Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

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Danny
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Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

Post by Danny » Sat Nov 28, 2009 3:10 pm

Six months ago the Irish government issued a report (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/ma ... use-claims) detailing decades of abuse at Catholic run boarding schools and orphanages. Tens of thousands of children were subjected to slave-like conditions, including physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse.

Yesterday, the Irish government released the report of a completely separate investigation detailing 30 years of widespread sexual abuse of children in Dublin by Catholic priests. Most damning (no pun intended) is that four successive archbishops of Dublin were aware of the abuse and covered it up in order to protect themselves, the priests and the Church. The report only covers the last 30 years. It is safe to assume that the culture of abuse goes back far beyond that.

According to The Irish Times (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/bre ... ml?via=rel):
The Commission of Investigation into Dublin’s Catholic Archdiocese has concluded that there is “no doubt” that clerical child sexual abuse was covered up by the archdiocese and other Church authorities.

In its report, published this afternoon, it has also found that “the structures and rules of the Catholic Church facilitated that cover-up.”

Over the period within its remit “the welfare of children, which should have been the first priority, was not even a factor to be considered in the early stages,” it said.

“Instead the focus was on the avoidance of scandal and the preservation of the good name, status and assets of the institution and of what the institution regarded as its most important members – the priests,” it said.
The report states that there was an "obsessive concern" with secrecy, avoidance of scandal and protection of Church assets.

One of the tactics used by the archbishops and other Church officials was to apply a Catholic doctrine known as "Mental Reservation" (http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/bre ... ml?via=rel). "Mental Reserveration" is another way of saying "lying". According to The Catholic Encyclopedia (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10195b.htm):
According to the common Catholic teaching it is never allowable to tell a lie, not even to save human life. A lie is something intrinsically evil, and as evil may not be done that good may come of it, we are never allowed to tell a lie. However, we are also under an obligation to keep secrets faithfully, and sometimes the easiest way of fulfilling that duty is to say what is false, or to tell a lie. Writers of all creeds and of none, both ancient and modern, have frankly accepted this position. They admit the doctrine of the lie of necessity, and maintain that when there is a conflict between justice and veracity it is justice that should prevail. The common Catholic teaching has formulated the theory of mental reservation as a means by which the claims of both justice and veracity can be satisfied.
This means that a Catholic priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, pope or other official can lie to the public--and even to law enforcement--so long as the purpose of the lie is to protect Church secrets (such as that priests are sexually assaulting children).

How can anyone trust the Catholic church or claim that it has any moral authority?

The entire Dublin report can be read here:
http://www.irishtimes.com/focus/2009/diocese/1234.pdf
http://www.irishtimes.com/focus/2009/diocese/5678.pdf
My blog: http://dannycoleman.blogspot.com

“Both read the Bible day and night, But thou read’st black where I read white.”
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kaufmannphillips
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Re: Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

Post by kaufmannphillips » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:33 pm

Without defending the principle of rightful lying, the perspective argued in your encyclopedia article is a basic conundrum of ethics.

Let us imagine (however conventionally) that you live under the Third Reich and are hiding five Jews in your attic. These Jews have been neighbors of yours for fifteen years, and to the best of your knowledge they are decent people. And two of them are children. One morning, an official representative of the Reich comes by and asks you if you have seen any Jews around. What do you say to this query?

The perspective in your encyclopedia article would allow you to lie in this situation, considering justice and the preservation of these lives to be an overriding concern. But the device of "mental reservation" would attempt to provide a means for you to both preserve justice and avoid speaking an utter untruth. As such, you might respond "I haven't seen any Jews lately," with the mental reservation "within the last 24 hours, that is - since I last took food up to them."

Now, in some situations (like the scenario above) most people would consider mental reservation to be a clever and adroit tactic. At best, the respondant is not telling an outright lie, but they have managed to tell a truth in such a way that an unjust party might not see the deeper truth. This may seem like a great way to handle nazis and gangbangers and other blights upon humanity.


But the outrage here is that the device is seemingly used against justice, and not as a defense against injustice.

This, I suppose, is a matter of perspective. Yes, genuine abuse by clergy was and is an injustice. (I say "genuine abuse" to set aside incidents of corporal punishment that might fairly be debatable.) But one may ask whether the consequences levied against the church are themselves just.


On one hand, perhaps 4% of American Catholic priests were accused of sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002 source. This number is disturbing, yes. But this leaves 96% of Catholic priests who were not accused of such misconduct. Presumably some offenders were never accused for their wrongdoing. But even so, Catholic priests as an aggregate have to labor under clouds of suspicion and ill-feeling, due to the actions of a relative minority.

