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According to Bill Donohue, the Catholic Church is the real victim of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State

I try to ignore Bill Donohue and the Catholic League, trolls extraordinaire. As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to feed trolls. Donohue is a professional bully with a completely unwarranted persecution complex who can spin anything into supposed “anti-Catholic” bias/”hate speech“/discrimination. He viciously bullies while simultaneously playing the victim. His arrogance and bigotry are galling and disturbing.

Far more dangerous, though, is his absolute conviction that the Church can do no wrong. It is this unwavering commitment to the Church and its leadership that gives rise to his cruel and shockingly callous victim-blaming rhetoric, a tactic that he employs when discussing the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse crisis and the Church’s subsequent coverup and institutionally-sanctioned protection of child molesters and rapists. Donohue has shown time and time again that he will do anything, no matter how cruel or hateful, to avoid acknowledging that the Church, and only the Church, is to blame.

There’s always a scapegoat. Always an excuse. Someone is always out to get him. And there’s always a red herring, a diversion, an attempt to focus attention on anything other than the Church itself. One of Donohue’s favorite red herrings is his claim that the “liberal” “anti-Catholic” media focuses on the actions (and inaction) of the Church while deliberately ignoring the transgressions of other institutions. This diversion fails for two reasons: 1) in general, media coverage of occurrences of molestation and rape is proportional to both the scale and the shock value of the story, traits that the Catholic sex abuse scandal has in droves, and 2) no other institution has engaged in such a prolonged and widespread institutionally-sanctioned coverup of the horrendous actions of its members.

So, try as I might to ignore Donohue and the Catholic League, I’m sometimes so thoroughly disgusted by Donohue’s callousness and cruelty (particularly when it’s directed towards children) that I feel compelled to draw attention to his arguments and to the ridiculous and hateful rhetoric that he uses to defend them.

This is one of those times.

Yesterday, Donohue used the “liberal anti-Catholic media” red herring in a manner that would be laughably ridiculous if his accompanying argument and attitude weren’t so vile, cruel, and disingenuous. In a Catholic League press release (“Penn State Analogies Evince a Bias“) about the horrifying acts of sexual abuse and subsequent coverup at Penn State, Donohue barely discusses the Penn State issue; instead, he throws around red herrings, uses false analogies and homophobic insults, distorts facts, and makes unsubstantiated accusations against organizations and groups he despises, all in an attempt to support his argument that Catholics and the Vatican are the true victims of the sex abuse scandal at Penn State. No, really. That’s his thesis. Really. I can’t even wrap my head around the staggering amount of arrogance and callousness on display in Donohue’s argument. He will use anything, even a situation in which children have been victimized in unspeakably horrific ways, as an excuse to claim that society, particularly the media, are out to get Catholics. In Donohue’s mind, the Church is always the victim. That’s nothing new. What’s especially shocking here is his disgustingly cruel appropriation of a situation in which children have been victimized.

Some excerpts from that press release:

In the case of the Catholic Church, most of the problem took place between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s; almost all of the allegations being reported today extend back decades. Therefore, the popular Penn State-Catholic Church analogy seems a bit dated. Why not discuss Penn State’s most salient rival, namely, the public schools? That’s where “passing the trash”—moving molesting teachers to new school districts—is still a major problem.

Two issues: 1) the support for his claim that most of the Church’s “problem” (in this context, his use of that word makes me cringe, as he’s discussing child molestation and rape and the coverup of these activities, a situation that is far more than a mere “problem”) occurred between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s comes from self-reported data provided by various Catholic dioceses. This data is limited, flawed, and inherently untrustworthy. 2) Donohue provides zero evidence to back up his assertion that American public schools are in the habit of protecting child molesters or are engaged in a widespread and institutionally-sanctioned coverup of the sexual abuse of children. This is both a baseless smear and a blatant red herring.

More Donohue:

Planned Parenthood is notorious for covering up cases of statutory rape, yet no one is fingering them. That’s because they have the support of many in the media, most of whom are pro-abortion.

Huh? What does this have to do with the situation at Penn State? How is this relevant in the least? If Planned Parenthood indeed does cover up cases of statutory rape, where’s the evidence?  And where’s the evidence for his claim that the media ignores this supposed cover-up of statutory rape cases, and that they supposedly do this because they are “pro-abortion”? Donohue’s arrogance is on full display here: he obviously believes that, no matter how outrageous the claim, we should just unquestioningly accept what he says. Facts? Evidence? Donohue doesn’t see the need for such things.

He goes on to claim that “‘Occupy Wall Street’ gatherings are rife with sexual assault” and that the media are ignoring that “fact”, but, yet again, he provides no evidence to support these assertions.

