Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal
Given some of the discussion on John Henry’s post yesterday about the timeline of the abuse scandal, I wanted to do a bit more digging into what the actual statistics of the scandal are.
There’s no way to be completely certain about this, and clearly there was abuse in the church, and horrid cover-ups as well, going back decades and centuries and more. But the John Jay data suggest that something significant really did shift, and escalate, in the years around the sexual revolution.
One of the priests at our parish spoke about the pedophile scandals and how we should confess our sins (and he said it like that – sounding like it implied we should as a group ask for forgiveness as Catholics for these terrible crimes) and seek forgiveness for allowing this to happen. Even though I think that these are horrible, awful, abominable events, and pray for both those who have been damaged by these sins, and as difficult as it is, those people who committed these sins, don’t exactly feel responsible for doing this myself so am having a hard time wrapping my head around repentance for the sins of others. I have sinned in a multitude of other ways but do I need to carry the burden of other people’s sins as well? Do I need to ask forgiveness for this myself? Are we supposed to ask forgiveness as Catholics even though we individually didn’t have anything to do with it?
Mark’s reply is worth reading in its entirety, but I think the key passage is: Continue reading
Michael Liccione has written an outstanding piece over at What’s Wrong With the World about the recent escalation in attacks on Pope Benedict in relation to the scandals, with Dawkins and Hitchens demanding that the pope be arrested and tried in an international court:
With whatever degree of justice, the scandal has now reached Pope Benedict XVI himself.
The complaint is not that he abused anyone himself during his long career, but that he was criminally negligent in failing to take due action, as an archbishop and then as the Curia’s most powerful official, against many of the priestly perps who came to his attention. Some of the better-known enemies of the Church, such as Richard Dawkins, now propose to arrest the Pope for that and put him in the dock, presumably at the International Court of Justice. The interest of such a ludicrous proposal does not lie in its legal plausibility, which I am unqualified to judge and is probably academic in any case. Its interest lies in the challenge it poses to explaining the irrationality behind it.
I believe myself qualified to discuss that, not only as a lifelong Catholic who has spent much of his professional life serving the Church, but also as a victim of molestation myself, in my early teens, at the hands of a priest-teacher of mine. My abuser died years ago; I have not seen fit to sue the Church; indeed my experience was one of the factors that led me to reject progressive Catholicism and ascribe to what is generally understood as orthodox Catholicism. I understand, of course, why many victims have rejected the Church, even religious belief generally, and have lived very troubled lives. How could anybody not understand that? But the generalized furor, among people who are neither victims nor loved ones of victims, strikes me as positively irrational. My way of explaining that can only issue in a statement of faith. But I believe that’s just what’s called for, if only at the end.
What’s irrational about the furor? [continue reading]
Archbishop John Nienstedt of St. Paul-Minneapolis has defended Pope Benedict in his column in the archdiocesan weekly newspaper.
In reporting on the column, the Associated Press closed their story with this:
Critics of the church’s handling of abuse cases are citing Benedict’s tenure as head of the Vatican office charged with disciplining clergy. The office halted a mid-1990s investigation into a Wisconsin priest accused of molesting some 200 deaf boys.
Dear Associated Press: the CDF did not stop the investigation. If you’d actually do some journalism you’d know that.
Several weeks ago there was a rather unpleasant exchange in First Things, between Marci Hamilton of the Cardozo School of Law, and Martin and Melissa Nussbaum of the Diocese of Colorado. Ms. Hamilton supports lifting the statute of limitations for child sex abuse claims, while the Nussbaums are decidedly against the idea. There are reasonable arguments on both sides, and, in this particular discussion, unreasonable arguments on both sides. But I think removing the statute of limitations, as Ms. Hamilton proposes, is likely to provide little benefit in terms of deterring abuse, and myriad opportunities for malicious or frivolous litigation. Furthermore, Ms. Hamilton’s professed concern for children has been rather morbidly focused on the Catholic Church rather than, for instance, public schools, where abuse problems are far more rampant.
I thought at the time I read the exchange that Ms. Hamilton’s name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it. And then I remembered: Ms. Hamilton was the author of a rather incautiously written book entitled God v. the Gavel, in which she made a case against many traditional religious liberties (noticing a theme in her oeuvre?). I say incautiously because the book contained enough errors and sloppy argumentation to elicit a legendarily harsh book review from Douglas Laycock, one of the field’s most distinguished scholars. The whole review is worth reading if the topic is of interest to you (or if, like me, you enjoy reading rigorous criticism), but here is the conclusion: