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Robin McPherson, 2000

I appreciate the clarification but urge further consideration on the assumptions about sexual orientation. Sexual abuse of children involves many pathologies, both personal and institutional. Sexual abuse does not "necessarily" correlate with sexual orientation. The adult male who sexually molests young boys is not likely to be homosexual (Groth & Gary, 1982, p. 147); "The man who offends against prepubertal or immediately postpubertal boys is typically not sexually interested in older men or in women" (McConaghy, 1998, p. 259.)

Conflating the issues of sexual orientation and sexual abuse is a naive and dangerous distraction. Sex abuse is an issue of objectification of children, lack of accountability and sexism (it is likely that a comparable amount of women and girls are abused in church, but these stories are far less sensational because they lack the "horror" of abuse against boys). Priests choose to marry the Church, cleave to it and serve it to the exclusion of all other relationships. The role of chastity in this relationship is a difficult issue. It is not clear (especially considering sexual abuse by married pastors in other Christian denominations) that marriage would mitigate the infidelity and violence of sex abuse by priests. For those who study it, the solutions are far from obvious. The issue will never be solved without more sophisticated and considerate thought and study.



Again, I'd point out that celibacy is not a doctrine, but a discipline. The Eastern Rite Catholics do not require it and the pope occasionally grants waivers to Latin Rite Catholics.

And I'm still unclear as to how female priests would prevent male priests from molesting boys or how heterosexual priests would prevent homosexual priests from molesting boys.


Posner remains incorrect in his second assertion. Allowing ordination of women or allowing priests to marry will not "solve[]" or "alleviate" "the problem of priests’ sexually molesting boys"...unless "solve" or "alleviate" means decreasing the proportion of the priesthood that molests boys.

If X number of priests will molest boys, the addition of Y number of women priests and Z number of married priests will not decrease X and the number of victims, unless Posner is making the suggestion (which I doubt) that somehow the presence of married priests and women priests affects would-be molestors.


You remain incorrect, worse, you do so in the face of actual research on the question. As a previous commenter has pointed out, the sexual orientation of a child molester is more accurately described as "children" than anything else.

If you think carefully about these findings, you'd realize that they explain perfectly well why the Catholic Church has a sexual abuse problem. A pedophile, lacking adult sexual orientation, is less likely to see a celibate lifestyle as an impediment. They lack deep interest in marriage or the adult sexual relations this restriction forecloses. Thus they see the priesthood as less costly and it becomes a more viable alternative.


Seriously, if the issue was simply that you have a lot of sexually frustrated homosexuals, there'd be a lot of rent boy scandals or tabloid headlines about how priests are cheating on God. That's not what you see and so there's a good case that the Church is attracting pedophiles quite specifically.

Vilmos Soti

IMO the reason for the child molestation problem in the Catholic Church doesn't have much to do with homosexuality. It mostly has to do with easy access to children and the inherent trust. Therefore having married and female priests won't solve the problem.

One can have a workplace full with pedophiles and still there would be no problem if there are no children around. Say a prison island in the middle of the ocean or in a space station.

The solution to this problem involves many things:
1. filter out people with pedophiliac tendencies.
2. pay extra attention if children are involved.
3. lastly but most importantly STOP COVERING UP.



If women and married men were allowed to be priests this might lower the percentage of priests that are gay males, but would it lower their absolute number? The Church has had difficulty maintaining the total number of priests it desires in the United States, which suggests that married and/or female priests would add to, but not supplant, the current priest population. Those inclined to molest will still be around, and new molesters will probably continue to become priests since the addition of other priests not inclined to molest does not diminish their (the molesters) reasons for joining the priesthood -- namely, relatively easy access to young boys. So, if this all is true, I wonder if the admission of female and/or married individuals to the priesthood would "alleviate" the Church's child molestation problem?

N.B. "But one may criticise even what one reveres." - Holmes


I'm disappointed by this response, but not for the same cause as everyone eles' disappointment. I knew Posner would respond, and I expected something more nuanced and counter intuitive than what Posner actually said. In Sex & Reason, Posner made the observation (prediction, actually) that "opportunistic homosexuals" prefer boys to men, and "real homosexuals" prefer men to boys. In other words, heterosexual men who lacked access to women (either because of location or unattractiveness, etc) would resort to a boy as a substitute. The heterosexual found the feminine features of a boy a closer substitute for a female than an adult male. Homosexuals, being attracted primarily to men, had little use for boys. Separate from all this was the pedophile, who actually preferred children to adults. Posner didn't talk too much about the "true" pedophile. So I expected something more along these lines. I was disappointed by Posners "a subject on which I am not an expert" statement. The Posner I knew would rise to the occasion and make himself an expert!

Jay J

I suppose it's too much to ask, but can we sift through a couple of things here? On the issue of sexual orientation and child abuse, I can see 4 main options:

1) Posner's argument is rock solid and right all the way.

2) Posner's argument is somewhat right, somewhat wrong.

3) Posners argument is just plain wrong.

4) Posner's argument is not only wrong, but wrong in a way that should cause reasonable people to be offended.

To those of you who are disappointed with Posner's response, wouldn't you agree that in order to justify the offense taken (not saying all of you have taken offense) it seems that you need not only for Posner to be wrong (like in option's 2 and 3 above) but you need Posner to be wrong in an offensive way (like in 4 above).

