The National Catholic Review
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Blame Enough

The blame and shame for the continued existence of the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay must be widely shared. President Obama vowed to shut it down because the prison’s history of abuse was perceived as violating basic American principles. Postponing that closing to “someday” is a disappointment for human rights activists.

But a commander cannot lead without troops. According to a Gallup poll, 65 percent of Americans oppose shutting the prison. Congress blocked a proposal to transfer detainees to several prisons on the U.S. mainland. Even though no one escapes from the so-called Supermax facility, public fear of terrorism is so irrational that the mere thought of terrorists anywhere in the country, even in prison, petrifies people. The proposal to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a planner of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in a New York City civilian courtroom a stone’s throw from the crime site panicked otherwise tough Manhattan politicos and their constituents. Meanwhile, although the administration has found new homes for 38 detainees in 16 countries—including Bermuda, Bulgaria, Palau and Portugal—our “friends” in France, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and elsewhere balk. They say, Let America take some first.

After a two-year suspension, military trials will resume for 80 of the 172 remaining prisoners. Some might gain release. But the 47 prisoners who cannot be tried because evidence is classified information or was gained by torture are subject, under new guidelines, to indefinite preventive detention without trial. The stain remains.

Philadelphia’s Shame

The story is incomprehensible, particularly so many years after the U.S. bishops’ meeting in Dallas in 2002, during which the “zero tolerance” policy for sexually abusive priests was initiated. After a grand jury indicted three priests in Philadelphia last month and found “substantial evidence of abuse” in the cases of 37 more, Cardinal Justin Rigali, the archbishop, stated there were no priests in active ministry with “established” allegations against them. A few days later he removed three priests from ministry; three weeks after that, he suspended 21 more. Philadelphians were further outraged by the details: One priest still in ministry had been flagged earlier by the pastor of the parish, the parish school principal and the director of religious education.

How could this happen nine years after Dallas? How can priests facing credible accusations still be in active ministry almost a decade after the abuse crisis broke in Boston? After Pope John Paul II said there was “no place” in the priesthood for abusers, after agonizing testimony from victims, after millions of dollars of legal settlements and countless lawsuits, after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, after the founding of the Office of Child and Youth Protection at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, after “safe environment” programs were instituted in every diocese and after Pope Benedict XVI met personally with abuse victims during his visit to this country in 2008—in short, after years of agony?

The disheartening news from Philadelphia shows that the church still has not fully faced the scourge of clerical sexual abuse, that victims and their families must still speak out, that lawsuits still seem insufficient to wake up some church officials—and that resignations are in order.

No More Death Penalty

Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois may not have deliberately picked Ash Wednesday as the day to sign into law a bill that abolishes the death penalty in his state, but the state’s bishops’ conference liked his timing: “As we begin the Lenten season on this Ash Wednesday, and we reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus and the mystery of his death and resurrection,” the Illinois bishops said in a prepared statement, “there is no better time for this landmark law to be approved. The end of the use of the death penalty advances the development of a culture of life in our state.”

Illinois thus becomes the fourth state since 2004, after New York, New Jersey and New Mexico, to dispose of the death penalty. And none too soon. Plagued by revelations of prosecutorial and police misconduct, including confessions in capital cases extracted under torture, Illinois has had an especially poor record on capital punishment. Since 1977 the state has had to exonerate 20 death row inmates. “That is a record that should trouble us all,” Governor Quinn said. “To say that this is unacceptable does not even begin to express the profound regret and shame we, as a society, must bear for these failures of justice.”

Unfortunately Illinois’s performance cannot be described as an anomaly. In recent years it has become increasingly clear that injustice accompanies the process in virtually every state that still accepts capital punishment. Governor Quinn approved abolition after concluding that the system was “inherently flawed...that it is impossible to devise a system that is consistent, that is free of discrimination on the basis of race, geography or economic circumstance, and that always gets it right.”

Comments

Thomas Myles | 3/31/2011 - 1:39pm
To emphasize my statement in post 27, below is a report from Newsday.com dated March 31, 2011.

Huntington School District teacher who was scheduled for arraignment Thursday on charges of molesting a student entered a not-guilty plea by mail, officials said.

Charles Williams, 67, a South Huntington resident who teaches at J. Taylor Finley Middle School on Greenlawn Road, was arrested in February at his home on Dorchester Street and charged with second-degree sexual abuse.


Williams entered his plea by mail and was not required to appear in First District Court in Central Islip on Thursday. A First District Court judge will set a date for a court appearance later in the day.



Williams had been released on bail and was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.


Police said Williams took the girl into a classroom on Jan. 26 so she could make a phone call, then "subjected the student to inappropriate sexual contact."


Police said the girl told a teacher what happened a short time later. That teacher told school administrators and the Suffolk police school resource officer. An investigation by special victims unit detectives led to Williams' arrest.


