What has been done about the sex abuse scandal?


#1

As I am converting to Catholicism, one of the most common arguments I hear from others is:

“I could never join a Church that hid that kind of atrocity and did nothing about it”.

1)What officially has the Church done about the people involved in the abuse and the cover up of the abuse?

2)Did the Vatican even know before this all came out in the open?

3)Have the priests been subject to the law (charges, jail time, etc)?

I am just as disgusted and appalled that this could happen and that so many innocent lives were affected. But I also know that it was the sins of a few, not the entire Church. But I am finding it difficult to answer such arguments and would like to be pointed to some official Church documents, articles etc about what happened and what has been done about it.

I have ordered a book through our public library called “Shaken by Scandals: Catholics Speak Out About Priests’ Sexual Abuse” but will have to wait awhile until it comes in. I am looking forward to reading it.

Do you have any other book recommendations?

Malia


#2

I would start by answering that any group of human beings has faults, and since Christ came for the sinners, the Catholic Church would be expected to have it’s share of people who sin.

Then, onto what happened and why.

In the 70’s, when much of this was happening, it was commonly thought that with a little therapy treatment, perhaps a few sessions of hypnosis, these things could be addressed and the person who had perpetrated the vicious crime would be cured. This was the “expert” advice available at the time. The Church teaches forgiveness, so “knowing” as told to the church by experts, that these transgressors could go forth and sin no more, it’s my understanding that they were permitted to do just that. The problem was there apparently wasn’t adequate followed-up to ensure no other injuries were caused. I think you would find that those who made these poor decisions have great remorse for the pain and suffering they allowed to happen.

Also, in most cases, the offenses were against post-pubescent boys, young men. The correct term for the crime would be homosexual statutory rape, as these were underaged minors engaging in sex. The fact that it was an authority figure makes it even worse. But these were, on the part of the perpetrator, essentially homosexual acts, rather than pedophilia, which is with youth who are pre-pubescent.

What is being done now?
I do not know the specifics of what is / has been done with the perpetrators, but it is my understanding that as of now, if a priest is found to be guilty of engaing in inappropriate acts with a minor, they are turned over to the civil authority and defrocked.

In the meantime, each diocese throughout the USA has put into place measures to ensure that such a thing will NEVER recur. In addition to changes in the seminaries they have rolled out Parent and Child abuse awareness trainings. I know, because I was sent to a full weekend training to learn how to facilitate this program for our diocese. After making the program mandatory for all the parents of our CCD program, a similar program was offered to the Children in CCD as well. (we do not have a diocesan school).

In addition, the USCCB has an audit program in place whereby they are looking into the records of all complaints against the clergy and ensuring that each received an adequate response. There are now guidelines in place for tracking complaints so the auditors can be assured of having access to the records for followup.

All this is being done in response to a very small percentage of the clergy having this horrific problem. Your friends state they would never belong to a church that hides such a problem. I wouldn’t be so certain. Does their church have in place processes for recording all incidence of complaints? Are there third party auditors monitoring their response? There have been reports in the media of similar offenses in other religions, but the brew-ha-ha has not been as hyped as it has been against the Catholic Church.

CARose


#3

Thanks for your reply CARose. Unfortunately the people in question do not believe in “organized” religion but instead believe that they can deal directly with God as to avoid mere humans who are capable of all kinds of sins. They really don’t have any beliefs… whatever suits them at the time I guess.

Also, I found this:

**Hebephilia: **A condition in which an adult, usually male, is sexually attracted to post-pubertal adolescents (14 to 17).

I would assume that alot of abusers (teachers, coaches, etc) are actually hebephiles as oppsed to pedophiles.

I am still interested in articles, books, documents etc that I can refer to when trying to respond about this issue.

Thanks!