One may ask, then, is this just? Is it fair for an entire religious community and its workers to be tarred with the reprehensible actions of a few? Some might consider this sort of backlash to be unjust. And so some leaders in the church might have felt justified in trying to evade public fallout by glossing over certain matters.


On another hand, we have the financial dimension to these cases. As of 2002, American clergy abuse cases had cost the church $354 million, and this was hardly the end of it; the Boston archdiocese has since made an $85 million settlement, and a California diocese has made another for $100 million source and source. These costs, naturally, are not borne merely by the abusers themselves, nor even by those parties who were directly responsible for enabling and/or covering up abuses. Both the Spokane diocese and the Portland archdiocese have filed for bankruptcy, due to sex abuse claims. Conceivably, smaller parishes may have to be shuttered, some charitable activities curtailed; the Boston archdiocese was considering reducing retirement benefits for priests source.

One may ask, then, is this just? Surely there are measures that should be taken to repair past harm and to prevent future abuse. But is the American system of fiscal punishment a truly just means for resolving this problem? Perhaps some leaders in the church felt justified in avoiding the likely cost to innocent parties.


Now, feeling justified does not mean that one is actually justified. But that can go for critics of the church, as well as for those in the church who are being criticized.
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Danny
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Re: Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

Post by Danny » Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:29 am

But the outrage here is that the device is seemingly used against justice, and not as a defense against injustice.
Exactly!
One may ask, then, is this just? Is it fair for an entire religious community and its workers to be tarred with the reprehensible actions of a few?
The larger issue, in my mind, is that this is a dysfunctional system which permits the powerful to prey upon the powerless and then be shielded from accountability. It is a system that will protect one priest at the expense of one hundred children, which indicates where their values lie. There is very little transparency or, until lately, even cooperation with the public and law enforcement.
My blog: http://dannycoleman.blogspot.com

“Both read the Bible day and night, But thou read’st black where I read white.”
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kaufmannphillips
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Re: Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

Post by kaufmannphillips » Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:01 pm

Danny wrote:
The larger issue, in my mind, is that this is a dysfunctional system which permits the powerful to prey upon the powerless and then be shielded from accountability. It is a system that will protect one priest at the expense of one hundred children, which indicates where their values lie. There is very little transparency or, until lately, even cooperation with the public and law enforcement.
The issue is more complex and thornier than many appreciate. But your comments reveal your tendentiousness. You couch your remarks in the present tense, you invoke the most extreme of examples, and you frame a myopic juxtaposition. You also imagine that cooperation with secular law enforcement should be an eminent concern for the church.

If there were not already a reservoir of anti-Catholic bias in certain quarters, this issue would not be such a byword in our society. Without giving excuse, things should be kept in perspective. The Catholic church is not unique within society to have a poor record with abuse. One may also consider:

(a) Protestant churches http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0405/p01s01-ussc.html;

(b) public education http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/08/ ... 3687.shtml & http://www.catholicleague.org/research/ ... ontext.htm (scroll to the section on “Teachers”); and

(c) the medical establishment http://www.elinewberger.com/articles/ar ... phile.html.

It seems like the last thirty years have been a time for serious development in our society when it comes to engaging cases of abuse. For a number of reasons, our general society used to be quite poorly poised to deal with the problem of abuse. Many persons, lacking historical perspective, will fail to appreciate the Catholic situation as part of a larger picture.
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Danny
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Re: Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

Post by Danny » Sun Nov 29, 2009 7:41 pm

Tendentious? Yes, I definitely have a point of view on this issue.
You couch your remarks in the present tense,
This is because as far as I know the underlying power structure that enables this type of abuse has not been changed.
you invoke the most extreme of examples,
The example I used is actually taken from the report that was just released. One priest admitted to sexually abusing over 100 children. Another confessed that he had committed abuse about every two weeks for over 25 years.
and you frame a myopic juxtaposition.
But I have glasses that correct it. Example?
You also imagine that cooperation with secular law enforcement should be an eminent concern for the church.
Umm, yes. When the most heinous of crimes have been committed against children, I do believe cooperation with secular law enforcement should be an eminent concern.

Obviously, pedophilia occurs in almost any institutional setting where adults are in contact with children. However, what we're seeing in the Catholic church is, as one Catholic official termed it, a tsunami. If there were a particular Protestant denomination, or public school system or medical establishment that possessed a similar track record for such a sustained and systematic level of abuse, I would consider it broken and unworthy to continue as an entity. An organization that touts itself as the One True Church ought to hold itself to an even higher standard when it comes to protecting the helpless.

