The Rockford Files

Truth and Consequences

Next month will mark the fourth anniversary of the adoption, by the U.S. Catholic bishops, of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.  The protocol document was the bishops’ response to allegations of long-standing clerical sexual abuse of minors over the past 50 years.  While the media, victims’ advocates, and not a few of the faithful in the pews (both liberal and conservative) have tended to paint the problem with a broad brush, several important facts emerge from close studies of the available data, most notably the John Jay College of Criminal Justice study released in February 2004.

First, the majority (55.7 percent) of accused priests have had only one allegation lodged against them.  Second, most of the confirmed cases of sexual abuse were perpetrated by repeat offenders; according to the John Jay study, 149 priests had ten or more allegations against them, and they accounted for 26 percent of all allegations.  Third, most of the confirmed cases (over 80 percent) were male on male.  Fourth, most of the confirmed cases were in large dioceses on the East and West Coasts.

It is hard to tell what to make of the first fact.  Priests, like all men, are subject to temptation—indeed, if we, as Christians, believe that they are engaged in a particularly strenuous form of spiritual warfare, we might well surmise that they are subject to even greater temptations...

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