This month the Catholic Church released a report titled “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.” A cynic might conclude that the church was seeking to deflect the responsibility of priest-abusers by pointing to the cultural changes—toward “deviance”—that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s as a cause of these behaviors. The report asserts that these changes “manifested in increased levels of deviant behavior in the general society,” (p. 2) and we further learn that the “1960s came with a rise in social activism, intergenerational conflict, illegal drug use, crime, and disorder.” (p. 36) Finally, among the “many social changes [that] occurred in the 1960s” was an “importance given to young people and popular culture.” These descriptions appear to be the church’s way of accusatorily yet deftly referring to the hippie experience of the time, without saying so expressly.
These views are then added to the rather odd diagnosis of the psychopathy of priest-abusers who fall into two groups: (1) pedophiles who are pathological, and (2) “generalists” who were child abusers of opportunity, indistinguishable from the rest of the priesthood. (p. 119) What we learn further is that “pathologically driven priests [pedophiles] were not influenced by social factors,” and moreover only constituted “less than 5 percent of the priests” who could be classified as pedophiles (p. 3). Necessarily, then, the remaining 95% of “generalists” who were apparently occasional child sex abusers “were influenced by social factors.” This group of priests, then, were those presumably co-opted by the promiscuous culture of the hippies, who are truly at fault here.
Critics of the mass cultural renovation of the late sixties often point to the behavior and particularly the sexual activities of hippies as the beginning of sexual degeneration infecting society at large. While it is true that sex among hippies was freer and more pervasive than among their young counterparts of the 1960s establishment, equally true is that it was not so much about reckless abandon and hedonism for its own sake, but rather about liberation from what was seen as dogmatic and repressive restrictions placed on perfectly natural functions.
Hippies have to this day suffered from the false accusation of being the genesis of the sexual revolution that occurred as a cultural historical event during the 1950s and 1960s. For those objectively in search of the facts that initiated the sexual revolution of that era, the place to begin is with the research into human sexuality by Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who published his pioneering work Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948, followed shortly thereafter in 1953 with the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. The effect that these scientific works had on the public and its attitudes about sex was dramatic, if not explosive. Both these works and the public’s reaction to them served to generate new fields of medical inquiry and related academic research into sexuality, and the momentum created by them is still evident.
Perhaps not so coincidentally, the same year in which Dr. Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Female was published, Hugh Hefner released the very first issue of Playboy magazine. Twelve years later, by 1965, when the hippie experience actually came into existence, the monthly circulation of Playboy was around three million copies. The Playboy corporation had grown into a sexual empire with clubs, resorts, movie studios, publishing house, and two syndicated television shows. Obviously, hippies had nothing to do with the dramatic growth of this phenomenon. Neither did hippies have anything to do with the start-up of Penthouse magazine in London in 1965 by Bob Guccione, who relocated his magazine to New York in 1969.
This culture of burgeoning sexuality and pornography was one into which most hippies were born, not one they created. In fact, hippies were the post-World War II baby boomers whose parents were the first participants in the sexual revolution largely begun by Alfred Kinsey his colleagues, and by Hugh Hefner and his competitors. This revolution was already under way when the hippie experience came on the scene. Some critics depict the hippie experience as being the originator of this unrestricted Bacchanalia. But such depictions of the hippie experience are historically inaccurate, and typically driven by pious zealotry with a particular agenda to indict something disliked, since that is easier than doing the more difficult intellectual lifting of ascertaining the true and often more complex causes of any cultural trend.
Ironically, the only aspect of sexuality hippies viewed as decadent was its overt commercialization by the corporate sex and advertising industries, which were in fact creatures of establishment institutions. Hippies, because of their atypical and iconoclastic lifestyles, were an easy target of these accusers who were quick to equate the hippie experience to what they viewed as the moral degeneration and cultural decadence of the time, especially as related to sexuality.
In the lyrics to “You Can’t Always Get What you Want,” Mick Jagger is said to have written of his former lover, Marianne Faithful, that she was “practiced at the art of deception.” No one is suggesting that the church’s report is per se deceptive. But it does, very subtly, attempt to deflect the responsibility and liability of the vast majority of priest child molesters (those who cannot be clinically diagnosed as pathological pedophiles) to the social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s, in which the hippie experience was center stage.
Wilson Quinn, brother of On Faith moderator Sally Quinn, is author of the upcoming “Articles of Aquarius” which traces a number of accepted beliefs and trends in today’s culture to their roots in the hippie experience. “