Anger at the Church

From CNS:

Public anger at Catholic Church over abuse prevails despite changes

Advertisement

By Patricia Zapor Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- There is a distinctly different level of anger from the public directed toward the Catholic Church over the sexual abuse of minors than toward other organizations whose leaders commit similar crimes, noted two psychologists who work in the field. And though newly revealed cases of abuse in the United States are less common than a few years ago, news about cases elsewhere has sparked a resurgence of anger in the United States as well. "People are enraged by what they see as a coverup, by no high-ranking Catholic clergy being fired," said Thomas Plante, a professor of psychology and director of the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University in California.

Plante also is a member of the National Review Board for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, a lay advisory group on the handling of sexual abuse within the church. "Any violation of children is a terrible thing," he said, "but when it comes at the hands of those society puts on the highest pedestal, it's also a hypocrisy issue."

In 2002 amid dramatic reports from around the country of priests who sexually abused children and teens and were allowed to remain in ministries that kept them in proximity to minors, the bishops approved their "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." It spells out strict procedures for removing credibly accused abusers from ministry, for training children and all adults who work with them through the church to recognize and appropriately handle possible sexual abuse, and created diocesan and national mechanisms for monitoring compliance. Since then, dioceses and religious orders have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements with victims, and the systems created in 2002 have helped ensure that new allegations of abuse are handled differently than in previous generations.

But a wave of revelations of abuse by clergy in the past few months has refreshed public frustration in the United States, even though most of the newly revealed incidents of abuse occurred in other countries and many stories have focused on the role of the Vatican. Some of the recent cases in the United States involved foreign-born priests who have proved difficult to hold accountable because they returned to their home countries. Other reports in the news have focused on how the Vatican handled information about priests who were accused of abuse and the sometimes slow pace of efforts to laicize priests who were determined to have abused someone. Nevertheless, the level of anger at the church in the United States has been high.

Plante told Catholic News Service in a phone interview that there's a strain of anger at the institutional church that doesn't directly relate to sexual abuse itself and has no parallel in how the public has reacted to other institutions where abuse has occurred. "There are a lot of people who are very angry at the Catholic Church about all sorts of things, from the Crusades to how Galileo was treated, to the church's positions on sexual ethics, divorce and women priests," Plante said. "It's like a fire hose, all that gets funneled into the clergy abuse thing."

Msgr. Stephen Rossetti agrees that anti-institutional feelings are a factor behind the continuing anger at the church. Msgr. Rossetti is a clinical associate professor at The Catholic University of America and was president from 1996 to 2009 of St. Luke Institute, a treatment center in Maryland for priests and religious with addictions and psychological disorders.In the United States, at least, "they're focusing on the Catholic Church when it's only a part of a broader epidemic," he told CNS.

Scouts, schools, sports teams and other religious denominations all have had scandals as information is revealed about sexual abuse of minors by adults, but none has drawn the level of public furor that has been directed at the Catholic Church, both psychologists acknowledged.

Plante has written several pieces in the past few months on his blog on the Psychology Today website in which he clarified some of the popularly held beliefs about clergy sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. Among them:

-- Catholic clergy aren't more likely to abuse children than other clergy or men in general, based upon a 2004 report conducted for the USCCB by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and other studies.

-- Clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church can't be blamed on celibacy, a male clergy or homosexuality. He noted that Catholic clergy are no more likely to be sex offenders than other clergy or men in general, so there is no correlation to celibacy or a male-only clergy.

-- Almost all clergy sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church date back decades, before the current screening and training processes for clergy were in place.

"It fits into the Dan Brown story," Plante said, referring to the novelist whose book, "The DaVinci Code," laid out a fictional but massive conspiracy theory involving the church, which has caught on with some people's imaginations about the real church. "People don't realize that 96 percent of all priests have hurt no one."

Msgr. Rossetti said that since statistically speaking most sexual abuse takes place within the family, "it's shortsighted" that the news media and society in general focus primarily on the Catholic Church "but ignore the issue in the rest of society. ... We have not dealt with this problem throughout society." He said that although they've done much right in addressing the problem in the United States, leaders of the Catholic Church could be better at handling the ongoing frustration with the church. "What the American bishops have done is excellent," he said. "The Dallas charter is comprehensive. One of the most important things it does is focus on prevention."

But it is a mistake to think that meeting once with hurting victims of abuse is adequate, according to Msgr. Rossetti. Not every victim wants repeat contact with someone representing the church, but for those who do, the chance to speak out and be heard is invaluable, he said. "One apology is not enough," he said. "We've got to do it again and again and again. It's a long-standing hurt, which takes a long-standing healing process."  --CNS

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
David Pasinski
8 years ago
I believe that this is a fair and accurate summary. I know how these new revelatons have triggered feelings on so many aspects of hierarchiccal heavy-handedness and hypocrisy that re-alienate "recovering Catholics." Yet... because there is no institution parallel to the structure of the Catholic church with the juxtaposition of canon law, mixed regard for national laws and international centralizationa, and confused subsidiarity, it doesn't take a match to start a fire. Add in the the feelings generated by Benedict's delight in medieval pontifical garb, Latin liturgies, and a geneal sense of turning back the energies of renewal and these feelings are not unwarranted.  Thus, while the anger the sexual and- more - the accountability scandal is only the top of the iceberg that granted that the Vatican and episcopacy may be slowly getting, there is no significant address of the issues below water line. And that is what sank the Titanic.
Carolyn Disco
8 years ago
This so-called analysis by Plante and Rossetti is drivel, a buy-in to the deflection so ably demonstrated by the bishops.
 
