Ahead of the Story

Nobody likes reading about clerical sexual abuse. Yet for well over a decade now, in diocese after diocese, the actions of abusive priests and negligent diocesan officials have been brought to light—and appropriately so. Unfortunately, these revelations have come not from church leaders but from grand jury filings, government reports and press exposés. Almost without exception, the official response has lagged well behind reportage. Chanceries have reacted as though stunned by accusations that they have in some cases known about for decades, appearing combative and defensive while struggling to answer lurid allegations.

Recent weeks have proved no different, as the Irish church has been rocked yet again by a government report on clerical abuse. An investigation of the Diocese of Cloyne found that between 1996 and 2009—after national standards were set for dealing with abuse allegations—such reports were ignored, handled improperly or never reported to civil authorities. Fallout in Ireland, traditionally one of the world’s most Catholic countries, has been severe. In a rare public rebuke, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, chided his fellow bishops for withholding reports on sexual abuse of minors, telling them, “Hiding isn’t helping.” Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny, a Catholic, accused the Vatican of covering up the “rape and torture of children.” The Vatican recalled its ambassador, Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, to Rome for consultation and to assist in formulating the Vatican’s official response before moving to his next post in the Czech Republic.

The sexual abuse crisis has devastated many, beginning with individual victims and their families. The morale of laity and clergy alike has been severely undermined, as has the moral authority of many bishops. Impressions of coverups and malfeasance have tainted the highest levels of church governance, triggering frequent and justified calls for mass resignations of bishops and, more recently, indictments of chancery officials. Lagging behind the story has made matters worse, fueling the impression that the church is hiding something, shielding abusers to protect “the institution” instead of vulnerable children.

As Ireland smolders in the report’s wake, a hopeful yet far less noted development has emerged in Germany—a nation also weighed down by abuse allegations. Germany’s Catholic bishops have begun taking steps to rebuild the trust that has been lost in recent years. In July they voted unanimously to grant independent investigators access to their files on sexual abuse by clergy—some cases as far back as 1945. No doubt their findings will raise serious questions about how allegations were handled and will reveal systemic failures in protecting children. Though prior damage cannot be undone, the country’s bishops are acknowledging that they need outside help to combat this problem. In so doing, they are also being proactive, not reactive.

Bishops around the world should follow their example. If the church’s own claims about abuse are true—that it is damnable yet distressingly widespread, infecting families and schools as often as churches—then there are certainly allegations against priests and religious that have yet to come to light. To date, the crisis has hit hardest in North America and Western Europe. Far fewer allegations have surfaced in other regions, including Central and South America, India, Africa and Asia. But all of these have enormous Catholic populations, and it would be foolish to presume that these locales have been free of abuse and mishandled allegations. Indeed, this is one instance in which the catholicity of the church will likely prove a liability, not an asset.

Recent years have shown that as a topic in the news, sexual abuse by clerics is resilient. Once in the headlines, it remains there indefinitely. Unless the church begins to respond differently, as the German bishops are trying to do, sexual abuse will continue to be the main story about the Catholic Church for years, even decades, as accusations surface around the world.

Countless bishops, including Pope Benedict XVI, have spoken of the crisis as an opening for repentance, conversion and purification in the church. We continue to hope that it will be so and pray that the many victims of abuse will be healed in the same measure that they have been harmed. For this hope to be well founded, however, church leaders must stop playing defense around the issue of abuse. Rebuilding relationships of trust between the hierarchy and the faithful will take more than promises from church leaders that they are trustworthy. They must prove it. This will require resignations in cases of mendacity and negligence. In more cases, it will demand that bishops be the bearers of their own bad news about abuse. This will be an act of humility, even a painful one. But there is no alternative.

Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago

@ Everyone"

THE ALLEGATION THAT THE RATE OF ABUSE IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS IS 100 TIMES GREATER THAN WITH PRIESTS IS A MONTROUS LIE.



"According to a 2006 National Review Online opinion column republished by CBS News, Shakeshaft said that "... the physical sexual abuse of students in [public] schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by [Catholic] priests."[3] She estimated that about 290,000 students were victimized between 1991 and 2000.[4]"

THESE ARE ABSOLUTE NUMBERS. THERE ARE MORE PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS THAN CATHOLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS. A PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER IS NOT [NOT NOT NOT NOT] 100 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO ABUSE. THE RATE OF ABUSE IS NOT [NOT NOT NOT NOT] 100 TIMES GREATER THAN IN CATHOLIC SCHOOL.

BY USING ABSOLUTE NUMBERS, SHANKSHAFT IS SAYING THAT SEXUAL ABUSE OF MINORS IS A BIG PROBLEM EVERYWHERE, NOT JUST WITH PRIESTS.

MY HYPOTHESIS STILL STANDS. WHEN I CONTROL FOR TIME OF EXPOSURE TO A TEACHER OR PRIEST (AND CONTROL FOR OTHER VARIABLES) THE LIKELIHOOD OF ABUSE WILL BE GREATER WITH A PRIEST THAN A TEACHER. 

EVEN SHAKSHAFT'S ESTIMATES FOR COMPARISON ARE PROBLEMATICAL BECAUSE SHE IS USING NUMBERS SUPPLIED BY THE BISHOPS, WITH NO ESTIMATES OF UNREPORTED CASES.