Perhaps there is some truth to one or more of Donohue’s claims. I don’t know, and, you know what? It’s not my job to find out. If he wants us to take him seriously and to accept his arguments, then the onus is on him to present the evidence. Until he starts to do that, his claims can be dismissed out of hand.

Donohue ends on a very disturbing note:

Similarly, why isn’t anyone talking about the Penn State issue, and the one at the Citadel, as involving homosexuality? Male-on-male sex, involving mostly postpubescent guys, constitutes most of the abuse on both campuses.

I’m not exactly sure what he’s getting at here (partly because it’s so awkwardly phrased), but, based on his track record, I have a pretty good idea, and it’s very disturbing indeed:

  1. The Citadel situation, like the situation at Penn State, involves an adult male authority figure sexually abusing boys.
  2. Donohue has repeatedly claimed that priests who prey on children are homosexuals, not pedophiles.
  3. Donohue also agrees with the USCCB/John Jay study’s arbitrary and self-serving redefinition of “pedophilia”. The John Jay researchers, for no apparent reason, decided to define pedophilia as the sexual abuse of a child aged ten or younger, despite the fact that the almost-universally accepted DSM definition of pedophilia is the sexual abuse of a child aged thirteen or younger.
  4. The victims in the Citadel case were between 13 and 15 years old when they were sexually abused. And, according to a grand jury statement, all but one of the victims in the Penn State case were over ten years old (you can read the grand jury statement here (.pdf), but keep in mind that it’s very graphic and horrifyingly disturbing. I just read it in its entirety and I feel ill now).

Taking all of this into account, I think it’s fair to presume that 1) Donohue believes that the perpetrators in each of these cases are gay men, not pedophiles, and 2) the victims are, according to Donohue’s skewed logic, “mostly postpubescent guys” who engaged in “male-on-male sex”, not innocent children who were raped by men they trusted. Thus, in Donohue’s mind, both of these situations can and should be blamed on “the homosexual lifestyle”, as he often puts it (it’s one of Donohue’s (and the Catholic League’s) favorite phrases).

This is vile. It is disgustingly homophobic and is yet another example of the vicious victim-blaming rhetoric Donohue is so fond of.

To cap it all of, Donohue says (immediately following the above-quoted excerpt):

But everyone is afraid to mention the obvious [that this is supposedly an issue of homosexual “deviancy”, not pedophilia]. Better to blame the Vatican.

Yes, you read that right: according to Donohue, 1) homosexuality, not pedophilia, is to blame for the abuse that occurred at Penn State, 2) as such, considering that it’s a homosexual issue, the children who were molested and/or raped aren’t really victims. Remember, their abuse was just “male-on-male sex”, after all, and 3) ultimately, the Church and its leaders are the real victims of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal.


As I said, I usually do my best to just ignore Donohue and the Catholic League. But sometimes I can’t and I won’t.

Donohue certainly has (and should continue to have) the right to make these arguments and to use whatever type of rhetoric he likes. But when he sinks this low, someone needs to call attention to it, to bring it to light, to feed the troll, if only just to point out that the Catholic League and its supporters will use any excuse (even if it means co-opting a situation in which children have been sexually violated) to play the victim and to garner support and sympathy for the Church.

I wish that, for once, someone in the mainstream media would call attention to Donohue’s hateful victim-blaming rhetoric. Someone with a real platform, someone who has a much bigger audience than I do. But, for whatever reason, it never happens.

It needs to happen, though. It really, really does.

  1. Dan #

    Good analysis of a sickening subject, Donohue’s twisted brand of apologetics. He really is as low as you can go, and yet he has the respect of many confused or willfully unseeing people, that’s the most bizarre aspect.

    November 16, 2011
  2. Giancarlo Fruzzetti #

    Donohue = MEGA TROLL. What do PP, public education, and Occupy Wall St. have to do with Jerry Sandusky, or the mass rape of children by the Catholic Church?
    Answer: nothing. I’m still laughing over “nobody is fingering them” in regard to PP by the way…..You should have picked up that ball and run with it on your FB post, because life rarely presents such gift opportunities.

    November 16, 2011
  3. Reed E #

    Great piece on a distasteful subject.

    The media frenzy surrounding the Penn State scandal has also disarmed Donohue of what I understand has been one of his chronic complaints: that the media ignores or downplays incidences of scandal in the secular realm.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the media has covered this scandal with more intensity (to the proportion you allude to) than the scope of the scandal in the church.

    November 16, 2011
  4. Another problem I have with the lazy stereotype (aside from it be lazy) of attributing pedophiliac behavior with homosexuality is the lack of a rational answer to the following: If his desires were uniformly homosexual in nature, why then would he not pursue a homosexual relationship with a consenting adult? It’s because pedophilia by definition translates “desire” (homo or hetero be damned) into a insidious realm of dominance and control…hence the choice of victim based on age and circumstances. It’s reasonable to believe he established his arena around opportunities inherent in establishing and running an organization that would parade young adults through his decision tree. Even if the desires were homosexual in nature, it doesn’t change the fact that he preyed. There are male coaches who have preyed upon young girls in gymnastics…the parallels are obvious to anyone willing to think beyond a breath.

    TL;DR – Dude…go to Hell!

    November 16, 2011
  5. Michael #

    Bill who?

    Apparently I’m out of the loop, cause this was my first introduction to this troll. Why does anyone pay him attention when he’s so obviously unhinged?

    Anyway, great blog Miranda. You’re eloquently angry. :)

    November 16, 2011
    • Why does anyone pay attention to him? Because he is widely discussed.

      Yes, I know, circular reasoning.

      Unfortunately, he is often cited as an authority in regards to the Catholic church. I read him only when he posts something particularly egregious and his comments make the rounds of the blogosphere – which they do with disconcerting regularity. It’s difficult for me to tell whether he sincerely holds to the statements he makes, or if he’s some sort of semi-official spin-doctor for the church.

      Either way, Miranda does a fine job taking him on.

      November 17, 2011
    • SarahTX2 #

      Bill Donohue is the head of the Catholic League based in NYC. No one knows what the Catholic League is composed of, how many members, etc. But Bill Donohue earns somewhere around $400,000/yr. from donations for spouting all of the things that Miranda describes. He once sent me an email that said he looked me up and found I’m a nobody so he doesn’t care what I think. Nevertheless, he went ahead and used a number of my well-crafted phrases in his “press releases” and not in quotes either. He steals people’s work. Not surprising.

      November 18, 2011
  6. Sigmund #

    Great article, Miranda.
    It’s been clear for years that he is simply a nasty bigot. The real question is why he is presented as some sort of moral authority by the US media. The TV stations and radio shows that ask him on should really be held to account over this. I honestly fail to see much difference between him and the likes of Shirley Phelps Roper.

    November 16, 2011
  7. He’s not alone in this kind of dismissive attitude to the child molestation / rape scandals in the RCC. Or his attitude to homosexuality. Only this week Michael Voris of RealCatholicTV released a video bemoaning the state of the current church post Vatican II. Voris lays the blame for most of these scandals on the lax attitude in the church since that time. There is a ‘homosexual agenda’ *within* the church which is a result of it’s attempt to become more modern and popular. One absolutely sickening line that he used in the video came as he talked about the children of his generation who grew up post Vatican II, and were subjected to the *feminised” Catholic education it created: “Talk about child abuse! One sort violates the body and the psyche, the other sort violates the soul.”
    It’s staggering to wonder at what goes through these people’s minds, and what kind of twisted morality equates attending a religious class with child rape.

    November 17, 2011
    • Sigmund #

      The thing is Voris is off the radar of most mainstream media. Those who do know him regard him as some sort of deranged outlier. Donohue, on the other hand is treated as a sort of official spokesman for catholicism – at least in the US.
      He appeared on some radio show in Ireland a couple of years back and made a fool of himself when he tried to argue with a victim of sexual abuse. Even the host was gobsmacked.

      November 17, 2011
  8. Troll! Gargoyl! remarkable you put it over well surely people will see that the Troll is an idiot! in fact it brings the attention to its self with the mentality of a Gargoyl! inteligents of a lump of stone!

    November 17, 2011
  9. mac #

    Even if one uses the John Jay skewed definition of pedophilia, these molesters are still guilty of rape. In most case, it is rape of an (legally) underage person.

    Arbitrarily changing the age at which you say children become “postpubescent” does not change the fact tat underage children were molested. Even if the boys were 17, rape has occured.

    November 17, 2011
  10. Padraig Elliot #

    When you have people convinced that the RC Church is the only dispenser of salvation, you can get them to do any twisted thing to show their loyalty to the Holy Mother Church on pain of eternal damnation and eternal torture by a loving and merciful God.

    November 17, 2011
  11. HI Miranda, for some reason I can’t comment on your facebook wall (do I need to add you or something? I am subscribed…) so anyway I thought I’d write it here. I absolutely loved this article. I have to be honest and say I had never heard of Bill Donohue – I don’t know if that is just my own ignorance, although I take an interest in things like this, he is less well known in the UK. I thought about googling him, but I doubt I would enjoy it. Watching your link to his debate with The Hitch was enough. I can’t believe he offered to ‘take it outside’ lol.