Instead here is Donald Cozzens, the most astute observer anywhere, in an interview published yesterday:
 
''I think it's unfair to accuse people who would like to have the present system examined more honestly of having a ''secret agenda.'' I hear this from conservatives regularly. That when people talk about systemic review and possible structural changes in the priesthood, they're simply out to foist upon the church their liberal agenda-married clergy, ordination of women, greater roles for the laity in church leadership. I think that charge is disingenuous.''

The source of my anger, at least, and it has been sulphurous at times, is the inability of bishops to tell the plain simple truth about their culpability for criminally endangering children, perjury (see NH AG investigation), and obstruction of justice. I have a pretty solid list of lies by bishops, and the spin is just unrelenting.
 
It's the clerical system, stupid. And also the type of personality that says, ''the system made me do it.''
 
Cozzens again: 
''I see what's happening today as a manifestation of an unraveling of the clerical culture. By clerical culture I refer to a system of privilege and deference, exemption, status, and especially secrecy that seems to be part and parcel of the celibate priesthood.''

Lastly, Irish theologian Rev. Vincent Twomey nails it here:
“But the real cause – and it is frightening – is the lack of expected emotional response to reports about the abuse of children. Nowhere, as far as I can see, was there any expression of horror or outrage by those who were told. Horror and outrage are the natural passions of the good person which God gave us to ensure that we get up and do something in the face of injustice done to others.”
John Siegmund
8 years ago
Good article.  Purge the Church of homosexual deviants and this will do a lot to stop any further abuse.  The public's opinion is meaningless, because they are hypocrites who whine about the Church and do little or nothing about abuse in Public Schools.
Carolyn Disco
8 years ago
Here is the full interview with Cozzens:
http://www.uscatholic.org/church/2010/05/how-build-healthier-church-interview-donald-b-cozzens
8 years ago
I am afraid Fr. Martin may not realize that there is a difference between anger of the secular media (esp at the HuffPost or Newsweek or the Times) and anger with American Catholics.
 
There is a new poll out via the NYtimes that puts Benedict's approval at 43 percent - up from 27 percent in March.  (higher than President Obama!)
 
While there is anger at the mess that happened, let us not confuse the average Catholic for a poster or columnist on Huffington Post.
 
The anger of Catholics also has roots in Christian charity and reform - the anger of Fr. Martin's secular media cohorts has no such thing and has an ideological agenda that directly opposes the most basic teachings of the Church...
8 years ago
What ever happened to posting with a full name on here.
 
Also, thanks to your staff's great idea to post all e-mail addresses for posters I am now getting spammed in my personal email account by Sister Maureen Turlish - thanks a bunch...
Stace Newton
8 years ago
I am very disppointed that Fr. Jim is willing to use misleading data in order to defend the church.  Yes, Catholic clergy have not been more likely to molest children than other members of society.  What he and Plante do not mention is that abusers in the church are  many times more likely than those in other institutions to have many victims over a long period of time.  In most cases, abusers have simply been moved to another community where the church allowed them to rape more children. So, although technically there are not more priestly abusers, abusive priests have in fact been guilty of more abuse than any other group.  It is thus dishonest to suggest that it somehow exonerates the church that priests are not more likely to be abusers.  The significant issue is that when the church knew they were abusing children, it, unlike any other organization, had policies that put the rights of rapists above those of their victims and did little or nothing to prevent thousands of children from being raped.  That's uniquely Catholic, and it is Jesuitical in the worst sense to use misleading statistics to imply otherwise.
8 years ago
"abusive priests have in fact been guilty of more abuse than any other group."
 
Since you are so concerned about statistics, an you provide stats to back this up?  Of course not, because it is not true.  Also, abuse does not directly equal rape - so watch your use of this hyperbolic language.
 
Finally, there were mistakes by bishops that cannot be excused; however, in the 60's and 70's they were often listening to professional therapists with regards to accepted "treatment" of pedophilia at the time when therapy and changes in environment were thought to be a possible cure.
 
To say that a small percentage of abusive priests are more abusive than abusive teachers, other clergy, doctors or family members is ridiculous and ignores the basic facts of human nature and sin.
jane prouty
8 years ago
I will have to add my amens to the posts by Brett Joyce
8 years ago
I agree with Carolyn.  
 
<I>Almost all clergy sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church date back decades, before the current screening and training processes for clergy were in place.</I>
 
I haven't taken the time to look them up but there have been recent cases.  Yes, most abuse happened in the past, but most of the bishops who covered up the abuse are currently untouched, and the covering up by the Vatican seems to be ongoing.
Jim McCrea
8 years ago
Even if Catholic priests are no more guilty (as a percentage of their cohort) of child abuse than other groups, the fact remains that they are Catholic priests!!!  If we cannot expect a different level and kind of behavior from these men who have allegedly made a committment to God that puts them in a position unique from Boy Scout leaders, public school leaders, etc. then they do not deserve treatment any different from any other child abuser.
 
Canon law should not come into play with dealing with activities that are secular crimes.  Being a priest is no excuse to say, "but we need to treat these guys differently because they are, you know, priests!"
 
If and when criminal guilt has been established, defrock/laicize/whatever the SOBs and move one.  The extent of the number of crimes is irrelevant.  "But, gee, your honor, I only raped a woman once and that was a long time ago.  I am a changed man now!"  Crapola.
Michael Barberi
8 years ago
The anger towards the Catholic Church today is more than an issue of Sexual Abuse of Minors.  Most Catholics have been frustrated with the Church over many things especially its secret and dogmatic heirarchical style.  For more than 50 years Catholics have been questioning, with good reason, many of the Church's positions.  Many Catholics have called for reform and intelligent debate for years.  Humanae Vitae, Women's Role in the Church  Papal Infallibility, the Peptual Virginity of Mary, the Role of Lay People in the Church, the Role and Salvation of Gay People, the Liturgy, list goes on.  These issues speak to a larger, broader issue. 
How many people recognize the message of the Holy Spirit in weekly sermons?  Many Catholics believe the Church Heirarchy has replaced the Holy Spirit.  Would it surprise anyone that most Mass attendees feel guilty after listenting to the message and style of delivery of the liturgy?  No one denies that most Catholics feel that way.  This does not mean that every sumon has a guilt-ridden message.  However, no one denies that this theme is always in the background.  How many people feel that their concerns are being heard and acted upon by the Church?  No one is surprised that the answer is very few. 
It is not one issue, but the conglomeration of many.  Certainly, tackling the sexual abuse issue is priorty one for the Church.  However, let us not fool ourselves about the larger issue.  It took a world-wide crisis such as Sexual Abuse to trigger the voices and frustrations of the faithful.  The only ones that are surprised over this manifestation is the Chruch Heirarchy. 
Molly Roach
8 years ago
The anger at the leadership in the church is about much more than "hypocrisy."  Aiding and abetting offenders who have sexually molested children is criminal behavior.  Sixty percent of the US hierarchy was involved in this.  The clerics around them knew what the deal was.  They make lame excuses for themselves about "not knowing" the effect of abuse on children, "not knowing" that perpetrators would reoffend.   The leadership has failed and the cost of that failure is being lived by survivors.  The actions of these men on behalf of perpetrators is simply indefensible.  They were saving their own sorry skins and it has nothing to do with God.  The people who defend them are either being manipulated or are as cynical as they are.   There is not middle ground here.
Brendan McGrath
8 years ago
Some people posting here seem to be directing at Fr. Martin their anger/disconcent/annoyance/etc. at this article - it's important to keep in mind that Fr. Martin is merely posting a story from CNS.  Certainly the act of "quoting" it wholesale like this implies some agreement with its contents, but it's a mistake to act as if "Fr. Martin said it."
 
A few other notes:  Stace, you wrote, "I am very disppointed that Fr. Jim is willing to use misleading data in order to defend the church." - Again, it's not really Fr. Jim saying it.  But even to the extent that he agrees with the article, nowhere is he "defending" the Church in a way that condones or ignores the horror of sexual abuse or its cover-up.  It may be, as you say (though naturally we'd need data to confirm it), that abusers in the Church are more likely to have had many victims over a long period of time - but that does not cancel out or negate the legitmate point that a given priest is not more likely to be an abuser than someone from the general population, etc. 
You go on to say, "It is thus dishonest to suggest that it somehow exonerates the church that priests are not more likely to be abusers." - Where does the article say or suggest that?  Does the article anywhere say that this exonerates the Church (in its human institutional aspect) from the crimes of sexual abuse and its cover-up?  T
You go on to say that the Church, "unlike any other organization, had policies that put the rights of rapists above those of their victims and did little or nothing to prevent thousands of children from being raped.  That's uniquely Catholic..."  Certainly you're right that the Church had such de facto policies, which is despicable, etc., regardless of whether or not individual bishops followed such a course of action out of stupidity, denial, naivete, deliberate cruelty, or whatever.  However, I think your statement might not be correct if by "policy" you mean an unwritten or written plan that was consciously put in place, etc.  It seems more like it was a matter of a culture of secrecy, clericalism, etc. (though possibly mixed in with just blindness). 
 
More importantly: you said that the Church is "unlike any other organization" in the way it covered up abuse, etc.  Is that really true?  Of course, even if other organizations also covered it up, that doesn't make it any less wrong on the part of the Church - but I wonder if cover-ups might be more a part of society than we might realize.  People keep saying "the public schools are worse"; I wonder if that's true.  Is it possible that public schools or - to use language analogous to Catholic-phobic language - "the public schools," "the public school hierarchy," "the government," etc. have been covering up sex abuse too and moving teachers around?  Some say they have, but who knows.
 
