Material surfaced again this week that has been on the Web for almost a year. The materials were documents, such as letters, from the founder of a now-closed New Mexico treatment center who questioned as early as 1952 if pedophilia could be cured. The recent articles question how bishops could say later that that they did not know the scope of the pedophilia problem.
I doubt that many a half century ago knew the scope of the problem which, with hindsight, we’re all too aware of now. It wasn’t only the church that was ignorant as Monica Applewhite, PhD, notes how much society has changed in this article.
Actually the mid-80s becomes the tipping point to mark when people in the church and in society beyond it began to understand this crisis in the church and in society.
A half century ago bishops sent clerics for psychological treatment for what they saw as a serious moral failing. Only later did the medical community say pedophilia also amounted to a disease. Many compared it to alcoholism and said it couldn’t be cured but could be treated and controlled.
When bishops recognized the scope of the problem, and its traumatic effect on victims, they took action that will go down in history as dramatic, some would say, draconian. What did they do?
They instituted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People which called for
Any cleric credibly accused of molesting a minor to be REMOVED FROM MINISTRY even if it was just one time.
SAFE ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMS to be established in dioceses in parishes. As a result, to date the church has:
A. Trained more than 1.8 million clergy, employees, and volunteers in parishes in how to create safe environments and prevent child sexual abuse.
B. Prepared more than 5.7 million children to recognize abuse and protect themselves.
C. Run background checks on more the 1,535,000 volunteers and employees, 164,000 educators, 51,000 clerics and 4,955 candidates for ordination.
Also worth noting:
The church has paid about 2.5 billion dollars in recent years for accusations that go back decades, even when the accusation were against priests long dead and/or out of ministry.
While one case is still one too many, the fact is that there has been a dramatic decline in the number of clerics credibly accused of abuse of a minor in recent years. Most accusations that come forth now allege abuse decades before. Last year, dioceses received ten new credible allegations of abuse to a person still under 18 years of age. (There were more than 41,000 priests in that year, according to the Official Catholic Directory.) In the same year many old cases also came to light as 620 victims made 625 allegations against 423 offenders. Those cases go back decades, most occurred between 1965 and 1974.
The clerical abuse scandal is a horrendous one for which the church will do penance for a long time. At the same time, it is a scandal from which the Church has learned as is evident in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.