I don't buy the excuse of ignorance about child sexual abuse. There are church documents dating back at least to the Council of Elvira in 309 that dealt with the issue of sexual abuse of children (Canon 71 from that council threatened with irrevocable excommunication those "who sexually abuse boys"). This is not a matter of the Catholic church being ill-equipped or "poorly poised to deal with the problem." It is a matter of institutional values. In the human economy of that institution, a priest is seen as more valuable than many children. Therefore safeguards were put in place to protect priests, rather than protect children.
My blog: http://dannycoleman.blogspot.com

“Both read the Bible day and night, But thou read’st black where I read white.”
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steve7150
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Re: Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

Post by steve7150 » Sun Nov 29, 2009 8:19 pm

don't buy the excuse of ignorance about child sexual abuse. There are church documents dating back at least to the Council of Elvira in 309 that dealt with the issue of sexual abuse of children (Canon 71 from that council threatened with irrevocable excommunication those "who sexually abuse boys"). This is not a matter of the Catholic church being ill-equipped or "poorly poised to deal with the problem." It is a matter of institutional values. In the human economy of that institution, a priest is seen as more valuable than many children. Therefore safeguards were put in place to protect priests, rather than protect children.





I think this issue has a strong connection to the cellibacy requirement for priests which is unnatural and harmful in untold ways. The RCC ought to reverse this yesterday and live in reality.

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Re: Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

Post by darinhouston » Sun Nov 29, 2009 9:34 pm

steve7151 wrote:I think this issue has a strong connection to the cellibacy requirement for priests which is unnatural and harmful in untold ways. The RCC ought to reverse this yesterday and live in reality.
I don't think is a problem caused directly by celibacy -- however, I think the celibacy requirement has led to the "wrong sort" of people being priests, and that has an indirect impact. If married folks could be priests, you might have a different sort of priesthood. As it is, you have some folks fleeing their "unnatural urges" to a life of celibacy and supposedly spiritual living -- being around boys in that environment of trust is a recipe for disaster, I think.

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kaufmannphillips
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Re: Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

Post by kaufmannphillips » Mon Nov 30, 2009 1:30 am

kaufmannphillips wrote:
You couch your remarks in the present tense,

Danny wrote:
This is because as far as I know the underlying power structure that enables this type of abuse has not been changed.
And here we find one glimmer of your broader anti-Catholicism. Non-hierarchical churchers frequently have an issue with the structure and polity of the Catholic church. But this is a separate issue. There is no inherent need for the power structure to be changed in order for issues of abuse to be handled properly. The same power that was exerted to mishandle such cases can be exerted now and in the future to properly handle them.

Your approach is akin to chopping off the hand of a thief. The problem with the thief is not that he has a hand – it’s that he has misused his hand. Chopping it off does not address the root problem; neither is it certain to prevent the problem’s recurrence, or to facilitate transcendence of the problem. Indeed, it may prove to be an obstacle to resolving the problem.
kaufmannphillips wrote:
you invoke the most extreme of examples,

Danny wrote:
The example I used is actually taken from the report that was just released. One priest admitted to sexually abusing over 100 children. Another confessed that he had committed abuse about every two weeks for over 25 years.
And do you honestly believe these two priests to be average examples?
kaufmannphillips wrote:
and you frame a myopic juxtaposition.

Danny wrote:
But I have glasses that correct it. Example?
Looks like it’s time for a new prescription.

You have repeatedly framed the issue as a juxtaposition between protecting priests and protecting children. As I have discussed above, there are further dimensions to the situation than this. More so than individual priests being shielded, it is the church - and those who depend upon it. Now, one may still consider this to be an intolerable trade. But the matter is not so microcosmic as weighing one priest’s welfare against that of a hundred children.
kaufmannphillips wrote:
You also imagine that cooperation with secular law enforcement should be an eminent concern for the church.

Danny wrote:
Umm, yes. When the most heinous of crimes have been committed against children, I do believe cooperation with secular law enforcement should be an eminent concern.
Even when the outcome of secular involvement is likely to be an unjust levy – one that scarcely penalizes the culpable, but burdens the innocent and the needy?

Secular law enforcement is not the only avenue for justice, and at times it is neither the best nor the proper avenue for justice.
Danny wrote:
Obviously, pedophilia occurs in almost any institutional setting where adults are in contact with children. However, what we're seeing in the Catholic church is, as one Catholic official termed it, a tsunami. If there were a particular Protestant denomination, or public school system or medical establishment that possessed a similar track record for such a sustained and systematic level of abuse, I would consider it broken and unworthy to continue as an entity.
Very well, then. The primary institution with a perennial record for abuse is the family. Abuse by family members far outstrips that by clergy or educators or physicians. So we should dissolve our social structure of private families. Instead, we can adopt a public model for child-rearing, carried out by carefully-vetted and closely-monitored professionals.

