The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Tuesday, May 17, 2011
SNAP: Bishops to issue “blame-shifting” report
Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director, (414)-429-7259, [email protected]
This report misses the boat. What deserve the most scrutiny are not child sex crimes but continued clergy cover-ups of child sex crimes. It’s less helpful to know why thousands of clerics sexually assault children. It’s more helpful to know why tens of thousands of top church staff still ignore and conceal heinous child sex crimes.
This document is yet another, albeit more sophisticated, effort by the church hierarchy to focus on the “bad apple” priests and divert attention from those who oversee the barrel: the complicit bishops.
The notion that clergy sex crimes and cover ups are a “temporary” phenomenon is laughable. It’s important to remember that the overwhelming majority of victims can’t come forward for decades. Those who were sexually violated by priests, nuns, bishops, brothers and seminarians in the 1990s and 2000s are still trapped in shame, silence and self blame. At best, it’s just too early to know the frequency of child sex crimes by clerics in recent years, so it’s reckless to assume the best given that no real data is available yet.
This document wasn’t done “with the cooperation” of church officials, but for church officials, guided by church officials, and with information from church officials.
While some truly independent research shows some decline in child sex crimes in society in recent years, it’s simply too early to know whether clergy sex crimes are declining. We see virtually no evidence that cover-ups in clergy sex cases, especially outside the US, are abating.
David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire is right when he says that in some places, bishops still don’t show “adequate concern about children.” We submit that can be said of most bishops.
Terence McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org is right: portraying abusers as “just nice guys who were confused by the ’60s” is lunacy. It’s equally silly and disingenuous to portray corrupt church officials as men “who focused too little on victims.”
Thomas Plante’s argument, that church officials somehow deserve credit for “studying” their own horrific crimes, is audacious. This plan – to produce a document like this – was part of a series of public relations moves announced by bishops in 2002 in a desperate hope to repair their deeply damaged reputations.
Plante’s implication – that other institutions hide child felonies as much as the Catholic church – has no foundation whatsoever and defies common sense.
We look forward to reading the report and hope that whatever helpful information it may contain won’t be lost in the midst of these self-serving and blame-shifting claims by top church officials.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])
Landmark study: Catholic clergy sex abuse caused in part by permissive culture of the ’60s, ’70s
By Michelle Boorstein
The largest study ever done on youth sexual abuse by Catholic clergy concludes that the scandal which exploded in 2002 was a temporary problem caused by poorly trained seminarians, bishops who focused too little on victims and a permissive culture in the 1960s and 1970s that saw the rise of divorce, marijuana experimentation and robbery.
Four years long and done with funding and cooperation from the church, the $2 million study by John Jay College of Criminal Justice has been watched closely by experts, historians and advocates for both victims and accused priests. It follows a landmark John Jay study in 2004 that established that at least 4 percent of all priests had been accused and that the vast majority of victims were boys.
The report is being released Wednesday, but researchers have spoken generally over the years about their findings in interviews, lectures and regular updates at bishops’ meetings.
The Post has not seen the full report, which is titled “The Causes and Contexts of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.”
The weight of the study and its release at a news conference at the U.S. headquarters of the Catholic Church will undoubtedly reignite debate. The clergy sex abuse issue is at the intersection of American culture wars, with various sides blaming homosexuality, celibacy, church secrecy and societal turmoil.
“Who else has studied child sex abuse at this level? No other organization has anything similar. If we’re really serious about keeping kids safe, other organizations have to follow suit: the public schools, the Boy Scouts, sporting organizations,” said Tom Plante, a psychologist who works with Catholic clergy and consulted the bishops for this study. “People have crazy ideas about Catholic clergy abuse and this helps negate that.”
With its unprecedented access to accused priests’ personnel files and psychosexual testing, as well as data from treatment centers and other public sources, John Jay’s report will include new analyses of what kind of priests became abusers, researchers said. It finds that for a period of time, Catholic dioceses “showed concern for the well-being of the priest, but there was little evidence of concern for victims,” lead researcher Karen Terry said in a 2009 presentation to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which footed about half the $2 million bill.
Experts generally agree that sex crimes against children have declined in recent decades, in the church and in U.S. society. The report, however, comes as details are just surfacing of a major scandal in the Philadelphia archdiocese that saw about two dozen accused priests removed earlier this year after a grand jury criticized the church for leaving them in place.
Some warned against a report that would argue too strongly that the problems — of abuse or cover-up — are waning.
“There is still evidence that in some places it’s not being handled in a way that suggests full compliance with higher authorities and adequate concern about children. That’s an area that still needs researching,” said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Some survivors’ advocates were skeptical of the research, noting the church’s role in funding and providing data on itself. Terence McKiernan, who runs the largest independent database of public records on accused priests, said it was wrong to portray abusers as “just nice guys who were confused by the ’60s.”
By Michelle Boorstein | 12:55 PM ET, 05/17/2011
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests