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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

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by Barbara Blaine of Chicago (312 399 4747)
Founder and President of SNAP

February 27, 2004

Some myths about the bishops' sex abuse crisis should now, finally, be put to rest. At the same time, we must be careful to avoid replacing the old myths with new ones.

Here are just a few of the old myths:

Myth one
"It's just a tiny percentage of priests who commit these crimes."
For more than a decade, numerous church leaders in America and in Rome emphatically claimed 1% or even less than 1% of priests molested children. By American bishops own self-survey, the "bare minimum" true figure is at least 4%.

Myth two
"A lot of the abuse was minor."
According to today's New York Times, those tabulating the surveys "were surprised at the high rate of serious offenses." Bishops and their PR staff have consistently used and still use vague and mild terms like "inappropriate conduct"and "boundary violations" to describe what most everyone else would call oral sex or sodomy.

Myth three
NIMDY "not in MY diocese. . .."
The document apparently indicates that abuse allegations surfaced in more than 95% of America's 194 Catholic dioceses.

And here are a few of the potential new or recently-revived myths that may emerge from the reports issued today.

New (revived) myth one
"It's gay priests who are responsible."
There's just too little evidence to make this conclusion. Some argue many boys were victimized because abusive priests had greater access to them. Others point out that half of SNAP's membership is female.

New (revived) myth two
"It really IS the fault of the church-paid shrinks."
The Review Board mentioned this excuse. But we must remember that bishops could have afforded top-notch, independent professionals. Instead, they repeatedly relied on (and continue to rely on) trusted Catholic professionals, often without relevant psychological backgrounds or expertise in treating child molesters. (Fr. John Geoghan's "therapists" were a close family friend who happened to be an MD and a psychologist
who was twice accused of sexually abusing patients.)

New myth three
"Canon law prevented some bishops from getting rid of abusers."
Where there's a will, there's a way. We in SNAP have seen virtually no evidence to suggest that bishops WANTED to remove abusers but couldn't. We know of only one bishop who was taken to internal church proceedings for removing an abuser. That bishop prevailed.

New myth four
"At least bishops are starting to "come clean" now.
Several bishops fought against launching this anonymous survey in the first place. Several others refused to comply with their own self-survey. Fourteen percent of diocese and religious orders "provided none of the financial information requested." From coast to coast, bishops are still in courtrooms fighting tooth and nail to keep damaging church
records from ever seeing the light of day. The examples of continued secrecy are legion.

New myth five
"Very few victims came forward until very recently."
This we must take with not a grain but a mountain of salt. Today's New York Times reports that "2/3s of the accusations were reported since 1993." And anecdotally, we in SNAP know that many who spoke up in the last few years had tried in the past, often repeatedly, to be heard by church officials to no avail. It's foolish to assume that since there was no document found in a chancery office file that no one had reported an abusive cleric in the past.

New myth six
"There was something strange/aberrant about the priests ordained in the late 60s and early 70s."
Again, there's no solid evidence to suggest this. Our strong hunch is that if these men seem to have abused more, it's simply because their victims have reached the ages where they begin to see troubling behavior patterns in their lives, are getting into therapy, are being more introspective and analyzing their actions, and are finding the strength
and courage to report their victimization.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests