How to Answer a Protestant in Defense of Catholics re: sexual abuse in the Church

My apologies for the lengthy title.

This has to do with a neighbour of mine. He was raised Southern Baptist like many around here. He is ignorant of Orthodoxy enough that he actually called and apologised to me after our conversation be he “wasn’t aware of how close Orthodox and Catholics are to each other” (I pointed this out in our conversation, because it was pretty anti-Catholic and many of the anti-Catholic comments can and do group Orthodox in the same category).

Anyhow, he has a Catholic SIL that he apparently likes to give a hard time to over the Catholic Church. His issue with Catholics apparently is over the sex abuse scandals. He has stated that his problem is the moving around of offenders and not turning them over to the authorities. He thinks the cure for this problem is for Catholics to stop tithing to the Catholic Church and take away all support till things change. In his mind, anyone supporting the Catholic Church is supporting sexual abuse.

  1. he shows a clear misunderstanding of what it means to be Catholic and that supporting one’s parish is not support of those in other areas that have done these things (he is definitely thinking with a Protestant mindset).

  2. I told him that the Catholic Church is dealing with these things (I’m not sure how…therefore we fell into a “I say it is and you say it isn’t and neither of us can prove either” situation. How is the RCC dealing with this issue?

  3. What is the best answer to this kind of commenting?

  4. I don’t take it personally, because his issue is this particular subject (abuse) and his issue is against the RCC as an organisation, not against individual Catholics (though it comes out as attacking Catholics when he’s putting them on the spot and dealing with it in this way…something about redneck combined with passive aggressive humour). However, it makes me a bit defensive, because I have many Catholic friends that I know and love dearly. Having converted late from Protestantism and remembering how I used to be, I get how it feels now being on this side of things, but understand where he is coming from on that side of things. How to explain things is the difficulty.

simply point out that sex abuse of children is not confined to the Catholic Church, but is a problem that is societal. Every day ones hears about teachers in public schools that have sex with children. The other denominations have likewise sex scandals and issues. My sister’s independent baptist church survived a big sex scandal between the pastor and the wife of the youth minister. What came out is that this pastor had a previous improper relationship in his previous church. What people usually quibble with is that the Catholic church didn’t remove these priests but shuffled them around to other parishes. Like this Baptist pastor, he just moved from one church to another. I was reading a book about spiritual abuse and there were numbers examples given of how (it was a protestant book) people in authority in churches rape or abuse others and then get shuffled along to another church to avoid public scandal and keep is hush hush because of the concept of not speaking ill about the churches spiritual leaders and the congregants are suppose to submit to the spiritual leadership in the church. The problem is that one doesn’t here about the Protestant churches but the Catholic which has longer records and is easier to expose and pick on.

I already pointed that out and he agreed (I could tell you horror stories of IFB, SBC, Charity, Mennonites, etc). He agreed that it can, and at some point does, happen in any faith. Again, his cure is to simply drop that church (which is a Protestant view, because many Protestant churches stand on their own or are supported only by the local congregation). With Catholics, you just quit being Catholic and hop over to another church.

I had posted this some time back a few years ago, hope it helps

Since there are those who want to make this a Catholic problem, I want to challenge anyone to show me in the Bible or the CCC or any other Catholic documents where this type of behavior is approved of, supported by the CC, and general accepted by the faithful. Our Catholic Priests are good and holy men that deserve being defended vigorously along with our respect and support. A pedophile who is a priest was a pedophile/predator before he was a priest and will always be a pedophile/predator regardless of what profession or vocation he chooses. The priesthood is just one of them.

Pedophiles/predators are notorious for seeking out positions that put them in close proximity of potential victims e.g. within the family, or as teachers, scout leaders, day care workers, youth pastors, music pastor, or pastor of this or pastor of that, or whatever job that affords them access to kids. It is not unique to Catholic Priests. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous, slanderous, and outright false. Of the personal and actual cases, that I am intimately knowledgeable about, there is the high school band director that molested his own sons. A local youth pastor molested his and other kids. Several scout leaders in my area have molested boys. I can go on and on, but not one of these individuals was a Catholic Priests and I personally do not know of any Catholic Priest who has molested a child. Point is, you can point the finger at the CC and its Priests, but that is like pointing to a drop in the ocean. As for the drop in the ocean analogy, the point is not to minimize the despicable acts of the pedophile priests. It is to illustrate that the numbers of pedophile priests compared to the rest of society’s vocations is minuscule in comparison. With that said…*** just one victim is too many!!! ***It is an evil perpetrated on the victim, and is unacceptable. I think that it is deplorable and needs to be eradicated, but it has to be looked at in full spectrum.

