Last week Georgia’s Attorney General released a report on child sexual abuse since 1950 in Georgia’s two dioceses. It is a long report and offers sickening details not known, in some but not all cases, until this report.
It’s been several years since both dioceses have released names of priests credibly accused. But this report gives details, often rather sickening and more importantly, tragic to victims of this kind of sexual abuse.
The biggest take away is that when Church officials learned of abuse, it was not reported to law enforcement but handled in-house as though simply a sin and not a civil crime. I do not think that most bishops even followed the canon laws in place in the 1917 code of canon law.
The greatest tragedy for victims and potential victims is that priests who abused were transferred about which enabled others to be abused.
Abuse took place in the “good old days” prior to Vatican II and accelerated after Vatican II where mercy for criminals was greater than mercy for victims or potential victims.
What has changed and what hasn’t?
1. In many cases the abuse is only known by the victim who doesn’t reveal it until well into adulthood. There are a variety of psychological reasons for this as well as fear that they won’t be believed. I don’t think this has changed, thus abuse could be happening today that no one but the victim knows and that victim won’t come forward for years. But I think transparency about abuse by the Church and society in general can help curb this.
2. There are more people both laity and clergy trained to be more vigilant. Hopefully, parents know not to entrust their children to anyone in a way that trusting parents entrusted their boys to priests who had bad intentions. I don’t think most parents would entrust their daughters to priests in the same way as they did their boys. But they trusted priests who were manipulators, narcissists and criminals. They did not know that.
3. In pre-Vatican II times, there wasn’t much screening of candidates. If you came from a good Catholic home where there was not a history of divorce or mental illness, that is all it took to be accepted. After Vatican II things were not much better but today I think there are good screening tools.
4. I am still not clear what the percentage of abusers are with married clergy of other Christian sects or other religions. The Catholic Church’s statistics proved that most of those abused are boys, prepubescent and pubescent as well as young adult men. It could be a matter of access, but it is clear that most are from homosexual men immature in their sexuality or in arrested development. They have no moral foundation which is even more alarming. But again, the Catholic Church had a culture of priests mentoring boys, spending the night in rectories, going on vacations with priests. I am not sure that is the case in the married clergy at all, although friends might spend the night with the children of clergy. Again, I don’t know what the percentage of abuse is in the priesthood compared to married clergy, although married clergy’s victims are more often girls not boys.
5. I think often, too, abuse is coupled with other addictions such as drugs and alcohol.
6. The way to reduce abuse is to report abusers immediately to the authorities and if the abuse is credible the priest or bishop should be laicized in addition to whatever civil authorities will do. As well the culture of the Church where laity wanted priests to be close to their children (as a good influence) is changing. There should be a professional relationship with children not one of a priest acting as a parent to gain access to the child. Proper screening of candidates is important, especially those with a homosexual orientation. Does any candidate show immaturity in sexuality and promiscuity prior to applying to the diocese? Anyone who is promiscuous prior to being accepted, especially homosexuals who will be placed into an all male environment, is a recipe for disaster as we have seen quite vividly.
Here is Georgia’s report. Savannah’s portion is toward the end of the report:
Report of Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah
I imagine that Georgia, like many states, did not have a law mandating the reporting of abuse until recent times. Notwithstanding any reporting obligation, it is still unfathomable to me, that a bishop would not demand the resignation of a priest who was sexually active with a minor. Why would any sane person want that kind of person around?
Maybe because certain bishops had the same predilections? (That's my guess, anyway.)
This whole thing seems strange to me. Covering up such a terrible and disgusting thing always leads to worse outcomes. Heck, it’s the same with covering up shoplifting so covering up pederasty is only going to get worse. I think shame is really a small part of it. I think it was fear of pulling that thread.
Human nature being what it is I think it likely the record of recent and historical child abuse and how it was poorly handled would be similar in all mainstream Protestant denominations; and state/public schools.
An Australian Royal Commission into institutional child abuse actually showed that factoring in the Uniting Church is a fifth the size of the Catholic Church in Australia the Uniting Church’s record was actually a bit worse than that of the Catholic Church.
When the level of historical child abuse in Salvation Army orphanages was revealed and actually received a little media coverage it was not uncommon for Salvation Army officers in uniform to be denied service in cafes, shops and restaurants.
Also, regarding the situation in American public schools, it takes less than 5 minutes to read a summary, at Wikipedia, of the research of Charol Shakeshaft - apparently the only American academic to seriously and extensively research and analyse the prevalence of educator sexual misconduct in the USA. Her report indicated that almost 10% of US public school students had been the victims of sexual harassment , rape or sexual abuse. Many educators praised her research and analysis though the Washington Post and 2 large teacher organisations criticised Shakeshaft for not more clearly separating sexual harassment of students and actual molestation - by lumping them together, they claimed, the problem was made to seem worse than it was…or is….but the problem was and is severe….and in the 1990s only 1% of cases did superintendents follow up to ensure that molesting teachers did not continue teaching elsewhere ….the term “passing the trash” was the preferred jargon among educators…
Regarding point 4. Informed estimates of percentages of married Protestant priests and pastors who have sexually abused children see “Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis” Philip Jenkins.
Good reviews, summaries etc at Amazon.com.
What percentage of the abuse was homosexual? In most other AG reports from other states it is around 70%.
T answer my own question: I made it through the first 160 pages and don't think reading more would make any significant difference. 80% of the incidents described were homosexual in nature. This puts Georgia in the same ballpark as most other dioceses.
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