The victims of child-molesting priests are partly to blame for their own abuse, the bishop of Syracuse said in a sworn deposition that revealed his views on the church's sex abuse scandal.Child victims partly to blame in priest sex-abuse cases, Syracuse bishop testified | syracuse.com
Bishop Robert Cunningham testified in a 2011 deposition in response to a federal lawsuit filed by a man who said a priest in the Syracuse diocese sexually abused him as a child.
The man's lawyer asked Cunningham whether, in the eyes of the church, a child molested by a priest has committed a sin.
"The boy is culpable," Cunningham said Oct. 14, 2011, according to a transcript of the deposition.
His sworn testimony provides rare insight into the thoughts of the highest-ranking Catholic in Syracuse about one of the most troubling chapters in the church's history.
Cunningham believes no child is responsible for being sexually abused, a diocese official said this week. It's unfair to use the deposition to characterize his position otherwise, the official said.
The bishop's testimony was startling to a former Catholic priest who has written extensively on sexuality in the church.
"That is so absurd," said Richard Sipe of La Jolla, Calif. "It's like saying a child who's beaten is responsible for the beating. It's prehistoric. I can't believe a bishop in (2011) said this."
The Catholic Church holds that the age of reason is 7 years old, but that pertains to deciding what between right and wrong, Sipe said. When a priest tells a child that having sex with him is right, the child should not be held responsible, Sipe said.
"It's preposterous," said Patrick Wall of Minnesota, a former Catholic priest who's testified as an expert in priest sexual abuse cases over the past 15 years. "There's no way, either in law or in moral theology or in canon law, which Bishop Cunningham is trained in, that a child can consent to that crime."
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