But your standpoint here is classic Protestant/post-Protestant thinking. Rather than seeking to heal and redeem institutions, many who swim in the wake of the “Reformation” prefer to deal with institutional problems by junking and bolting. These sorts of persons may have a concern for purity. But purity is not G-d’s sole priority, and a basic reality of redemption is that it can take long patience with impurity and imperfection in order to journey to the point of sanctification.

We may note what G-d’s perspective is by his dealings with human beings, both individually and corporately. His patience and his hope for redemption are immense.
kaufmannphillips wrote:
I don't buy the excuse of ignorance about child sexual abuse. There are church documents dating back at least to the Council of Elvira in 309 that dealt with the issue of sexual abuse of children (Canon 71 from that council threatened with irrevocable excommunication those "who sexually abuse boys"). This is not a matter of the Catholic church being ill-equipped or "poorly poised to deal with the problem."
Well, the canons of the Council of Elvira are prescribed breakfast reading for all Catholic clergy. :| But wouldn’t we expect to find such material in church documents, when “[o]bviously, pedophilia occurs in almost any institutional setting where adults are in contact with children”?

To appropriately engage the context for our topic, we should look more recently than the fourth century. The number of alleged abuses was rather low in the early 1950s, but increased greatly thereafter. The number did go down in the 1980s, and reached the low levels of the 1950s by the mid-1990s (but these numbers are tentative, since some allegations related to more recent years may not surface until victims are older). So many of our relevant cases involve the post-war generation (the “baby boom”), and some children of that generation.

The ill-poise of the church and of other institutions should not be chalked up to so simple a matter as flat ignorance, although there probably was less awareness in society about the incidence of abuse. The church and other institutions were ill-poised in some respects because, in the post-war society, authority figures were widely supposed to be respected. This may be traced to a desire for security and normalcy in the wake of the war, and to behaviors that young men and women had derived from widespread military service.

Furthermore, desire for security and normalcy may have contributed to a great emphasis on conforming to social ideals; many people, children and adults alike, felt pressure to keep up appearances and to avoid public embarrassment or shame. This was also probably a by-product of the great upward mobility that emerged after the war; many people were moving into an improved social standing, and wanted to exhibit a propriety that befit their new status.

These factors contributed to a social environment where abuse was too easily robbed of due attention. Society was less receptive to challenges against authority figures, and probably more inclined to attempt to preserve public institutions against embarrassment or shame. Children probably experienced more pressure – if not always explicitly – to keep from admitting things that might bring embarrassment to themselves and to their family or community.

For some time in American society, “decent” people would rather not think or talk about such things, and “decent” people would shrink from casting lurid aspersions against the clergy. And accordingly, “decent” public institutions would have been loath to make much of issues that could undermine their authority or yield public shame. This was a fundamental part of society’s being ill-poised to deal with matters of abuse.
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kaufmannphillips
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Re: Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

Post by kaufmannphillips » Mon Nov 30, 2009 1:43 am

steve7151 wrote:
I think this issue has a strong connection to the cellibacy requirement for priests which is unnatural and harmful in untold ways. The RCC ought to reverse this yesterday and live in reality.

darinhouston wrote:
I don't think is a problem caused directly by celibacy -- however, I think the celibacy requirement has led to the "wrong sort" of people being priests, and that has an indirect impact. If married folks could be priests, you might have a different sort of priesthood.
Undoubtedly there would be a different sort of priesthood. But lots of married folks are sexual abusers, too.
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"The more something is repeated, the more it becomes an unexamined truth...." (Nicholas Thompson)
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steve7150
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Re: Dublin report on sexual abuse of children by priests

Post by steve7150 » Mon Nov 30, 2009 8:23 am

steve7151 wrote:
I think this issue has a strong connection to the celibacy requirement for priests which is unnatural and harmful in untold ways. The RCC ought to reverse this yesterday and live in reality.

darinhouston wrote:
I don't think is a problem caused directly by celibacy -- however, I think the celibacy requirement has led to the "wrong sort" of people being priests, and that has an indirect impact. If married folks could be priests, you might have a different sort of priesthood.

Undoubtedly there would be a different sort of priesthood. But lots of married folks are sexual abusers, too.





Celibacy is setting up a tragedy waiting to happen as it demands a standard few men can meet. Some of these men are sexually starved and are given power over boys who are taught to respect their authority.
I would'nt be surprised if it's the root of the problem and the fact that some married men are abusers simply shows just how powerful the impulse can be and how extra vigilant the RCC must be to protect their most vulnerable.
It's time to change this man made policy which was instituted around 1050AD. God only knows how many boys have been abused since then.

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