Victims Unseen

Imagine a rash of fires, lit by fire chiefs, in certain ghettos of Eastern Europe during the 1930s. A synagogue burns to the ground in Kraków, another in Prague, a Jewish community house in Danzig, the Beth-salem Orphanage in Leipzig, and yet another synagogue in Bratislava. All are destroyed. Imagine that half of the leaders of the governments involved respond by insisting that laws against arson are outdated and oppressive; that the desire to burn things is natural in man and needs a healthy outlet; that our customs regarding pyrophilia are hypocritical; and that one cannot expect fire chiefs always to be putting out fires without wanting to set a few themselves. Imagine that the other leaders notice that the problem seems not to have been arson but hatred of Jews. Imagine that while these groups fight it out — the one surely in the grip of dementia, the other correct but still half-blind and impotent — the Jews still have no synagogues, no orphanages, and no community houses, nor is it proposed that they get any. In fact, any real thought about who the Jews are, what they give, and what they need is uncomfortably set aside, if it ever arises at all.

That is an analogy for what has happened in our Church, with this one exception: While there’s no natural connection between arson and the very being of a Jewish worshiper, there is a connection — a terrible one — between the seduction of boys and the manhood that was ruined or vitiated in them.To burn a man’s house is to sin against his property, perhaps his posterity. To burn his house out of hatred is to sin against his person. But to seduce a boy, to corrupt his manhood while it is yet in the bud, is to sin against his nature, his essential created being.

We have ignored the boys. And we ignored them, as we have been ignoring them, these many years. Governments and foundations shovel money into programs to teach math and science specifically to girls, but not a penny, not for any subject, devoted specifically to boys. Why is that? Nowadays in some places a boy growing up with a father is as rare as an orphan used to be. These boys need more than ever the male discipline of sports — so what do we do about it? We cut their rosters. Sometimes, against common sense, against plain decency and charity, we force the boys to play on the same teams with girls, even when there are girls’ teams available. Why that happy cruelty? We know that these same boys — often fatherless — are less likely to go to church than are their sisters. That’s all right by us; we set up committees to study women’s participation in the Church. We stock up on female lectors and female directors of religious education. We showcase our altar girls. Why?

Young men are strong enough and aggressive enough to commit — but also vulnerable enough to suffer — the bulk of violent crime in our country. Everyone knows the former; does anyone care to consider the latter? One in ten black men aged 20 to 30 is currently in prison. Do we sponsor any initiatives to reach the boys before they fall into that abyss? Boys are now far outnumbered by girls in college. Exactly how this state of affairs is to be a boon to the civilization, the country, the family, and the Church, no one has bothered to examine. I think it heralds the onset of catastrophe. But is there a single program anywhere designed to address the issue? Boys find school detestable — I found it so, and I have met few young men, even those I teach in college, and most especially the brightest, who say that they loved high school, and few young women who say they hated it. Does anyone care?

Catholic conservatives — I am tempted to place that word in scare quotes — have noticed that nearly all the victims in the scandals were teenage boys. Bully for them; it was hard not to notice it. But that’s where the noticing stopped. I fear I know why. To press the issue is to venture into a minefield, for we have failed the boys and would prefer not to be reminded of it. How else to explain the delicate attempts by many to soften the perception of the crime?

It’s true that conservatives have called on us to recommit ourselves to the Church’s teachings on homosexuality, and justly so. But their focus has been entirely on the priest, not at all on the boy. For when they discussed the scandals they noted carefully that the cases of pedophilia were rare; what we were dealing with, they said, was ephebophilia, the seduction (not rape, sometimes not even statutory rape) of teenage boys. True enough. But what then about those teenage boys? Ephebophilia may not be rape, but it is, I think, something more insidious, and possibly more destructive. To understand the sins of these priests, we need to understand what was peculiarly sinful about their seduction of the boys.


It is a rotten time to be a boy. Loveless feminists can carp all they want, but being a boy has never been easy, and now we seem bent on making it as arduous and as grim as possible. The boy knows that he will not have achieved manhood by reaching a certain age or by the maturation of his reproductive system. Manhood, though we find it convenient to forget the fact, must be won and won again. Boys cannot forget it, and so they naturally form gangs, blood brotherhoods, teams: If you’re a member, you have won approval — you’re a real boy, a real man. But your membership is contingent upon your holding up your end of the deal. You must be brave; you must be loyal.

There is nothing inherently wrong with such brotherhoods. Saner societies than ours used to foster and direct them: Boy Scouts, Junior Achievement, ROTC. They, or something like them, are necessary for the boy’s development. If the boy is rejected by the other boys, he needs a man to take their place, to be his mentor, to bolster him in his uncertain manhood, to assure him that his arms are growing stronger, to holler and rail if need be as he straps on the helmet or grabs the next knot in the rope, and to nod (a laconic nod of approval more powerful to that boy than any mother’s smile can be) when he stands in victory.

So let us look at our ephebophile and his prey. Pardon me as I condense several accounts of crimes we have read about to present the deed in its essence. Between the man and the boy in question, there’s a curious affinity. Father Mike, let us call him, was, as a boy, intelligent but shy, not terribly athletic but admiring of athletes. He was the boy who looked out the window, in resentment yet with aching attraction, at the other boys playing king-of-the-hill in the yard next door. He cannot be like them, he thinks, but he wants to be like them. They may barrel into each other with innocent rivalry or boyish affection, but he has never felt that crush of bodies, or the few times he has felt it, it meant too much to him because it was too rare. He is skinny or pudgy or short or nearsighted or asthmatic or coddled by a hypochondriacal mother or ignored by his father. He wears his body awkwardly, wishing he looked like one of the other boys. He is not privy to what they whisper and snort about behind the shed or up the woods. He suspects the ribaldry he doesn’t know. The grosser he supposes it to be, the more he despises it, and the more he wishes he were part of it.

This lad I’m describing was not born so. The thoughtlessness and cruelty of others have made him so. He will say he has always felt an attraction for members of his sex. He isn’t lying. He has. But he’s mistaken about it nonetheless: His longing for male comradeship is something he shares with every man who has ever lived. His feelings, in themselves, show how David admired Jonathan, how Oliver wished to die beside Roland, how Gilgamesh wept inconsolably beside the body of Enkidu the strong. The problem is that when he reaches puberty, the longings natural to every boy and man may become — by being unmet, by having been a source of pain — unnaturally sexualized. If so, he becomes a homosexual man: that is, a man who still wants to be one of the boys, even as he resents boys who are comfortable and easy with their masculinity.

