Nothing Distinctive About the Church

April 2008

When the U.S. bishops met at their annual meeting in Baltimore on November 12-15, 2007, one item on the agenda was the preliminary findings of John Jay College's extensive investigation into the "causes and context" of the clerical sexual abuse crisis in the Church. As disclosed by researcher Karen Terry and Margaret Smith of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the occurrence of sexual abuse in the Church mirrored broader patterns of abuse in U.S. society. "This is in conflict with the idea," said Terry, "that there is something distinctive about the Catholic church that led to the sexual abuse of minors."

According to John L. Allen Jr., "both researchers pointed to a recent series from the Associated Press [AP] documenting reports of sexual abuse of minors in public schools in the United States, citing it...as confirmation of a broad cultural pattern rather than something distinctively Catholic" (National Catholic Reporter, Nov. 12, 2007).

Smith reported to the bishops that the exodus from the priesthood and the abuse crisis both appear to be related to the same underlying social factors, what Terry referred to as "overall changes in behavior, attitudes, and media representations in American society." The lesson? As American society goes, so goes the Church.

Allen reports (Nov. 16) that Archbishop Elden Curtiss of Omaha applauded the findings, because they "debunk what he called an 'unfortunate media problem' and 'a myth, reinforced over time, that there's something unique about a Catholic priest, about a bishop and his staff,' when it comes to sexual abuse."


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New Oxford Notes: April 2008

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Such a difficult topic! Such pain, tragedy, and horror, unfortunately perpetrated by consecrated hands, and then covered up by those who are supposed to punish those hands! I definitely understand the frustration that so many of us feel as a result of the (in)actions of the episcopate here in the US. But at the same time, I think it's important to remember that these bishops, despite their lamentable human flaws, are still the direct successors to the Apostles, and as a result are under far greater spiritual attack than most of us could fathom. We definitely need to pray for them, now more than ever! They are capable of renewal and repentance, just like us - just look at Cardinal Egan's changing tone regarding politicians and Communion. Treating our leadership with contempt will not help the situation, it will only make things far worse. I hope that everyone remembers that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Posted by: DeltBunyan
April 28, 2008 10:35 PM EDT
An 'unfortunate media problem' and 'a myth'? Archbishop Elden Curtiss, may a flock of 10,000 birds poop on your head.

USCCB, except for a few, remind me of the Keystone cops.

God bless Chaput, Conlon and George for showing some true leadership!
Posted by: jackclough
April 28, 2008 11:32 AM EDT
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