Malia


#4

I found a great link:

religioustolerance.org/clergy_sex.htm#menu

There is a lot of info and I am finding answers to my questions…

Malia


#5

Terrible the sins that occured and the damage done. But I admit that site overall tries to balance to some extent from my brief peruse. What I find really interesting was the silence from other organized religions when the news broke??? I personally did not see a lot of finger pointing going on which may reinforce the idea that the percentage parallels the general US population. Pray for the Church is this purging and May God grant you the Grace to Love through Mercy and Justice in your conversion process. Thanks and God Bless.


#6

[quote=Feanaro’s Wife]Thanks for your reply CARose. Unfortunately the people in question do not believe in “organized” religion but instead believe that they can deal directly with God as to avoid mere humans who are capable of all kinds of sins. They really don’t have any beliefs… whatever suits them at the time I guess.

Also, I found this:

**Hebephilia: **A condition in which an adult, usually male, is sexually attracted to post-pubertal adolescents (14 to 17).

I would assume that alot of abusers (teachers, coaches, etc) are actually hebephiles as oppsed to pedophiles.

I am still interested in articles, books, documents etc that I can refer to when trying to respond about this issue.

Thanks!

Malia
[/quote]

First off, good answers all around. When confronted with sins in the Church (be it sex abuse, Irish laundry scandal, Crusades, etc.) a Catholic needs to guard against getting defensive off the bat. When there is scandal, we all need to join in condemning it when it is justified. Then point out that the Church never claimed that its members would avoid all sin.

So those you are talking to with no organized religion are merely using the sex scandal as a convenient stick to fend of dealing with the Truths of the Church. If there was no sex scandal, they would certainly find something else to beat the Church with. One can certainly answer questions they have, but you can’t really argue it away. Instead, the best argument is to live an exemplary Catholic life.

Welcome home by the way!

Scott


#7

I don’t know how widespread it is, but in Kansas we have bought into the Virtus program.

Virtus training is required for all religious and lay people who work around children in our parish. I found the training to be interesting and somewhat informative. Of course, since we had sex offenders in a video describing how they committed their crimes, I’ve heard criticism that it could be a bit of a training video for the wrong side. (It’s always something… :rolleyes: ) I thought it was necessary to know, to help show adult leaders what they are up against.

Funny thing about the Virtus training that some of the more skeptical (wary of Church’s commitment to admit to and correct the problem) people mentioned, is that nowhere in the Virtus program was there any indication that it was priests’ misbehavior, not as much lay people’s, which really brought all this to a head and made Virtus training necessary. Nor was there any information about how to detect and deal with abuse if we suspect a priest of it.

The other problem with Virtus is that it seems to foster an attitude where everybody is being watched, and is considered potentially guilty. That’s the sad part, and I’m not sure what the right answer is. Overall, I think the Virtus program is probably necessary and helpful, and verrry wealthy.

Alan


#8

[quote=AlanFromWichita]I don’t know how widespread it is, but in Kansas we have bought into the Virtus program.

Virtus training is required for all religious and lay people who work around children in our parish. I found the training to be interesting and somewhat informative. Of course, since we had sex offenders in a video describing how they committed their crimes, I’ve heard criticism that it could be a bit of a training video for the wrong side. (It’s always something… :rolleyes: ) I thought it was necessary to know, to help show adult leaders what they are up against.

Funny thing about the Virtus training that some of the more skeptical (wary of Church’s commitment to admit to and correct the problem) people mentioned, is that nowhere in the Virtus program was there any indication that it was priests’ misbehavior, not as much lay people’s, which really brought all this to a head and made Virtus training necessary. Nor was there any information about how to detect and deal with abuse if we suspect a priest of it.

The other problem with Virtus is that it seems to foster an attitude where everybody is being watched, and is considered potentially guilty. That’s the sad part, and I’m not sure what the right answer is. Overall, I think the Virtus program is probably necessary and helpful, and verrry wealthy.

Alan
[/quote]

We have the Virtus program in Lansing as well. I noticed the problems you pointed out. It is one of those things kinda like sensitivity training at a corporation. An incident happens, and the corporation wants to do something concrete about it, and some training program fits the bill. I was a little put off by the stats they gave. They wanted to drill home the idea that sex abuse is not necessarily a homosexual problem. Fine, but their argument is that homosexuals only account for 30% of the incidents. This of course makes you think that even if we take the outrageous figure of 10% of the general population as homosexual, that is still wildly disproportionate.

