12 Things Every Catholic Should Know
About the U.S. Scandals
Editors, National Catholic Register
1. The crisis seems to be nearing its conclusion. The vast
majority of allegations are from the 1960-1985 period, and only six
cases of clerical sex abuse in 2009 have been reported.
2. There was no global cover-up. “Nobody, nowhere, no time, no
way, no how knew the extent, depth, or horror of this scourge, nor how
to adequately address it,” wrote New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan. No
one had the knowledge necessary to orchestrate anything on a global
scale. The crisis arises from individual cases, distant from each other
in time and place, which have hit the press simultaneously.
3. Going public seemed like the wrong thing to do. As Father
Dwight Longenecker has written, “What we now call ‘cover-up’ was often
done in a different cultural context, when the problem was not fully
understood and when all establishment organizations hushed scandals.
They did so for what seemed good reasons at the time: protection of the
victims and their families, opportunity for rehabilitation of the
offender, the avoidance of scandal to others. It is unfair to judge
events 30 years ago by today’s standards.”
4. Pope Benedict XVI is part of the solution, not the problem. He
orchestrated profound changes in Vatican policy in 2001 and supported
the U.S. bishops in their revamping of allegations handling in 2002.
5. “Nobody is doing more to address the tragedy of sexual abuse of
minors than the Catholic Church.” So says Paul McHugh of Johns
Hopkins University. The U.S. bishops’ conference reports that more than
5 million children have received safe-environment training and more than
2 million volunteers, employees and clerics have undergone background
6. Seminarians now undergo increasingly rigorous scrutiny. That
includes both intensive background screening and psychological testing,
according to the U.S. bishops’ conference.
7. Child sexual abuse is “profoundly prevalent” throughout society,
John Jay College of Criminal Justice researcher Margaret Leland Smith
told Newsweek on April 8. “The sexual abuse of boys is common,
underreported, underrecognized, and undertreated,” an American Medical
Association report has concluded.
8. Children are far safer with priests than with the average person.
According to Dr. Garth Rattray in The Gleaner (2002), “About 85% of
abusers are family members, babysitters, neighbors or friends.”
9. Adult-adolescent sexual encounters (ephebophilia) account for 90%
of all priest-minor interaction; encounters with children under 13
years old (pedophilia) account for only 10%. Of these, worldwide,
approximately 60% are homosexual encounters and 30% are heterosexual. In
the United States, 81% of victims are male, and 19% are female.
10. “Defrocking” isn’t always the solution. The press’ insistence
that offender priests should have been laicized earlier overlooks two
important facts: The normal first step, called “suspension,” which
bishops are instructed to take in these cases, removes a priest
temporarily or permanently from ministry so that he no longer will be a
danger to children. And once a priest is laicized, the Church can no
longer monitor his activities and restrict his access to children, so he
is at large in society.
11. The Church is taking care of victims. In 2009, the U.S.
bishops’ conference reported that $6.5 million was spent on therapy for
the victims of clergy sexual abuse.
12. The Church is “the holy people of God,” and yet her holiness is
imperfect. As the Catechism states, “The Church, clasping sinners to
her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows
constantly the path of penance and renewal. All members of the Church,
including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners. In
everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of
the Gospel until the end of time. Hence the Church gathers sinners
already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to
holiness” (No. 827).
This article appeared in the 25 April 2010
issue of the National Catholic Register.
http://www.ncregister.com/ It has been reprinted with permission.
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