Sex abuse scandal, what do you say?


In recent years I know the Holy Spirit has helped me find the words in many conversations where faith is brought up. I have found the key is to build genuine relationships with people who are not Catholic and make sure these talks remain conversations and never arguments, otherwise its most likely a waste of time.

Anyways, I have found that one of the great hurdles in bringing some folks to a better understanding of the Catholic church(let alone come to Mass), is the abuse scandal the media so vigorously covers.

I never know what to say here when someone expresses that they just can’t get past the scandal. As a parent of three kids,many of my relationships are now with other parents, so I hear this from other parents(non-practicing Catholics, fallen away Catholics, protestants etc) and I know, if we as Catholics can’t give good answers here, them taking the next step is on hold. At times I really feel like this a brick wall, even with folks that seem to want to talk faith often.

What do you say when this topic comes up?

How do we not only defend the church here, but assure interested folks their kids are safe?

Thanks for your time and thanks for reading. Would love to get some insight from others who may have experienced this and where able to give sound answers. I strongly feel this may be the last hurdle with at least two other Fathers, whom are very close to getting back to the church.



I would say several things:

1). Acknowledge both that the abuse was horrible and the actions by some Bishops to cover it up was horrible.
2) It was a very small percentage of priests.
3) The Church has taken major steps to make sure kids are safe now. For example: Every volunteer is background checked and has to go through training on recognizing signs of abuse. Any priest that has had credible accusations made against him has now been removed from ministry
4). It is highly probable, that the rate of sexual abuse throughout society of is higher than it ever was in the Catholic Church
5) Finally, the sinfulness of the members of the Church in no way affects the truth of its teaching.

Great points!

Thank you.

Hello Frank,
Firstly, I agree with everything Tafan has to say, and I would also like to add that many of the cases of abuse and neglect in the Catholic Church were,in part, due to the extreme ignorance of both the clergy of the time and society in general on issues of paedophilia.

I know of at least one incident of abuse in Ireland where a priest who was abusing a 12 or 14 year old confessed all to his bishop. The bishop, thinking that the abuser had formed a genuine attraction or relationship with the child, thought that simply relocating the abuser to another parish would solve the problem. Thus, the abuse continued.

I believe that in this case forearmed is definitely forewarned. Nobody within the Church is ever going to be as naive again as many clergy and laypeople within the Church were at that time. We know now that paedophiles always look for the easiest environment to feed their habit, and it is the duty of all of us to make sure that environment is not our church!

Excellent replies.

Agree with these points with the exception of #4… I wouldn’t speculate on statistics. Unless there is good data on the abuse rate in non-Catholics, I would not use the argument.

I say, don’t judge Jesus by Judas who betrayed Him, and don’t judge His Church by those who betray it by their detestable actions.

I don’t buy that, any sexual acts outside of marriage especially the “hot” topic of homosexuality have always been deemed gravely sinful. The same people who were teaching this were involved in or knew of these grave acts, acts that harmed children for the rest of their lives.

Wonderful statement! :thumbsup:

I get what you are saying Simpleas, but by treating those with paedophilia as if those who committed/suffered from it were engaging in relationships with their victims,the clergy involved failed to comprehend the nature of their disease, which lead to the abusers being relocated and giving them further opportunities to abuse. Yes, I know that any sexual relationships outside of marriage have always been deemed sinful, but due to the relative ignorance of society at that time SOME of the clergy thought they were dealing with cases of isolated instances of relationships with under-age teens, instead of realising that they were dealing with people with an incurable sickness.

Don’t defend what happened. Be honest—horrible things were done and those acts were systematically covered up by church hierarchy. Its ugly, but its truth.

Don’t go out of your way to assign blame to a media that’s anti catholic. Just comes off as excuse-making. (and frankly, without a free, and aggressive media, perhaps much of this would never have seen the light of day).

Don’t play the statistics card to show that the Catholic Church is no worse than any other institution when it comes to child abuse cases. First off, we are setting the bar pretty low if we are pointing out that our clergy molests children at the same rate as every other institution. Secondly, it comes off as trying to minimize what happened.

Do share your shock, anger and disappointment about what took place.

Do share the change in culture that has taken place in parishes with an emphasis being placed on protecting children. Talk about the new programs in place and the much heightened awareness of these issues.

Do talk about how you feel about the about the safety of your children.


Yes, well that is why the hierarchy should have realised what these acts against young children, boys in particular were unacceptable. They being the teachers of moral issues could not have been ignornant of the facts. I’m speaking of popes and bishops.
I recently read that pjp2 knew 15 years prior to the abuse before he did anything about it.

I realise 20-30 years ago people didn’t seem to think that sexual relations with children were actually wrong, and children should not be abused just because they are not able to defend themselves from adults, but when it came from within the walls of a holy place it makes one think very differently and trust less.


This response is as good as it gets. Take notes, people. :thumbsup:

The fact that certain clergy in the church hierarchy behaved immorally is not a valid argument to judge the catholic church in any way. I honestly think it sounds like leaving the United States because of Richard Nixon’s Watergate Scandal. This may be a ridiculous comparison but its what I think of.

There is some data out there (sorry I didn’t bookmark the studies so I can’t link) that indicates abuse rate among clergy (Catholic and non-Catholic) is around 3-5% and the abuse rate among adults in general (I don’t remember if it was just adult males or both genders) is around 10-20%.

One addition would be that some of the steps the Church took in addressing the issue in the past (which in my opinion wasn’t very good/done for the right reasons), like moving the offender after some treatment, was in line with the medical thinking of the time in regards to treating/“curing” the offender.

The scandal is a tremendous sin. Many souls will no doubt be lost because of it. I would say it is even on the same level as Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.

I would not leave Jesus because of Judas’s betrayal and I would not leave His Church because of those who did these horrible things, betraying Jesus and His Church by their actions.

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