Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, there was a time when Ratzinger saw the sexual abuse crisis as an anti-Catholic media campaign. John L. Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter wrote this week:
Ratzinger’s attitude toward the crisis at the time can perhaps best be gauged from comments he made on November 30, 2002, during an appearance in Murcia, Spain, at a conference organized by the Catholic University of St. Anthony. During a Q&A session after his talk, Ratzinger was asked: “This past year has been difficult for Catholics, given the space dedicated by the media to scandals attributed to priests. There is talk of a campaign against the church. What do you think?
“This was Ratzinger’s reply:
In the church, priests are also sinners. But I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offenses among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower. In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than one percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type. The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information or to the statistical objectivity of the facts. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church.
Making Ratzinger’s defensive tone all the more striking, his comments came after a summit between Vatican officials and American cardinals, as well as officers of the bishops’ conference, in April 2002 to discuss the American crisis, a meeting in which Ratzinger participated.
For the record, in claiming “less than one percent” of priests were guilty, Ratzinger was relying on an analysis by writer Philip Jenkins, published in the mid-1990s, of the Chicago archdiocese. In the end, the U.S. bishops’ own study concluded that accusations have been lodged against 4.3 percent of diocesan priests over the last 50 years, and some critics regard even that total as under-reported.
Of course he changed his mind, Allen explains. Read the entire piece here.
Blame the victim is a hideous American practice, not exclusively a Southern Baptist sin — one at which Christa Brown fired back when Lora Wilson was maligned with Baker’s words in a recent blog comment.
The smear continues in part because the Southern Baptist institutions which are at fault have failed to acknowledge their responsibility. Christa writes:
To this day, no Baylor official has made any public expression of remorse. No one at First Baptist of Waco, a church that had two reports of Baker’s abuse, has expressed any sorrow about letting the man move on without consequence. No one at the Baptist General Convention of Texas has offered any explanation for how someone with so many abuse and assault reports could move so easily through its affiliated churches and organizations. And no one in Baptistland has made even the feeblest of effort to reach out to the many more who were likely wounded by “murdering minister” Matt Baker — the many who are probably still silent.
Religious sex offenders are the worst, indicates the available data.
Why believe an apology from Phillip Garrido, the man accused of kidnapping and raping Jaycee Dugard in 1991? Is there anything credible about his claim of some resolution via religious experience (or any other claim like that)? The facts reported by John Simerman of the Contra Costa Times speak to this instance:
Promises of a religious transformation date back decades for Garrido, who served 11 years of a 50-year federal sentence for the 1976 kidnapping of a South Lake Tahoe woman he raped. Standing before a Nevada judge during sentencing on the rape charge, he told the judge he was expecting a spiritual rebirth after troubles with LSD and marijuana use.
Certainly we have learned by now that even spiritual vocations are no inoculation against sexually predatory behavior, as the almost 500 complaints of sexual abuse against the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) seems to suggest. As if the ongoing, decades deep, multinational, Catholic and Protestant clergy predation scandal were not already enough.
Have we learned?
Some of us have far to go toward dealing realistically with this issue and its cousins.
Religion Clause reports:
The Los Angeles Times reported today that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles has begun a grand jury investigation into the responses by Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, and possibly other top Catholic Church officials, to reports of sexual abuse by priests.
The rest is here.
DENVER — The New Life Church, a nationally known evangelical institution that fired its founding pastor, Ted Haggard, in 2006 over accusations that he had had sex with a male prostitute, made payments starting in 2007 to a young male church member who had a relationship with Mr. Haggard before the dismissal, the church’s pastor told worshipers on Sunday.
The payments — part of a confidential legal settlement in 2007 that included money for counseling and college expenses — came from insurance money, not donations from members, the senior pastor of New Life, Brady Boyd, said in his sermon at the church in Colorado Springs.
Mr. Boyd said in an interview on Monday that the payments, and what has now amounted to second body blow of scandal, were kept quiet for two years partly because of legal constraints, and partly because of ministerial confidentiality rules, since the man had sought out church authorities for counseling about the affair. Mr. Boyd declined to identify the young man, but said he is now in his 20s and was over 18 at the time of the relationship. Mr. Haggard is now 52.
Mr. Boyd said he had decided to break the silence because the young man called a few weeks ago and said he was thinking of going public himself.
Grant Haas, now 25, sees matters differently:
Silence and abuse do seem to have robbed the victim of his church family.
Thus far we have heard no evidence that the church provided the emotional support and reassurance a victim requires to fully recover.
Christa Brown of Stop Baptist Predators writes: “Haggard scandal isn’t about gay sex,” it’s about the abuse of pastoral power.
Most people who sexually abuse kids have multiple victims, often dozens. But again, let’s calculate this on the conservative side. Even if you count only the currently active 3,030 Southern Baptist pedophile ministers, and even if you only count 3 victims for each of them, that’s still 9,090 kids who will be molested and raped by Baptist ministers.
Where is the tracking database that would do so much to fence clerical predators away from Baptist young people? Nowhere. Failure to create it is one Time Magazine’s top underreported stories of 2008.
Read Brown’s entire post.