January 31, 2002
8:56 AM   Subscribe

"The Archdiocese of Boston in the last 10 years has quietly settled child molestation claims against at least 70 priests." And that conservative estimate represents about 10% of diocesan priests! Many are priests still. Could there be a safer haven than the Church for these animals? Easy access to children, and if you get caught, worst case is that the church pays off your victims and you get reassigned to a prison or hospital, with no messy publicity. Shameful.
posted by luser (38 comments total)
I've always felt that sexual crimes - rape, especially child rape - should be death penalty crimes.

I can't imagine the scope of the damage these men have caused, to children who looked to them in trust. It is the foulest treachery I can imagine - betraying the trust of a child. Is it any wonder that the Catholic Church is a fading star in world religion? Sexual abuse by priests has become so prevalent as to be a running joke.

No responsible parent can now realistically assume that a priest - any priest - is safe enough to be alone with children. I certainly wouldn't. Yes, I know it's painting them all with the same brush - but 10%? That's insanity indulged. The Catholic Church has simply created an environment in which they cannot be trusted with children.
posted by UncleFes at 9:31 AM on January 31, 2002

Should probably do a take down of the whole church as an organized crime syndicate. It's rather sickening.

UncleFes: I'm all for frying the bastards too
posted by owillis at 9:34 AM on January 31, 2002

What do you expect from people who officiate over ritualized cannibalism?
posted by Harry Hopkins' Hat at 9:52 AM on January 31, 2002

Is it 10%? The article doesn't say so. It speaks of 650 active diocesan priests, PLUS (I would assume) 700 priests in religious orders and 100 brothers, which adds up to 1450. Assuming also a turnover from deaths and retirements during the 40 years or so over which the molestations are said to have occurred, probably well over 2,000 individuals served the diocese as priests during that time, which means the offender rate is more like 3 or 4 percent. This doesn't excuse anything, but the Globe should be clearer about how many out of how many we're talking about.
posted by beagle at 9:59 AM on January 31, 2002

What do you expect from people who officiate over ritualized cannibalism?

Better rhetoric than this mean-spirited little bit of pool-pissing. What's the matter, HHH, did you not get enough attention as a child?

Does it even matter that this comment is just fucking stupid on its face? It would be ritualized cannibalism if Catholics actually ate poeple. As it is, they eat biscuits. Belief in transubstantiation is no weirder than, say, feeling the need to have an idiotically salacious email address. In fact, probably less so.

How do I end up in these situations? Criminy, I'm an atheist myself. Ah well.
posted by Skot at 10:01 AM on January 31, 2002

Don't feed the troll.
posted by owillis at 10:02 AM on January 31, 2002

/me breaks chair over owillis' head

AAAAAAAAAAHHHHH! Don't talk sense to me, you jerk!
posted by Skot at 10:07 AM on January 31, 2002

that conservative estimate represents about 10% of diocesan priests

For what it's worth, it seemed to me that the article was saying that the 70 were both diocesan priests and priests from religious orders working in the diocese. This brings the total pool of people up to 1350. And that 1350 represents only currently active priests, while the 70 offenders were drawn from cases over the last 10 years. So the real rate is probably less that 5%. Still a dizzyingly high number, though.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:08 AM on January 31, 2002

What beagle said.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:09 AM on January 31, 2002

The church could redeem itself by allowing priests to marry and have kids (no sick jokes please) and normal human relationships. My intuition tells me women priests might be less prone to this sort of thing too. Are these crazy ideas? Is priesthood inherently a man's job? Would a normal family life make a priest more accessible to the masses or just less spiritual? Or just less Catholic?
posted by plaino at 10:12 AM on January 31, 2002

Belief in transubstantiation is no weirder than, say, feeling the need to have an idiotically salacious email address.

It's not salacious, but rather intentionally meat-headed. My email address is a reference to New York Yankee Derek Jeter. You would have known that if you weren't some inbred, snot-nosed British cretin who probably likes soccer, Marmite and girls with teeth the size of tea saucers.
posted by Harry Hopkins' Hat at 10:19 AM on January 31, 2002

It's profoundly sad that this happends. Remember when Sinead O'Conner tore up a picture of the pope on SNL? She did it to protest the cover-up by the Vatican on down, of sexual attacks by priests. She didn't do a very good job as her message got lost in the translation, but I agree with her level of anger. The way the church deals with it as in insider thing...when the priests should be dragged into courts and thrown in prison.

If I were Catholic and gave so much money to my church, I'd be really frickin upset to see it go to families for settlements of insider deals for pedophile priests. It's very sad. Those poor kids

And people, I don't like organized religion as much as many others, but let's let up on the blazing hatred towards it and people who believe in it!
posted by aacheson at 10:24 AM on January 31, 2002

excellent point, plaino. unfortunately, the Catholic church still has its stubborn head up its dark ages @$$. i would personally prefer to see the church open its doors to celibate women before married men, but that scenario is ripe for problems as well. but then a knocked-up priest isn't nearly as scandalous as one who violates children.

as a practicing Catholic, it pains me to see weak-willed men—men that while technically "of the cloth" are clearly not "of God"—perpetuate this horrible stereotype. less visible victims of such acts are the countless men who successfully dedicate their lives to the priesthood and do good work in the name of their faith.
posted by brigita at 10:26 AM on January 31, 2002

Uncle Fes, would you leave you child alone with a teacher or a coach? In my area alone, there were about 6 teachers and coaches arrested on the same type of charges in 3 months. Priests are not the only pedophiles out there nor are they the only clergy who do this.