 
, and it is Jesuitical in the worst sense to use misleading statistics to imply otherwise.
William Lindsey
8 years ago
Re: almost all cases of clerical abuse dating back decades, friends in Charlotte, NC, tell me that the headline news today in their local paper, the Charlotte Observer, is that the Charlotte diocese has just settled a case of abuse for $1 million.
The case involves a man molested as a minor in Charlotte in 1999.  He came forward with his abuse story in 2007.  His abuser, Fr. Robert Yurgel, was arrested in 2008 while working as a chaplain in Passaic, NJ.  The Charlotte diocese stated when Yurgel was arrested in 2008 that this was the first inkling the diocese had of his history of abuse.
In Feb. 2004, the Charlotte diocese removed Fr. Gregory Littleton from ministry in a Charlotte Catholic church, shortly before the audit of that year was to make his name as a credibly accused abuser public.  Bishop Bootkoski of Metuchen, NJ, had released Fr. Littleton's name to the audit committee right before the Charlotte diocese removed him from ministry. 
As he did this, Bishop Bootkoski also stated that he had informed the Charlotte diocese in October 2002 of credible allegations against Littleton.  Three days after removing Fr. Littleton from ministry, the Charlotte diocese said it had made a "mistake" in not realizing Littleton should be removed from ministry sooner.
The abuse allegations against Fr. Littleton date from 1993 in NJ.  He was sent to Charlotte diocese in 1997 after having been removed from clerical duties in NJ and sent for therapy.
On 7 Feb. 2005, Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina representative who grew up in the Charlotte diocese and graduated from Belmont Abbey College in that diocese, informed Time magazine that "We adhere to a truer and purer view of Catholicism" in the diocese of Charlotte.
Brendan McGrath
8 years ago
Michael Barberi - You mentioned the perpetual virginity of Mary as a problematic doctrine.  Certainly I've heard this criticism before and understand it, but I think it is possible to retrieve that doctrine and understand it in various positive ways that can actually resist patriarchy and oppression.  Also, apart from that - not that this is really an argument, but have you ever wondered, "What if the doctrine just happens to be true?"  I.e., what if Mary really was perpetually a virgin, complete with the whole lack of rupture to the hymen, etc., whether we like it or not?  Even if we don't like what it might seem to imply or the baggage it might have, what if it's just an "inconvenient truth"?  Again, obviously that's not an argument, and you could say that about anything, but I think it's helpful to ask ourselves questions like that every now and then.  Just because it's problematic doesn't mean it isn't true.  Moreover, if I'm not mistaken (and I could be), the perpetual virginity is an infallible doctrine (a dogma), unlike the teachings on contraception, women's ordination, homosexual activity, etc. (though naturally some would try to have creeping infallibility cover those teachings too).  Of course, you've mentioned papal infallibility (and perhaps ecclesial infallibility in general) as another problematic doctrine, though again, I might ask, what if it's true?  (Rahner supported it, by the way.)
 
You also wrote:  "Would it surprise anyone that most Mass attendees feel guilty after listenting to the message and style of delivery of the liturgy?  No one denies that most Catholics feel that way." - Geez, what sort of homilies are YOU hearing?  I'm in the Philly archdiocese, which has the reputation of being very conservative,and I don't think the homilies are guilt-ridden in the sense you're talking about at all.  (If it's relevant at all, by the way, I'm experiencing these homilies as someone who's 27.)  I think I have only once in my life, for example, heard a homily (other than on EWTN) that referenced the Church's teaching on contraception.  On the other hand - shouldn't homilies inspire guilt to some extent, in the sense that homilies should "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable"?  Shouldn't we feel guilty or have an awareness of sins such as racism, sexism, homophobia, economic injustice, capital punishment, etc., sins for which we all bear some responsibility?
 
Having said all this, naturally I want reform just as much as you do, and like you, I am frustrated that the hierarchy just hasn't listened, "gotten it," etc.  There need to be many more resignations (abdications?) among the bishops, starting with Cardinal Law (as Peggy Noonan said, he should be "neither mitred, nor ringed"), and there needs to be more accountability to lay people, more lay influence on administrative decisions (i.e., "no, you're not going to close that school; you're going to sell your mansion first") - and to "ordinary" priests and nuns, whom we often tend to forget are usually just as frustrated as lay people.
Stace Newton
8 years ago
I apologize for misidentifying Fr. Martin as the author of this article.  I am still disappointed that he would post something so fundamentally dishonest.  I think the evidence is very clear that no other institution has allowed abusers to offend over and over at the rate the church has.  Please direct me to any other organization where it can be credibly proved that moving an abuser into a situation where he can rape again and swearing his victims into silence has happened more once or twice.  Now look at the dozens of times it can be proven that the church did that.  It was international policy in the Catholic Church- the only legitimate point of disagreement can be to what extent that policy was official.  You will not find any public school system where abusers were discovered and treated as they were by the church.  Try.  Yes, public school teachers are equally likely to abuse, but people in other schools turn abusers over to the police.  They do not send them to other countries to rape more kids. 
And legally speaking, all sex between adults and people under the age of consent is statutory rape.  Morally, too. 
Nor is Brett correct when he blames the failure of the church to deal with pedophiles on therapists.  In every case I am aware of, relevant information about the extent of the abuse was kept from therapists, and therapists were ignored when they did not tell bishops that abusive priests shopuld be reassigned.  If you can find a case in which a therapist with full knowledge gave the church bad advice, please post the details.  Otherwise, please stop spreading the lie that the church relied on- rather than lying to and ignoring- therapists when they reassigned rapists
 
Rosemary McHugh
8 years ago
As a physician, I find it hard to believe that our Church leaders would put protecting the reputation of "Holy Mother Church" and presumably their own jobs, as more important than protecting the innocence of children.  And yet, this is what seems to have happened again and again.
Vatican II acknowledged that all of the faithful belong to the priesthood of Christ. We lay people must use our voices for change.  How is it that the penalty by the hierarchy for priest abusers is for the abuser to become a lay person instead of being sent to jail?  
I think there is great need in our Church to have a Council every 5 years as was decided by the Council of Constance many years ago.  I think we have to get out of Rome and away from its wealth and power and control.  We must get back to our roots and focus on Jesus and less on "Holy Mother Church".
Holding Councils every 5 years in Galilee where all the faithful are able to attend will help to break down the top-down structure of Rome that is blocking the freedom of the Holy Spirit to transform our Church to become a Church that Jesus would be proud of.  A Church that is receptive to the voice of everyone and not just the voices of celibate men from the Vatican in Rome.
Sincerely,  Rosemary Eileen McHugh, M.D.
 
