Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lucia RCC Priest sex scandal

The massive payout to the victims of priestly sexual abuse in Los Angeles seems to be the story of the week, so if anyone wants to comment, comment here. If you comment on any other threads about this topic, your comments will be deleted.

For a more indepth discussion on a RCC blog, go have a look at Being Frank.

Apologies for the hard line on this, but I've just had my very interesting discussion on other issues closed down for this very reason. I'll most likely start off a thread on this blog continuing the discussion in the near future.

22 comment(s):

Andrei said...

I'm sorry I posted a comment on that thread now.

The Devil has had a major triumph with this thing.

(1) the damage done to the victims
(2) the damage done to the perpetrators
(3) the temptation to file false claims - something that has happened in New Zealand at least twice.
(3) the damage done to the reputation of the priesthood
(4) the damage done to the Church
(5) the removal of resources from Christ's ministry to payouts.

And all in all compared to the outside world Catholic Priests are far less likely to abuse children than other members of society - something I tried to show in my comment.

Still we live in a fallen world and can expect this sort of thing sadly

KG said...

Andrei, I picked up that article about the rates of child abuse among teachers compared to priests and posted it at Crusader Rabbit.
It deserves more publicity.

ZenTiger said...

Good point Andrei. I had a comment to make, that touches on that sentiment but it was a long one and drifting off topic so I made it a post: Institutional Abuse

I.M Fletcher said...

Good work Lucyna :)
I have to admit that defending the faith can be quite depressing sometimes. I write my reply in a thread which I think explains a question and up the person leaps with yet another question about the RC church. It is with a heavy heart that I go back to a thread sometimes and wonder what else they've written.

I guess it's a downer because they don't really want to know the reasons why. Most of the time it seems like argument for argument's sake.

I do admit that it does increase my own knowledge of the faith having to look stuff up though :)

Keep going, and may God bless you with wisdom (bless us all!)

I.M Fletcher said...

Insofar as the abuse is concerned, of course I agree that it is awful - I have said before that I consider the Catholic Church my "team" and am not about to change it for another church (as Peter said, 'to who else can we go'?).

When I say team, consider someone who follows the Bulldogs league team. I am not a league fan, but I understand the Bulldogs have been 'dogged' (hehe) with controversy from time to time, with players being accused of raping women and the like. Now, if I was a Bulldgos fan would I change to supporting another team because of what some of the Bulldogs' players did?

No, I'm sure the Bulldogs management doesn't condone their players raping women; in the same way the RC Church does not condone what a few of their priests do.

Anonymous said...

A few of their priests? Get a grip man, it was several hundred in the L.A. Diocese alone. If the RCC doesn't condone it, why did they cover it up for 50 years? Why doesn't your pope make an apology?

ZenTiger said...

Could I see your stats for that potentially outrageous claim, platypus?

Given that there were 508 complainants, complaining of multiple offences, does that mean several hundred priests raped each of them at least once?

The number of priests convicted of sexual abuse is around 4.5% of the priest population. That is supposedly similar to other groups.

ZenTiger said...

Under the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, a thorough review of all seminaries in the United States was undertaken. This included a thorough study and report on the selection process of candidates to the priesthood. Every diocese and religious order in the United States is now using professional help to review the psychological stability of its applicants. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has established new procedures for dealing with accusations against priests and other employees. This includes immediate removal from pastoral ministry of any priest or employee who is credibly accused of sexual abuse until the case is properly investigated by the diocese AND the proper legal authorities. It also suggests the permanent removal from ministry of any cleric who is found guilty of a single act. Finally, there is now a new consciousness among bishops, priests and diocesan services to reach out to victims and get them the help they need.

Father Jonathan Morris

Insolent Prick said...

To be quite brutal, I don't think the bishops have ever been in a position to adequately deal with clergy abusing their positions.

The truth is that there has a sub-culture within the priesthood, which some priests engage in for long periods of time. Catholic dioceses have been dealing with this stuff globally for many, many years.

As a group, Catholic clergy are one of the most unusual creatures on earth. They lock themselves away from society, yet are expected to tender to the most needy in society. I don't think many non-Catholics have any concept of what the pastoral life of a priest actually involves. It is deeply, deeply stressful, caring for people who are often at their most miserable, either through accident of circumstance, illness, or self-imposed harm. They don't live anything close to normal lives. Alcoholism and depression among the priesthood is shockingly high.

I have known many, many priests. Most of them were the most compassionate, dutiful people I have known.

Yet there has always been a small number who have abused their position. It always puzzled me why the Church tolerated them.

