Wednesday, September 26, 2007

About the 'long Lent'

~by Bishop Cordileone in the San Diego Tribune (hat tip to Gerald)
It would be impossible to summarize the entire 120-page report here, but it is worthwhile to note some of the more salient points. First, the study revealed that the problem of sex abuse of children and young people by Catholic clergy was, indeed, widespread, in the sense that nearly all dioceses across the nation reported at least one incident during that time. Also, the patterns applied consistently throughout all dioceses, regardless of such factors as its size and the region in which it is located. The majority of the clergy accused had only one allegation against them; in fact, 3.5 percent of the priests accused account for 26 percent of all of the allegations. Most of the verified incidents, however, involved more serious types of abuse. It was in this context that the report referred to the results of the study as “very disturbing.”

Furthermore, with regard to prevalence, the study demonstrated that a total of roughly 4 percent of all priests and deacons serving during these 52 years were accused of sexual abuse of minors, with 10,667 people making allegations. In basically all of the categories studied from the historical perspective (e.g., when the incidents occurred, the number of accused priests, priests accused as a percentage of all ordinations), the trend is the same: an increase in the 1960s with an upward spike around 1970, followed by a precipitous decline in the early 1980s. Indeed, 75 percent of the events were alleged to have occurred between 1960 and 1984. Along the same lines, the majority of priests accused were ordained between the 1950s and 1970s.

Of those priests with substantiated allegation(s) (80 percent of those originally accused), slightly over half were either dead or out of active ministry at the time of the allegation, or were voluntarily or forcibly removed. Of the others, 9.2 percent were reprimanded and returned to ministry; in most of the remaining cases, some precaution was taken before restoring the priest to ministry, such as evaluation, treatment and/or administrative leave. It should be borne in mind, though, that the way offenders were treated evolved with our growing understanding of the problem. Thus, in the earlier years of this period, when it was more common to believe this to be solely a moral fault, returning a priest to ministry after a reprimand was much more common; by the 1980s, the standard approach was to send the offender for treatment and not return him to ministry unless and until he had a positive evaluation of rehabilitation from a qualified professional.

While the patterns of Catholic clergy sexual abuse of minors more or less followed those of the general male population, one significant statistic stands out: 81 percent were perpetrated against males. Also worth noting is that 78.2 percent of the victims were between the ages of 11 and 17 when the abuse began. Also, of all offenders, only 3.3 percent were abused in more than one diocese. Indeed, with regard to this last statistic, in a letter to the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2004, the principal investigator of the John Jay study, Karen Terry, and its administrative coordinator, James P. Levine, wrote: “It is clear that transferring priests [among dioceses] with allegations of child sexual abuse was not a general response to the problem, and was limited to a finite number of cases.”

...In this area, no institution has been subject to greater public scrutiny, and self-scrutiny, than the Catholic Church in the United States. For those of us bearing the shame of our deviant confreres in the ministry, our greatest hope in this whole ordeal is that it has shed light on just how widespread and prevalent this problem is throughout our entire society. I pray that our painful experience may be a catalyst for all institutions to be held, and to hold themselves, so accountable, and for governments to enact laws and make provisions to enable families to more easily confront this problem in their own homes and to seek, and be given, the help they need to address it.

Short of this, we will fail to be a truly just society that protects and cherishes its children.
Read more

No comments: