In the United States, an investigation by the prosecutor of Pennsylvania has revealed that between 1947 to 2010, over 300 priests are suspected of abusing a thousand minors. Worse yet, they were supposedly protected by their superiors. The information spread quickly and has been commented on by the media throughout the entire world.
The jury’s inquest investigated facts that go back more than 70 years in six dioceses of the state of Pennsylvania: Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburg and Scranton. Most of the victims were young boys, some of them teenagers. The report denounces both the repeated abuse by these “predator priests” and the fact that they were, in a way, “protected” by their hierarchy. Their superiors supposedly preferred to transfer them to other dioceses in the State instead of reporting the suspicions and the witnesses’ testimony to civil justice – but the report does not mention whether the families themselves refused to file complaints at the time. Some of these priests continued to have a pastoral activity involving contact with children or teenagers, despite the existence of accusations that have proven to be true.
Almost all of the cases suspected fall under the statute of limitations and therefore cannot be prosecuted in penal courts. Two of the persons implicated, however, were prosecuted for aggressions the most recent of which occurred in 2010. Even though they can no longer be prosecuted, the jurors chose to publish the names of the priests accused by the investigation, ignoring the presumption of innocence and the possibility of false accusations.
In the report, the jurors “admit that many things have changed (in the American clergy) these past fifteen years” but add that the two recent convictions show that “child abuse in the Church has not disappeared”.
The jury suggests several reforms, including a modification of the law to prolong the statute of limitations in both penal and civil courts.
The Society of St. Pius X Mentioned
Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS) revealed on August 20, 2018 that two of the men whose names were on the report by the public prosecutor of Pennsylvania were members of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X.
The first has not been a member for over twenty years. Expelled in 1997 for disciplinary issues, he left the Society of St. Pius X to found his own priestly society in an American diocese. This was when the accusations of immoral behavior began to pour in, leading the local bishop to suppress his society.
The second was relieved of his apostolate and punished for criminal behavior with a teenage girl. When he left his place of seclusion to join an American diocese in order to exercise an apostolate, his case was reported to the Holy See and he was not allowed to do so.
The American Bishops Point Out That Many Cases of Abuse Took Place Before 2002
In their first response, the heads of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) hailed “the courage of the people who aided the investigation by sharing their personal stories of abuse.” It is indeed a trial for the families and victims to revisit such painful situations. As bishops, they declared they “are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops.”
The president of the USCCB, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, and the president of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, Bishop Timothy L. Doherty, recognize “the wrongs of the Church in this scandal”, with a clergy that “facilitated an evil that continued for years or even decades”. – As dramatic and scandalous as the subject may be, it does not allow for any and every amalgam. Accusing the Church as a whole or the clergy without distinction is a way of heaping opprobrium on the institution and the priesthood. The enemies of the Church could not have hoped for more.
The USCCB does, however, point out that the inquest of the Grand Jury of Pennsylvania covers a period of 70 years and that many accusations of abuse were made before 2002, a time when the American bishops adopted “new policies for the protection of children and young people”. Indeed the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People”, known as the “Dallas Charter” prescribes radical and immediate sanctions for priests accused of sexual abuse of minors. It prescribes that any priest guilty of a single act of abuse be immediately excluded from the priestly ministry.
Rome Says to “Continue the efforts to ensure the safety of children”
The Holy See treats this report “with great seriousness”. It “condemns unequivocally the sexual abuse of minors,” declared Greg Burke, director of the Holy See Press Office, on August 16, 2018.
Victims should know that the Pope is on their side. Those who have suffered are his priority, and the Church wants to listen to them to root out this tragic horror that destroys the lives of the innocent.
“The Holy See also wants to underscore the need to comply with the civil law, including mandatory child abuse reporting requirements”, and “to make every effort to create a safe environment for minors and vulnerable adults in the Church and in all of society,” assured the former journalist for Fox News. He pleaded for “accountability for both abusers and those who permitted abuse to occur.”
He also hailed the fruits of the reaction from the United States bishops over the past two decades and, like the USCCB, pointed out that
most of the discussion in the report concerns abuses before the early 2000s. By finding almost no cases after 2002, the Grand Jury’s conclusions are consistent with previous studies showing that Catholic Church reforms in the United States drastically reduced the incidence of clergy child abuse.
“Theologians” Sign an Appeal for the Bishops to Resign
The scandal has been discussed throughout the entire world. In the United States, over 140 “theologians, educators and lay directors” called for all the American bishops to resign, like the 34 Chilean bishops in May 2018 after the revelations of sexual abuse and corruption; the signatories of the appeal in English and Spanish claimed that it would be like “a public act of repentance and lamentation before God and God’s people.”
In Europe, Bishop Charles Morerod, bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Freiburg in Switzerland, admitted that “the open revelation of the actions of certain members of the clergy”, whether they committed sexual abuse or tried to cover it up, “weakens the Church…but it can also make her healthier.” Giorgio Prestele, president of the Committee of experts on “Sexual Abuse in the Ecclesial Context” for the Swiss Bishops’ Conference also considers that “the immense suffering of the victims encourages the Church to take certain measures, to create places where victims can be received and accompanied, to cooperate with government authorities and to provide independent assistance.”
Pope Francis Denounces “Clericalism”
The report by the Prosecutor of Pennsylvania also drew a reaction from Pope Francis on August 20, 2018, in a “Letter to the People of God”. In the face of these scandals, the Holy Father wished to “acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities” perpetrated by some members of the clergy. This document, wrote the sovereign pontiff, illustrates the fact that “these wounds never disappear”. And despite the measures taken to “silence” it, the pain of the victims “cries out to Heaven.”
