Allegations of Catholic Abuse in Pennsylvania

Photo via Good Free Photos
When I encounter a story about sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in a reputable news source, I usually tweet a link to the story with hashtags like #catholic and #abuse. I do this to bring the story to the attention of more people. The sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy needs to stop, as do the systemic efforts to conceal these crimes by the Church hierarchy. It is great to hear representatives of the Church talk about "zero tolerance" policies each time another scandal surfaces, but I would much rather see some evidence that these policies were being implemented.

While I often tweet links to such stories, I rarely write about them here. I think that's mostly because of how they affect me. When I encounter one of these stories, I quickly become emotionally overwhelmed. I feel nauseous and angry to the point that I can't think clearly. I find myself unable to sleep, usually due to intense nightmares that wake me up several times throughout the night. I feel so bad for the children and their families. I feel powerless to do anything about what they went through and uncertain about what I could do that might help prevent others from going through it in the future. This mix of emotions seems to short-circuit my ability to reason and leaves me feeling exhausted and depressed. I don't know how to be rational when it comes to this stuff.

As you have probably heard by now, we have yet another one of these scandals in the form of a 900-page grand jury report out of Pennsylvania alleging widespread child sexual abuse, failure to report it, and all sort of other things that shouldn't be happening in six Catholic dioceses in the state. Some of the highlights:
  • Over 1,000 identifiable children are alleged to have been abused by Catholic priests over 70 years; however, it is suspected that thousands were victimized.
  • The Church concealed these alleged crimes while maintaining "secret archives" in which they were documented.
  • 301 priests were named in the report, although roughly 400 are suspected of being involved.
  • The Church was accused of returning many of the priests involved to their duties even after allegations of abuse surfaced.
When it comes to conspiracies, it is often said that the cover-up is worse than the crime. I don't think that is the case here. The alleged crimes are pretty damn awful. As bad as the cover-up appears to be, I think the child rape is still worse.

The Catholic Church does not appear to be able or willing to stop this. I cannot help but think that the only way that is going to change is if a sufficient amount of sustained public pressure can be brought to bear. Mandatory reporting laws would be a good start, but I suspect that real change is going to require large numbers of individual Catholics to cut ties with the Church and make it clear why they are doing so.

H/T to Religion Clause