He is drawn to those like him. He sees a boy, possibly better-looking than he was or more athletic, but still lonely, unsure of himself, needing the approval of a man. Perhaps the boy’s father is far away; perhaps that distance is the doing of a selfish mother. Perhaps the father is all too near and is cruel and angry. It may be that the boy is not exactly rejected by his peers, but not exactly welcomed, either. Enter the older man, the apparently (but only apparently) confident priest. At this crisis of the boy’s life the priest comes on the scene as the male friend, the mentor, the older comrade. He takes the boy to the basketball game — something the boy wishes his father had done. He slaps him on the back with what seems like nonchalance. He praises him for his cleverness, asks him if he’s all right with the girls, laughs when the boy tells of some trouble he got into at school, and wisely advises him how to get out of it again.

Soon Father Mike — Father Mike, not Reverend but Father — has taken the boy into his own confidence, too. He encourages him to be comfortable with, actually a trifle loose with, his body and his sexual feelings. He may ply him with a few of the secrets of pornography. Now the boy — remember, this is a lonely sort of boy looking from the outside into the mysteries of manhood — feels that he’s finally being taken seriously, that he’s finally being considered a man by another man. At the same time, the pathetic Father enjoys what for him is the rare pleasure of being admired as a man by anyone at all. At last he’s the lead boy on the field, the captain of his team in Capture the Flag.

Inevitably it comes round to undressing. I assert that there is not one woman alive who can really understand this, not one. I also assert that there is not one man alive who does not immediately understand this, as painful as it may be to admit. The nakedness of both is enjoyable. For the change from boy’s body to man’s body is stark and embarrassingly conspicuous. The boy is intrigued by his own body (all boys are) and is excited to be in the presence, naked, of one of his own kind who will accept him for what he is and not laugh at him. Boys go skinny-dipping even before puberty — they always have. Were it not for the keyed-up emotions and the subtle sexual undermining of the mentor — the Father — this too could be healthy. Peter and his comrades did not wear wetsuits when they fished! There is a great ease and pleasure in such frankness. So the two of them are in the shower, let us say, after a workout in the gym; the older man diseased and unscrupulous but deeply lonely, the boy excited and pleased, finally, so he thinks, having arrived at the port of his manhood.

Then the Father touches him — there — and all is ruined, corrupted, soiled forever.

I know there are variations on this account. Sometimes the priest has gathered around himself a kind of sexual gang, a brotherhood of carnality. Pornography can work wonders for establishing such a thing. Sometimes the boy struggles to pretend that he was not violated, that he wished for the encounter after all. Sometimes the priest verges upon the ghoulish; sometimes he even believes, and teaches, that there is a sacramentality in this abuse of the body. Sometimes he even says that it is a manly thing to do.

Whatever the gross details may be, it is important to consider that touch. The terrible thing is that the boy, confused, is excited; he cannot believe what is happening and is too surprised to know immediately what to do. This is the man he has, so to speak, fallen in love with — fallen in admiration of, as a boy will admire a man, a hero, his own father. He feels at once ashamed and prized; he does not pull away. His body betrays him. Never will he be able to say, as the raped woman can say (and please, I am not making light of that horrible crime; it is a different sort of crime), “I was overcome.” No, he was willing, certainly not wholly unwilling, and that is the ugly horror of it. Never will he be able to say, “I felt no pleasure in it.” Till the day he dies the nerves of his own body will testify against him. He is not raped. Would that he were; he is seduced, made to cooperate in the perversion of his own manhood. At the most vulnerable time of his life, as he tries to steer that most perilous strait, he is corrupted not only in his body but in his being, in his manhood, by the very “man,” the Father, who seemed to promise to him safe passage. Does he wish he had been raped? Talk to some, and they will say they wish they had been strangled.


Why have the commentators not seen this? Grown men speaking about their experiences have collapsed into tears on national television. Are we to believe they would do so had they been seduced by nuns? Had any one of those men been so seduced, it would, we hope, be a source of shame to him, as any sin ought to be. More probably he would himself ensure that tales about the shameful sister never died down.

Why have we not seen it? Because all of us, conservative and leftist alike, have too much invested in feminism. Boys with rotten lives may be the most obvious and poignant reminders of the misery spread by our latest version of the egalitarian heresy. But men are too busy pushing their daughters into ice hockey, and women are too busy reading Redbook on the subway home from the bank. Besides, boys are sloppy, unruly clods, no? So says the popular culture. And they can take care of themselves, can’t they?

Jesus would not have thought so. I have read, and I accept as valid, the argument for the all-male priesthood that notes that Jesus chose only men to be His apostles. But could He not have had an additional reason for it, a very human reason? Jesus often chose to be alone: We see him retreat into the wilderness, to the mountains, to a boat offshore. He also seemed to enjoy the occasional crowd and celebration, and in fact He mentions that His detractors jeer at Him for His eating and drinking. We see Him do what no self-respecting rabbi of his day would do; that is, talk alone with women, teach them, whether the good Mary of Bethany or the not-so-good-yet Samaritan woman at the well. But He chose only men for His apostles. He traveled with them, He confided in them, He huddled against the cold with them, He spoke to them about His coming agony. They were more than His friends: They were His brothers. Sometimes, in His humanity, Jesus wished to be alone with other men.

And in their company we see Jesus as a man among men. In one of my favorite passages, the names of the apostles are recounted, and when we come to the brothers James and John, we learn that He called them “Boanerges, which is, The Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). I love that nickname; it fits the brothers who wanted to sit at either side of Christ when He came into His glory. I love it, too, because it shows us a glimpse of Jesus the Man — for giving nicknames is a thing men do, out of affection, sometimes even, as is the case here, out of an ironical affection. Jesus did the same for Simon Peter. I am struck not only by what He called Simon bar-Jonah, but that He called him anything new at all. Of course, the new name signaled a new birth for Simon, a new being; but on a more human level, it meant that Simon was Jesus’ blood-brother, a man worthy to be given a new name.

No faithful woman should be so childish as to complain of this. We never hear Jesus utter a condemnation of a single woman; while his lashing out against the scribes and Pharisees is unmatched for vehemence. On the other hand, we never see Jesus predicting martyrdom for the women, nor does He share with Mary and Martha His agonies to come. Jesus did not truckle to women; note that while He obeys His mother’s wish at Cana, by His reply He yet asserts authority. Jesus loved women as women and men as men, and treated women as women and men as men.