In the face of this abuse, he admitted that “we were not where we should have been. (...) We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them”, and he expressed “our shame and repentance as an ecclesial community”. And while “no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient,” he wrote, “no effort must be spared” to avoid the possibility of such situations occurring again. It is therefore “urgent that we once more reaffirm our commitment to ensure the protection of minors and of vulnerable adults,” insisted Pope Francis.
In his letter, the successor of Peter considered that one of the sources of these “ecclesial wounds” is a “peculiar way of understanding the Church’s authority.” “Clericalism”, he accused, “supports and helps to perpetuate many of the evils that we are condemning today,” such as “the thirst for power and possessions” and spiritual corruption.”
Vehement Reactions to Pope Francis’s Letter
In Italy, the journalist Aldo Maria Valli has drawn up an inventory of the different reactions to the publication of Pope Francis’ letter. The Italian writer’s article, translated by benoit-et-moi.fr, quotes the remarks by the American website LifeSiteNews: the pope points an accusing finger at “clericalism”, taken as “a peculiar way” of considering and living the authority of the Church, but this explanation seems both vague and false. The article observes that not once do the words “bishop” and “homosexuality” appear in the letter, and recalls the remarks of Cardinal Raymond Burke and the bishop of Madison, Bishop Robert Morlino, for whom a crisis as dramatic as the abuse crisis cannot be faced without admitting the problem of homosexuality and the permissiveness that has crept into the Church.
LifeSiteNews reveals that the statistics contained in the report by the Grand Jury of Pennsylvania show that three quarters of the accused priests were homosexual and that the majority of them chose teenagers as victims. “It is incorrect to speak of pedophilia, or only of pedophilia at least”; this is ephebophilia. Especially considering that the great study by the John Jay College of the University of New York in February 2004 (see below) also indicated that 81% of the victims were men, especially adolescents between the ages of fourteen and seventeen.
Commenting on Pope Francis’ letter, Italian Giovanni Servodio recalled on unavox.it that “true charity requires the truth and the truth is that ‘dirtiness’ is an integral part of today’s world without God and without morals,” a world to which “the new Church born with Vatican II guiltily opened her doors.” According to the journalist,
continuing to speak of members of the clergy and consecrated persons who engage in harmful and unnatural practices (...) without mentioning the fact that the unexpected overflow of ‘dirtiness’ from the world into the Church is the first cause of the evil being denounced, is a way of becoming its accomplices or even its promoters.” And he concluded, “and that is what is also missing in this letter: there is not the least mention of what the pope should do to eliminate all this ‘dirtiness’.
Carlos Esteban, a Spanish journalist, made essentially the same comments on infovaticana.com, remarking that
any reaction that does not include the announcement of a radical change that will tear out by its roots the homosexual culture established in so many seminaries and diocesan curias is simply an attempt to limit the damage (...).
And he added,
It is not just that the Vatican has not said anything on this crisis (...), it’s that, as we keep seeing over and over, there is a discouraging disconnection between many of the pope’s most promising messages and his concrete actions and real measures.
The Hypocrisy of the World and the Statistical Reality
The fact that men invested with the priestly dignity could have committed such acts is indeed a shame. They sully their priesthood and harm the Church, scandalize the souls they endanger and abuse those who trust them. Christ warned, “Woe to him through whom scandal comes” (Lk. 17:1). And again: “He that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Mt. 18:6).
Even if perverts or unbalanced men can be found among consecrated men, we must not lose sight of the general hypocrisy that reigns in our “liberated” societies, where everything is permitted, and the worst depravities are encouraged. The media attacks the Church furiously while pretending to forget that these cases, as scandalous as they may be, are only a tiny minority compared to the abuse committed by adults on children in schools, sports activities, or stepfamilies, not to mention the shady circles of fashion, the show business and the media.
The creators of opinion, who are so careful to decry any form of amalgam on certain topics, between Islam and terrorism for example, or immigration and invasion, etc., are having a field day here. And yet, as the blog “Pedophilia, Church and Media” recalled in 2016, the most complete study on the cases of sexual abuse in the Church is that of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the University of New York, published in February 2004. Drawing up an inventory of all the court cases between 1950 and 2002, this study makes a strict distinction between allegations and condemnations.
Thus, out of the 4,392 allegations listed in the study, 1,021 led to police investigations resulting in only 384 criminal accusations. This enabled the blog to draw up more precise statistics on the cases of confirmed pedophilia. The numbers go from 4% of priests accused of alleged sexual abuse, to 0.35% of priests actually convicted of these acts. Of course, “in this difference, not all the priests are innocent (some are no longer alive, statute of limitations, etc.), but there are some who are innocent, for unfortunately, false testimony and defamation do exist.” And based on the rate of convictions among the inquests that were conducted and completed without being interrupted by the statute of limitations or the death of the accused, the blog concludes that between 98.5% and 99.65% of American priests are innocent. The black sheep represent between 0.35 and 1.5% of consecrated men. Obviously, this is still too many.
In France, statistics show, according to the National Observatory of Social Action, that in 75% of the cases recorded, abuse of minors happens in the family, and a quarter of these cases of abuse are committed by other minors. The proportion of Catholic priests convicted and imprisoned for such acts, all sentences combined, represents 0.48% of the clergy in function, as the French Bishops’ Conference pointed out on January 23, 2017. As serious as it may be, it remains a marginal reality, much more marginal, in any case, than the media, always ready to pounce on an opportunity to dishonor the Church, would have it.
The Church intercedes for her wounded children, not for this hypocritical and corrupt world for which Christ refused to pray (see Jn. 17:9).