There are perverts everywhere. A government report by the US Department of Education said that 9.6 percent of public school children across the country have been sexually abused or harassed by school employees. Specifically teachers, coaches, substitute teachers, bus drivers and teacher’s aides (in that order). This is astounding, yet rarely reported.
As bad as US public schools may be for the safety of our children, they pale in comparison to the sexual abuse children suffer from family (30% of all cases) and friends (60%). In the other 10% outside of the home, children are victimized wherever they are subject to adult supervision. Public schools, youth sports, scouting and religious organizations for example.
This problem has historically been hidden by those in authority where it occurred. Children were reluctant to come forward and when they did, not believed. Parents, sometimes more concerned about shame, failed to report it or press charges. In the past, laws did not require that these crimes be reported to police. Mental health professionals advised that these behaviors could be effectively treated and cured.
Sadly, like every other organization, the Catholic Church was not immune to this serious problem. Catholics (both lay and clergy), more than anyone else, found it difficult to believe and shocking that it could happen here. We were naive. Every Catholic understands we are not perfect and are sinners. Even the pope goes to confession. Never-the-less, that any priest could be capable of ever doing such a terrible thing was just unimaginable. For all but a very small number, it truly was unimaginable.
Unfortunately we didn’t need to imagine it, it was shamefully real. In a Church of 1.3 billion members (growing 1.5% annually) and over 400,000 priests, more than just trust is necessary to address this widespread societal problem. It has been difficult for us worldwide with varied legal climates, cultural norms and local autonomy to universally take the necessary steps – but they are being made.
In the United States, we have aggressively implemented background checks, seminarian psychological evaluations, strict policies requiring multiple adults around children, zero tolerance, immediate removal from ministry when abuse is alleged, immediate police reporting, extensive annual audits and more. As a result, we have had our share of those falsely accused – but we must err on the side of protecting every child. Contrary to what you may read in the press, the Catholic Church may be the safest place for your children today – by far.
Last year there were a total of six credible allegations of sexual abuse in the Church. ONE instance is too many and absolutely NONE are tolerated. With 65,000,000 US members, this level of effectiveness is nothing less than phenomenal compared against any other organization. The US Catholic Church has set the standard for stopping child sexual abuse that everybody else should learn from.
This may surprise you because you will not generally hear about this in the mainstream press. They mostly ignore child sexual abuse unless it is related to the Catholic Church. Recent headlines along the lines of “The widening Catholic sexual abuse scandal” typically raise issues from decades ago and their errors of fact for even those are simply appalling. This is the reporting while actual abuse is occurring every day, right now all around us.
For us, dealing with the scourge of child sexual abuse that has spilled over from society into the Church is a shameful, extremely serious problem. It is a problem that we have done, and will continue to do, everything in our power to stop. For many in the press, the story is often not really about child sexual abuse at all.
How can the Catholic Church be “rehabilitated” in the eyes of many in the press? Embrace homosexual marriages and divorce. Tolerate sex outside of marriage. Be less family oriented. Ordain women priests. Remove celibacy requirements from the priesthood. Recognize abortion as a personal choice. Accept that sin is relative.
If these things were to happen, I believe that you might never see another story in the mainstream media about a “Catholic sex scandal.” Of course, these things will never happen. Those who are anti-Catholic in the press know this so the purpose of their attacks is to marginalize the Church. They will surely not succeed.
Regardless of some in the press and their misguided efforts, the Church is deeply sorry for its part in this tragedy. Innocent victims have been harmed. Peoples’ faiths have been shaken by the grave personal sins of the few. In a perfect world, a topic such as this would never need discussion in a blog like this. We live in a very imperfect world for which, as always — the Church is the answer, not the problem.