Sexual Abuse in the Church: Lessons from the Roman Catholic Scandal

A 300 page report concerning the sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic clergy done by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice was recently released.   Some of its findings were summarized in a Religious News Service article by David Gibson, Causes of Catholic Abuse Scandal Pinpointed by Study.

Being a member of the OCA’s Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee, I’ve read some of these articles with interest.  There were two excerpts from the article I thought particularly relevant for Orthodox in this country.

1)    “The John Jay researchers take pains to credit the hierarchy for making important strides in combating child abuse — an assertion victim advocates will strenuously dispute — and they point out that society as a whole was only slowly coming to understand the nature of child abuse as U.S. dioceses were swamped with cases.

At the same time, however, researchers note the bishops’ abysmal track record in so many tragic instances, and say church leadership was reflexively defensive and self-protective — behavior that fits a well-defined pattern of crisis management in large institutions.

Indeed, the authors convincingly argue that the clerical culture that fostered and concealed deviance by priests is remarkably similar to the law enforcement culture that allows police brutality. The church, like the police, is a hierarchical organization that operates in a decentralized way, with each department (or diocese) an authority unto itself and not inclined to open itself to oversight.”

2)     “The doctrine of the undiluted authority of the bishop, combined with the hierarchy’s track record as a group of crisis managers concerned with protecting the institution, may be the central problem for the bishops revealed by the sex abuse crisis.

That’s certainly the main challenge put forth by authors of the new John Jay report, who argue that the American Catholic hierarchy must finally adopt uniform, secure policies characterized by genuine transparency and true accountability, especially for bishops.

Taking that difficult step is the only way the bishops can begin to show that the hierarchy is different from Wall Street financiers or a protective police bureaucracy. It’s also perhaps the quickest way for the bishops to restore the Catholic Church’s credibility as a compelling witness to the faith rather than just another suspect institution.”

A list of other blogs I’ve posted on church sexual misconduct with links to them can be found at Blogs on Church Sexual Misconduct.

5 thoughts on “Sexual Abuse in the Church: Lessons from the Roman Catholic Scandal

  1. The Catholic church has always depended on its ability to hide the truth, and now the Internet and social media will expose that truth to teenagers for years to come.

    Teenagers will learn about the Catholic church from their phones, not from their priests, and they will see that

    – young children were raped by priests
    – the Catholic bishops moved known pedophiles from parish to parish
    – they lied to the congregation
    – they ignored the victims

    and teenagers, especially the more intelligent ones, will go elsewhere or abandon organized religion.

    God made it simple for the Catholic church:

    – Don’t rape children
    – Don’t lie
    – Don’t ignore victims

    and they couldn’t do it. The Catholic church may last one or two more generations, but no more than that before they are seen as a horrible, heartless, hypocritical institution.

    What will God’s punishment be for priests and bishops that ended a religion?

  2. James the Thickheaded

    I believe in repentance and the strength of the Catholic Church is that she has a Pope who can (hasn’t but can) get down and beg forgiveness, can offer this without self-saving pride as atonement consistent within all their theology as poorly as I understand it… and as the embodiment of teaching. I’m sure someone else could parse it’s meaning and what’s wrong with all of that and why it won’t happen. But the fact is that it very well may happend. Indeed, I wonder not that it will happen, but that it hasn’t happened already. And I write this as someone who loves the Orthodox to which I belong rather than Catholic Church to which I do not but do have great respect. We do not have someone who centralizes and can act on behalf of all and for all in this way. We could do this in a more powerful way, as faithful perhaps parish by parish. I dunno. The gesture seems harder and diffused and more difficult to manage… and our divisions make leadership hard.

  3. jeff clewell

    Marriage won’t universally cure a sexual deviant, but it does provide a god-given structure for a man & woman to work out their salvation. In keeping the instition of marriage for her priests & bishops the Orthodox Church has offered man the ascetic life within his family, accomodating for his weakness. Certainly some Orthodox clergy have succumbed to these terrible abominations but there are fewer incidents. Certainly the Orthodox teaching that we must be purified of the passions to be saved plays no small part in this difference

  4. Lucian

    Lessons from the Roman Catholic Scandal

    “Don’t ____ children in the ___” ? — Yes… a great and valuable lesson indeed…

  5. Pingback: Blogs on Sexual Misconduct in the Church | Fr. Ted's Blog

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