An attorney for the school district, Greg Guercio, of Farmingdale, has said Williams has not been officially suspended, but reassigned to home with pay.

C Walter Mattingly | 3/30/2011 - 1:37am

Ed,
I located an AP report dating from 2007 by a Mary McGrath which documents a 5th grade boy, as well as a third grade public school girl whose sexual abuse started then and continued on into high school. The teacher who abused the 8 year old girl was not passed around as your criteria seems to require; her abuser kept her for himself.
Two other points from the study which may interest you. Both McGrath and Shakeshaft noted that one difference between documenting abuse of priests compared to public school teachers and employees is the documentation itself. The church keeps "extraordinarily full" documentation in the case of priests: correspondence, medical and psychological counseling records, and employment history going back to seminary. "Almost none of that would end up in a public shool teacher's personnel file."
Another point seems to corroborate America's position that homosexual orientation per se is not a deciding factor in the church sexual abuse issue, nor does this report suggest celibacy would be seminal. According to McGrath's comments on the sexual abusers in the public school system studied, "80-90% are middle-aged men who are married and have children." Since women seem to be minimally involved compared to men and female teachers perhaps more plentiful than male ones in many public schools, we can speculate that were the public school system composed of all-male teachers as the priesthood is, the abuse there would be far higher than it is. That would be the true apples to apples comparison.
Thanks for the writing compliment. I am trying to be less verbose.
The report is titled "Sex Abuse by Teachers is Plaguing US Schools." 

C Walter Mattingly | 3/30/2011 - 1:09am
Pointer,
You are correct to say that I have not "provided any credible evidence to substantiate your charges," but the U.S. Department of Education study quoted certainly has.
Good point on the home abuse issue, to the best of my knowledge. All the reports I have read indicate that sexual abuse is most common in the home. In the schools, public or parochial, however, we have leaders who have been entrusted with the care of our children and have, or should have, a responsibility to the people they serve.  I don't believe such a direct line of responsibility exists of the public over the parent, nor am I certain the state should be intrusive without cause in the family structure. On that issue, I believe the best long-term preventative approach might be the religious and moral instruction our children could receive in school, where we have shot ourselves in the foot. In Norway, children have religious instruction from  ages 6 thru 13. It seems to benefit them.
The organizational structure of the cover-up that has existed in the public school system is different than the cover-up that has existed in the church, but the outcome is similarly disastrous for the children: offenders are ignored, the "trash passed" on to another school or parish, the offender evades accounability, and the abuse continues far too long. Whereas in one it may be passed on by bishops and priests because of fear of punishment, disgrace, and liability, among superintendents and principals it may be passed on for reasons of punishment, disgrace, expensive and time-consuming confrontations with union lawyers, and liability. Not that dissimilar in motivation or effect. My only point has been we should not merely confront the issue of cover-ups from church officials entrusted with our children, but the far larger issue of public school children entrusted with our children as well. The family problem, larger still, I would think is a different dynamic requiring a different approach. And I am with you fully on changing the way we treat childhood victims of sexual abuse, which in both parochial and public schools comes frightfully close to ignoring them.
Thomas Myles | 3/28/2011 - 2:22pm
Mr. Mattingly (24)


Given your logic in previous posts, why restrict your outrage to the public school system?  Many studies have shown that it is much more common for a child, especially a female, to be abused at home by a father or other family member.


You also continue to try to make a comparison between parochial schools and public schools.  It is only you that make that comparison, and you have not provided any credible evidence to substantiate your charges.


The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is about the cover-up. It is not about sexual abuse of children in parochial schools.  The cover-up has been orchestrated from the current Pope all the way to the parish priest.  There is a direct chain of command: Pope, bishop, priest.  No such chain of command exists in the public school system.


Please consider the situation when a child reports an incident of sexual abuse in the public school system.  First of all, numerous studies indicate that this would only happen in less than 1 in 10 cases of sexual abuse of a minor.


If the alleged abuser is a tenured teacher, unless the child who was abused makes a criminal complaint, there is little the school administration can do to remove the teacher.  The teacher may be suspended (probably with pay) pending the outcome of a criminal investigation and successful prosecution in the court system.


If the evidence does appear to be credible, the school system may negotiate to simply allow the teacher to resign, but unless there is an admission of guilt by the accused, there will be no record that any sexual abuse took place.  School administrations not only have the responsibility to protect children, they also have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers.  Because of the cost and time to pursue costly legal and civil action, and the possibility of a “not guilty” verdict against an accused person, school administrators may agree to some sort of plea bargain.


The arrangement described above is certainly not an orchestrated cover-up such as the cover-ups in the Catholic Church that have been investigated by numerous district attorneys.  I offer the investigations done in Boston, Massachusetts, Suffolk County, New York, and Philadelphia as prime examples. 


