The Catholic Church Abuse Scandal ten years on
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In recent days I have reported on the growing scandal in Australia where there are allegations of another cover-up of sexual abuse of children by catholic priests. This is against a background of sexual abuse allegations in the Australian armed forces, and the very public trial and conviction of William Lynn the catholic church official in the USA.
There is an excellent article in the Washington Post by Thomas Plante who summarises the catholic church crisis over the last ten years. Mr Plante points out as I have tried to do in this blog that in recent weeks marked several landmarks in the Catholic Church’s dark history with child sexual abuse.
In Pennsylvania, the Rev. William Lynn became the first American church official convicted in the cover-up of child sex-abuse. In an Atlanta meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops recognized the 10th anniversary of the Dallas Charter, the church’s document to prevent child abuse in its ranks, with a reflection presentation by the National Review Board, an independent lay advisory group to the bishops.
Mr Plante asks what have we learned in the past ten years?
"We have learned that more than 10,000 youth were victimized by perhaps four percent of Catholic priests in America during the past half century, with the vast majority of cases occurring during the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, 94 percent of all cases occurred before 1990, according to the recent John Jay College of Criminal Justice study on the causes and context of the crisis. The sexual abuse of children by priests is horrific enough but it was the repeated stories of cover up and lack of accountability of bishops and other church leaders that has made this crisis a decade-long story".
The sexual abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky shows that child sexual abuse is certainly not confined to the Catholic Church or to any church organization, but can and does occur wherever adult men have control and unsupervised access to young people. And as we have seen over recent weeks this can range from the armed forces to schools and football clubs.
Mr Plante says that the "best estimates from quality research indicate that many school teachers, coaches and other adults with access to children have sexually violated youth during the past half century. It is startling that research finds that a sizable number (perhaps up to a quarter) of men and women in America report that they were sexually violated as a child by an adult".
We are only too aware that those responsible for abusers go into a state of denial when confronted with allegations of child abuse. It is an issue that unhappily remains unresolved for may an institution, and the Lynn conviction has put thme on notice, in my opinion, that time is running out. Mr Plante amplifuies this: "Another unfortunate lesson of the past decade is the tendency of institutions to go into denial when confronted with allegations of child sexual abuse perpetrated by their valued organizational members. It is especially disheartening when churches and universities, which set high standards for ethical and moral behavior, focus efforts on covering up and protecting themselves from accountability, lawsuits, embarrassment, and scandal, rather than making their top priority the well-being of abuse victims".
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