12 Things Every Catholic Should Know About the U.S. Scandals
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 checks.
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).
Copyright © 2009 National Catholic Register