If we are really interested in preventing abuse, we must make it easier for victims to come forward. One victim who comes forward may prevent another 100 children from being abused by the same person. I have given numerous talks related to sexual of abuse of minors.    Quite often, at the end of my presentation, someone will approach me and tell me something to the effect that “I have never told anyone this before, but I was abused as a child”.  I have spoken with leaders of SNAP, who have told me that they have had similar situations.


Why did these persons mention it to me?  I can only surmise that two things happen.  One, I was talking about the subject, and two, they were comfortable with me.  So I urge you and all others to continue exploring this subject.  Awareness of the problem is the first step. 


We must continue to expend an effort to bring awareness not only to preventing abuse, but bring awareness that possibly 20% of the population are victims of sexual abuse as a minor.  Sexual abuse victims need to know that we recognize their struggle, that they will be believed, and that they are loved.  When that happens, a victim will be more inclined to come forward. While I personally would never encourage a person to come forward to make an allegation (it’s just too personal a decision), we can change the environment that would make it easier and safer for a victim to make an allegation.


In my lifetime, society has changed its viewpoints on racism, sexual orientation, cancer, and mental health. It can also change the way we treat childhood victims of sexual abuse.


 
Thomas Myles | 3/27/2011 - 2:23pm
Mr. Mattingly (24)


Given your logic in previous posts, why restrict your outrage to the public school system?  Many studies have shown that it is much more common for a child, especially a female, to be abused at home by a father or other family member.


You also continue to try to make a comparison between parochial schools and public schools.  It is only you that make that comparison, and you have not provided any credible evidence to substantiate your charges.


The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is about the cover-up. It is not about sexual abuse of children in parochial schools.  The cover-up has been orchestrated from the current Pope all the way to the parish priest.  There is a direct chain of command: Pope, bishop, priest.  No such chain of command exists in the public school system.


Please consider the situation when a child reports an incident of sexual abuse in the public school system.  First of all, numerous studies indicate that this would only happen in less than 1 in 10 cases of sexual abuse of a minor.


If the alleged abuser is a tenured teacher, unless the child who was abused makes a criminal complaint, there is little the school administration can do to remove the teacher.  The teacher may be suspended (probably with pay) pending the outcome of a criminal investigation and successful prosecution in the court system.


If the evidence does appear to be credible, the school system may negotiate to simply allow the teacher to resign, but unless there is an admission of guilt by the accused, there will be no record that any sexual abuse took place.  School administrations not only have the responsibility to protect children, they also have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers.  Because of the cost and time to pursue costly legal and civil action, and the possibility of a “not guilty” verdict against an accused person, school administrators may agree to some sort of plea bargain.


The arrangement described above is certainly not an orchestrated cover-up such as the cover-ups in the Catholic Church that have been investigated by numerous district attorneys.  I offer the investigations done in Boston, Massachusetts, Suffolk County, New York, and Philadelphia as prime examples. 


If we are really interested in preventing abuse, we must make it easier for victims to come forward. One victim who comes forward may prevent another 100 children from being abused by the same person. I have given numerous talks related to sexual of abuse of minors.    Quite often, at the end of my presentation, someone will approach me and tell me something to the effect that “I have never told anyone this before, but I was abused as a child”.  I have spoken with leaders of SNAP, who have told me that they have had similar situations.


Why did these persons mention it to me?  I can only surmise that two things happen.  One, I was talking about the subject, and two, they were comfortable with me.  So I urge you and all others to continue exploring this subject.  Awareness of the problem is the first step. 


We must continue to expend an effort to bring awareness not only to preventing abuse, but bring awareness that possibly 20% of the population are victims of sexual abuse as a minor.  Sexual abuse victims need to know that we recognize their struggle, that they will be believed, and that they are loved.  When that happens, a victim will be more inclined to come forward. While I personally would never encourage a person to come forward to make an allegation (it’s just too personal a decision), we can change the environment that would make it easier and safer for a victim to make an allegation.


In my lifetime, society has changed its viewpoints on racism, sexual orientation, cancer, and mental health. It can also change the way we treat childhood victims of sexual abuse.


