VIEWSrnPriests and PedophilesrnThe Attack on the Cathohc Churchrnby Philip Jenkinsrn( atholic priests claim to be celibate, but we know whatrnV ^ they’re really up to. Most of them seduce women, thernrest like little boys. Priests trap them in the confessional, andrnwhen the priests are found out, the bishops let them off with arnslap on the wrist. Celibacy, hierarchy, secrecy, the confessionalrn—those are the things that make the Catholic Churchrnthe sink of iniquity it is.” Put in various ways, sentiments likernthese have been the common currency of anticlerical and anti-rnCatholic rhetoric for almost as long as there has been arnCatholic Church. We might think that these ideas would byrnnow have gone the way of the other myths and stereotypesrnthat once adhered to (say) Jews or blacks; but in fact, the attackrnon Roman Catholic clergy as sexual monsters is at thisrnvery moment reaching a crescendo in North America.rnThe panic over “clergy sex abuse,” or “priestly pedophilia,”rnhas reached far beyond the trashy television talk showsrnand now threatens to become a devastatingly effective vehiclernfor anti-Catholic activism and legislation. This manufacturedrnand manipulated crisis is being used as a justification for thernwholesale evisceration of Catholic tradition, with liberal andrnfeminist groups the chief beneficiaries. This is a classic examplernof the artificial generation of a social panic for partisanrnends; and as yet, few of those under attack seem to understandrnwhat is happening, still fewer are able to organize a defense.rnSince colonial days, fear and hatred of the Catholic Churchrnhave been among the most powerful political forces in Amer-rnPhilip Jenkins is a professor in the Administration of justicernDepartment at Pennsylvania State University.rnican history; anti-Catholic sentiment has ignited riots, spawnedrnpolitical parties, and determined elections. And while otherrnforms of prejudice have increasingly been condemned in publicrndiscourse, this specific type of bigotry remains remarkablyrnacceptable, particularly in liberal circles. Apart from the traditionalrnstereotypes—lascivious priests, tyrannical bishops,rnthe cynical exploitation of a superstitious laity—we now haverna new battery of myths, suggesting that the Catholic Church isrnthe most prominent obstacle to the rights and interests ofrnwomen and homosexuals. Issues like abortion, contraception,rngay rights, AIDS education, and the ordination of womenrnhave made the Church the primary protagonist of “wrong”rn(i.e., traditional) views in American society.rnA price has had to be paid for this stubborn refusal to conform,rnespecially in the distortions and vicious attacks regularlyrnpresented by the media. Any doubts about the fundamentalrnanti-Catholicism of liberal society should have been put tornrest by the 1989 assault by AIDS activists on a mass in St.rnPatrick’s Cathedral in New York City, during which a series ofrnoutrages culminated in the desecration of the Host. Haterncrimes are nothing new in this country, but this was one of thernrare instances in which the media took the side of thern”protesters” and all but unanimously depicted the victim grouprnas having merited this just anger. We observe the same attitudernwhen gay rights parades feature grotesque caricatures ofrnpriests and nuns, whose closest precedents are the portraitsrnof Jews in the Nazi paper Der Stiirmer. It is inconceivablernthat any other ethnic or religious group would receive suchrntreatment; but then again, hatred of Catholicism has rightlyrnbeen described as “the thinking man’s anti-Semitism.”rn24/CHRONICLESrnrnrn