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As the slow tortuous agony of the revelation of sexual predation within the Catholic church unwinds, and the faithful of the Catholic Church mourn every new outrage, there has been an enormous amount of debate over the underlying causes of the abuses, and the nature of the coverups. For some outside of Catholicism, there has been also a horrible triumphalism, as if the scandals are entirely the fault of Christianity in general, Catholicism in particular, or dogmatic or doctrinal within Catholicism. I have seen denunciations of priestly celibacy, denunciations of anti-homosexual church teachings (such teachings being blamed for somehow repressing those who chose to go into the priesthood), and even suggestions from non-Catholic Christians that the Reformation has somehow shielded them from similar abuses and scandals. And yet, as the Houston Chronicle detailed over the weekend, another denomination, the Southern Baptists, is now facing its own horrible unearthing of decades of sexual abuse and protection of known or suspected sexual predators.
I have little doubt that other such investigations will be detailed in the coming years, and for other churches of other denominations. The fact of the matter is that sexual predation can occur in any power structure, and that who the perpetrators are, on whom they prey, and how they get away with their terror is ultimately a function of the organization, its distribution of power, and the strength of the self-policing within that structure. For the Catholic Church, this has been strongly (but by no means entirely) a series of cases of the abuse of younger males by older males, but this was mostly due to the environment where mostly males were employed, and mostly only younger males were in vulnerable positions. For the Southern Baptists, however, the issues seem to be mostly older males preying on younger females instead, because that structure put those two groups together. More than anything else, this should be pointing to something beyond doctrine or denomination, but instead towards something more fundamental and quite apart from issues of sexuality.