Catholic Citizens of Illinois make the point, using statistics from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, that while there were more than 62,000 cases of child abuse in 2000 alone, the state attorney general, in his report last month, tallied up less than 1,000 cases by Catholic priests and church workers over the past 60 years.
While I might agree with them that these numbers show that the secular media has unduly focused attention on abuse cases by priests, I think they miss the point. For most people, the most shocking and disheartening part of the Scandal hasn’t been the abuse of children by priests. Don’t get me wrong: a priest abusing a child is a horrible, evil thing, but we all know that people are sinners and that no group (including the brotherhood of priests) is immune from having sinners among them.
No, what most dismayed people is the cover-up by bishops and other priests that allowed predators to remain in contact with children and young adults so they could continue their predations. The actions of a few bishops to turn their backs on those who were hurt while providing safe haven to predators who undoubtedly would strike again was what shook the faith of many and provided fodder for editorials and front-page articles.
Running around saying that it wasn’t as bad as all that doesn’t help solve the problem. We must recognize the cancer within the Church and root it out. If only bishops had acted appropriately when faced with the sins of their brothers, there would not have been a Scandal.
(N.B. I have other problems with the numbers cited as well. Of the 62,000 cases of abuse and neglect, how many actually entailed sexual abuse and molestation? How many were instances of spanking? What percentage of the population of Massachusetts in 2000 committed these acts of abuse? What percentage of priests committed the 1,000 acts of abuse? Statistics can be twisted to say many things.)