Brendan McGrath
8 years ago
Stace - You wrote, "Please direct me to any other organization where it can be credibly proved that moving an abuser into a situation where he can rape again and swearing his victims into silence has happened more once or twice. ... You will not find any public school system where abusers were discovered and treated as they were by the church.  Try.  Yes, public school teachers are equally likely to abuse, but people in other schools turn abusers over to the police.  They do not send them to other countries to rape more kids."
 
First, about the "swearing into silence" thing - I've heard that things like that have happened in the Church where there were settlements, etc.  That in particular is despicable.  On a related note, though, it's sad but intruiguing that seemingly, in all the cases of clerical rape/sex abuse (except those that came out in the '80s and later, I suppose, before the big break in 2002), the parents never went to the police: unless they did go to the police, but the police covered it up as well.  I think I read that one case that Levada was connected to in some way involved a family where the parents themselves, when dealing with a previous archbishop, had not wanted to go to the police.  It's tragic, that the great trust people placed in the Church, a trust evidently greater than that that they placed in police, was not confirmed and lived-up-to by the hierarchy.  It does puzzle me, though: why didn't more parents, prior to 2002, report the abuse to the police?  I mean, to what extent did parents in effect "cover it up" too?  Though naturally parents in such a situation are in a different position and mindset.
 
On another note: with regard to a cover-up in public schools, the idea is often bandied about, and perhaps claims of such cover-up are inflated by people who try to say it's worse in the public schools, etc.  But you asked for more information (or at least allegations) on this topic, so, here's a link to an AP article in the Washington Post from October 21, 2007:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/21/AR2007102100144.html
 
As you'll see in the article, there doesn't seem to have been the SAME sort of cover-up - there can't be, if "the seven-month investigation found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned from 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct" - i.e., it wasn't covered up(or maybe it was in some cases, with teachers just losing their license).  But neither are the public schools as spotless as your remarks would make it seem:
 
"The AP investigation found efforts to stop individual offenders but, overall, a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse. It starts in school hallways, where fellow teachers look away or feel powerless to help. School administrators make behind-the-scenes deals to avoid lawsuits and other trouble. And in state capitals and Congress, lawmakers shy from tough state punishments or any cohesive national policy for fear of disparaging a vital profession.  That only enables rogue teachers, and puts kids who aren't likely to be believed in a tough spot.  In case after case the AP examined, accusations of inappropriate behavior were dismissed. One girl in Mansfield, Ohio, complained about a sexual assault by teacher Donald Coots and got expelled. It was only when a second girl, years later, brought a similar complaint against the same teacher that he was punished.  And that second girl also was ostracized by the school community and ultimately left town.  Unless there's a videotape of a teacher involved with a child, everyone wants to believe the authority figure, says Wayne Promisel, a retired Virginia detective who has investigated many sex abuse cases. ... Teachers, administrators and even parents frequently don't, or won't, recognize the signs that a crime is taking place."
 
Some other exceprts from the article:
 
"There are 3 million public school teachers nationwide, most devoted to their work. Yet the number of abusive educators _ nearly three for every school day _ speaks to a much larger problem in a system that is stacked against victims.  Most of the abuse never gets reported. Those cases reported often end with no action. Cases investigated sometimes can't be proven, and many abusers have several victims.  And no one _ not the schools, not the courts, not the state or federal governments _ has found a surefire way to keep molesting teachers out of classrooms."
 
"Beyond the horror of individual crimes, the larger shame is that the institutions that govern education have only sporadically addressed a problem that's been apparent for years."
 
"'You're supposed to be able to send your kids to school knowing that they're going to be safe,' says Bramow, now 20. While other victims accepted settlement deals and signed confidentiality agreements, she sued her city's schools for failing to protect her and others from Lindsey _ and won. Only then was Lindsey's teaching license finally revoked."
 
"...That past, according to evidence presented in the Bramow's civil case, included accusations from students and parents along with reprimands from principals that were filed away, explained away and ultimately ignored until 1995, when accusations from Bramow and two other girls forced his early retirement. Even then, he kept his teaching license until the Bramows took the case public and filed a complaint with the state."
 
"Too often, problem teachers are allowed to leave quietly. That can mean future abuse for another student and another school district. 'They might deal with it internally, suspending the person or having the person move on. So their license is never investigated,' says Charol Shakeshaft, a leading expert in teacher sex abuse who heads the educational leadership department at Virginia Commonwealth University.  It's a dynamic so common it has its own nicknames _ 'passing the trash' or the 'mobile molester.'  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."
 
Etc., etc., etc.
Brendan McGrath
8 years ago
Dr. Rosemary - You seemed to speak somewhat derisively of the term "Holy Mother Church."  Certainly the term has connotations of authoritarianism or a blindness to institutional faults, but is there a way we can do a retrieval of the term?  Is the problem really the term, or rather the fact that the term is not used in all the places it should be?  Suppose we were to see the term used in connection with Catholic social teaching: e.g., "Holy Mother Church in her prophetic solicitude beseeches her children to stand in radical solidarity with the poor and oppressed, to fight social injustice," etc.  Or: "Prelates like Cardinal Law have betrayed Holy Mother Church and her children, and should submit to her just sanctions," etc.  Or: "Holy Mother Church cries in horror and outrage at state-killings on death row, and exhorts her children to ensure justice and fairness for immigrants."
 