What we need now are men like St. John Bosco, who won the attention of the homeless boys of Turin by impressing them with boyish tricks and athletics, and who then taught them chastity and temperance and courage and the unalterable truths of the Faith. We are not likely to see such men. If we speak about St. John Bosco, we say that he had a ministry to children. No such thing! His ministry, the peculiar grace he was given to preach the Word of God, was to boys. Now of all times, when fatherhood itself is under siege from no-fault divorce, from feminism, from a sneeringly misandrist educational system, from popular culture, and from our chase of the almighty dollar at the cost of sanity and order at home, in short from the manifold sins of men and women, now of all times we need a St. John Bosco. We need a man to slap a boy’s back and say, “Son, your name is Smoke, because that’s what you’re throwing.” We need it, and barring an extraordinary gift of grace, the need will not be met.

For how can it be met? The boys are invisible, and now that our Church has caved in ever so slightly but ever so noticeably on the issue of homosexuality, it has helped ensure that men with vocations to work with boys will not be able to fulfill them. Did it never occur to our soft-minded leaders that one of the reasons why we cordon off male homosexuality as unnatural is to give boys the breathing room to develop such friendships as Jesus Himself enjoyed? In poisoned air the most salutary meal will smell sour.

And the poison lingers. The original evil was perpetrated by a few of our priests, allowed by some of our bishops, and unwittingly encouraged by all of us Catholics who have found it a bit too comfortable to condone the kissing cousins of androgyny and sexual license. But that evil has not ended with the corrupted youths of the boys who were abused. Because of that abuse, now when ministry to boys is needed most, ministry to boys is all but unthinkable. What man now dare play the part of John Bosco? When in some places you cannot utter the word “mankind” without being scolded, who would even think it worth his time to propose to the bishop a new effort to help boys see what true manliness and true Christianity look like?

But nothing is impossible for God. Therefore with hope in Him — certainly with no hope in the leaders of my Church, or in myself and my fellow Catholics, so blandly indistinguishable are we from the most secular of our countrymen — I wish to issue a challenge. Millions of dollars are being siphoned away from dioceses to settle civil litigation in this scandal. Let some money also go toward righting the wrong, the particular wrong of the abuse of the boys. I propose that for every boy corrupted by a priest, ten boys be educated at some new, Catholic, all-boys school; or for every ten boys abused, one new boys’ school be built to teach 100. Needless to say, these schools would have to be staffed with healthy men, not adult males stuck in the neutral of everlasting puerility, and they would cheerfully violate every tenet of political correctness spit forth by the great Despiser of the Sexes from his ice hole below.

The manhood of the boys was undermined, destroyed. Then build up the manhood of others. The abusers took advantage of the boys’ desire for comradeship. Then meet that desire now by giving others the chance for comradeship that is upright and sane. The psychology of the boys themselves was turned to their sexual corruption. Then use that same psychology to teach boys courage and cleanliness in body and mind. Father engaged in the sickest of incest. Now show others, in the company of men, what a true father and a true man is. So did St. John Bosco. So did Jesus Christ.

What about it, leaders of my Church? Do you yet have any trace of the Sons of Thunder in you? What about it, my fellow Catholics, fellow squishers and squeezers of the sixth commandment? We have our share of repenting to do. Repent by building. Stop ignoring the boys.

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • Bill

    I think much of the problems of boys today is due to the lack of fathers in their homes. The sky high divorce rates, the very high rates of out of wedlock births have contributed to a situation where far too many boys are growing up without fathers, without roles models, without mentors, etc.

    Mothers try [often quite heroically] to fill the void, but they simply cannot. The net result is disaster. Look at the crime stats and lousy academic performance of boys in the African-American community and also white community.

    A father is more than a sperm donor: you have to be there to make them do their homework, make them take out the trash, and a hundred other things. You have to mentor and coach them into being men. You cannot phone it in, you have to be there: day in and day out, year in and year out.

    My father was not perfect, but he was a good man, and he was there. That was enough.

  • Karen

    Mr. Esolen, you have committed a very grave sin with this essay. If you are typical of Catholic manhood, I am extremely grateful I’m a Presbyterian. I will try to do this in the shortest words possible:


    The fact that he didn’t entirely hate the experience doesn’t change that fact, and no boy should have to listen to anyone quoting you on the subject. You have portrayed victims of the most vile form of abuse as pathetic losers; apparently you thing only awkward and unpopular boys got molested. This may make bullies like you feel better, but it’s bloody well a lie. I cry at the thought that anyone with your twisted view of sex and the relations between men and women has any contact with students at all.

    • B. Baxter

      Now that you’ve commented on the essay, feel free to read it.

  • Christine

    Thank you for writing about something we never want to speak about in our society, boys! I pray that we all learn that we need fathers in our families and our communities. I know that most women feel overwhelmed today by all of the work they have to do, as they do the work of both men and women. I also feel that men feel irrelevant, because they are generally left with nothing to do and no responsibility.

    You explained how sexual abuse and homosexual feelings can arise in pubescent boys through this abuse in a way that makes sense to me and I believe is spot-on.

  • Christine

    Sorry for the poor grammar. I keep deleting and re-writing. I will try to use Word in the future and cut and paste to the comments box.

  • Ann

    The celibacy requirement was and is the problem.

    There are plenty of manly men who would love to be priests. But they are manly, so with that, like to be with women. So off they go.

    • Cord Hamrick


      Were that the case, we would see fewer instances of this kind of problem among Protestant clergy, who marry.

      In fact, we see roughly the same amount; perhaps a bit more.

      And of course we see pedophilia far more often among public school teachers.

      And most of all among married men.

      I think your theory needs some refining.

      The scandal is not that this kind of thing happened more often among the Catholic clergy than elsewhere. It didn’t. It happened less. The scandal is that it happened at all, and the inept institutional reaction.

  • Gerry

    Thanks for that insight, Ann. Now I know why married female public school teachers would never … er … um …

  • Faith

    I think that the man-boy perversion has been going on a lot longer than just this current Church scandal. Didn’t Plato write about love based on a man’s love of boys? Didn’t they have symposiums where men sat around drinking and seducing boys? That was hardly a society that espoused feminism! I think for whatever reason there is a re-occurring perversion of this sort that has been a sin mankind has always wrestled with. Perhaps whenever you denigrate either sex (women in the time of Ancient Greece and men now in our time of extremist feminism) you create a fertile place for sins of this sort to grow. Neither extreme is healthy for the family.

    However, I remember my father (who has since passed away)commenting that this kind of stuff went on when he was growing up only it was very hushed up. He grew up in the 20’s and 30’s and attended a seminary high school. And I don’t think feminism had quite the hold on us it does now or had the institution of the family been quite so decimated by cultural shifts as we are post the 1960’s so-called sexual revolution.

