Catholic Priest Talks About Sex Abuse Report
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
The five-year study was meant to look for the root causes of the Catholic sex abuse crisis, but for some, the answers spelled out in the report just raise more questions.
For more on this, we turn to Father Bob Hoatson. He's a Catholic priest. He's also a survivor of sex abuse by Catholic brothers when he was in his teens. Father Hoatson now runs a nonprofit for survivors called Road to Recovery. And he joins us from New Jersey.
Father, welcome to the program.
Father BOB HOATSON (Road to Recovery) Thank you very much, Michele. It's great to be here.
NORRIS: What is your immediate reaction to these findings that there may have been a cultural explanation for widespread sex abuse in the Catholic Church?
Fr. HOATSON: Unfortunately, Michele, it's much of the same regarding any studies or any information regarding the Catholic Church. They tend to look outside of themselves for the answers. The answers are inside. They're internal. These were crimes committed by pedophile priests and those who covered them up. To say that the social revolution or Woodstock or any other external influence on the Catholic Church is the reason is just absurd. And I'm very disappointed in John Jay College because I think this piece of research was very substandard.
NORRIS: You used the word they, and it's interesting because you come at this from an interesting perspective, as a victim and as a member of the clergy. Do you have a different reaction based on those two vantage points?
Fr. HOATSON: No. I think it's pretty much the same. As a priest, I know the inside of the church. I've seen it. It's one of the reasons why I'm voluntarily removing myself from the clergy is because we can't seem to get to the truth. And the truth is, is that we just have to admit what's been going on and what are the flaws and the troubles within the church and resolve them.
NORRIS: We should clarify that you are presently a priest, but you've asked to be removed from the clergy. You filed a lawsuit. A lawsuit that was dismissed, but you were placed on administrative leave, and you will eventually be leaving the clergy. Is that correct?
Fr. HOATSON: That's correct. Yes.
NORRIS: The report was intended to be somewhat diagnostic, to look back and try to understand why some things happen. I want to ask you about one of the particular specific findings. The report concluded that it's not really possible for the church to have identified abusive priests in advance, early on. And I wonder, based on your experience, if that rings true?
Fr. HOATSON: You know, I have a feeling that could be true. I'm not sure there is a test one could give an aspiring candidate to the priesthood or religious life. However, the results of this may be even more disturbing because it means that when these folks enter the culture of religious formation, somehow they are changing into people that they were not when they entered. And I believe that can be the case because I think the entire issue of clergy abuse rests on the issue of power.
NORRIS: You were abused by several people, and I'm wondering if there were any consistencies in their behavior or their personalities. Did these men have anything in common?
Fr. HOATSON: Yes. They seemed to be mired and meshed in the culture of the church. The day I entered the religious life, which is sort of a seminary, my superior said to me, Bob, you are a cold person. I'm going to be the one to warm you up.
Well, at 18, I had no idea what he was talking about until much later when I realized that was a real grooming mechanism to prepare me for being preyed upon. I think all of the men that abused me were kind of protected by this cocoon of power and authority and, like, I work for God so I can do anything I want.
NORRIS: What are your hopes and also your fears for how this information will be used?
Fr. HOATSON: Well, I don't know how much hope there is in how it will be used. I think it's probably going to be another report to be put on the stacks, but I'm afraid that the bishops' conference in June, when they meet in Seattle, Washington, is going to conclude that, you see, fellows, we really are taking this bull by the horns, and we're really resolving this, whereas they're not resolving it at all.
This report does not get to the heart of the issue, and the heart of the issue is deceit, cover-up, silence, secrecy and an internal culture that doesn't let anybody else in.
NORRIS: Father Hoatson, thank you very much for your time.
Fr. HOATSON: Thank you, Michele.
NORRIS: That's Father Bob Hoatson. He's a Catholic priest. He's also a survivor of sex abuse, and he runs a nonprofit program called Road to Recovery.
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