"A 2004 editorial column in the Washington Post, noted the Educator Sexual Misconduct report was the first analysis of its kind. She studied nearly 900 documents to complete her analyzed research. Citing theTimes Picayune, however, the Post also noted that Shakeshaft's report had been criticized by two large teacher organizations, for not separating sexual harassment of students and actual molestation, lumping them both together, claiming that makes the problem seem worse than it is.[5] The editor added, "The fact that this report doesn't make those distinctions doesn't mean it isn't valid; it does mean that more research is needed. In fact, the report itself points out that there has been no nationally financed effort to collect data on sexual misconduct in schools."






"A 2002 New York Times report quoted Shakeshaft, "Only 1 percent of the cases did superintendents follow up to ensure that molesting teachers did not continue teaching elsewhere. In 54 percent, superintendents accepted the teachers' resignations or retirements. Of the 121 teachers removed this way, administrators knew for certain that 16 percent resumed teaching in other districts... Moving molesting teachers from school district to school district is a common phenomenon. And in only 1 percent of the cases do superintendents notify the new school district. The term “passing the trash” is the preferred jargon among educators"[6]






"A 2007 Washington Post report noted, "It's a dynamic so common it has its own nicknames: 'passing the trash' or the 'mobile molester.'" In addition, "Maine...has a law that keeps offending teachers' cases secret" and that "in Hawaii, no educators were disciplined by the state in the five years the AP examined, even though some teachers there were serving sentences for various sex crimes during that time. They technically remained teachers, even behind bars."[7] The report also said, "Laws in several states require that even an allegation of sexual misconduct be reported to the state departments that oversee teacher licenses. But there's no consistent enforcement, so such laws are easy to ignore. School officials fear public embarrassment as much as the perpetrators do, Shakeshaft says. They want to avoid the fallout from going up against a popular teacher. They also don't want to get sued by teachers or victims, and they don't want to face a challenge from a strong union.""

SOURCE IS WIKIPEDIA. 




C Walter Mattingly
5 years 7 months ago
Michael,
Thanks for the lead into the McElroy report. One of her seminal complaints against the USDept of Education report is Shakeshaft's definition of sexual abuse, which she quotes as follows: "Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature...so sever, persistent, or pervasive that it affects a student's ability to participate in or benefit from an educationl program or activity or creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment." McElroy considers Shakeshaft's definition to be inadequate and too vague. 
McElroy herself is an anarchist, feminist, and pro-pornography advocate. A review from critical inquiry titled Wendy McElroy, Pornography is Good, should give the reader a sense of her perspective on this and related issues. 
She also criticizes the limited studies and information available on the subject, including a critique of the AAUW report. Shakeshaft makes the same comment herself, noting that the studies of the subject are quite sparse considering the severity and scope of the problem. Given that, one can only wonder, and suspect, why the ensuing studies have not been done. It sounds familiar to me.
Norman, one point should be emphasized. The Shakeshaft report refers to public school employees generally, not teachers. It would include coaches, bus drivers, maintenance personnel, principals, and school counselors. Although teachers were the largest group, the others combined are larger than the teachers. 
Michael Barberi
5 years 7 months ago
Walter and Norman,

This blog has appropriately pointed to many larger issues related to the sexual abuse scandal. This scandal is just a symptom of the greater problem.

Certainly, the sexual abusers are to fairly judged and appropriately punished. However, IMO, it is the behavior of the hierarchy that must change. This behavior is directly related to the culture of the hierarchy. When you have a culture that will not admit to any wrong-doing, no error, no responsibility, but will justify any behavior, it is nothing more than a cancer that blinds you to the truth. This cancer manifests itself in various ways such as: pride, silence, inaction, exaggerated fear, insensitivity and rightious indignation. Any decision or teaching the defends Tradition and the Church against the possibility of error or scandal is justified and right. There is no middle ground. The world is divided between the culture of life and the culture of death, you are with me or against me, you are invincibly ignorant and I am the absolute moral truth, you are blinded by the secular age and I am enlightened by God.

We now have a Church divided. What we need is not an exodus from the Church, but for the faithful to work within the Church for reform in a spirit of kindness not anger, with respect not disparagement, with solutions not rhetoric.

Norman Costa
5 years 7 months ago
 
@ Neptune #9:

I am very sorry to hear about your abuse suffered so long ago. No one can say they know how you feel uness they suffered the same. I hope you have had, or will have, a chance to tell your story to the Church, the clergy, and the non-clergy faithful.  

I have learned from survivors that what they want from the Church is so easy to give. My father was abused by a priest in 1928. Before he died last year, two priests came to see him in a nursing home and did the following:

1. They acknowledged the abuse that happened to him.
2. They apologized for his suffering.
3. They told him it was not his fault. He was the child and the priest was the adult.
4. They prayed for my father.
5. They prayed with my father.
6. They came back another day and did it all over again.

I had to telling his story for him, as he was unable.

I don't know how you have suffered, but I know how my father has suffered - all his life. The enormous charity that the priests showed my father before he died, was healing not just for my father, but for my relationship with my father. 

I wish you peace and healing, and thank you for commenting in this forum. 

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