Scott


#9

I’ll admit to also having problems with the program that was put together by my diocese but mainly because I think that it, and apparently Virtus as well, has failed to address what I perceive to be the root cause of the Abuse Scandal in the first place.

If there were adequate catechesis on the subject of Chastity and the fact that the Body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, first when the offenders were children and then throughout their training in the seminary; if the subject were driven home in homilies and in CCD classes; if it were so engrained in every aspect of Catholic Culture that the truths taught by Pope JPII in Theology of the Body were the immutable Truth, our children would know to scream bloody murder if the Temple of the Holy Spirit were desecrated and the priests would be holy enough to not even consider it.

We have allowed our culture to descend to the point that these things are being ignored.

But that’s just my thought on the subject and the root cause. We’ve stopped being the yeast in matters of sexuality.

CARose


#10

Thanks again everyone.

I have no idea if we have any program here in Canada like Virtus… our problems are a little different (I think) because they mostly involved Catholic and Christian schools for boys as well as a lot of abuse against native (Indian and Inuit) boys. So we have cases of hundreds of boys being abused by just a few clergy etc.

My personal view on the issue is that it is absolutely horrific. I think it is a terrible abuse of power and trust. Who are we supposed to trust more than a man of God???

But on the other hand, if you are a pervert looking for access to young men, where better than the Church? There is no test for Faith. If someone wants to become a priest or otherwise work in a Church setting, how are we to tell if they are faking it? I don’t think we can. So they get to have their jollies AND destroy trust in the Church…

I think that we need to be aware. I think we should educate our children that just because someone is in a position of authority doesn’t mean that they are above sin. This includes teachers, doctors, coaches etc… not just clergy.

I am joining the Catholic Church because I believe that it is the Church that Jesus founded. I believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. I respect the heirarchy, but no matter how badly they screw up, they are not the Church. I am not joining because I think the Pope is cool or because the Church is very well organized and managed. I am not joining because of vatican II. I think I am joining for all of the right reasons, and I do love the Church.

I just wish people could attack the scandal without attacking the Church. But most people have no clue what the Church really is or what it teaches… I know I didn’t. I hope that I can be a good example to the unbelievers and that I can learn to answer such statements with charity and love. I hope I can make a difference, no matter how small.

Thank you so much for all of your input.

Malia


#11

[quote=Scott Waddell]We have the Virtus program in Lansing as well. I noticed the problems you pointed out. It is one of those things kinda like sensitivity training at a corporation. An incident happens, and the corporation wants to do something concrete about it, and some training program fits the bill. I was a little put off by the stats they gave. They wanted to drill home the idea that sex abuse is not necessarily a homosexual problem. Fine, but their argument is that homosexuals only account for 30% of the incidents. This of course makes you think that even if we take the outrageous figure of 10% of the general population as homosexual, that is still wildly disproportionate.

[/quote]

Dear Scott,

It did smack of corporate ethics solutions. Leaders of the company get into trouble, so all the underlings have to take ethics training. The entire film was about lay abuse, whereas that is definitely not what got the Church in the position to have to invest in Virtus to begin with. Whatever, I remember thinking at the time, it was still pretty interesting.

Now that you mention it, I do recall the films were a whole lot about how homosexuality is NOT the issue, very politically correct. To be fair, I think they presented it as if you have to “watch out” for everybody even if they are not gay. My mind boggles at how much these people are making off this program. Virtus was apparently there at the right place and time to “help” the Catholic Church with its problems.

Problems which, as CARose pointed out, are not going to be solved by increasing our suspicious awareness of each other, but by better formation. Moral finger-pointing and threats toward the children isn’t cutting it, for there was no shortage of that when all the preverts were grown. That topic was actually the target of my ill-fated “Promiscuity and Catholic Youth” thread, and now my “Teens confiding in adults” thread, intended to improve relations between teens and adults, without which we have a very difficult time improving anything, including Catholic abortion rates.