 
ed gleason | 3/26/2011 - 3:42pm
Walter, I'm not disappointed you were not able to find any examples of teachers passing around ten year olds. There should be hundreds of examples if what you allege is true. You will also find that school superintendents have no, no motivation as intense as bishops for covering-up of teacher abuse. Why you ask? Walter, no superintendent has a solemn vow of obedience from his teachers. The superintendent has no 'father/ son' relationship with his teachers. I have 5 sons and would I give them money and help to avoid a serious charge ? yes just like a bishop. Ask your local teachers union if they have this kind of relationship with the school superintendent and they will laugh you out of town. You dismiss that the bishops need your help in diverting attention to public school teachers? search America Mag for an Article about 'it's the teachers' by a Mr Clifford about 7 years ago. Mr. Clifford is a retired media expert on the board of the Catholic newspaper in my Archdiocese. I ask Do you too have any similar positions.???
You write well.
C Walter Mattingly | 3/26/2011 - 1:21pm
Ed, would you consider it an adequate response if an American Catholic citizen concerned himself only with neglected poor American children who attended Catholic schools and ignored all the other neglected poor children in the country who attend public schools, a group many times larger?  Indeed it is quite probable, given the US Dept of Education study, that more Catholic children have been and are being abused in the public school system than the parochial schools and that their abusers, as in the church, have been transferred, ignored, and generally not held accountable in the exact same abject way.  Insofar as Catholic caritas and justice demand we all address this wrong in its totality, I consider addressing only the smaller issue of Church abuse inadequate, discriminatory, and unjust in its selectivity, gravely short of a true catholic response. So no, I will not join you in what I consider a morally culpable omission which might be construed as a coverup by those such as yourself who confront the abuse issues with discriminatory moral selectivity. Abused children in public schools are not less deserving of our protection than parochial school children.  Teachers, principals, and superintendents are just as responsible for the welfare of our children  as priests and bishops are. Nor do I believe that exposing the gravity and universality of the problem among teachers and principals as well as priests and bishops would in any way give bishops hope of a cover-up, but rather further impress upon the public the expanse and seriousness of this intolerable situation. 
No, I haven't heard anthing about passing 10 year olds around for sex in public school. As what I have cited suggests, unlike in the parocial schools, it is largely being covered up in the public school system.
Time to out them all. Justice demands no less.
ed gleason | 3/25/2011 - 5:27pm
Walter Mattingly, once again you have posted the 'it's the public school teachers' diversion.. your off topic try is one of many, many ,many tries to say "it's the school teachers' You never show links to  your  charges of school teachers who 'pass around 10 year olds'. You equate clerical gang sex with children, to teachers who were 'passed' to other districts. Show us  one link where a public school superintendent knowingly passed  an abusing teacher to another district and I will show you links to 200 bishops who passed abusing priests to parishes, dioceses, other countries. Walter, please stop posting abuse diversions. It gives some bishops a hope and reason to still cover-up.  
C Walter Mattingly | 3/25/2011 - 1:31pm
Pointer,
Sorry if I misidentified you. Had you followed America's policy of providing first and last names, I would have used a specific rather than generic form of address.
You are correct that I didn't provide evidence for the comparison between the parochial and public school systems. Those are Dr. Shakeshaft's numbers. She did rely heavily on the John Jay study, as that was likely the most comprehensive available to her. And if as you claim that may have been conservative in its estimate, should you double the numbers therein (I'm not claiming that justifiable here), then the multiple cited would be 50 times rather than 100 times more instances of public school sexual harrassment.  I doubt that would affect the validity of a reasonable person familiar with the report suspecting that the abuse issue is far greater in public than in parochial schools.
My concern with sexual abuse in public and parochial schools has been how widespread it is and whether or not it has been effectively and forcefully addressed by those in charge, whatever the source of their positions.  In Shakeshaft's own study, which included 224 teachers who confessed sexual abuse of minor students in the public school system, a total of 1% lost their license to teach. Many were passed on, reminiscent of many US bishops. I don't know what percentage of confessed sexual abuser priests lost their positions, but it couldn't be much less than 1%.
I bring the Dept of Education's report here to light not in any way to deflect criticism of the Church's handling of abuse but rather to point out that the existing studies indicate we have a far greater problem in the public school system in the US. Addressing the relatively small problem of parochial school sexual abuse while neglecting similar yet many times larger problem in the public school system seems to me not only inadequate, but a morally culpable omission. I recognize you and others may disagree.
Thomas Myles | 3/24/2011 - 11:17pm

Mr. Mattingly,(20) 


You are comparing apples to oranges. You state “...there is enough reason for any reasonable person to suspect that sexual abuse of children in the school system and coverups by transferring/neglecting to report the issue is sadly a far greater issue in the public school system than the parochial school one”, but you have not provided evidence of any study of parochial schools. The John Jay Study does not delineate alleged abuses that took place within the parochial school system.  I also offer that face time between students and school staff is significantly greater than face time between children and priests.  Thus there is a much greater opportunity for school staff to groom and ultimately sexual abuse a child.


There is also a big difference in accountability between public school systems and the Catholic Church.  Generally, Board of Education members are chosen by the electorate.  In the Catholic Church, the bishop has the sole authority to assign staff.  If there is a problem in a school system, the electorate has the responsibility and power to make a change.  Obviously, that is not so in the Catholic Church.  Also, the Catholic Church is one monolithic organization, whereas school districts are usually independent of other school districts.


You were also quick to assign the title Dr to Shakeshaft, but in the same email you assigned “Mr” to “pointer”, but had no basis for that. 