You also said we need to focus more on Jesus and less on "Holy Mother Church."  I would agree, but it would depend on the sense in which you're using the term "Holy Mother Church" here.  We need to focus less on "Holy Mother Church" if "Holy Mother Church" means clerical ambition, greed which leads to closing schools rather than selling cardinals' mansions, etc., etc.  But if "Holy Mother Church" means the Mystical Body of Christ, Bride of Christ, or the the seed of the Kingdom of God, then no, we don't need to focus less on that - Jesus needs to be the center, obviously, but it's not an either/or, since the "Holy Mother Church" in the positive sense is Jesus's Mystical Body; the Church (sacraments, service to the poor and oppressed, faith, hope, love, etc.) is the way we enter into communion with Christ and are drawn into the life of the triune God. 
 
To put it another way, the problem is not that the bishops were focused on Holy Mother Church - rather, the problem is that they were NOT focused ENOUGH on Holy Mother Church: or rather, they were focused only on the part of Holy Mother Church constituted by themselves as individuals.  To push this a bit further: they were focused not on protecting the priesthood and episcopacy which Christ founded (began, poured out; not "founded" in the way the Founding Fathers founded America); they were focused on protecting THEMSELVES - for truly protecting the Church, the prietshood, the episcopacy, etc. would have meant turning the abusers in, etc.
 
Lastly, you speak derisively of "celibate men" in Rome.  It occurred to me recently, why do people only seem to get squeamish about male celibacy?  Nobody seems to object to female celibacy.  In addition, I think we need to be wary of a "lay-centrism" that posits sexual activity as the "norm" which all persons must follow.  Just to add some perspective, think of all the injustice and political scandals caused by married people or lay people in general throughout history.  Imagine if all the criminal and unjust behavior we see reported in the newspapers identified all such people as "lay people" or "sexually active" people.
Stace Newton
8 years ago
Brendan,
Parents were intimidated into silence or bought off.  Often, their piety was used to keep them quiet. 
 
I appreciate the work you did in finding and excerpting the Washington Post article. It really does make the case that public schools have often acted terribly.   I think it is an especially astute criticism of what I wrote to  to point out that public school teachers suspected of abuse are often let go quietly without the work that should be done to keep them out of other classrooms.  However, this is not the same to me as actually reassigning a child abuser to another parish after therapy.  Public schools are guilty of negligence.  Bishops moved priests that raped children to other places, often without clear (or enforced) guidelines that these men must never be allowed to work with children again.  Rather than just allowing teachers to go free where they might abuse again, the church actually assigned them to places where they had new access to victims.  And where they did continue to rape. 
 
And that did not happen because bishops were failing to follow policy or canon law.  That was international policy until 2001.  That it is not the church's policy anymore is due more to Pope Benedict than to any other person.  Now he has begun the hard work of removing the bishops who have failed their flocks. I hope some cardinals will also be urged to into silent retirement soon.  I think there would be no more talk of arresting the Pope if Bernard Law were extradicted.
Brian Norkett
8 years ago
If it were not clear before it is becoming more evident by the day that the sex abuse crisis is not really about sex abuse. 
 
It is about hard Leftists in the church who still call themselves Catholics looking for an angle to damage the hierarchy in order to force through left wing changes that they are agitating for and which are already responsible for killing mainline Protestantism. And these 20, 30 and 40 year old lurid stories of abuse make the perfect angle.
If you want a balanced view of this problem-ie. not told by Carolyn Disco-go here:
 
http://www.mercatornet.com/justb16/
 
 
 
 
Mary Kennedy
8 years ago
''Practicing Catholics Unfazed by Abuse Scandals''  That's your idea of a ''balanced'' view.  Sorry, Larse, no Catholic should be ''unfazed'' by this. 
I, for one, am not interested in belonging to a Church whose objective is to build a bridge to the tenth century.  I want to belong to one that is, dare I say it, Christian. 
''38 John said Jesus, ''Teacher, we saw someone using your name to throw devils out of people. Since he wasn't one of us, we tried to stop him!'' 39 ''Don't stop him!'' Jesus replied. ''There is no one who will use my name to do powerful things one minute and speak evil about me the next. 40 Whoever does not make himself my enemy is my friend. 41 Whoever gives you a drink of water from a cup because you follow the Christ will be paid back. I guarantee it!
42 But, the person who scandalizes even the smallest that trust me would be better off if he had a large stone placed around his neck and thrown into the sea before he caused the scandal. 43 If your hand causes you scandal, cut if off! You'd be better off if you entered eternal life without a hand than have two hands and suffer in hell, where the fire never ends. 45 If your foot scandalizes you, cut it off! You'd be better off if you entered eternal life with one foot than have two feet and be thrown into hell. 47 If you eye causes you scandal, cut it out! You'd be better off if you entered God's Kingdom without an eye than have both eyes and be thrown into hell. 48 There 'the worm does not die and the fire does not go out!'''
The scandal here is not caused by those who observe and say what they have seen, but by those who participated, either by acts of abuse, by wilful acts of coverup, or by excuse-making.
 
 
William Lindsey
8 years ago
Larse, you say, "And these 20, 30 and 40 year old lurid stories of abuse make the perfect angle."
 