Feanaro’s wife brought up some other excellent points which Virtus, to its credit, actually did bring up too. The abusers interviewed talked about how easy it was to gain access to and trust of children in a church setting, but didn’t go so far as to implicate actual priests or other religious. (A smart decision on Virtus, probably, to not bite the hands that are feeding them.) They also commented on how churches are actually a haven for perverts, just like Feanaro’s wife said.

Some of the truth is getting out, but I don’t see the Virtus program in its current incarnation as doing much other than making the lawyers happy. I wonder if any bona fide pervert would probably benefit from enrolling in the program, because it would help them know how to hide better? Arguably the background check that is now required in our diocese (I think it part of the Virtus program too) may do some good.

Alan


#12

[quote=Feanaro’s Wife]Thanks again everyone.

I have no idea if we have any program here in Canada like Virtus… our problems are a little different (I think) because they mostly involved Catholic and Christian schools for boys as well as a lot of abuse against native (Indian and Inuit) boys. So we have cases of hundreds of boys being abused by just a few clergy etc.

My personal view on the issue is that it is absolutely horrific. I think it is a terrible abuse of power and trust. Who are we supposed to trust more than a man of God???

But on the other hand, if you are a pervert looking for access to young men, where better than the Church? There is no test for Faith. If someone wants to become a priest or otherwise work in a Church setting, how are we to tell if they are faking it? I don’t think we can. So they get to have their jollies AND destroy trust in the Church…

I think that we need to be aware. I think we should educate our children that just because someone is in a position of authority doesn’t mean that they are above sin. This includes teachers, doctors, coaches etc… not just clergy.

I am joining the Catholic Church because I believe that it is the Church that Jesus founded. I believe in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. I respect the heirarchy, but no matter how badly they screw up, they are not the Church. I am not joining because I think the Pope is cool or because the Church is very well organized and managed. I am not joining because of vatican II. I think I am joining for all of the right reasons, and I do love the Church.

I just wish people could attack the scandal without attacking the Church. But most people have no clue what the Church really is or what it teaches… I know I didn’t. I hope that I can be a good example to the unbelievers and that I can learn to answer such statements with charity and love. I hope I can make a difference, no matter how small.

Thank you so much for all of your input.

Malia
[/quote]

Malia,
Thank you for your candor, but I must respectfully disagree with parts of your second paragraph. For some reason, the Church was largely successful in screening for hundreds of years and still could be. Seminarian training through proper catechesis and spiritual direction would largely prevent such a scandal from ever taking place again. Yes, we should attack the scandal and not the Church. While the demons tempting the indivduals may be looking at undermining the Church, I doubt most of the priest who have gravely sinned against the Church did it deliberately for that reason. Although the Church does provide access to young boys, there are easier ways through secular institutions (internet, psychiatric, foster, etc.)but not many. Thanks and God Bless.


#13

have you had anyone ask you, why would you let your child attend public schools, which hide and coverup known cases of abuse by the thousands? to put this scandal in perspective, an independent survey found approx. 15,000 cases of abuse against about 4500 Catholic clergy in a 40 year period up to 2002. All of these have been reported to the appropriate civil agency and action taken against all the offenders who are still alive.

A study conducted by a researcher for NEA found over 200,000 cases of abuse of minors by 40,000 perpetrators in the NY public schools ALONE over a similar period, nearly all of which were covered up and in which the abusers – teachers, coaches and other school employees - continued in their profession. Less than 10% were reported to civil or law enforcement agencies and less than 1% were convicted of a crime or did jail time. I don’t have the links handy, but posted them a while back here, the study was widely reported last year on CNN and other news sites when it came out, and is being published in book form this year. But I have seen no outcry against public school systems, demand for ethical training by schools and sports teams, or the persecution endured by innocent clergy and the CAtholic Church on any scale in response to this report.


#14

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.