    So I think it is a bit unfair to say that this is all the fault of our current society and somehow it has to do with not letting boys be boys. True our current society is pretty perverted, but sin has occurred ever since the fall. Sexuality is a very delicate and complex thing. Children and young adults do need to be protected from predators and anything that would damage and hamper healthy development. I think the place to start is healing families. I would rather money go to that somehow than some all boys school. Unless of course, St. John Bosco was running it! But even he saw the necessity for starting his boys’ schools because of the terrible impact of the Industrial Revolution had on the poor.

    My own nephew was abused by a high school wrestling coach. This went on for quite a while. He was a vulnerable boy, as you describe; his own father was a violent alcoholic who left my sister after 10 years of marriage. I am happy to say that though it took a good decade of my nephew’s life to overcome this abuse, he has emerged psychologically and spiritually intact. Boys can regain their manhood and the people who helped him the most was his own mother and his sister, who felt terrible that they had not seen the signs while he was growing up. They picked up the shattered pieces of his life and held them together until he could heal. I am happy to report he is now happily married and the father of three.

  • William

    With respect, Karen, age is less a factor in the equation than is the abuse of a power relationship. A priest is most certainly in a position of power with respect to an adolescent boy. Whether he was 14, 16, or 18, the act was rape, because the power relationship is inherent, and cannot be nullified. Moreover, the priest (or minister, in your Presbyterian life) is supposed to be a spiritual and moral guide. That latter function makes the scandal so much worse.

    One of the most outrageous things which happened later is that the bishops tolerated the PC press referring to pedophilia, which this was not. It was predatory homosexual men in positions of power raping (almost exclusively) teen-aged boys.

  • Ann Jean

    Karen, I think you have reacted emotionally to one word in this essay. Nowhere in this article is he blaming the victim of what all agree is crime. The legal definition of rape generally refers to non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or other duress.

    Our society has ever increasingly, since the advent of the militant feminist movement, denied the very real differences between men and women at the expense of what is true and beautiful about masculinity (and femininity too).
    I believe this is a direct cause of the increase in homosexual acting out for both men and women and the confusion in gender identity.

  • MRA

    I think Faith is right. Blaming feminism sounds all very well in theory, but it doesn’t fit the timeline of when much of this stuff happened. E.g., Fr. Maciel’s victims – was their problem as Mexican boys in the fifties the suppression and devaluation of manhood?

    Secondly, a lot of these things happened in boys’ schools and similar places that practiced just the glorification of boys-will-be-boys machismo you’re advocating. E.g., the British boarding school system of the past was designed precisely to encourage the kind of male camaraderie you praise; graduates of those schools I know well say that forced sodomy on younger boys was universal there. Boys-club boosterism is no protection against homo-eroticism; in fact, they seem to fit very nicely together.

    My own suspicion is that spending too much of our time thematizing gender is a problem, whether in feminism or a cult of machismo. I think it would be a lot healthier to teach boys what being a man is in terms of family life and a man’s role there. Which is NOT best done in boys’ boarding schools. Though it’s kind of a moot point, isn’t it: I don’t see anybody responding to boys being abused by priests by sending their sons to new all-male schools run by the Church.

  • HBanan

    Try joining Big Brothers of America, if you want to help out boys. You can have a great time with a boy who has nearly no other male role model outside of television, doing sports or reading books, or going bowling. I am a Big Sister to a girl, and the program is great. They give plenty of support and ideas for activities if you have a hard time thinking of what to do at first. And they always need men to help mentor the boys! Your help will be so appreciated, and you can make a real and lasting difference. These boys are seriously imperiled. Just inspiring them to graduate high school and go on to achieve something will make a huge difference to them. Try signing up today! You don’t have to wait for a church activity or for the next St John Bosco to help out boys. You can help one right now. If you get inspired, maybe try encouraging your other Catholic male friends to sign up. You can do this even if you are in college and will graduate next year.

  • Karen

    Faith makes some excellent points.

    I’ve calmed down some, but I still think this is so wrong words can’t adequately describe it. Esolen thinks that only pathetic losers get abused, and that being a pathetic loser makes someone homosexual. He uses a story he made up himself as proof of this argument, mainly because evidence supporting his position does not exist. Readers can draw their own conclusions about a writer who makes up his own evidence and presents it as fact.

    The real problem was that the priests were in a position of unquestioned power over the boys. Anyone in a position of unquestioned power will abuse it. Always. This is basic human nature. The solution is to reduce as much as conceivable the number of positions of power like this, and to make sure the few remaining ones are under constant scrutiny. The bishops should have turned over the abusers to the cops at the first report of trouble instead of attempting to preserve an outdated and really rather evil view of the position of priests.

  • Rocco DiPalma

    I’ve calmed down some, but I still think this is so wrong words can’t adequately describe it. Esolen thinks that only pathetic losers get abused, and that being a pathetic loser makes someone homosexual. He uses a story he made up himself as proof of this argument, mainly because evidence supporting his position does not exist. Readers can draw their own conclusions about a writer who makes up his own evidence and presents it as fact.

    Well, actually, numerous psychological studies show that that is the cause of homosexuality in men (see “The Truth About Homosexuality” by Harvey) and as for making up stories, I remember speaking with a man who says that was exactly how it happened to his peers.

    I wouldn’t describe the boys in question in Esolen’s scenario as pathetic losers, either, Karen. Esolen didn’t use those words either, or if he did, I didn’t see him do so, so correct me if I’m wrong. You used them. I don’t know many Christian men, like Esolen, who would describe boys who are nonathletic as pathetic or losers. That’s what boys might say. It’s surprising you would think that as well.

  • Tony Esolen


    I did not say that other situations were great for boys. Some were, some weren’t.

    I emphatically did not say that these boys were losers. All I was trying to do, apparently not well enough, was to ask a simple question — what was it like to be these kids? And I think you will find, if you wish to take the trouble, that pedophiles do prey upon the boys that are at the edges of the pack.

    I won’t back down from my claim that something has gone badly wrong in a society that makes so great a stink about the priest scandal, yet never bothers to ask what exactly was the crime, from the point of view of the victim. It seems to me an obvious question to ask. Nor do I think that “power” explains the heinousness of the act; it explains perhaps why the priests in question got away with things, and how they were able to manipulate the feelings of the boys. It does not explain at all the result. I may twist your arm off because of my great strength; but eventually I’d hope that some doctor would come around and notice that my arm had been twisted off. Just what was it about the crime that many of these boys have never been able to endure? And if you think for a moment that, had the boy been seduced by a nun, it would not have been a completely different sort of thing, with different consequences for his psyche, then you know nothing about boys.

    Which returns me to the question I asked of the society at large: why in the hell did you not ask “What about the boys?” about five years sooner? Quit trying to point fingers at other situations that were not ideal for boys. Just look at this one here. And I defy anybody to give me the name of an organization that looks out for the interests of the most abandoned of our boys, I mean the possibly violent and half-lost teenagers.