As another poster stated, it is Satan working against the Body of Christ, His Church. I say that is true. We all are sinners, we all are imperfect, and our Priests and Bishops are humans that make mistakes and are sinners as we are. Satan uses our weakness and sinful nature to work on us. The assertion that the CC is evil plays right into all of the outside bigotry and false accusations. Did the CC hide it because of Catholic doctrine that supported pedophilia? NO. Did the CC fail to properly deal with it because Catholic doctrine made it acceptable Catholic practice or theology? NO. Did the CC fail to properly deal with it because lack of experience, ability, or willing cover up by some who were in denial or wanted to protect the CC, albeit through misguided intentions, YES. The point is nobody is perfect, it was a mistake, but it was not “EVIL”. The “EVIL” was the pedophile/predator priest. Yes, the CC mishandled the initial out cry of abuse, either due to lack of experience, ability, or willing cover up, but it is now being dealt with, as it should be. Many of the assertions I see today is all that stuff that happened in the early stages of this issue. All those who are banging the drum using these examples are holding on to the past and not seeing what the CC is doing now to correct it. It is about anti-Catholic bigotry and attacking the Catholic Church.

Pedophile/predator priest are to be treated as the criminals that they are, but in no way should their crime be any kind of a reflection on the good and holy priests that faithfully serve God, His Church, and the Catholic people. The most important thing is that the victims are in need of our prayers for healing and support. We must also pray for the CC to take the right path in dealing with this issue. Does anyone here really think that the good and holy Bishops and Priests that mishandled it in the beginning are evil people, which delighted in their errors? No, by their error an evil progressed for a time and then was put into check. However, these Bishops and Priests are not evil people. Therefore, to blast the CC and Catholic Priests is the easy way out instead of acknowledging and realizing that this it is an issue that transcends all beliefs and vocations. So do not make it out as a Catholic problem, it is the society as a whole problem. This is a far greater issue and it has infiltrated into all institutions and vocations, and is far more prominent in many other areas of society than in the CC.

The Catholic Church is the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the body of Christ. It is not the body of Christ or its doctrines that perpetrated this evil on the victims; it was a predator that used the cover of the priesthood to get to their victims. That is the evil not the Catholic Church or the Priesthood. Those that mishandled it were in error and did so grievously. Again, this has been corrected, and those that mishandle it today are held accountable.

The CC is a hospital for sinners not a home for Saints. The CC and its doctrines are pure, but the “Humans” that make it up are imperfect, and always will be.

Are there no sinners in these local congregations? If not please let me know and I am there. :wink:

The point is all congregations are made up of sinners. You can keep hopping over to another church but I bet there are sinners there also. How does this solve the problem? :shrug:


People use any excuse not to be Catholic. If he is really curious on how the Catholic Church is dealing or preventing, have him call the local diocese main office or look at their web site and I would bet that there is something on line on how they have put steps into place to protect children and what to do if anyone has been abused or suspects it. The archdiocese i live in requires every adult working with children to attend classes and have a police clearance. But people like him just use any excuse of bad behavior by church leaders to discount the whole thing.

A trap many fall into is looking at the bad behavior of some Catholics and using that as a conclusion that the Faith must be false… It shouldn’t really surprise us to realize that the Catholic Church is full of sinners, as that is who Christ came to call. That is who He died for. We are not perfect, The truth is that while the Faith is perfect, the faithful are not. In fact we are all sinners. Christian perfection is what we are to strive for throughout our lives and it is not an easy road given our propensity to sin. Saint Paul spent much of his life after his conversion dealings with the short comings of Church members and we were warned that there would be wolves in the sheepfold!
One thing that St. Paul didn’t teach is that if you have a disagreement about something go out and start your own church. He knew that Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane “Father that they may all be one”. Certainly there have been abuses in and in the name of the Church, there were from the very beginning and there likely still are and will be. Jesus knew that there would be divisions and it caused Him pain. Never-the-less we Christians continue to squabble amongst ourselves. The only way around this is to have one final authority to settle disputes and disagreements. We would then have to suck in our pride and accept that authority as definitive especially when it rules against us. The final word so to speak. Jesus knew this too and that’s why he appointed one Apostle and his successor to be that authority. Without that every Catholic at some point probably would have broken off and started their own church. A church that reflected their own private interpretations, or point of view. Not to mention all the petty jealousies and self righteousness we are all prone too!