    That is the problem with people like him. They would be funy if it wasn’t so serious. As I’m sure you know, after WWII the Catholic church was the major force of protection for escaping nazi war criminals. To the powers that be it is more important to protect people who claim to be members of their faith than have them face justice. They look after their own, or at least those considered to be their own, and it seems little has changed. I believe Stephen Fry refers to a priest child molester being given what the Vatican laughably called punishment which was basically completing whatever religious pennance the church deemed fit. It is scary that they still consider themselves above the rule of law and morality.

    Donohue’s attack on Hitch seems more than a little ironic considering your comments about the lack of citations or evidence in his own work.

    I agree, I would love to see things like this taken on in the mainstream press. I would like to see you writing for the mainstream press :-) Although I am quite new to this site so this is the first time I have read ‘Angry Miranda’. Very good read. I like how you did not let your obvious annoyance cloud your article. It could have so easily just become a rant, but didn’t. This has turned into a long comment without actually saying much. To be honest it’s all there in the article. It made me want to shout “Yes! Exactly that! What she said!” *points at Miranda*

    On a slightly-related-but-not-quite note, this article was in the New Statesman, about how far people should or shouldn’t be allowed to indulge in what is essentially discrimination if they feel they are doing so in the name of their religious faith. It’s an interesting piece, though it left me with a general feeling of unease.

    I particularly enjoyed the outrageous comment by ‘Flashbuck’ (I assume he/she was being facecious – I hope so anyway!!) But they are firmly and brilliantly slapped down by ‘jankaas’. haha

    November 17, 2011
  12. Ann #

    Have you noticed that even the media is ignoring Donohue lately… ?

    He is not being interviewed and his statements are not picked up on news anymore..
    We sure can understand why..!

    That is Donohue’s main concern, he is being ignored… and he does not like that..

    November 18, 2011
    • SarahTX2 #

      Also he may have garnered some negative media attention with his recent ridiculous attact on the Kansas City Star. That’s print journalism, but it was examined on the Poynter website and would have been read by at least some media people.

      November 18, 2011
      • Yeah, his “campaign” against the Kansas City Star is just laughably ridiculous. It’s like the Empire State Building “Campaign of DOOOOM!!” all over again.

        November 19, 2011
  13. H. B. Winn #

    There may be only a day’s difference between pedophilia, ephebophilia and homosexuality. That day varies according to the age of consent in the state that male on male act was committed….in Hawaii, a person ceases to be a pedophile and becomes a homosexual the day after the boy turns 14. Supposedly then, the act changes from abuse to AOK depending upon whether it is consensual.

    Is that true? Should the church go along with civil laws?

    In Scripture, aka, the Bible…no same sex acts are affirmed. Ever.
    If you look at science, medicine, CDC and police statistics, ditto.
    According to research and statistics, same sex acts and relationships are correllated with higher incidence of disease, personal injury, domestic or date violence, addiction, suicide, depression, emotional distress and relational instability. Sexual attraction for children, teens or someone of the same sex is a symptom and sign of a problem and need for help, healing and support.

    November 18, 2011
  14. Functional Atheist #

    Good article, Miranda. You temper your understandable anger and frustration with a well-reasoned and fair-minded shredding of the vile Mr. Donohue.

    Dan Savage posted a link yesterday on his blog to a very good Youtube video that refutes the conflation of pedophilia with homosexuality. As it directly pertains to an important aspect of Donohue’s ‘argument’, I thought you might be interested in viewing (it is just over 5 minutes long):

    November 18, 2011
  15. SarahTX2 #

    Bravo. Your time was well spent in writing this. It was a great relief to read it. Thank you for the best analysis of Bill Donohue yet. I think the day will come when that bigger audience gets a good look at this rabid man. His appearance on Larry King Live was infuriating to those who saw it.

    November 18, 2011
  16. Rondre #

    From what I hear some bishops fund Donohue’s organization.

    November 19, 2011
  17. Victor #

    He’s a pig. Does he really believe what he spouts??? Ultimately it boils down to money. The religious mafia cares only about protecting their financial interests. Why else is there so much human-caused evil, death, and suffering yet there are sooooooo many churches out there claiming to care about the weak, downtrodden, and abused? They’ve become like politicians that claim to care about their subjects while doing everything they can to undermine their best interests. Protecting their M O N E Y making empire is all they care about. The following clip (starting at 1m:05s) sums up the church and just about the whole world:

    November 25, 2011
  18. fabiole #

    You people are fools to believe that only the Catholic church has a sex problem. You may have your jollies by believing that the 1.2 billion member church is filled with child molestors.
    Don’t believe the liberal press they don’t report the news without bias towards the church. We now have the internet do your own research. It took me 2 seconds to get the following information.

    December 28, 2011

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