Last week a highly anticipated report about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church was released, immediately drawing criticism from abuse victims and advocacy groups. The nearly $2 million study was conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops footed about half the bill.
The report accurately portrays an institution far more concerned with its image than with protecting kids. But sprinkled throughout are some appalling explanations and displays of dishonesty.
First, the researchers fix the statistics to appear far more favorable toward the church by redefining pedophilia as only pertaining to children age 10 and under. The accepted age for pedophilia is 13, and of course it’s a crime to have sex with any minor — something the study seems reluctant to acknowledge.
Second, in arguably the most disgusting line of the report, the researchers suggest that most of the abuse occurred during an isolated era in the 1960s and ’70s, and they come perilously close to blaming such conduct on hippies. Karen Terry, the lead investigator, acts as if the epidemic of child rape in the ’60s was the Church’s version of Woodstock, arguing that the behavior “was consistent with patterns of increased deviance in society during that time.”
But today, abuse scandals continue to sweep across Europe and elsewhere and hundreds of victims have come forward in the last year. The most high-profile case involves a priest who served under the current pope years ago in a German archdiocese. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy was warned repeatedly by the priest’s therapist that he should not be allowed near children. Instead, he was sent to another parish where he molested more boys. Pope Benedict offered an apology, but resisted calls for his resignation or tangible penalties. And despite some new processes that have been put in place to help prevent sexual abuse, the hierarchy still allows for tremendous individual freedom among bishops with no real accountability or oversight, so the self-policing approach remains ineffective.
If any other institution operated like the Catholic Church, it would be universally derided as an aggressive affront to any notion of human decency. While hundreds of billions of parishioners’ dollars have been spent protecting child rapists, covering up abuse and paying off victims, the church still claims a moral high ground, continuing its unconscionable and hateful discrimination of gays and exhibiting stunning audacity by trying to influence government policy toward the poor while its leaders roam the halls of their opulent Roman palace.
AVatican official in 2003 unforgivably claimed that condoms had tiny holes in them, deeming them useless, and Pope Benedict has argued that condoms “aggravate” the AIDS crisis. Benedict’s beloved predecessor, who also peddled the same medieval nonsense about birth control, is on the road to sainthood, despite his complicity in the sex-abuse crisis. Bernard Law, the disgraced former Archbishop of Boston who resigned after court documents showed he had covered up sex abuse, was rewarded with a prominent position in the Vatican.
These are the types of thugs and monsters who are revered in the Catholic Church. At what point will rank-and-file Catholics demand better?