But the headline story from the Charlotte diocese about which I posted earlier in the thread-a headline story that appeared in the Charlotte paper just yesterday-is about abuse that occurred in 1993.
 
And a priest who continued in ministry up to 2008.
 
This is the latest breaking story in the U.S., to my knowledge.
 
This abuse did not occur 20, 30, and 40 years ago.
Brendan McGrath
8 years ago
Larse - It is certainly true that for many, the sex abuse crisis is about MORE than the sex abuse, and involves the issues you mentioned, but I think it would be a mistake to think that those you've described as "Leftists" (I would be a left-leaning traditionalist, or a traditional leftist, perhaps) aren't also truly concerned about sex abuse and its cover-up.  Also, it saddens me to hear you speak of "Leftists" as people "who still call themselves Catholics," as if they weren't really Catholics.  You may disagree with them (I'm sure I'd have disagreements with various "leftists" as well, just as I have disagreements with "conservatives"), but I think we should never say anything that would encourage anyone to leave or disidentify (is that a word?) with the Church.  It seems as if you tend to be more traditional or "conservative," so I'm sure you'd agree that it is an ecclesio-cosmic tragedy whenever anyone leaves the Church (even if they still are in a state of grace, connected mysteriously to the Church as Mystical Body, etc., etc.).  Isn't it always better for someone to stay in the Church, and be close to the sacraments, etc.? 
 
Mary K -  It's true that Catholics shouldn't be "unfazed" by the abuse scandals in the sense of being apathetic and not demanding reform, but I would say that we should certainly be "unfazed" in the sense that nothing should cause us to leave the Church.  I am not a Donatist: I believe that sin on the part of popes, bishops, and priests is not an obstacle to the flow of grace in the sacraments and in the Church's teaching authority.  It's not who's holding the monstrance; it's Who's IN the monstrance.  The Church is a lifeboat - over the centuries, the service in the lifeboat has been horrible, but if one truly believes in the Catholic view of what the Church is, it makes no sense to jump overboard into shark-infested waters (even if invincible ignorance, baptism of desire/anonymous Christianity, etc., etc. will protect you) - though of course, not everyone accepts Catholic ecclesiology.  But anyway, my point is that for me at least, my reason for being in the Church is not that I feel its leaders are holy, or that the community is good, or that the Church does great work, etc., etc. (though all of that should be true, and often/usually is true).  My reason for being in the Church is that I believe it was begun in some mysterious way by Christ, that God wills us to be in the Church (though of course it is possible for all to be saved through some mysterious connection to it, etc.), that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Church, which is at the center of a wider, cosmic transformation (a la Teilhard), etc.
 
(There's probably other stuff that's been posted that I'd like to respond to, and I will, but I have to go now.)
Carolyn Disco
8 years ago
David Smith:
I prefer Jesus' response who said better that a millstone be thrown around the neck of anyone who abuses one of his little ones. That's outrage to me, and a far better response than the cool Cardinal George who had no sense of urgency and left abusers in ministry for years while he fiddled with God knows what rationales. Or the bishop who told a victim he would look for his abuser after he got back from vacation in a few weeks.
Rev. Twomey is a former student of B16, and eminent moral theologian in Ireland. I appreciate his outlook far more than yours.
See also the powerful statement of Wilton Gregory's vice chancellor whom Gregory credited with awakening him to the responses of parents. Priests and bishops’ sense of remove, lack of emotional response, and callous, criminal indifference to the dangers priests posed to children is a key part of their grotesque reaction to sexual molestation.
http://www.stlbeacon.org/spotanskiletter.pdf
“I have agonized over a way to help you comprehend the rage these atrocities have inspired in so many Catholic parents, including a graphic account of what’s alleged to have happened to some of the young people who have had the misfortune of meeting up with Law’s Geoghan and those like him.
But then I realized that without being able to imagine the teary-eyed, terrified, confused, misled, trusting, submissive face of your own cherished child in that rectory, automobile, or bedroom, you could no more grasp my anger at having three children who might be harmed by a repeatedly relocated alleged minister of the Gospel than I can understand the excruciating pain of those parents whose children actually have been.
And how dare any of us try to fully appreciate the lifelong  emotional and physical agony of those of any age whom, when they were young, actually felt the pasty, horrible flesh of one of those wretched sons-of-bitches next to theirs!”
Carolyn Disco
8 years ago
And while we're at it, with the responses of clergy, here is a disgusting display of the  nuncio Pietro Sambi, the smooth Washington operator's real views. Bet he did not realize the Polish survivor who for years has stood outside the Vatican embassy (nunciature) knows Italian:
http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/05/07/archbishop-sambis-bizarre-war-of-words-with-sex-abuse-protester/
 
