Sunday, 2 September 2018

Gavin Ashenden's False Imputations

Gavin Ashenden’s latest piece in the JEP focuses sharply on the scandal of child abuse, but he has a hidden agenda too.

He’s looking in the first instance at the abuse scandal in America:

“A Grand Jury report has just been released, and claims that internal documents from six Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania show that more than 300 ‘predator priests’ have been credibly accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 ‘child’ victims.”

“Some truly distressing cases of child abuse have been documented. But that said, only a quarter of the cases were to do with children as reported; 75% of it has been ephebophilia.”

“What on earth is ephebophilia? And why don’t we know about it? We have become sickeningly familiar with paedophilia – the sexual attraction to and abuse of children; so what is ephebophilia? The answer is (homo)sexual attraction to, and abuse of post-pubescent boys.”

And he cites a Washington Post report which gives further details:

“Robert Mickens (July 2018) recently wrote in the Washington Post: ‘There is no denying that homosexuality is a key component to the clergy sex abuse (and now sexual harassment) crisis. With such a high percentage of priests with a homosexual orientation, this should not be surprising.’”

“American Catholic commentators are claiming that there has been a huge rise in the number of Catholic clergy who are gay in the USA; and not only gay, but sexually active.”

Now that is a high number, as there are currently only just over 800 priests in Pennsylvania (2017 statistics), so 300 – even if a number are no longer serving, as we are talking about 70 years of abuse – is a large percentage.

But what concerns me is Gavin Ashenden’s single minded focus on homosexuality as the principal cause of the abuse. His agenda is very clear:

“The issue emerging from the Grand Jury report is that the problem is not celibacy and child abuse, but unrestrained male homosexuality and the abuse of boys.”

Now Gavin is firmly opposed to gay clergy, regarding homosexuality as a deviation from normality, so it is clear that his agenda is to use the figures to bolster his case. His argument is that being gay and actively gay is directly linked to the abuse of boys. I think that is a false imputation.

What he does not consider is that other writers commenting take a very different point of view. One writer heads the article on the abuse scandal: “A Compelling Argument About Clerical Celibacy” and says:

“Obviously, this should be the inflection point where the church abandons the rule of celibacy for priests. Incidentally, Jesus never preached that, and it’s nowhere in the Bible. It was introduced as a church rule in the 1100s.”

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest, is the editor at large of America magazine. Writing in the New York Times, he comments:

“Every American Catholic I know is angry — with good reason. The recent release of a grand jury investigation into 70 years of sexual abuse by priests in Pennsylvania is appalling in its breadth and detail.”

“One priest had his victim wash his mouth out with holy water after being forced to perform a sex act on the priest. Another arranged an abortion for a minor he impregnated. Compounding these appalling crimes were years of documented cover-ups by church officials.”

And he adds:

“Lately, I have also been angry with the Catholic commentators who have been using these revelations to advance their own agendas, so that the suffering of children becomes an opportunity to stir up hatred, for example, of all gay priests, or L.G.B.T. people in general.”

And he seems to have hit the nail on the head concerning Gavin Ashenden’s agenda regarding all gay priests.

So look at what Gavin neglects to say about the figures. Here's a few facts.

The biggest target group for the abusers was teenagers. Over three-quarters of the abusive priests were pederasts. Of those, one fifth (21%) chose adolescent girls as their victims while four-fifths (79%) chose adolescent boys.

The figures do show abuse was weighed statistically towards more teenage boys being abused, but 21% of the victims were teenage girls – over a fifth! Quite how that fits with Gavin’s theory that it was because they were gay rather than celibate that they abused minors is another matter.

Any explanation that does not take account of those 21% is playing fast and loose with the figures.

If we look at the witch trials in the witch craze of the early modern period, overall, approximately 80 to 85 percent of those accused and convicted of witchcraft in early modern Europe were female.

That’s a large number, but explanations which avoid explaining the 15-20% of men accused and convicted of witchcraft are seen by academic scholars as insufficient. Using the witch trials to support a rallying cry about ongoing male oppression fails to explain those figures, which are usually conveniently ignored by those making that argument. It is by avoiding those troublesome figures all kinds of other agendas can come to the surface. 

Gavin, too, is avoiding those troublesome figures. Why let a good fact stand in the way of a good prejudice?

It appears that much the same kind of false explanation is being stirred up by Gavin Ashenden, who seems to be using the abuse scandal to try and stir up a witch hunt against all gay clergy because of the actions of some, and who also seems blind to alternative explanations of why this might have happened - namely clerical celibacy.

And finally... why does the JEP give him free airspace? He doesn't even live in Jersey any more - he left September 2017! And it is not as if his pieces have any local connection.

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