  • Gabriel Austin

    Interesting to this discussion are the recently published memoirs of Archbishop Weakland [he who purloined $450,000 to pay off a blackmailing boyfriend].

    He acknowledges that he was aware of abusive priests in the archdiocese. His solution: transfer them to other dioceses. He thought the boys would get over it.

    Per contra, the “conservative” Bishop of Lincoln Nebraska, Fabian Bruskewitz, said quite simply “he would turn the complaint over to the cops”. A sin is a sin; a crime is a crime.

    For the suggestion that celibacy encourages abuse, one can point out that celibacy relates to the attraction between man and woman. The abusers were not interested in women.

    The great sadness in this is the abuse of confidence. A boy’s confidence in himself is a fragile thing.

    St. Peter must be busy preparing many millstones.

  • Faith

    I don’t think I quite understand what you are getting at. Who didn’t think of the boy victims? Do you mean what formal group is out there that channels its energies to helping sexually abused boys? Because you often don’t know about the abuse until much later or the boy necessarily doesn’t want to be identified as such for very understandable reasons. We do have counselors who help the boys. With my nephew the police were extremely active in helping not only him but his mother and sister as well. One thing that might have helped him was that his abuser was convicted and is serving a very long time in prison (my nephew was one of many boys who were victimized by this man.) My nephew got a lot of excellent counseling. Do you mean in general who is helping/mentoring boys who are vulnerable to attacks like this? Well, for one thing the Catholic Church has begun to educate everyone who works with children about the dangers of predators (many people complain about this loudly). In my parish we have an active Youth Ministry as well as Boy Scouts and a Catholic life Community led by the Youth Apostles for teens. So boys who join these things are mentored by caring adults. In my diocese we have regular Masses for the victims of sexual abuse. I know there are support groups out there for adult victims.

    When I worked with Juvenile Delinquents in Baltimore many years ago there was an active Police Boys’ Club that worked hard to mentor boys. Of course it could do little in the face of obliterated families, due to broken homes, drugs and gangs. But the police were gallant in their efforts! We probably should do a lot more. It’s a band-aid on a gaping wound, for sure.

    I do think you have pinpointed a very important issue about this kind of crime being so devastating to a young man’s development. I think what is so terribly confusing to the victim is that his own hormones and animal responses are manipulated and used against him in complete betrayal of his own image of himself. I think this acts like a psychic earthquake at the very foundation of his personality. I remember my sister telling me she explained it to her son by way of analogy; just because junk food taste goods doesn’t mean its good for you. We respond to the salt and fats in junk food because our bodies are programmed to respond. We respond to sexual stimuli because we are programmed that way but it doesn’t mean it is right or good for you. So I do think that at least some of those working with these poor boys are aware of such delicate and confusing feelings. Maybe it is not out there publicly to your satisfaction because the media focused on the abuse of power of the priests and how they were protected by the Church’s powers that be. But I think it’s being addressed somewhat nonetheless.

    I think the whole situation in our current culture is that kids aren’t raised in families anymore; they are raised by institutions like day cares and public school or even private schools and their parents are too busy or preoccupied or simply absent and don’t protect them and nurture them the way they should. I really think kids need to grow up in families and that is God’s design for protecting children and gives them the best chance of developing normally. There are plenty of dysfunctional families (and always have been) and sin abounds but I really don’t think the solution of creating all boys schools is the answer at all. I think it boils down to rebuilding trust in relationships and building a strong sense of self. I don’t believe schools are particularly good at that sort of thing (but hey, I’m a homeschooler, I think most schools do more damage than good so I am biased!)

  • Lawrence Gage

    MRA makes some interesting points about the long precedence of these sorts of crimes. It would seem we need to look for a deeper root that just feminism, though feminism goes back to the earlier part of the twentieth century. The ideological source of feminism is the repudiation of nature as given by our Creator (rather than as interpreted through our own desires).

    The driving force behind the latter is the rise of the (Baconian) ideology of power and the philosophy of mechanism that in part motivated the Scientific Revolution. There is something intrinsically narcissistic, even homoerotic, in man’s rejection of God and elevation of himself to godhood.


  • John Jakubczyk

    Dr. Esolen asks some difficult questions and points out some areas for conversation that are for the most part ignored by the media, the church and those honestly seeking to address the problem and find ways to solve it.Understand that given the fallen nature of man, vigilance against attacks on children and young people is critical. Teaching our boys to become men is something that requires men to be in their lives. and while I am not a proponent of boy’s boarding schools, I strongly believe that every man needs to understand that he is called to be a positive role model in the lives of all young men who will encounter him. If we who call ourselves Catholic men would realize that we are to be examples of what Christ calls us to be, and then to allow the next generation of boys to see and experience what it is to be a true follower of Christ, then these young men would find the desire to be a part of this great fraternity. It does not require “organized” efforts in many cases. It requires active involvement in our sons’ lives. It means teaching them things that are “manly” and inspire courage.
    It also means telling them that they can have honest affection for another man WITHOUT it being sexual. I think this is the current phobia and one sees it in the teasing among boys as well. If a boy expresses any kind of “affection,” toward another boy, it is immediately labeled homosexual. The child may not even know what the word means and people are misunderstanding the normal feelings one may have for another person. This curtailing of natural affection may then become the very means by which the perpetrator exploits and then seduces the boy.
    Now this exploitation of young men has been going on throughout history and it would be naive to claim that this society has the corner on corruption and vice. but the means of modern communication, entertainment and the internet has spread this to a much greater portion of our population and for that we must be ever vigilant to those who need our protection.

    This article is important because it does ask what are we going to do to protect these young boys? Especially now that we are more than aware of the problem. Answering that question, addressing what needs to be done, and making sure that the true teaching of the Church on the nature and purpose of the male or female as taught by God is crucial if we are going to build a healthy generation of men and women. I might add that the corresponding perversion to the female is the attack on her identity as a mother by the promotion and acceptance of abortion.

    Having listened to the tragic stories of so many who have been violated in bot situations, I can only encourage more discussion and then action to address the scandal.

  • Anna

    My husband has often talked about the anti-boy sense he got during his school years, how boys were (usually in an unspoken way) made to feel badly for doing well, to sense that boys doing well somehow took away from girls.
    One of my frequent “soapboxes” is the demise of authentic male friendship. Chesterton and others wrote a lot on male friendship, on conversations and arguments, on the difference between a good debate with a man and a conversation with a woman. I don’t have many theories on why that David/Jonathan type of friendship has disappeared (or even the Chesterton/Shaw rivalry with respect), but my husband has wondered (since the question was brought up of perversions before the feminist era) if it may have something to do with WWII. The loss of so many husbands and fathers, and the silence, wanting to avoid thoughts and memories, of so many who came back – did that contribute to the current problem of invisible boys?

