Southern Religion

Catholic sex abuse scandal in the South

She did not say, “It’s over.” What Laurie Goodstein did write for the New York Times is:

Roman Catholic bishops in the United States received fewer accusations of sexual abuse by the clergy in 2009 than in any other year since 2004, according to an annual audit based on self-reporting from Catholic dioceses.

The self-reported nature of the numbers does raise serious questions:

David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, reiterated victims’ skepticism about self-reported abuse figures. He said it’s naive to think an institution that has concealed abuse and protected its own for so long would suddenly be honest and forthcoming

The same questions arose when Catholic Diocese of Charlotte press spokesman David Hains’ tried to minimize the problem in North Carolina by arguing that his diocese hasn’t had the extensive sex abuse problems of, say, Boston.

Returning fire today, Neal Evans wrote in the Asheville [North Carolina] Citizen-Times:

I beg to differ.

The St. Eugene’s music minister who also taught at Asheville Catholic School pled to a 30-year federal term for child pornography while his boss, then-pastor of St. Eugene’s, awaits trial for covering up that crime. There’s the music minister’s predecessor, who left after an internal investigation; the diocesan co-director of youth ministry, a priest reassigned to Virginia after allegedly abusing an adolescent; another priest who served in Tryon, Maggie Valley and Charlotte, removed based on “credible evidence”; the Charlotte priest, extradited from New Jersey, sentenced last year up to 10 years for sexually abusing an altar boy.

There’s much more. Priests involved in sexual abuse and cover-up have served in every Catholic parish and school in Buncombe County. Abused at St. Joan of Arc in West Asheville and now representing SNAP (Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests), I frequently receive calls from survivors and families, painfully but bravely sharing their stories of abuse and betrayal by their church.

Germany, Guam and Switzerland and other places an ocean away are by no means the only ones where new cases are surfacing. Every day, it seems. So that neither a papal pastoral letter of apology nor the processed-at-last resignation of an Irish bishop are solutions. They merely impinge on a problem whose sheer magnitude is still becoming apparent.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Catholic, children, Crime | , | Comments Off on Catholic sex abuse scandal in the South

Richard Land echoed (or the echo)?

The Christian Coalition issued a statement yesterday which compared “Sunday, March 21, 2010,” when health reform was adopted, to “a very infamous day full of betrayal and deceit” like Japan’s “sneak attack on America at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.” And so on.

Did they steal that image from Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission chief Richard land? Who after all went on from his Pearl Harbor to forecast an electoral Battle of Midway (casting the Democrats in the role of the Japanese Imperial Navy), whereas the Christian Coalition took another path.

Coordinate it with him?

Or was the similarly ineloquent lack appropriate restraint merely perchance?

March 24, 2010 Posted by | SBC | , | 1 Comment

Wingnuts unfound

Flaws make Harris Interactive’s “Wingnuts” poll more distracting than informative, perhaps because it is touched by a promotional intent. The poll is driven by publication of a “new book, Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America by John Avlon,” which deals with people who express extreme views of President Obama.

As Gary Langer writes for ABC News:

The purpose seems to have been to see how many people the pollsters could get to agree to pejorative statements about Obama. Quite a few, it turns out – but with what I see as a highly manipulative approach to questionnaire design.

The shaky findings are nonetheless startling. Harris reports:

This Harris Poll seeks to measure how many people are involved. It finds that 40% of adults believe he is a socialist. More than 30% think he wants to take away Americans’ right to own guns and that he is a Muslim. More than 25% believe he wants to turn over the sovereignty of the United States to a world government, has done many things that are unconstitutional, that he resents America’s heritage, and that he does what Wall Street tells him to do.

More than 20% believe he was not born in the United States, that he is “the domestic enemy the U.S. Constitution speaks of,” that he is racist and anti-American, and that he “wants to use an economic collapse or terrorist attack as an excuse to take dictatorial powers.” Fully 20% think he is “doing many of the things that Hitler did,” while 14% believe “he may be the anti-Christ” and 13% think “he wants the terrorists to win.”

Langer, director of polling at ABC news, points to the poll’s sampling issues before walking point by point from the poll’s “biasing introductory phrase,” through its lack of balance in choices offered respondents and other techniques which are outside the realm of best scientific polling practice.

At no point does this Harris Poll fall to the level of propagandistic accumulations like the anti-health reform stunt by National Center for Policy Analysis/ Salem Radio Network or essentially meaningless lists of unverified names like the one being accumulated on behalf of the Manhattan Declaration. Nor is it flatly dishonest, as the Christian Medical & Dental Associations is when asserting that its poll shows that “95 percent of faith-based physicians say they will be forced to leave medicine without conscience protections.”

Although Harris does go a little over the edge, as Langer explains:

Admittedly it’s a challenge to measure these sorts of sentiments. Unless carefully crafted, with balance and an approach that encourages due consideration and probes for meaning, simply asking the question can turn into little more than the old reporter’s trick of piping quotes. It’s a shopworn use of true/false and agree/disagree questions, one long overdue for retirement.

Harris indeed goes the next step by reporting its results as what its respondents’ “believe” and as opinions they “hold,” as if they themselves came up with these notions, rather than having them one-sidedly set before them on a platter. Call me what you will – and I know it can get nasty out there – but from my perspective, this is not good polling practice.

Another poll would be helpful. Until then, things probably aren’t as bad as they look.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | Cultural, Politics | | Comments Off on Wingnuts unfound