January 16, 2011
A Priest and an Altar Boy, Hah, Ha, HaBy Randall Hoven
This past June, Pope Benedict XVI said the church must promise "to do everything possible" to ensure that the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests "will never occur again."
But the president of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) was not satisfied. She said, "Right now, kids are being assaulted by priests and bishops are concealing the crimes. And the pope continues taking no action to stop this." She said that the pope still ignores the main problem: "the ongoing recklessness, deceit, and callousness of bishops who, even now, protect predators instead of children."
The executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference had an answer to the problem. "We believe that if women had a say in the church, if there was more accountability and more transparency, [then] the men would have been held more accountable."
The issue of sexual abuse by Catholic priests is so commonplace that it is the subject of late-night "humor."
Let me take you on a journey into reality. (Remember this starting point.)
In 2004, the U.S. Department of Education reported on the results of academic studies into the prevalence of sexual abuse in Catholic schools.
Just last month, the Government Accountability Office reported on fifteen specific cases of sexual abuse in Catholic schools, showing that sexual abuse is ongoing and ignored even now.
We often hear how the Catholic priests and bishops excuse sexual offenders or merely pass them along from parish to parish. The GAO confirmed such behavior.
The GAO summarized the findings of the fifteen specific "cases of individuals with histories of sexual misconduct hired or retained."
That ends our little journey into reality. (Remember this ending point.)
Now, I have a secret to tell you: everything in the above "journey into reality" (between the parenthetical starting and ending points) was about public schools, not Catholic ones.
The DoE report and the GAO report were real, but they were reporting primarily on public schools. The 9.6% rate of "educator sexual misconduct" was based on surveys of public schools. The estimate of 4.5 million children "subject to sexual misconduct" was based on those same surveys of public schools.
The quotes I used above did indeed come from those DoE and GAO reports. I used brackets ([ ]) or ellipses (...) within the quotes only to disguise the identity of the schools or officials as public ones rather than Catholic ones.
In fact, the only false statements made in my "journey into reality" involved using the word "Catholic." If you replace "Catholic" with "public" and replace the references to priests, bishops, and parishes with references to teachers, administrators, and school districts, the above journey accurately reflects the DoE and GAO reports.
The DoE report identified who the sexual offenders of schoolchildren are.
The U.S. Department of Education concluded that 4.5 million K-12 students are subjected to sexual misconduct from the types of people in the above list. Do you find "priest" in that list?
Sexual misconduct occurs at some frequency in all types of power situations: teacher on student, parent on child, senior officer on enlisted, scout leader on scout, executive on intern, etc. But there is no evidence that such a frequency is higher for priests. Yet priests are virtually assumed guilty until proven innocent.
As usual, I see no attempt by people to get the facts. We all just pile on like middle-school students and denigrate the kid who isn't currently popular. For about two decades now, the unpopular kid is the priest -- all priests. Make jokes about them. Sue them. Take their money. Run Catholic parishes out of business and out of town. Hah, hah, hah.
In the meantime, millions of kids are being sexually abused by their public school teachers, principals, counselors, and coaches. And those public schools do little to weed out or punish the offenders; they often pass them along to other schools with positive job recommendations. Where is the outrage about that? Where are the jokes about that? Is it only funny if the sexual offender wears a cleric's collar?
[Full disclosure: I am a lapsed Catholic, currently agnostic, who attended Catholic schools K-10. Neither I nor anyone I knew in those schools was ever sexually approached, abused, molested, or mistreated in any way by any member of the clergy. The nuns and priests who taught me took vows of celibacy, chastity, and poverty, and they received little pay and virtually nonexistent pensions. However, they did make us memorize the times tables, do long division, and diagram sentences, none of which was very sexy for anyone involved.]