  • John Zmirak

    I would like to thank Dr. Esolen for writing this compassionate and truthful piece. His account of the painful experience of “outsider” boys is seconded by that of Dr. Gerard van den Ardweg, whose “Battle for Normality” (Ignatius Press) tells the same story. What is more, it is my own story; I was one of those boys who couldn’t play sports, tripped over his own feet, got ridiculed for reading, etc. Providentially, I had a best friend from 2nd grade who WAS athletic, popular, tough, and played in a rock band. He made me get over my snobbish insistence on only listening to classical music, and my bookish sniffiness about boyish pursuits (encouraged by an overprotective mother), and helped “normalize” me in healthy ways. In return, I pestered him about going to Mass, corrected his grammar, and helped him with his homework. We both turned out just fine; he stayed out of jail, and I ceased to be a young Niles Crane trapped on the set of “That 70s Show.” I thank GOD that I was mentored by a good-hearted, normal kid–instead of a predator priest or other manipulative figure, of the sort who roam the world trying to “convert” boys into perverts. Women reading this have to remember that boys who are molested/seduced often cannot forgive themselves for what happened to them, and they feel “marked” for life. As van den Ardweg writes, they feel like “I guess I’m a faggot now,” and feel unworthy or unable to escape. That’s how many boys end up ruined for life. I thank the good God, and my Italian-American pal, that that didn’t happen to me.

  • John

    … is a new, honest commitment to understanding male sexual development from a legitimate and Christian perspective. I appreciate this article because it appears to be a genuinely honest approach to the consequences of sexual abuse. Between the lines, I read that Christian men feel either: bullied by postmodernism or feminism or the homosexual lobby into toeing some kind of politically correct line, or that we genuinely haven’t researched how vulnerable young men are with respect to their chastity, self-image, and masculinity. What’s at stake is the future of fatherhood and families–this is not up for debate. Incontrovertably, families with strong father and mother role models prosper emotionally, economically, and religiously. Our society truly depends on strong families–and strong families depend on fully developed fathers and mothers. Yet we seem unwilling or unable to reject assaults to male sexual vulnerabilities with ever-present pornography, immodest dress, quaint “queerness,” and contraception/abortion. Our culture vocally condemns appeals to mature chastity in both men and women while vocally defending unhealthy sex, infertile sex, pornogaphy and (wink, wink) sex between consenting adults. Here’s the problem: like alcohol use, tattoos, and thong underwear, those habits spread to non-consenting minors. The other difficulty is that it is not enough to defend minors from this super-sexualized behavior. Even middle aged-men (like me) are vulnerable to this culture. We need to be honest about the consequences of our super-sexual culture on both young men and old men. Our society truly depends on it.

  • John
  • Liam

    I find it interesting that on the subject of the etiology of homosexuality, there are Catholics who embrace the creaky theories of Freud (antagonistic paternal relationship, excessively close maternal relationship) when the Church itself has normally treated Freud’s theories of causation as the tissue of conclusory thinking they are. I know too many people who had such relationships with their parents and came out perfectly heterosexual, and likewise many people who did not have such relationships (nor abuse) and came out perfectly homosexual. If there is any correlation in such relationships to homosexuality, it may well be reaction formation on the part of the parents to the perceived (if unspoken) homosexuality of their children; in other words, causation reverse of that posited.

    It would be helpful, however, if people stopped trying to imagine there was necessarily one univocal etiology for homosexuality, whereas there are probably homosexualities and bisexualities and heterosexualities. People who are more secure in their sexual orientation seem to lead more integrated and fulfilling lives as compared to those who are not so.

    The author’s essay is a good example of the power of subtle and not-so-subtle conclusory reasoning.

    • Cord Hamrick


      The fact is that no one quite “knows what causes homosexuality.” But then, the same is true for pedophilia in general and for various fetishistic perversions.

      Human sexuality is of course (1.) extremely flexible but once habituated, hard to change; (2.) tied closely to hormones at various developmental stages (pre-natal, early childhood, puberty); and (3.) closely bound up both with identity and with formative experience.

      There is no gene that causes it. But there may be half a dozen that make the brain more developmentally susceptible to it. Hormone deficiencies or overloads at different stages of fetal and childhood development can contribute to mismatches between the brain’s “gender identity wiring” and chromosomal sex; but this may come with or without homosexual temptations. Distant fathers and those kinds of things seem not to have a causal relationship, as you note; but there seems to be quite a correlation. How to explain it? Other unnatural fetishes like, oh, I dunno, inability to get turned on except around latex, or whatnot, could not possibly have a genetic or biological component inasmuch as they involve recent technologies, which suggests that perversions can be “entirely nurture, not nature,” but the mannerisms and kinesics associated with homosexual culture are so uniform, so consistent, so cliché, that one suspects a difference in brain-wiring (a suspicion often, but not always, confirmed by brain scans). So one begins to think, “okay, it’s nature, not nurture,” and then encounters, five minutes later, a gay man who abruptly decided to “go straight,” married a woman, and had children, and apparently no relapses.

      And to add to all of that confusion, there is the fact that “homosexuality” is not one thing. Even if we narrow it down to the tendencies or temptations (“same sex attraction disorder”), there are distinctions to be made. Is the man only drawn towards men, or both men and women? Masculine-looking women, but not men? How strong is the preference towards each gender? Is the temptation towards men only associated with high-risk or transgressive circumstances (e.g. random strangers), suggesting a sexual adrenaline addiction? And so on….

      What to make of it? Who can untangle what is obviously a complex system of competing factors, to which each individual has a different mix of sensitivities, and in which the individual’s free will is clearly not a very strong component (let alone the only one) but is not entirely absent, either?

      I myself believe (in a tentative way) that were one to track hormone levels in the fetus and the child, with periodic examination of brain function and development, one could find points of development at which individuals were at risk of developing homosexual tendencies and, through hormone therapy, prevent the “brain wiring” from becoming fixed in that direction.

      But I suspect this kind of thing, were it universally included in childhood preventative medicine, would only cause, oh, maybe an 80-90% drop in the number of persons with homosexual temptations. I suspect it wouldn’t eliminate it altogether, because I don’t think the matter is that simple, at all. And it would probably also alter the development of young men who never would have struggled with homosexual temptations, but whose affinities might be subtly changed. (The bad jokes and lame stereotypes fall easily into the hand: There’d be a sudden shortage of theater majors, of hairstylists! Groan.)