Part of the reason is about resources. There simply aren't anything like the number of men joining the priesthood.

Part of the reason is the very close relationships that priests have with diocesan leadership. They are by nature compassionate and forgiving.

I think the third reason is that bishops simply aren't emotionally equipped to deal with judging their own. The kind of evil in a priest that causes him to commit atrocities against children is so staggeringly removed from a good priest's sense of values, it's not something that they want to deal with.

I think the culture in the clergy is changing, and the LA cases have forced them to deal with the issues. They simply can't allow abusive priests to be shielded from the consequences of their behaviour. Priests who commit this kind of evil just can't be shifted to another parish to commit the same evils again and again.

There will always be some priests who abuse their positions. As long as the Church makes them take responsibility for their crimes, and shifts its focus towards caring for the victims of the abuse, the Church will be fulfilling its duty.

Psycho Milt said...

"And all in all compared to the outside world Catholic Priests are far less likely to abuse children than other members of society..."

I'd be surprised if it really was "less likely," but am quite prepared to believe "no more likely." However, apart from among the usual crowd of the mentally challenged, the issue has never been about the fact of the abuse, some level of abuse being inevitable where humans are involved, but about the Church's approach to dealing with that abuse. That's where the news stories and the fat payouts are coming from.

I.M Fletcher said...

Some questions and answers HERE
No one really knows how what percentage of priests abuse, but here this snippet is about the percentages -

Some estimates on the percent of abusers:
* Philip Jenkins, is a professor of history and religious studies at Penn State University, and has written a book on the topic. 3 He estimates that 2% of priests sexually abuse youth and children. 4
* Richard Sipe is a psychotherapist and former priest, who has studied celibacy and sexuality in the priesthood for four decades. He has authored three books on the topic. 5 By extrapolating from his 25 years of interviews of 1,500 priests and others, he estimates that 6% of priests abuse. Of these, 4% abuse teens, aged 13 to 17; 2% abuse pre-pubertal children. 4
bullet Sylvia M. Demarest, a lawyer from Texas has been tracking accusations against priests since the the mid-1990s. By 1996, she had identified 1,100 priests who had been accused of molesting children. She predicts that when she updates the list, the total will exceed 1,500 names. This represents about 2.5% of the approximately 60,000 men who have been active priests in the U.S. since 1984. It is important to realize that these are accused priests; the allegations have not been evaluated in a trial. Also, there is no way to judge what proportion of abusive priests are on her list. It may include 40% or fewer; she may have found 90% or more.
* Columnist Ann Coulter claimed, without citing references, that there are only 55 "exposed abusers" in a population of 45,000 priests. This is an abuse rate of 0.12%. 6
bullet Various news services reported that 200 Roman Catholic priests in the Philippines have been investigated for "sexual misconduct and abuses" over the past two decades. That would represent almost 3% of the total population of about 7,000 priests. However, it appears that misconduct includes many offenses, from child abuse to rape to keeping adult mistresses. 15
* A survey of child and youth sexual abuse within the church issued in 2004-FEB estimates that four percent of the 110,000 priests who served between 1950 and 2002 were abusive. More details.

It is important to keep one's eye on the forest and not on the trees. Even if, as one researcher estimates, six percent of priests sexually abuse youth or children, then that still leaves an average of almost 19 priests out of every 20 who are non-abusive.

(You can see the references to which the numbers refer eg, bibliography, at the link I gave).

Of course, any percentage is too high. I'd like it at zero.

Comparison of abuse in the Catholic Church and U.S. public schools:

A U.S. Department of Education report issued in 2004 examined a number of American studies into the prevalence of sexual misconduct by school staff. They found that between 3.5% and 50.3% of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career. They found that teachers, coaches, substitute teachers were the most common offenders.

If this report is accurate, then sexual abuse by priests in the Roman Catholic church, and by other clergy, appears to pale in comparison with the abuse being experienced by children and youths in the public schools.16

ZenTiger said...

P.M., I agree and I think I.P's comment is on the mark. The strange thing is that even as they try to change the culture and the process, they get resistance.

A story where they are trying to run background checks on the various non-priests they use in youth programs is being met with outrage. (And it's not about singling out non-priests over priests, as priests are now subject to far more rigorous reviews).

At one end, they are being told to take responsibility and at the other, they cannot take what is now required steps to prove diligence and effort to protect?

Recently a youth worker for the Church was convicted of child molestation and the church was fined 11 million dollars. This guy had fooled them and they were told to take responsibility. All fine and good, but equally, he fooled the girls parents. Her parents invited this guy to go on holiday with them and their daughter during the period of abuse!