C Walter Mattingly | 3/23/2011 - 2:40pm

Mr Pointer (19),
I am glad to see that you referred to the Dept of Education report, overseen by Charol Shakeshaft. I too found it an eye-opener, and it is indeed the document at question.
I would, however, point out some incomplete and perhaps misleading comments I believe that you have made and attempt to set them in a fuller context.
In the first instance, Ms Shakeshaft, the author of the Dept of Education report, might be more accurately identified as Dr Shakeshaft, one of the nation's most experienced and respected voices on sexual abuse of minors in the school systems and a widely published author on these and other mostly feminist issues. Her report is titled "Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature." While there were a total of 14 reports she considered based on empirical data in the US (ignoring the foreign 5), there was but one study which she considered sufficiently comprehensive, representative, and statistically valid for the nation as a whole, the AAUW Hostile Hallways surveys, which covered 8th-11th grade students, first done in 1993 and repeated in 2001. (The acronym refers to the American Association of University Women, one of the oldest and most respected women's advocacy groups in the nation's colleges with branches in 500 colleges and universities in the US.) The surveys included 1,632 field surveys and covered 79 schools which by their design were only public schools. They were conducted by trained Harris Interactive Associates researchers for interviews and compilations. Shakeshaft stated, "The findings can be generalized to all public school students in 8th-11th grades at a 95% confidence level with a 4% margin of error." The surveys revealed 9.6% of all these students suffered sexual abuse. Of these, 6.7% experienced physical sexual abuse ranging from fondling and groping to sexual intercourse. She then projected, "Based on the assumption that the AAUW surveys accurately represent the experience of all K-12 students, more than 4.5 million students are subjected to sexual misonduct by an employee of a school sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade." Again, the extensive surveys of the AAUW included only public schools by the choice of the organization. The other 3 most extensive but more limited US reports that employed empirical date had in place of the AAUW's 6.7% physical abuse, 4.1% (Cameron), 21.1% (Corbett), and 17.5% (Wistnietsky). Shakeshaft's caveat: "Possible limitations of the study would all suggest that the findings reported here under-estimate educator sexual misconduct in schools."
Shakeshaft's own 1994 report on 225 sexual complaints, mostly from New York State, made against teachers to federal authorities between 1990-94, revealed "All of the accused admitted sexual abuse of a student, but none of the abusers were reported to authorities, and only 1% lost their license to teach." 65% suffered no significant negative consequences of any kind (though some of these got informal, undocumented verbal reprimands), and 39% chose to leave their schools, most with positive recommendations," some even given early retirement packages. (Some of the abusing teacers were offered good recommendations if they moved on.)
And you are right to point out that Shakeshaft states that the reports she surveyed do not indicate how many or what percentage of teachers or other employees were sexual offenders. They indicate how many students were subject to sexual abuse/misconduct from teachers and other school employees. She also estimates the problem to be 100 times worse among employees of the public school system than among Catholic priests.
I think that pretty well summarizes the situation. The studies are appallingly small, but I suppose the NEA would not want to publicize the issue, nor would state governments who don't want to be sued or conflict with their unions. But there is enough here for any reasonable person to suspect that sexual abuse of children in the school system and coverups by transferring/neglecting to report the issue is sadly a far greater issue in the public school system than the parochial school one. And we have the responsibility to address not one or the other, but both.

Thomas Myles | 3/21/2011 - 8:54pm
To Walter Mattingly (17)

Thank you for referring to the Shakeshaft report.  I found it to be informative.  I read the 2004 report prepared by Shakeshaft for the Department of Education. Is that the study to which you refer?

However, in my read of the report I do not see any specific reference to public schools, as opposed to private or parochial schools.  Since the Department of Education oversees all childhood education, I assume the report thus also makes its conclusions regarding all schools, not just public schools.

It is also important to note that the the Shakeshaft report relies on studies of schools in the United Kingdom and Canada, as well as in the US.

Prior to the final release of the report, Ms Shakeshaft extrapolated the numbers from the USCCB John Jay Study to estimate the number of incidents in public schools.  However, that was not part of the Department of Education report.

In fact on page 22 the report clearly states "...we do not know how many or what percent of school employees are offenders..."

After being challenged about her comparison of public schools to the Catholic Church, Ms Shakeshaft reportedly acknowledged that the accuracy of such comparisons might be thrown off by any number of factors, including undercounting of youngsters abused by priests.
Christopher Mulcahy | 3/21/2011 - 5:22pm
Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, is undoubtedly a sweetheart who would forgive her own murderer.  Unfortunately forgiveness, recovery, and peace of mind are not primary considerations for the establishment of capital punishment.  As Christians, we have responsibility for the welfare of all our brothers and sisters.  This precludes decisions on the basis of personal interior feelings.
C Walter Mattingly | 3/21/2011 - 2:07pm

Ed, regarding your comment that there are about 100 times more public school teachers than priests, deacons, etc, perhaps that is why it is estimated that there are many times, perhaps a hundred times, more instances of child sexual abuse by employees of the public schools than Catholic priests, brothers, and deacons. And this is not wild conjecture, but rather the conclusion of the 2005 Department of Education study on the issue. Google Shakeshaft for more info. If that is the case, it would be totally irresponsible, indeed, perhaps a morally culpable omission, to address the abject failures of the church on this issue while ignoring equally abject failures on so many times greater a number of innocents in our own public schools. And while I haven't heard of any 10 years olds being passed around for sex in the public school system, I have heard of 13 year olds serving in that capacity. (In the public school system, passing around sexual offenders from school to school even has its own jargon: passing the trash.) But then again, there is a successful coverup in the public school system. In the church in America, these issues have largely been outed.

Thomas Myles | 3/19/2011 - 10:35am
To Gary (13), 

Thank you for openly expressing your thoughts regarding Governor Quinn's decision.

I recommend to you the book and/or movie, Dead Man Walking written by Sister Helen Prejean, CSJ.  This work gave me invaluable insight into forgiveness and recovery. While some people seek to avenge the death of a loved one through the death penalty, this book showed me that even the forced death of the perpetrator does not bring peace of mind to those personally affected.
NICHOLAS CLIFFORD | 3/19/2011 - 10:18am
Sorry - I see now that my comments - about real anti-Catholicism - made to Frank Tantillo should have been directed to Eileen Ford. I misead the page. There is nothing possibley anti-Catholic about wishing to remove abusers and those who facilitate abuse, whether they be in Rome, Philadelphia, Dublin, or any other part of the world.

Apologies for my carelessness.
David Smith | 3/19/2011 - 2:36am
"The blame and shame for the continued existence of the U.S. prison in Guantánamo Bay must be widely shared.  President Obama vowed to shut it down because the prison’s history of abuse was perceived as violating basic American principles. Postponing that closing to “someday” is a disappointment for human rights activists.

"But a commander cannot lead without troops.  According to a Gallup poll, 65 percent of Americans oppose shutting the prison."

If sixty-five percent of the respondents in a Gallup Poll were in favor of doing something you felt was wrong, would you urge the President to do it anyway?
Gary Kupsak | 3/18/2011 - 10:43pm
Governor Quinn, the master "flip-flopper" has certaily done himself proud by signing legislation abolishing the death penalty in Illinois because the system just couldn't get it right all the time. Yes I know that as Catholics, we are about life and not death. But after having spent my whole adult lifetime as a police officer and late in that career becoming a permanent deacon, I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the guidance to confort the families of those who will be killed for no other reason that they witnessed a crime or were the innocent victims of some obscene criminal behavior. Yes, Jesus teaches us to forgive, he forgave those who killed him, but tell me how do I comfort, how do I ease the physical, emotional and spiritual pain of someone whos loved one (husband, wife, child, friend) was merely buying a "Slurpy" at the 7-11 when it was robbed by someone who thought it was better not to leave any witnesses to the $35.00 robbery. I pray that Governon Quinn and every mother, father, son, daughter, relative or friend never has to endure the heartbreak of having their loved one senselessly killed by someone who views the life of another as less valuable than than of a bothersome mosquito. Yes, we must forgive those who trespass against us to the same level as we wish to be forgiven. Give me the strength percious Lord, to be able to be faithful to life and to never ever condone death. Give me the courage to support those who have taken lives and forever altered the many lives of those victim's loved ones. Heavenly Father, give me the grace to support our governor's decision.
Thomas Myles | 3/18/2011 - 9:00pm

Mr. Tantillo,

Please let me state some stats:

The John Jay Study commissioned by the United States Catholic Bishops enumerated 4392 priests for whom there was a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor between 1950 and 2002. According to the study, this comprised 4% of the priests covered by the study.  By any reasonable standard, because these are self-reported statistics, that number is extremely conservative.

The National Institute of Mental Health in a 1988 study stated that the typical male who abuses children has 117 victims in his lifetime.

Do the math.  4392 times 117 is 513,864.  That is more than half a million children in the United States alone.

But where are these children who were abused?  They are all around us, but choose to remain anonymous. As reported on the Diocese of Rockville Centre website, only between 1% and 10% of children who have been sexually abused ever make an allegation.

It is understandable that a victim may not come forward to make an allegation.  Would you allow your child to go through the criminal justice system?  Imagine the agony the child would go through, and that is assuming you knew your child was abused.  Sexual predators groom their victims before committing an illegal act.  The predator naturally seeks a child whom he thinks he can intimidate into not coming forward.  After all, the predator does not want to get caught.  Also, the crime committed is sexual.  It is just not easy for any of us to talk about sex, let alone if that person is a child who has been intimidated.