''You are a loser. You are a loser with a camera. You are a total loser.'' (Sei un fallito. Sei un fallito come fotografo. Sei un fallito totale) March 19, 2010
''I do not speak with crazies'' (No parlo con i pazzi, in response to Wojnowski's request in Italian for a brief chat with the Nuncio) May 3, 2009
''Imbecile. Cretin. I am ashamed of you, a gift to the enemies of the Church.'' (Deficiente cretino per mi vergogno di te, un dono hai nemici de la chiessa) March 21, 2009
''Cretin'' (Cretino) Feb. 18, 2009
''Tool. Paid idiot.'' (Strumentallizzato. Idiota pagato.) Jan. 19, 2009
''Idiot'' (Idiota) Jan. 10, 2009
''I am ashamed of you. You are a pig'' (Mi vergogno di te. Sei un porco, Sambi's answer to Wojnowski's question: Excellency, are you ashamed to dress as a priest?) Dec. 28, 2008
Mary Kennedy
8 years ago
Keep it classy, Pietro.
Claire Mathieu
8 years ago
Count me among the ones who are outraged. Of course I am more outraged when abuse comes from within the Catholic Church: that's because I am Catholic and because I had some trust that although our leaders had some views differing from mine, they were men of integrity and goodwill. It is not good enough for me that my pastors are "not more likely than ordinary men" to abuse children. It is not good enough that it "dates back decades": the question is, how can it have happened? The Dallas charter only addressed the symptoms, not the cause. Of course I am angry. How come our leaders covered up crimes against children? What is this cacophony coming from the Vatican? Of course I am frustrated. Lay people have close to no power in the structure of the Church, and at a time such as now when our leaders are failing us, this lack of power is being felt acutely. 
It is not a question of anti-Catholicism: sure, people who don't like Catholics are having a field day, but  in fact   Catholics are angrier, because we are the ones who have been betrayed. Priests are probably even angrier. What happened to our Church? How did it go so wrong? We need those questions addressed honestly.
God help us.
 
 
 
 
8 years ago
Brett Joyce again brings up the excuse of bishops getting bad advise.
"; however, in the 60's and 70's they were often listening to professional therapists with regards to accepted "treatment" of pedophilia at the time when therapy and changes in environment were thought to be a possible cure.'
Brett, in the 60s70s bishops would more likely have sort advice from witch doctors and sharmen than psychologists or psychiatrists. The records show that they dismissed this advice out of hand when someone brought them in .. see Boston. remember Sigmund Freud and the ridicule he was held in by the Church at that time? ???The bishops  were educated in the 40s and 50s and the Church taught psychology was devil work.  Let's not hear this excuse again. And no 'teachers are the abusers'  excuses either .. there are more catholic school teachers than priests ..so where are the 6000 accused Catholic teachers?  and were any secretly transfered?  or were the Catholic school teachers in a hugely different virtue class than public school teachers?  if so  please show the data. . Basta
8 years ago
The Pope said: "Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves." And so we should...A call to prayer and holiness seems, at times, not even the court of less resort...
Mona Villarrubia
8 years ago
Mother’s Day Reflection
“Holy Mother Church.” Catholics are comfortable with the metaphor of a church that is our “mother,” it is comforting, consoling. And on Mother’s Day the poignancy of that metaphor is striking.
How does a loving mother respond to her children when they are being attacked? She defends them in any way she can, putting herself at risk if necessary.  A loving mother would react in defense of the youngest, especially.
How does a loving mother raise her children? A loving mother would raise her children to fulfill their potential, to have strong morals, and to develop the skills to become independent of her, able to make decisions on their own, able to survive on their own.  A loving mother would want her children to become responsible adults and would encourage critical thinking, respect in dialogue with others, open-mindedness.
How does a loving mother respond to a child who becomes a criminal? She does not enable the child’s criminal behavior; she seeks help for the child. She supports the child as that child takes responsibility for crimes committed. She continues to love the child even as she encourages the child to submit to punishment that follows the crime. Because she wants her child to heal and change, and change can only come after taking responsibility for one’s actions.  A loving mother would always stand by her child, but she would not sacrifice other mothers’ children to keep her child’s crime a secret.
Perhaps it is time for our church leaders to consider the “Holy Mother” metaphor more closely.
James Lindsay
8 years ago
The anger is not just about abuse, but on perceived doctrinal chauvanism regarding health care reform, the morality v. the legality of abortion, the ordination of women, the acceptance of gays, contraception, and a fixation of teenage masturbation. People are angry because they do not believe that they are being heard on the issue and this reflects the bishops anger that no one is listening to them either.

Will Rome give on much of this? Probably not. Will the Roman Catholic Church continue to claim primacy after the current papacy? While a rump Pope Peter II might, I suspect the vast majority of the Church won't - leaving reform on these issues in the hands of national or linguistic churches. An American or North Atlantic English Catholic Church will likely make some changes in these areas.
Brendan McGrath
8 years ago
Michael - You spoke of the Church as having "a fixation of [on?] teenage masturbation."  To echo some comments I made above, what on earth is going on at YOUR parish?!  ;)  Of course that's the teaching, but when is that ever really something that's emphasized?  From my experiences and observations, including my experiences both as a student in Catholic schools all my life (I'm 27, so that identifies when I've been in school, etc.), and as a teacher in Catholic schools, that is not a teaching that's "pushed."  Granted, I went to private (non-diocesan) Catholic schools run by the Sisters of Mercy and the Jesuits, so they were more liberal than the Philly archdiocese, but really, can it really be described as a "fixation"?  Even on EWTN you rarely hear it mentioned.  This is one of those areas where the teaching is one thing, but the pastoral approach is another.
James Lindsay
8 years ago
The current generation of youth likely did not experience what many older people did - although in my current parish the scourge internet pornography is often mentioned instead.

Those of my generation were as warped by what our parents taught as what was brought up at Catholic school. Those who were teens in the 50s and 60s had it worse. However, those people are now pastors and bishops.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The news from Ireland and the United States reminds us of Herod, of Pharaoh. What culture betrays its children?
The EditorsMay 26, 2018
A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, has passed with a nearly 2-1 margin.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018