Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Paper Says Catholic Church Knew of Priest Abuse Problem Earlier Than Previously Thought

National Catholic Reporter yesterday ran a long article disclosing that:

decades before the clergy sexual-abuse crisis broke publicly across the U.S. Catholic landscape, the founder of a religious order that dealt regularly with priest sex abusers was so convinced of their inability to change that he searched for an island to purchase with the intent of using it as a place to isolate such offenders....

Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald, founder of the Servants of the Paracletes, an order established in 1947 to deal with problem priests, wrote regularly to bishops in the United States and to Vatican officials, including the pope, of his opinion that many sexual abusers in the priesthood should be laicized immediately. [Full text of letters.]


Lasher said...

Now... that's just disturbing.

Anonymous said...

I once heard a minister say that organized religion has done more good for the world than anything else. In the same breath, he also said that organized religion has done more harm than anything else. What he couldn’t address is where the balance is. With each new revelation about the Roman Catholic Church, it’s beginning to appear that the bad may outweigh the good.

CrypticLife said...

Wow, incredible. At least fifty years of coverup. And none of them suggested turning these guys over to actual criminal authorities; only one even made a reference to civilian authority.


Anonymous said...

"[O]rganized religion has done more harm than anything else." That's just nonsense. More harm than atheistic Communism, Nazism, or Maoism? Why do you never hear of the sexual abuse that went on in Young Pioneers? How about the sexual abuse perpetuated by Kinsey in the name of science?

No doubt sexual abuse is a serious problem within organized religion. It is also a problem within families and within public schools. It is a scandal and a great shame that the Catholic Church failed in its duty to protect the innocence of children. In no way should it minimize the harm that has been done, but for the sake of honest assessment, there needs to be some perspective here.

tomh said...

It is also a problem within families and within public schools.

Which has zero relevance to the fact that abuse has been widespread and condoned in the RCC for years.

for the sake of honest assessment, there needs to be some perspective here.

The honest assessment is that the Church abused children for decades, if not centuries. Because bad things happen elsewhere, in other circumstances, has no bearing on that fact.

CrypticLife said...

Hmmm, perspective, perspective....

The Catholic church, a large organization with knowledge of specific priests who engaged in criminal acts with specific children, covered them up and put those priests in positions where they would continue to have contact with children. Except the "good" priests, who privately argued for them to be laicized to avoid scandal to the church. All the while, they publically held themselves as the arbiters of morality. And they did this for half a century and many changes in priesthood at the very least, and there's no indication they would ever have stopped.

We're not talking about a single researcher who was never actually proven to be involved in abuse. We're not talking about the virtually ungoogleable Young Pioneers scandal. We're not mentioning incidents which, like those two, occurred as isolated events and were quickly called out.

You'll notice that Communism, Nazism, and Maoism are largely reviled today.

If an individual woman covered up the fact that her husband was abusing their children she would be held partially responsible -- her defense would be her status as co-victim, a defense unavailable to the church.

This isn't "failing" in its duty to protect children. This is knowing participation in the abuse.

Yes, I have my perspective. My perspective is that I will never trust official pronouncements of the church. I will never accept that the organization that is the church has any genuine remorse or compassion. Putting theistic Roman Catholicism on par with atheistic Communism is fine with me. It just points out that the theism, or lack thereof, has nothing to do with the morality.

Deacon John M. Bresnahan said...