However, you seem to believe that the crisis in the Church is about sexual abuse.  This is where you are mistaken.  The crisis in the Church relates to each and every priest who has sheltered credibly-alleged abusers from the public.  With the thousands of priests who were abusers, it is much more than a handful of bishops who conspired to conceal information from the public and law enforcement officials.  Even if one accepts that the policies of the past have been changed, why has not the Church, its bishops and priests, come clean about what has happened in the past? It seems to me that they are much more interested in protecting an image than in caring for victims.  Think of the positive effect it would have on victims, some now who may be sixty five years old, if every dirty little secret was revealed.

Lastly, you mention constitutionally protected due process.    Are you referring to the US Constitution, the same document that legalizes the abortion of millions of children?  What about the reported sexual abuse cases in dozens of other countries? Is that what you want to use as a standard for a religious organization? I believe that the Catholic Church should not be looking to civil law to finagle its way out of this crisis.  Does not the Catholic Church, and all of us, ultimately answer to a much higher authority?

Christopher Mulcahy | 3/18/2011 - 7:18pm

It’s a sin to presume to pontificate on capital punishment during a period of  history, like today, when interpersonal  violence is at a minimum.   Evil is potentially monstrous.  It has been so before.  Sweet things who can’t imagine such acts should keep mum on the subject of capital punishment.

Mary Meyers | 3/18/2011 - 6:29pm
Mr. Tantillo,
Your quoting the "Catholic League" says it all about you! I am sure you are a proud member of Opus Dei, whose found is also a pedophile! As far as "credible allegations" are concerned, you obviously know little about the pain that people who have been abused by a priest go through, and the years that have passed which make people unable to go through the horror of a Church that cares more about the silence and coverup than the children. When Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago was falsely accused he did not rail as you have about the injustice. He stepped aside and let the legal process happen. I am sure the pain of that false accusation helped speed the cancer that ultimately took him, but he believed that it was better for the Church, for the safety of children and even for his mentally ill accuser that he allow the real truth to come out.
I am not impressed that the allegations could not be substantiated. I suspect most of them are true.
It is an utter and total disgrace that 9 years after Dallas, there are still priests out there abusing children. There was recently a case in Omaha that was actually in People magazine, and that guy atemped to put a hit on his victim.
Catholic children are still not safe. That is clear. And it never will be until these John Paul II clones die and/or retire.
The Church is crumbling from within. It is only a matter of time. And oh how I wish it were blazing already!
ed gleason | 3/18/2011 - 5:46pm
Two priests and a Catholic lay teacher in Philly have been accused of 'passing around' a ten year old boy for sex.  The  charge, posted above, of anti Catholicism in these indictments is pathetic. The charge, also posted above... 'the abuse is plentiful, for example school teachers" This charge is more than pathetic. It is a well orchestrated and well promulgated lie in order to screen/end any reform of the Church's abuse problem.
There is almost exactly 100 times  more public school teachers than Catholic priests in the USA; so where is there any evidence/stories  that school teachers pass around ten year olds for sex? This 'passing around' has been creditably revealed in other dioceses too..The  Denial of the problem is cult behavior.  
JERRY VIGNA | 3/18/2011 - 5:37pm
@ Alina Sierra. Actually about two years ago at a commencement at the university where I am a faculty member, George Aschenbrenner, S.J., made a brief speech in which he asked our prayers for the victims of sexual abuse and then went on to ask our prayers for the abusers. I think the audience (not me) was taken aback by the second request, and a faculty colleague expressed surprise and disapproval to me later.  
NICHOLAS CLIFFORD | 3/18/2011 - 4:30pm
Mr. Tantillo -

How could your remarks possibly be considered as "anti-Catholic?" They are throughly Catholic. Real anti-Catholicism, as the news has shown us for well over a decade now, comes from those people and  institutions inn power, in Boston, Philadelphia, and elsewhere in the world (NOT just the US) who allow such things to go on and take no real steps to prevent them.

Unless, of course, you are suggesting that in the eyes of some people, what is "Catholic" might not be quite the same thing as what is "'Christian." I would hope that is not true, and prefer (as I'm sure you would too) that the two are similar.

There is nothing "Catholic" about a travesty of justice.
Thomas Myles | 3/18/2011 - 4:26pm
You state "How could this happen nine years after Dallas?"  My question is why would you think the Dallas conference changed anything.  The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that was issued as a result of the 2002 Dallas meeting of Catholic bishops is not worth the paper it is printed on in protecting children.  The Charter does not give any authority to the laity in overseeing the selection of parish priests, nor does it provide for any public review of cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

The Dallas meeting also did not require the bishops and priests to disclose all they know about the cover-up.  The recent events in Philadelphia just add an exclamation point to the previous sentence.

Apparently you accepted the words of the bishops.  Shame on you!  Children continue to be sexually abused, but you thought things changed.

You also state that resignations are in order.  What will that accomplish?  If there are any resignations, there is no guarantee that the replacements will do any better.