      So it’s all very complicated and anyone who simplifies it (I am speaking of the temptations, not the chosen actions) as either pure free choice or pure biological determinism is either uninformed or selling a political agenda.

      I say all this to suggest that perhaps you shouldn’t go too hard on Esolen for what you label “conclusory reasoning.” Sure, the Freudian psychological stuff is not the whole story. But it’s probably part of the story…and I never noticed Esolen anywhere asserting that it was the whole story, that it was absolutely causative.

      We’re all rather guessing at the mix of factors, and how much weight they all have. None of the factors are the only factor, but that doesn’t make it nonsensical to mention them.

  • Mary Ann, Singing Mum

    Esolen makes several good points. As a mother of three boys, and a grown woman who was sexually abused as a young girl, I try to be vigilant in this area, and want to see fewer victims. Period.

    I think I can partly answer one question about why ‘the noticing stopped’, be it boys or girls. While the focus was on abusers who were priests, it was tolerable and even sickly enjoyed by many in society at large. But if the discussion were really to open up, if we were REALLY interested in protecting kids, soon enough the spotlight has to shine on where the most sexual abuse takes place- with those who are familiar, and in the home. Opening the sexual abuse wound for all victims is not easy, because it means tackling perversion in our own families and smaller circles.

    About male friendship-
    The balance of monitoring is tough, but we have to be honest about occasions of sin in a hypersexualized society. In the scenario Esolen describes, for example, WHY would a priest and kid need to be undressing near each other? Maybe I’m paranoid, maybe I don’t understand male nakedness, ok. But how much do we favor idealized authentic male friendship over risky situations? How can we best protect our kids without being too puritanical? And how can we identify and help boys who have already been victimized?

    In the end what can we do except monitior activities, live a life of prayer with and for our children, and DO OUR JOB as caring, communicative, Catholic parents? I’m sure others have good ideas in this area.

  • PHG

    Dr. Esolen has forcefully stated some very uncomfortable truths: about the unchanging nature of masculinity, about the corrosiveness of radical egalitarianism and modern feminism. For that, he can expect a good deal of abuse by people who don’t acknowledge the truth of his positions or who would prefer that those truths remained unspoken. They are still truths, however.

    Our understanding of human sexuality has radically changed over the past 100 years or so. It has become more one-dimensional, more debased, less human and more animalistic. It has also become more totalizing. Our culture can’t stop thinking of sex and insinuates it into all kinds of situations.

    Jeff Foxworthy has joked that single men can make sexual innuendo out of anything.

    Woman: I need to get my tires rotated.
    Single Man **leering**: Yep, I’d like to rotate her tires.

    The upshot is that our society has become like the single guy in that joke.

    Witness critics’ reactions to the portrayals of Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. You had two men (well, hobbits) who had a deep friendship and expressed their friendship with an intensity that, 150 years ago, would have raised few eyebrows. In our oversexualized culture, however, their expressions were considered clear evidence of their latent homosexuality. Complete nonsense. Men can feel strongly for other men, but we are increasingly bereft of people who declare that such strong feelings can be anything other than sexual.

  • Tony Esolen

    The etiology of failure to negotiate the straits from boyhood to manhood — failure to become, in the fullest sense, a man capable of becoming a father — will depend in part upon the culture, but what does not depend upon the culture will be the boy’s rejection by other males (his peers, his brothers, often his father), and a simultaneous lack of support, physically expressed, from males that will make up for the cruelty or the aloofness. This, I believe, will hold true for ancient Athens and Sparta as for modern America, despite the acceptance of man-youth sexual relations in Sparta and Athens. In OUR culture, what results is a man who mistakes his desperate need for friendship with other men for something odd and unique to himself or to his kind, when actually all men need that friendship, and it is in part to protect the very possibility of such friendships that we (as opposed to Athens and Sparta) have long held homosexual relations to be unhealthy and corrupting.

    Freud has nothing to do with it … I am talking about a basic masculine need that, for some boys, goes cruelly unmet.

    I’m glad that the good mother above confesses that she doesn’t “get” male nakedness. That is another thing we now find impossible to talk about. A simple fact: until fairly recently, every time men or boys swam together, they were naked. Every time they camped out, they saw one another naked. Ballplayers shower together; it is a part of their bonding as a team. You’d be looked on as odd if you found it embarrassing. It all means: you and I are alike; we have no secrets from one another; you can be relied on, and so can I. Sexual expression, in such a context, would make the whole thing impossible. When, after all, it should be quite matter-of fact…

  • Chris Ryland

    Bravo, Tony, for addressing these issues.

    If you want to gain a deep understanding of the complexity of the homosexual problem, I can’t recommend Dr. Jeffrey Satinover’s book “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth” highly enough: (ignore the somewhat odd title).

    Even homosexuals have praised the book for its accurate portrayal of the whole subject. And it is a complex problem; he makes the case that there’s no simple, one-cause etiology of same-sex attraction.

    • Gian

      You make too much of the nakedness aspect of the male bonding. It may be peculiar to Americans or Europeans
      in general. Among Hindus and Middle Easterners it is not so, a fact noticed and remarked upon by Kipling in his
      boy adventure tale Kim, set in India.

      Indeed, the lack of privacy while showering in student dormitories does bother Indian students that
      study in American universities, since bathrooms in dormitories in Indian universities are meant to afford fullest

  • Kate

    Thanks for writing such a thought-provoking piece on the “elephant that is still in the living room in the church and in our families. I understand where you’re coming from in this discussion, but I wish to share a different perspective about the so-called feminization of religion, particularly Christianity.

    Simply put, based on my personal experiences and a good deal of very wide reading and study, I believe that Christianity is a religion that, like its other monotheistic cousins Judaism and Islam, is best left to men. Period. Clearly, with the exception of an idealized, sexless Virgin Mary, the whatever number of virgins promised devout Muslims in the afterlife, or the many laws and devotional practices that separate women from men in Orthodox Judaism, in particular, these faiths were designed by men for men. Lest you think I’m somekind of crazy post-modern Catholic progressive, let me assure I am not. I’m no neo-traditionalist either. I’ve been just a regular Catholic in the pews trying to make my way through this life. So, I have no axe to grind here.

    All I can say this that I have found anthropologically and culturally speaking, religion has served very separate purposes for men and women. I simply think that the solution to your criticisms of the feminization of the church (and how that somehow seems to have contributed to males abusing males in the church – boy, Eve’s apple eating and offering the apple to Adam still bites women back today) is for women to simply leave the church to the men. Then you might actually have to do something real about the church’s problems and ability to intersect with the average person’s everyday life, beyond the usual pious platitudes and the attitude of I know better than you what’s good for you, especially from far too many of the newly minted, young, conservative priests coming out of seminary these days. It’s too bad really.

