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Mercatornet recently posted an interview with Fr. Giovanni Cucci, S.J., who, along with Fr. Hans Zollner, S.J., is the author of ŒChiesa e pedofilia. Una ferita aperta. Un approccio psicologico-pastorale (The Church and Paedophilia. An Open Wound. A Pastoral-Psychological Approach) Milan, Ancora, 2010.

Obviously, the phenomenon of pedophilia is complex. And just as complex are the reasons why the bishops and others in positions of responsibility in the Catholic Church failed to do anything, and even protected those guilty of sexual abuse.

That said, Fr. Gucci makes an important point about the way in which Western culture has celebrated sexual perversions in recent decades.

As Fr. Gucci observes:

Rarely in newspapers in recent months has it been possible to find anything that goes beyond a timely denunciation, to offer a broad reflection on this problem, investigating its causes, prevention possibilities, and also offering appropriate therapeutic proposals. On this front, there is an almost complete lack of action, not just in terms of opinions, statements, interviews, but also when it comes to publicising this issue.

One reason for this deficiency, in our view, is that the topic of deviance and perversion has become increasingly marginal within psychiatric and psychological research, which undoubtedly makes it difficult to operate in a manner that is equal to the seriousness of the problem. To this deficiency must be added a curious ambiguity: in our culture, while it rightly stigmatizes these acts, it forgets that in the past, society has not only tolerated them but also publicly encouraged them.

The cultural and political climate of the 70s and 80s repeatedly tried to publicly justify paedophilia, without encountering opposition or criticism.

In 1998, the Italian Radical Party published a document entitled:

‘Paedophilia and the Internet: old obsessions and new crusades’, in which, among other things, it stated: “In a state of law, to be a paedophile, to proclaim to be one or to even to support its legitimacy, cannot be considered a crime; paedophilia, like any other sexual preference, becomes a crime at the moment it harms another person.”

The same happened in Germany ­ also now in the news. In 1999, the Humanistische Union (HU) of Berlin fought to permit general pornography and all ³consensual² sexual acts, including with minors. Looking at more recent news, the official birth of a legalized paedophile party, formed in Holland in 2006, arouses not a little astonishment.

All that has happened, therefore, can be put into a radically broader cultural context, one in which there is often uncritical acceptance, approval of transgressions and perversions as manifestations of freedom and spontaneity. It’s a culture which takes a totally negative view of values and the moral law.

Needless to say, the general atmosphere of sexual license in no way excuses the abuse perpetrated by priests, nor the complicity and negligence of church officials in positions of responsibility. But Fr. Gucci’s observations about the larger Western romance with perversion helps us understand an aspect of the scandals rocking the Church. We’re a culture in love with transgression, and it creates an atmosphere that makes moral restraint more difficult.

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