The culprit here was the youth worker. The Church obviously needs to double up on workers and ensure that one worker is never alone with children as part of service delivery, which is going to make it hard for many organisations to run programs at all.

Equally, they can try to do background checks (and enrage civil liberty groups) but this can only go so far, and there will come a time when the default blame can no longer be laid at the Church's door.

George said...

Hi Lucyna

I look forward to seeing the discussion being continued here. I was enjoying seeing the questions about the church being discussed sensibly before it turned into something else. Cheers

Danyl said...

I suspect Catholic Priests abuse children at roughly the same rate as teachers, youth workers, scout leaders, baby-sitters and other similar groups placed in a position of privilege around children. (Statistically your child is much more likely to be abused by a male relative than your local Priest).

The big difference is that teachers don't claim to be part of a special organisation that speaks for God and claims to be carrying out his will on Earth. Babysitters don't presume to lecture everyone else on how to conduct their sex lives so the blatant hypocrisy of their own failings isn't quite so jaw-dropping.

ZenTiger said...

Not so hypocritical if the fallen priest spends all their sermons preaching forgiveness? For 4% of the masses, perhaps it was all about them?

And what you are agreeing then is 96% of the Priests are not being hypocritical, and the 4% or so that are, are actually imposters of the worst order.

Also, teachers claim to be a special organisation that is entrusted with the teaching of our youngsters. Do we say that 4% of them prove the hypocrisy of the other 96% when we discover that their main enjoyment in life is taping hands to desks, stuffing tennis balls in the mouths of children and ridiculing them in front of their peers? Or do we make them Ministers of Parliament, nod wisely that it was a product of the times and carry on like nothing ever happened?

There's some major hypocrisy going on in every corner, it seems.

I.M Fletcher said...

Danyl, what you say is true - the Church should be the organisation that people look to, to uphold Gods law and do practice what they preach; I guess that the people in it are only human though and they sin and fall.

We only have to look at the example of Judas: here was a man chosen by Jesus as an apostle and actually saw all the miracles that Jesus did and yet still betrayed him. If someone who was right there with Jesus and saw all the did could betray him then we should not be surprised that the Church is betrayed today by those who are in leadership in it.

The other apostles could have said ,oh no, look what has happened and given up; but they didn't. They chose someone else to take Judas's place and carried on.

ZenTiger said...

Excellent point Fletch.

Danyl said...

The conversation seems to run like this:

Church: We are a divine institution here to work Gods will on Earth. Our teachings and works are infallible since we are carrying out the work of the almighty, and failure to heed our commands and obey Him will lead to an ETERNITY of torture!

Society: If you're all so great and infallible and shit how come you keep getting caught raping children?

Church: Well . . . we're only human, so just cut us some slack, man. Besides, statistically not THAT many of us have been caught. And teachers do it too, you know.

Anonymous said...


Your last post actually contains the great misconception that the world has about the Church and what it states about itself.

The Church has never stated that the people within it are infallible. When the Pope speaks on matters of faith and morals as evidenced by the Magisterium, that is infallible; the Pope as a person is not.
But you are right on the other things: the RC Church claims Divine Institution and claims as its boss an omnipotent, omniscient and pretty good God.

You have succinctly put it in a nutshell.

ZenTiger said...

Nah, that's just your spin on things Danyl.

Skyman said...

From my readings here in the US, the huge payouts are, more often than not, because of the Catholic church's failure to act on accusations of abuse rather than the actual abuse that occured.

Rather than punish the priest, expose him and his horrible deeds and put him in a position where he was at least less likely to commit them again, the church would instead cover up what happened, often admonishing the victims family not to say anything and then move the priest to a new location allowing him to start all over again. As the abuse was often associated with alcoholism, the priest would sometimes be sent to rehab before being sent to a new parish.

Nothing more was done. It was never reported to the police. No counseling was offered to the victim. Nothing.

Many, many of the victims and the public in general feel that is the real travesty here.

The regard held by Catholic parishoners for their priest cannot be underestimated. These men are who they say confession to. The men who they go to for counseling and spiritual advice. They see them and through them to the Catholic church as their link to God.

When that priest and church betray them the damage is incredible.

I.M Fletcher said...

Skyman, I think that you are right. I think that the Church was probably shocked at what had happened as well and perhaps didn't know how to handle it properly. It was probably even more shocking then than it is now.

I think that the first human impulse when something like this happens in any organisation is to try to hide it and fix it. It's the same impulse for a kid caught stealing all the way to someone in Government, or any organisation; no one wants to be embarrassed.

I'm just glad it has been brought out into the open and now and something is being done about it.

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