Even when I started teaching in the public schools in the 1960's the policies in the school systems were the same as in the Church. The superintendant would write a glowing report on an unwanted, abusing teacher and send him off to the next job. In fact, a few years ago, the NY Times had a front page story admitting that the situation in the public schools was probably far WORSE than the situation in the Catholic Church. In fact, the Times observed, there was a school label for what was going on there: "Moving the trash along!"
So where are the lawsuits against these public school "bishops?" Where are the warranted investigations by law authorities?? Where are the reforms to guarantee it won't happen again???
Interestingly, across the country there have been laws proposed in state after state to make it easier to sue all non-profit organizations further and further back in time.
But when have most of these bills died??? When someone proposed or got an amendment in that would open up public social work agencies and/or public schools to similar lawsuits and scrutiny.
The Church--like the public schools, etc.--fouled up royally in past decades. But only the Catholic Church is being financially plundered by lawyers for its mistakes (mistakes endorsed by lawyers and psychiatrists of the time).
And all sorts of policies and programs have been put in place to make sure such does not take place in the Church again.
But what reforms or changes, have been made in the public schools to stop the "moving the trash along" there???
I have seen nothing in the news about such changes?? Just politicians running away from the issue when someone demands we look at the public schools, etc. and the policies and past practices there.
And they say they care about the kids.
Did all those voters who voted to return Gerry Studds (D. Ma.) to Congress by overwhelming margins year after year even though he was convicted of seducing a young Congressional page care???
The Church should have handed the bad priests what Christ suggested they might be better off having done to them:: A millstone put around their necks and a deep lake to throw them in for what was done to the "little ones".

Lasher said...

Religion, as perhaps the best, most stable, and most enduring identity groups available to humans, has done a lot of bad. Religious wars and violence, these sexual abuse cases, we need not even consider White Night in Jonestown. I think everyone's aware of that. At the same time, religion has offered good. I would say that it offers at least as much good - which is why it is so enduring. Others may disagree, obviously, we measure value differently.

First, let me say, though, that those who study religion aren't even sure how to define it. Yes, we need one, but no definition seems to work properly. All the definitions suggested either include those groups that aren't religion, or leave out some that are. A more recent development within the AAR (American Academy of Religion), mostly with the break-away groups NAASR (North American Association for the Study of Religion), is thinking of religion as not sui generis. That is, religion is just another social formation of which humans may be apart. It is deeply affected and deeply affects politics, society, culture, economics, so on and so forth, because none of these spheres are sui generis. So, the line between accepting female circumcision because it is a religious practice and accepting it because it is a cultural practice (where do we place the blame?) is dim and nearly impossible to pick out. So, these sex abuse cases, well... society in general is just as much to blame as religion in particular.

That said, religion does offer one of the most enduring and stable identity matrices for humans. People are more able to organize their lives with religion. Even if a person identifies themselves are anti-religious, they are still identifying themselves as - and forming an identity that is - in reference to religion. Not to be pithy about this, but science - as an organizing worldview and stable identity matrix - may be defined as a religion for those reasons. The fact that religion does offer this to people is important. Identity formation is one of the most important mental functions a person has; a person without a stable identity ceases to function properly. Unfortunately, though, that's about all I know about it. I would have to refer others to articles on identity formation in psychological journals if more information is needed.

CrypticLife said...


Nice diversionary tactic.

Charol Shakeshaft's research (thanks for giving links/references, btw) was the source that claimed abuse in schools might be more widespread than in the Catholic church. In it, she surveyed the American Association of University Women for abuse cases, "which range from unwanted sexual comments to rape." I would suspect the AAUW is largely comprised of college professors and administrators, and a minority of students. It's entirely noncomparable. And competing research by Nan Stein of Wellesley showed, "several hundred" cases per year.

Schools have governmental oversight, inspections, and the like. Additionally, many male teachers take pains not to be alone with children. And abusers within the public schools are being prosecuted and not protected by the administration.

I don't think all religion promotes child abuse per se (unless you count any fostering of delusions as child abuse -- which I don't), so to me this is not about whether religion in general is acceptable in society.

You have a long, long way to go before making your persecution argument convincing, John.

tomh said...

Lasher said: People are more able to organize their lives with religion.
This is patently false on the face of it. People are able to organize their lives perfectly well without religion and millions do.

Even if a person identifies themselves are anti-religious, they are still identifying themselves as - and forming an identity that is - in reference to religion.
Not at all. In the first place, "anti-religious" is a peculiar phrase and I doubt that anyone identifies themselves as that. If you mean atheist, which is how many people identify themselves, it merely means that they don't believe in gods and doesn't reference religion any more than not believing in Santa Claus references Christmas.
science - as an organizing worldview and stable identity matrix - may be defined as a religion for those reasons.
There are no reasons that science can be identified as a religion, science is a process used to explain natural phenomena. Whatever "an organizing worldview and stable identity matrix" is, it's not science. And no matter how you contort the definition, science is not a religion.