But all of the rebuttals to Posner's response seem to fall into 2 or 3. So help me out, because to me the idea that pedophiles would molest boys or girls based on whether the pedophile was straight or gay seems prima facie plausible and sensible. It could be wrong, of course, but it doesn't seem beyond the pale, (being wrong, in other words, isn't enough to cause offense).



Posner has been disappointing for some time, descending into a world of sweeping generalizations.
This is a jewel:
"Women, by the way, are much less likely to molest children of either sex than men are. This means that if some (or many) priests were women, there would be less sexual molestation by priests of either boys or girls."
This is laughable and an embarrassment. It is so stupid that it boggles the mind.

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Sam W.: I don't know why the statement about women is "laughable". He could have been clearer by saying more women priests and fewer men priests. Most women who molest do so at the behest of their boyfriends/husbands.

Jay: I'm not offended by Posner's remarks. They're innocent of politics, and so in that way kind of charming. When I read them, though, I thought "oh boy . . ." I'm openly gay, have most of his books, and have no plans of burning them anytime soon.

John Breen

For my response to this and the original post see the link below.


Jay J

Thanks for the reply John. I've been voting since 92; never missed an election. Voted for Bill Clinton in my first election, and been checking the "D" box ever since. I've only voted Republican once, and that was for a country clerk position where each candidate would implement policy about the same way (only one competently though).

But the liberal blogosphere has left me with a surreal feeling lately. With the Harvard Law School Email Controversy, the Greg Mankiw op ed/Truth on the Market maid-firing blog post on the Bush Tax Cuts, and now this, I'm wondering, "Am I a conservative?" Reasoning being, my argumentative concerns in the wake of each of these are reliably the same as most conservatives (not sure your feeling on these others).

Each time I run across people that start off with a cocksure argument about how horrible this or that statement was, then somewhere along the way you have people take issue with the statement in a direct way. Eventually the buzz all runs together, and people seem to take sides around whether or not the statement in question is actually correct, and what's taken to be at stake in the outcome of this adversarial investigation is not only whether the original statement is correct, but whether it rightly warrants the label of "offensive."

However these are not necessarily the same questions. Just thought I would try to motivate that point. Thanks for allowing me to feel a bit of success, it doesn't come around often in the middle of these scrums.

Jay J

Not to get to far into the weeds on these, but to give you background on what I'm driving at.

*On the Harvard Law School Email Controversy, I thought the email followed a private conversation only several people were privy to. The issue of race and IQ is not *always and everywhere* taboo, and sometimes can be appropriately treated as a typical empirical question. Dinners parties and Thanksgiving Dinners are not the place to think aloud about the inherent differences or lack thereof between the races (or whether race is an actual category in the world, apart from our concepts), but I can imagine a hypothetical situation where law students might appropriately speculate over such matters while breaking bread. The email was horrible style, but did not warrant the fevered response it got.

*On the od eds and blog posts about the Bush Tax cuts, I thought Mankiw and the other gentleman (he's a law professor at Chicago, can't think of his name right now) were making an intermediate point that is, from my perspective, commonly underappreciated on the left, and that's that tax cuts for folks making several hundred thousand a year will not only effect the rich. I don't take this to be a knock-down argument, (I actually favor repeal) and I certainly didn't take the Chicago law prof to be literally complaining about his life style. The blogger Annie Lowrey apparently did, and in what seemed like in tizzy, pointed out ways he could save, but the ways she suggested seemed to only be more grist for the Chicago mill.

*Of course I don't have to go on about the Posner, Catholic Chruch-Homosexual Priest-gate, since I'm sure we're all caught up.

Not trying to change the topic, just trying to fill in some of what I merely gestured at in my previous post.

Jay J

Tax hikes, I mean. And hell maybe they would expand the point to millionaires. Maybe if you accept their logic, you have to as well. I just think that acknowledging intermediate points the other side makes is only right when they're not obviously wrong and don't by themselves settle the entire dispute.

Another example, the Cordova Center or whatever I'm supposed to call it (which I have no feelings for either way, so I'm fine with it being built). I've heard "It's not a Mosque" several times, but now we're hearing that it has a Mosque portion and a Community Center portion. Again, I could care less, but even at the beginning, we had been told that roughly 1500 worshippers a week would attend prayer services. Soooo, if it's not a Mosque, is it OK to call it a quasi-Mosque?

I understand conservatives sometimes label things in a such a way as to add suspicion, but if the label is right or close to right, denying the accuracy of the label doesn't seem like the way to go.

OK, with the more of these examples I give, the more people I'm likely to alienate, and I'm really on my philosopher's soapbox here, so I'll stop being self-righteous.

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Dinners parties and Thanksgiving Dinners are not the place to think aloud about the inherent differences or lack thereof between the races (or whether race is an actual category in the world, apart from our concepts), but I can imagine a hypothetical situation where law students might appropriately speculate over such matters while breaking bread. The email was horrible style, but did not warrant the fevered response it got.

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A homosexual student group at the University of Chicago claims that I wrote that homosexuals are more likely to molest children sexually than heterosexuals. They misunderstood what I said.

Jay J

What is this, copy and paste day? (wouldn't it be funny if they copied and pasted this too?)


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