“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up.” Karol Cardinal Wotyla (Sept. 1976)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Progress and Perspective on the Catholic Church's Abuse Scandal

Understanding that one case of clerical abuse against any minor is reprehensible, evil and intolerable, we should also be aware of the progress our Church has made protecting our children in the recent years.

The chart directly above is from the John Jay study (2002) - the most comprehensive study on this topic -and shows the strides the church has made in addressing this issue and the rapid decline shown in these atrocities during the last two Papacies.

Rich Leonardi at Cincinnati.com puts into context how effective the Church's implemented efforts have been to protect children with some recent data:

"By virtually all accounts, [Benedict XVI's] reforms have been successful and, coupled with the efforts of local bishops, have led to a sharp decrease in incidents of abuse. In 2009, only six credible accusations were reported in the United States for a church that counts more than 65 million members. (By way of comparison, a 2004 study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education found that nearly 10 percent of U.S. public school students reported having been targeted with sexual attention by school employees.)

While any case of abuse is a case too many, the church's record of safety is a remarkable achievement for such a large organization; we have Pope Benedict to thank for that."

So 6 cases in 65,000,000. I tried to get a percentage to visually show you how small this number is, but the calculator that comes with MS Office could not display a number this low and came up with an error message. Then I went to an Excel spreadsheet and it could not display it either; another error message.

By way of comparison (and to underscore what Leonardi infers), VCR friend Tom Hoopes quotes Hofstra University researcher Charol Shakeshaft with a comment that **should** unleash a media frenzy and widespread investigations if the mainstream media had any legitimacy, or desire, to investigate their Democratic Party sibling, the public school teachers' union, at the same level of intensity they have unleashed against the Catholic Church, stating: "

"...Hofstra University researcher Charol Shakeshaft looked into the problem [of abuse in the public schools], and the first thing that came to her mind when Education Week reported on the study were the daily headlines about the Catholic Church.“[T]hink the Catholic Church has a problem?” she said. “The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests."

Then Hoopes quotes a piece by Wayne Laugesen that drives a bus through the double-standard:

..."Yet, during the first half of 2002, the 61 largest newspapers in California ran nearly 2,000 stories about sexual abuse in Catholic institutions, mostly concerning past allegations. During the same period, those newspapers ran four stories about the federal government’s discovery of the much larger — and ongoing — abuse scandal in public schools."

So while I read yet another New York Times' piece this morning, we should all be able to easily identify with assurance what is going on here.


Ron Murphy said...


Just to put my potential bias up front, I'm an atheist.

The point I want to make is that you are in danger of overstating your progress. Do you have any comment on the following:

a) 65 million members - is that total church members, including adults and priests? Isn't a better number the number of children of an age that might be left in the company of a priest? But even as low as 10 million children at risk, say, the figure of six accusatons is still impressive.

b) You compare what you call credible accusations with just plain old accusations in US public schools. What are you really comparing?

c) RC churches often minister to the very poor and poorly educated where it might be easier for an abuser to go un-accused.

d) Does the chart show accusations made in the year, for each data point, of does each data point include data projected back to when the incidents occurred - many adults are only now making accusations about their childhood. If this latter, then there may be many more accusations to come, so the downward trend might not be as steep as the graph suggests, when the data is in for the later end of the graph.

A Voice in the Crowd said...

A) As mentioned, one child is too many, but the fact that you are calling 1 in 1.6 Million -- using your number 10 million which could be right or wrong - - “impressive” doesn’t really lend to a fair-minded discussion. If you had an 1 in 1.6 Million odds of winning the lottery, would you call those odds “impressive”? I think you are trying to discredit the progress that has been made.

B)If you compared apples to apples, credible claims to credible claims, it would still not change the point that was being made. Using your 10 Million unsubstantiated number, if a quarter of the public school claims (10%) were substantiated, that would equal 250,000 credible complaints vs. 6 with the Catholic Church. You should think through the numbers before you throw something like this out. I believe you just threw this out because again you were reaching for anything.

C)It’s is nice that you at least acknowledge that the Church ministers to the poor, but are these poor any different from kids going to failing school systems in the inner city? Aren’t these poor just as likely to not report incidents against public school teachers? The number obviously could be higher than 6. The point made was the Church has made great strides in addressing this evil and protecting children.

D)The accusations are listed in the year they happened. This is why this chart becomes so important in showing the progress over the past two decades the Church has made in addressing this evil. I would also argue the worldwide exposure of this crisis would lend itself to more people being aware of the problem, sensitive to it, and more likely to report it quickly on any possible abuse that is happening current day. This media frenzy should make the chart spike in the last two years, but again only 6 credible cases in 2009.

I did not post your second comment because it was just argumentative. You were also bringing Anglicans and Muslims in to the discussion which has no point to this discussion.

A Voice in the Crowd said...

Ron, I visited your blog.

For an atheist you spent so much time and effort posting about God and religion. Maybe you are really a closet Deist.

You mentioned impressive numbers. Have you ever seen 10 to the 950th power? This is the likelihood that there in no God.

Here is a good post, based on this Mathematical proof of God. You might like it.


I sincerely hope you find you way, it seems like you might be contemplating it.