    Everyone talks, but no one is listening anymore. We just like to point fingers. So I’ll get back to taking care of my spouse and kids, including my autistic son. And, by the way, you don’t see me on Sunday fulfilling my “obligation” on a regular basis because there’s no room for the outbursts of an autistic older child at Christ’s table. Except, I’m no longer sure He’s even around these days. Other than His mute presence in the Eucharist, it’s been a very long time since He’s touched me in a typical Catholic Mass, diocesan newspaper, or any other official pronouncement from any source.

    I give up.

  • Doug Sirman

    Dear Kate:

    FWIW, I believe the author knows something of what you experience with an autistic child.

    Yes, fear of feminism is a rather weak explanation for the abject lack of integrity or honesty in the example set over the decades by JPII and his followers in dealing with this.

    It’s ’cause of homosexuals!
    It’s ’cause of celibacy!
    It’s ’cause of feminism!
    It’s ’cause of the best science of the time[TM]!

    There are all kinds of people who have used this situation to grind their own pet axes. The fact remains that the majority of American Bishops for a majority of instances chose to willingly sacrifice the safety of other people’s children to save priests careers. It is indisputable that Bishops have valued priests, even rapist priests as far more valuable than laypeople. It is equally indisputable that this position has been wholly endorsed in practice by the last three popes, including (Oh My Lawks!) JPII. If you feel the church is run by a pack of streetwalkers, I shouldn’t be at all surprised.

  • Mary Ann, Singing Mum

    Thanks, Anthony. I *think* I get the nakedness more. Women are pretty used to that, too. Dressing rooms, locker rooms, bra fitters and all. Being secure and naked around members of the same sex is a healthy thing. But who is secure anymore? The rise of homosexual behavior, among other things, has really hurt friendship. Its entirely lamentable.

    But… what to do as a parent in the current situation?

    I repeat, because I’d love some advice as I strive to live and give my children healthy sexuality in a truly diseased culture-

    1- How much do we favor idealized authentic male friendship over risky situations? I’m thinking about advice regarding slumber parties, alone time with older males, etc.
    2- How can we best protect our kids without being too puritanical?
    3- How can we identify and help boys who have already been victimized?

  • Tony Esolen

    Dear Mary Ann,

    Good questions, and thanks for your kind words. If you have boys, I think you have to encourage your husband to take them out sometimes to do the boy thing — and that might include camping out, going swimming at the Y, things like that — in general, to give them half a chance at something normal and healthy. Maybe the Y is not a good idea, now that I think of it ….

    To my friend Doug: I agree that feminism is not responsible for the scandal. I do think it is responsible for our not asking the obvious question, “Gee, what was it like to be one of those boys?” Because boys, you see, are not supposed to have any particular feelings peculiar to them and their situation. Thanks too for that hint to Kate. Yes, I know plenty about having an autistic son….

  • Doug Sirman

    I think I agree with you there Tony (btw, wrote to your address, don’t know if you got it).

    The problem with it however, is the ease with which it can be distorted into the common lie of many enabling priests, bishops and virtually all catholic commentators: they (the enablers) didn’t know it was really harmful. That is utter garbage. I actually heard a radio DJ suggesting that JPIIs abject, two decade pretense that this didn’t exist was because he, the author of the theology of the body, didn’t know it was really harmful.

    When it comes to making excuses, no one does it better than so-called conservative catholics.

  • Kate

    Anthony and Doug,

    Thank you both for your words in response. I really appreciate them. And, yes, Anthony, your point about not asking the question “What was it like to be one of those boys?” not being asked because of the denigration of boys’ experiences because of feminism of the kind that refuses to acknowledge that there are differences between males and females is well taken. As a mother of sons, who like Maryann, wants them to have a healthy childhood experience that allows them to embrace their unique gifts and qualities, including positively embracing their masculinity, I really appreciated your article and its major points about the scandal and experience of its victims. I am glad Doug’s exchange clarified your views further. Just to give you some context, I came to this discussion here because Rod Dreher at Beliefnet had to foreclose commentary on your article at his blog. That action I would describe as providential because it led me here, to this discussion. My participation here has been worthwhile, especially seeing that I have met yet another person who shares life with an autistic child. For all its challenges, I find my son, older son and spouse to be a blessing and would not want our children to be anything other than what they are. That’s the good news!

  • Tony Esolen

    Dear Kate,

    I wrote about my son Davey and what he has brought to our lives, over at Touchstone. Go to, click on Archives, and browse under my name for the article “Davey’s Song.” I don’t think the folks here would mind my giving Touchstone a plug … Anyway, I hope you find some encouragement from that piece.


  • Mrs O

    I like his idea. But how many would be willing to trust an all boys school? I’m hesitant. Although I agree about helping families, sometimes they are so broken and fragmented that help from the outside is the best for awhile. I also think something similar will help those young men prone to criminal activity.

    Btw that was very hard to read in some places.

  • Deacon Ed

    So much of what has been written by Dr. Esolen falls into the category of “how a boy becomes a man.” Women cannot be faulted for not being able to experientially appreciate the process.

    Unfortunately for boys, schools are for the most part staffed and administered by women, far too many families are bereft of an adult male living in the home who is the boy’s biological father, the Churches are run and peopled primarily by women, and sports teams integrated by gender. What are boys to do?

  • Matthew Wade

    Mr. Esolen, thank you for writing this piece. Not withstanding the misdirected posts above, I do agree with you that in a very real way this piece cannot be understood by women. I shouldn’t have to say it, but by that comment I mean no disrespect to those who may draw closer to Our Lady’s life than I ever could.

    As a young man I have noticed the problems of which you speak, problems that affect men both younger and older than me. I thank God for the solid upbringing with which I was blessed, and your piece inspires me to continue to do my small part to help my fellow boys and men.

    May you and your pen enjoy a long life. God bless you, Essy.

  • Chris in Maryland

    Boys are designed by God to imitate the heroism of Jesus Christ. The most profound thing a boy or young man can hear about masculinity is God’s word in St. Paul: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved The Church.” Boys and young men need to hear from The Church in every institution (home, school, parish and Bishop) that it is his duty to defend girls and women (i.e., the human icon of goodness, truth and beauty) with his very life. Society from the outside loudly assails our children and young people of both sexes with the satanic gospel of gratification. And it seems that The Church (home, school, parish and Bishop) is largely sleep-walking through this era, silently distributed across a continuum of cooperating with society, or ignoring the obvious, and in any case acting utterly incompetent in the war being waged against it.

  • Chris in Maryland

    And thanks Tony Esolen.