Depends on how the subject is brought up.
If it’s sarcastic and disrespectful, my answer is usually “there’s just as many pervs in Protestant circles and cover-ups too.” I know of one myself. That usually shuts them up, unless they are looking for a battle.
If it’s an honest inquiry, wmscott’s answer is the best, IMO.
Most rational people understand the state of the world today and the unfortunate times we live in. This is not a ‘your group is more depraved than ours’ issue.

Again, it’s not the fact that they are there, it’s that he’s under the impression that the RCC is still shuffling these priests around and protecting them. I was looking for something solid that contradicts this idea.

IMO what he may be seeing as shuffling Priests around could be a Priest that has been accused of something and has been removed from his duties, reassigned to the diocese to be under direct supervision of the Bishop or the like. Just because he has been accused doesn’t mean that he is guilty of an offence. If he was guilty he would be defrocked and imprisoned, after a trial of course. In this day and age I do not see an actual identified guilty pedophile being protected by the Church in any fashion.

I’m going to move this to Apologetics.
There’s more traffic up there and you might get more answers.

I can tell you that isn’t happening anywhere. In fact, they remote priests even if they are retired and no longer even in active service and the accusation is well beyond the legal statue of limitations. If he really want to know what the CC is doing, he should look it up on the diocese of where you are at web’s site and even see. The Catholic Church likewise takes great lengths with adults working or volunteering at the parish level. It has gone well beyond even priests. But he needs to look into the diocese you reside because each one has s different variation.

Thank you :slight_smile:


I have always thought it funny how this topic running parallel with the topic of “burning of heretics” never seem to cross each other.

We have threads about how the Catholic Church was wrong for turning over heretics to the state “knowingly” to be punished/burned. Here, we can’t do enough to bring justice against the accused, except maybe to burn them. :shrug:


Simply put: Judas Iscariot evidenced awful behavior
as a disciple of Christ. Christ, though, remained Christ
before, during and after.
The behavior of a few does not change the faith of
the totality.
If he is not merely an anti catholic seeking ammo
but of genuine goodwill, that should be the only
answer necessary.

Statistically, children are much more likely to be victims of sex abuse by schoolteachers. The AP did a study in 2007 that revealed that almost 3000 teachers between 2001-2005 lost licenses due to sexual misconduct with students. That’s just one 4-year span. No excuse for the bad priests, but where is the real sex abuse scandal? Seems to be in the classroom.

Very, very true.

The Catholic Church in America educates 2.6 million students everyday at a cost to the Church of $10 BILLION dollars and a saving to the American taxpayer of $18 BILLION dollars. The graduates go on to higher studies at the rate of 92%.

The Church has 230 colleges and universities in the U.S. with an enrollment of 700,000.

The Church operates a non-profit hospital system of 637 hospitals which treat 1 out of every 5 people (not just Catholics) in the U.S. today.

The Church has been the victim of a vindictive main stream media that tries to denigrate our Church in every way. They blame pedophilia on the Church itself. That is as irresponsible as blaming adultery on marriage.

The Methodists did a survey…

12% of 300 Protestant clergy admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner; 38% acknowledged other inappropriate sexual contact; 41.8% of women clergy reported unwanted sexual behavior and 17% said they were sexually harassed.

Meanwhile only 1.7% of Catholic clergy has been found guilty of pedophilia while 10% of Protestant clergy have been found guilty of the same. This in NOT a Catholic problem.

It becomes a Catholic problem when the Church decides that it’s better to cover the problem up by moving priests rather than reporting them. The issue has never been that some small % sexually abuse other people, they always have and will and it happens in every profession not just the church, it just seems to me that the Church is the only profession that has been accused of covering it up.

Would just like to add not all priests accused are guilty! Check out this website Fr Gordon was innocently accused he has spent 19yrs in prison and still is, in there. Some accusers thought they could get easy money from the CC. If the CC didn’t do anything to stop this, here is a case where nothing was done to prevent a priest being innocently accused. If you read details on this website/blog. There is one group that is actually targeting the priests from CC. They actually have an agenda!
Again Fr Gordon could have been out in a few years, but he has to first take treatment, which means signing a form/paper admitting he is a pedophile, which he refuses to lie about, because he is not!
Yes, some very bad decisions were taken when handling the sex abuse within the CC, but I wonder how many priests were innocent ? If Fr Gordon had signed that paper admitting he was a pedophile, in the eyes of the public he would be damned. He would not be able to continue his priesthood. He looses both ways because he’s still in prison.

Just because of a few bad apples you don’t throw away the whole cart.

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