A reader makes a distinction regarding this post:
There’s a difference between child molesters and pedophiles. Pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder characterized by a sexual interest in prepubescent children. Many (or possibly even most) pedophiles don’t act on their impulses; they repress them or go to therapy, stick to pornography, or opt for chemical castration. A child molester, on the other hand, may be a pedophile, but he or she is also immoral, and a criminal. To write about how "child molesters screen their victims" could be informative; an article on how "pedophiles screen victims" spreads misinformation, and erroneously suggests that all pedophiles are predators.
Gladwell's piece gave me chills. For years as a kid I attended a camp hosted by a priest.
He was part of the Maryknoll, and not associated with one parish. It was a blast. Art, swimming, playing in the woods, and thoughtful discussions about scripture (which, at the age of 10, was unfamiliar to me.) I was usually at the camp for weekenders or week-long sessions. 8-10 kids total. He was Italian. He also lived in Taiwan for many years, so we learned all kinds of language and cooking (much I carry with me to this day.) As I aged, Father became a third parent, providing advice and counsel on all issues. I counted on him emotionally in ways I still can't replace.
You see, he abused some of the boys at the camp.
Not all, thankfully. Not me or my brother. He didn't pick on kids with strong family structure. We later learned that he abused blond boys from broken homes. His approach made sense. As a traveling priest, he would meet thousands of people every year. He found kids from single-parent homes and invited them to join the other boys at his secluded camp. These kids were allowed to spend weeks – as many as six – every summer at his place. He gave these vulnerable kids emotional and spiritual support, and, sadly, he molested them.
(I'm barely holding myself together writing this because 16 years later I still feel immensely hurt.)
In the documentary "Delivery Us From Evil", two parents recall the horrible story of phone calls to their daughters to ask them if they had been abused. In the film, the children answered yes (they were molested by a priest living in their own home.) My mother had to make the same call. Like the family in the film, my folks placed us in this man's care, and they didn't know if anything terrible had happened. That scene destroyed me. I knew that other guys I spent summers with did not escape – other parents now feel guilty because they left their kids in the care of a monster.