Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Commenting in StatesmanJournal.com, Peter C. Boulay writes:

We now know there were two stunning scandals in the American Catholic church: priests committing child sex abuse offenses and bishops illegally covering up these crimes.

The rate at which accusations of child and youth abuse were brought against priests was, by my calculations based on available figures, 74 times higher than the rate of such accusations among the American male population as a whole. As for the bishops, it appears from our present knowledge that nearly all American bishops and cardinals in charge of dioceses participated in illegal cover-ups.

All of this points to a systemic problem that still begs to be analyzed. What is there in the recruitment, education and deployment of priests, or in the mindset of the church, that could explain these two humiliating fin de siecle phenomena?

The bishops failed to report priestly abuse cases to civil authorities, as they were legally required to do in every jurisdiction in America. They re-assigned abusive priests to other positions or other dioceses where they might strike again. In some cases, they gave the abusive priests excellent recommendations as they sought to get rid of them.

The monetary damage to the American Catholic Church included huge sums, with estimates ranging from $600 million to $3 billion paid to the accusers and to the church's legal defenses, and to counsel priests. Five dioceses were bankrupt. The average payment to a credible accuser was $322,000. The collateral damage — to reputation, to faith, to loyalty — is incalculable.

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