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Calling a spade a spade: if we cannot identify the nature of sexual abuse, how can we prevent it?

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Roger Kiska, of the Christian Legal Centre, comments on how political correctness and preventing offence seem to be more culturally valued than safeguarding children from sexual victimisation. He looks in greater detail at the sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church and asks how we might prevent future abuse if stating the facts is, nowadays, deemed as hateful.

‘Hate speech’

Last week, Dr Gavin Ashenden’s Twitter account was temporarily suspended because Twitter determined that Ashenden, the Queen’s former Chaplain, had violated their “rules against hateful conduct”. The offending post reads:

Dr Gomes argues the Catholic Church sex scandal is not about paedophilia, but about homosexual lust. 80% of the abuse was by homosexual clergy on teenage boys. This is a predominately a gay crime, not heterosexual paedophilia. […]

The question arises as to whether these comments actually amount to ‘hate speech’ and are worthy of censorship. Part of the problem is that no one really knows what ‘hate speech’ is. ‘Hate speech’ is often in the eye of the beholder. One person’s ‘hate speech’ may be another person’s truth. This is why freedom of expression has for decades been so highly prized.

The courts have repeatedly stated that freedom of expression protects not only the ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received, or regarded as inoffensive, or as a matter of indifference; it also protects those that offend, shock or disturb. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness that without them there is no democratic society. And this makes sense because if the law protected only ideas which were palpable to everyone, then freedom of expression would be entirely illusory.

Truth as a defence

Another important factor in this discussion is the veracity of the comments cited by Dr Gomes and reposted by Dr Ashenden. Precisely stated, do the comments mesh with the statistical evidence? Put another way, can we corroborate the statements made? If so, how can we call objectively based facts hateful?

Two substantial studies exist which have reviewed abuse, not just in the Catholic Church, but also in Protestant churches and public institutions where children are entrusted to their care. The first is the John Jay Report. The second is the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. Both reports had similar findings noting that nearly 90% of the victims were aged 8-17, with more than 80% of those adolescent and pre-adolescent victims being male. Less than 5% of the abuse was attributed to fixated paedophilia.

Both reports – both exhaustive and universally viewed as highly credible – show that the nature of abuse was pederasty (the homosexual attraction of adult males to pubescent and pre-pubescent boys). Paedophilia on the other hand, which is the abuse of both young boys and girls by either male or female adults has statistically low rates of occurrence. To put it plainly, every word of Dr Ashenden’s post was factually correct.

Fixing the Abuse Problem

We live in fascinating times. The #MeToo movement has brought the issue of sexual abuse to the cultural forefront where several high-profile cases, such as those of Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein, have taken the world stage. Public opinion about the Catholic Church’s response to abuse is at a historical low and Catholic Church attendance is dwindling fast as a result.

This begs the question: How are we to prevent future abuse if stating facts from two of the most acclaimed studies on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is deemed as hateful? How are we to stop abuse if we aren’t permitted to identify the nature of it? How can citing a statistic be deemed homophobic if it is true that the vast majority of abuse cases within the Catholic Church were perpetrated by same-sex-attracted individuals targeting young boys?

This also brings into question the current push in the United Kingdom to ban counselling for unwanted same-sex attraction. While a campaign of misinformation has created a strawman of what this counselling actually entails, clergy, like those evidenced in the studies on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, would be among those who would primarily benefit from treatment. One of the overused and most vicious red herring arguments used by opponents of this type of counselling is that it prays on and victimises people who are struggling with their sexual orientation. The sexual abuse scandal shows otherwise and creates an incredibly compelling justification for counselling for unwanted same-sex attraction.

We must decide as a culture what is more important: political correctness and preventing offence or safeguarding future generations of children from sexual victimisation. In my humble opinion, the answer is a simple one. We must be able to call a spade a spade. The well-being of our children is far too important to do otherwise.



Read Jules Gomes’ article on homosexual predators being the Church’s “deadly cancer”.
Reach the Archbishop Cranmer’s article on Dr Gavin Ashenden being blocked on Twitter.