority over children – sometimes authority over parents, and at least some discretion and autonomy. Pedophiles can be clergy, teachers, doctors, lawyers, police, legislators, coaches, scout leaders, or any vocation or volunteer activity.

    Predators also seek relationships with other predators. They form networks in order to exchange tips, access to children, photographs. Some of the online networks of these predators are huge. But they also form relationships with others in close proximity to themselves. Some of those relationships may be with people in the same organization, but for the most part the relationships are with people who share the same deviant interests. Such interests span organizational boundaries. Some networks have specialized interests in children under a certain age, or in teen boys or girls, or in children with special needs.

    Predators seek relationships with us, too. Ultimately, we are the ones who grant the predators' access to children. We grant them our trust, usually by default.

    Wherever there are children, that's where the predators gather. And where do you find the most children? In our schools. Charol Shakeshaft, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has studied this issue for decades. A study she conducted in 2004 showed that 9.6 percent of students, grades 8 to 12, experienced educator sexual misconduct. Some of this would be considered grooming behavior rather than outright abuse, but it is a staggering number. According to other research she has conducted, the rate of sexual abuse by teachers is 100 times greater than the rate of abuse by the clergy.

    So, why the demonization of the clergy, more specifically priests, around the issue of child sexual abuse? I think it's because they are easy targets. We want to blame someone, and who better than a group that is reluctant to fight back?

    If we blame the priests, we don't have to confront the truth that most of us encounter child sexual predators regularly as we go about our day-to-day lives, and as we ignore the clear signs of their evil intent. If we blame the priests, we don't have to accept responsibility for allowing predators the opportunity to seduce our children. If we blame the priests, we don't have to worry as much about our children in the public schools. If we blame the priests, we can excuse our willful ignorance about the nature and scope of this very complex problem.

    We don't want to think about these ugly things. They are depressing issues that cannot be sugarcoated.

    It's more comfortable to blame the clergy.
(Thomas Hampson is the former chief investigator of the Illinois Legislative Investigating Commission and, later, the head of his own investigation agency, where he specialized in complex international investigations. He has had extensive experience investigating networks of child sexual predators. He helped design the model for building criminal cases against child sexual predators without the need to have a child victim testify. That model is used by law enforcement agencies throughout the world today. He helped draft the first child pornography statute in Illinois and the first law in Illinois that led to the establishment of Child Advocacy Centers.)

© Matt C. Abbott


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic commentator with a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication, media, and theatre from Northeastern Illinois University. He also has an Associate in Applied Science degree in business management from Triton College. Abbott has been interviewed on HLN, MSNBC, Bill Martinez Live, WOSU Radio in Ohio, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's 2019 ‘Unsolved’ podcast about the unsolved murder of Father Alfred Kunz, Alex Shuman's 'Smoke Screen: Fake Priest' podcast, WLS-TV (ABC) in Chicago, WMTV (NBC) and WISC-TV (CBS) in Madison, Wisconsin. He’s been quoted in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets. He’s mentioned in the 2020 Report on the Holy See's Institutional Knowledge and Decision-Making Related to Former Cardinal Theodore Edgar McCarrick (1930 to 2017), which can be found on the Vatican's website. He can be reached at

(Note: I welcome and appreciate thoughtful feedback. Insults will be ignored. Only in very select cases will I honor a request to have a telephone conversation about a topic in my column. Email is much preferred. God bless you and please keep me in your prayers!)


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