And who do you want to resign?  There are hundreds of priests in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.  Have you heard even one of them speaking out?    

Of course they don't speak out.  Their silence only supports their brothers wearing Roman collars.  It is estimated that there have been more than 500,000 children who have been sexually abused by a priest in the United States in the last fifty years.  But as reported on the Diocese of Rockville Centre website, less than 10% of victims of childhood sexual abuse ever make an allegatiion.

A ten year old child who was abused fifty years ago would now be sixty years old and every day silently carries the pain of the sexual abuse that happened decades ago.

Why has not every priest come forward and revealed all he knows about any cover-up?  The priest who remained silent when a credibly alleged sexual abuser redidedin his rectory is just as culpable as any bishop who knowingly transferred a known abuser.
John Dearie | 3/18/2011 - 4:20pm
A Jesuit high school and college graduate, sadly I must ask: What have the Jesuits done to clean up their own abuse mess?
Alina Sedlander | 3/18/2011 - 2:40pm

I have attended Mass in a variety of Parishes at home and in other states.  I listen closely during each Eucharistic Celebration for two items to be included in Prayers of the Faithful.  One is to pray for all the victims of sexual abuse by the clergy and the other is to pray for the abolishment of the death penalty.  Once at the Catholic Cathedral in Washington, DC while visiting our daughter there was a petition against the death penalty.  I guess for some Catholics this is not part of "the Culture of LIfe".  As for the victims of the pedophile priests I have yet to hear a prayer for them.  Maybe there are some parishes in the country that hold these issues in prayer.  I still wait and pray.

l mulligan | 3/18/2011 - 1:41pm
I would suggest a test for the leaders of my church in the USA, to show that they, eight years after Dallas, are going to be more serious about protecting kids in their care.  Currently, the OCYP audits only determine whether each diocese has a plan to protect kids, not whether the plan is actually being followed.  Ask OCYP is you think that is incorrect.  Ask it if any audit of a diocese, like Chicago, which has the VIRTUS Protecting God's Children program, is asked if the purtorted "mandatory" provisions, such as continuing education of its clergy, such as Daniel McCormick in Chicago, is being administered as "voluntary" rather than "mandatory", as its plan advertises it is.  I, for one, will start to take the pronouncements of the USCCB seriously when it sees to it that the dioceses are doing what they say they will  do to protect kids, but not before they take that less than courageous step, one that should have been taken in 2002 if they were truely serious about protecting kids.
8891044 | 3/18/2011 - 1:06pm
What has always been incomprehensible is when the bishops declared zero tolerance on priests in 2002 they completely ignored their own role in the abuse of children.
 
The Attorney General of Massachusetts reported that Cardinal Law and his staff in Boston were all responsible for moving pedophile priests to other parishes - and the only thing the church did was promote them and move them to other dioceses - in Law's case, the Vatican, where he has a role in the appointment of new bishops.

I just hope the Philadelphia story spreads throughout the country, and more high-ranking officials are held responsible.

That may sound anti-Catholic to some, but in my opinion, it would only be justice.
LEONARD VILLA | 3/18/2011 - 12:49pm
You claim "the church still has not fully faced the scourge of clerical sexual abuse."  It's important not to overstate or understate the problem.  One thing the Church has not faced is the majority of these cases are same-sex.  What is being lost in the public discussion are the constitutionally protected due process rights of accused priests. The rush to judgment is especially despicable in a day and age when accused terrorists are more likely to be presumed innocent than accused Catholic priests. Some stats and facts from the Catholic League:

Beginning in 2003, 61 cases of priestly misconduct were examined by the archdiocese (
of Philadelphia.) Twenty four were dismissed because the accusations could not be substantiated. Of the 37 remaining cases, three priests were suspended immediately following the recent grand jury report; 21 additional priests were suspended this week. Which means a total of 24 priests have been suspended, leaving 13 unaccounted for. Of the 13, eight were found not to have a credible accusation made against them; one has been on leave for some time; two are incapacitated and no longer in ministry; two more belong to religious orders outside the archdiocese. 
This means that no credible accusation was made against the majority of the priests (the initial 24 plus the eight newly absolved, or 32 of 61). Moreover, none of the 24 who are currently suspended (the initial three plus the 21 this week) has been found guilty of anything. To top things off, the charges against them include such matters as "boundary issues" and "inappropriate behavior," terms so elastic as to indict almost anyone.

Is your editorial simply jumping on the bandwagon? Do you recognize the anti-Catholic nature of much reporting/crusading in which the outrage is always selective: this same media has no problem with homosexuality (NAMBLA?) no problem with abuse anywhere else where it is more plentiful, for example, public school teachers.  Yes the Church must face up to this shame because even one case is too much but the Church must also go on offense and point out the bigotry under the guise of concern for the young and point out constitutional rights and the 8th commandment apply to priests too.

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