My dear friend Bill Donohue has found the money to take out a full page ad in the New York Times in an attempt to minimize the charges of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.
Donohue summarizes Philip Jenkin’s analysis:
Penn State professor Philip Jenkins has studied this problem for years. After looking at the John Jay data, which studied priestly sexual abuse from 1950-2002, he found that “of the 4,392 accused priests, almost 56 percent faced only one misconduct allegation, and at least some of these would certainly vanish under detailed scrutiny.” Moreover, Jenkins wrote that “Out of 100,000 priests active in the U.S. in this half-century, a cadre of just 149 individuals—one priest out of every 750—accounted for over a quarter of all allegations of clergy abuse.” In other words, almost all priests have never had anything to do with sexual molestation.
But that is not what Jenkins is saying. The bishops admit that almost one out of 20 diocesan priests have been credibly accused (John Jay Report), and in the dioceses that have been most thoroughly investigated, one of ten have been credibly accused.
Donohue criticizes BishopAccountability, of which I am a board member because we post all public accusations.
BishopAccountabilty.org is accessed by reporters and lawyers for information on priestly sexual abuse, though the standards it uses cannot pass the smell test. It admits that the database “is based solely on allegations reported publicly” and that it “does not confirm the veracity of any actual allegation.” Swell. Furthermore, it says that “If an individual is ‘cleared’ or ‘exonerated’ by an internal church investigation and/or a diocesan review board decision, the individual remains in the database.” Ditto for cases where a priest faces an allegation for an act which occurred after he left the Catholic Church; even lawsuits against the dead are listed. There is no other group in the U.S. which is subjected to such gross unfairness. No wonder wildly exaggerated claims have been made based off of such collected “evidence.”
We emphasize that these are only accusations, some of which (such as the one against Cardinal Mahoney) were made by a person who said she was subject to delusions; others have resulted in criminal conviction. However we have neither the authority nor the resources to sort out the validity of each accusation, so we simply summarize them and link to the newspaper reports or public documents.
Donohue also critics us for continuing to list priests who have been exonerated. But we say that they have been exonerated and link to the source that exonerates them. If a priest has been publicly accused, rumors will continue to circulate about him for years. It is helpful to him that a non-Church source indicates publicly that he has been exonerated. Anyone can go online, check his name, and see that the accusations were found to be baseless –and not have to take the priest’s word for it.
Donohue is correct that some of the criticism is motivated by anticlericalism or even antiCatholicism, but the failures of the Church have given its enemies much ammunition. Nor is sexual abused confined to the Catholic Church; but it is impossible to compare church with church, because statistics are lacking. And no other major Church, much less the public school system, claims that leaving it will lead to damnation. If the Church is going to preach that apostasy is damnable, it had better not give create conditions that lead people to apostatize. That is why Augustine insisted that discipline be maintained among the clergy and that offenders be removed immediately.