I do question the extrapolation The Globe has done to determine just how many priests may be involved. By the criteria they cited, the former Bishop of the diocese I grew up in would have come under question beause he was given "leave" after admitting to a long term, monogamous, CONCENTUAL, relationship with a woman who was the same age as him. He broke his vows but didn't commit a crime.
posted by onhazier at 10:27 AM on January 31, 2002

Religious beliefs are best kept to one's self.
-- HHH, here, yesterday

What do you expect from people who officiate over ritualized cannibalism?
-- HHH, this thread, today.
posted by luser at 10:28 AM on January 31, 2002

You would have known that if you weren't some inbred, snot-nosed British cretin who probably likes soccer, Marmite and girls with teeth the size of tea saucers.

How insulting. I'm not British.
posted by Skot at 10:31 AM on January 31, 2002

brigita, I agree with you on what a bummer it is for actual good people who are men and women of god and live that way. I went to Catholic School for 10 years, and although it made me run run run away from the religion, I realized that there are a lot of very good prients and nuns who truly are dedicated to what they do and taking care of kids. It must be so hard for them to be thrown into the pot with those who don't take their vows seriously and commit these crimes.
posted by aacheson at 10:32 AM on January 31, 2002

does anyone know how stringent the screening is for those thinking about entering the priesthood? i would hate to think that the church's desperation for priests has made it less discriminating in its selection process.
posted by brigita at 10:39 AM on January 31, 2002

I don't want to get too far off-topic, but here's an interesting question: Why haven't any of the families refused to settle and take the case to trial? It's obvious that what the church wants most desparately is to avoid the publicity that would result from a trial, and that it (in actuality its insurance carrier) is willing to pay large sums of money to prevent that from happening. But isn't there someone out there for whom money is not the point, and who realizes that perhaps the only way to prevent this from happening to other children is to bring the issue to the public's attention through a highly-publicized trial?

For me to be suggesting this is odd -- I think high-profile trials are usually repulsive, and all involved are better off settling out of court. But this is one of those cases where only the harsh light of a trial can capture the public's attention and stir the public to demand change.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:55 AM on January 31, 2002

onhazier just reminded me, I ran into a guy (one of the jocks) from my high school a year ago (this is 11 years after graduation) who said every coach was fooling around with student(s) at one point or another while he was there. He thought the girls were the instigators but that's a different story, and the coaches should know better anyway...
posted by plaino at 10:57 AM on January 31, 2002

I don't think that allowing priests to marry would change what seems to be an astonishingly high percentage of molesters in their ranks. Pedophiles are pedophiles, I doubt they're going after little kids because they have no other sexual outlet. (If they're gonna break their vows anyway, gay priests can boff each other, straight priests can boff adult women- it may be forbidden in their vows, but normal sexual desires can be fulfilled without resorting to diddling little kids.)

The only way to get rid of the molesters would be for the church to quit hiding and protecting them, to not only remove them from their parishes, but to refuse to hinder prosecution. Pedophiles are attracted to jobs where they have unfettered access to children- being a priest is an ideal haven for them because they have access to and authority over an endless supply of potential victims, and an institutional accomplice behind them willing to shield their crimes.
posted by headspace at 11:03 AM on January 31, 2002

I feel a good old fundamentalist Roman Catholic (make sure to note the difference) fund raising coming on. Need the money to cover expenses of helping the poor and all you see. (cough)
posted by nofundy at 11:16 AM on January 31, 2002

Headspace, your are absolutely right (no sarcasm).

Instead, I am proposing to change the demographic of the future priesthood, making it a more attractive profession for non-pedophiles.
posted by plaino at 11:26 AM on January 31, 2002

the reason that priests can't be married is to do with the integrity of the confessional. in marriage there aren't supposed to be secrets, in the confessional there are. so it's kind of like a technicality. women can't be priests because they are so totally unclean...

what i can't believe is this: why does the us allow pedophiles to go free if they pay the victim. remember the michael jackson thing? it doesn't make sense to me. it's like in saudi arabia if you kill someone and their family enough money you go free (blood money). why do we do that with pedophiles. i think that the state should prosecute regardless of whether the victim wants it.

i am a woman and a catholic (once a catholic...)
posted by goneill at 11:48 AM on January 31, 2002

Without testimony from the victim, and their cooperation, how would pediphiles ever get convicted?
posted by Doug at 11:55 AM on January 31, 2002

Pedophiles are attracted to jobs where they have unfettered access to children- being a priest is an ideal haven for them
It's also possible that people who have sexual desires they know cannot be fulfilled morally turn to jobs that demand celibacy. Or rather, the job that demands celibacy; doubt there are others I'm forgetting. I'm sure at least some percentage of pedophiles are aware of and repulsed by their desires, and struggle with them...

If you allow women and marriage etc into the priesthood, you may as well just turn it into protestantism... the idea behind the priesthood is meant to be like being a monk: everything is focused toward your spiritual understanding, and religious devotion. Having a family or otherwise engaging with the material world would be completely changing the nature of the religion (which of course protestants did already, anyway).
posted by mdn at 12:00 PM on January 31, 2002

I think the issue of pedophiles in the Catholic Church may have less to do with the fact that they cannot marry/have sex. I don't think that pedophiles are created through sexual frustration. I have a feeling that they always have an affinity for that. If so, a more likely scenario is that these men either go into church specifically to get close to children in a "safe" environment (a horrible thought) or they are trying to repress those feelings by committing to a life with serious restrictions on expressions of sexuality. Of course, that backfires.
posted by amanda at 12:05 PM on January 31, 2002

This is an older article in Salon in which a Catholic church publicly apologizes for the first time.

I believe that there were also stories awhile back about a priest who was assaulting and molesting nuns in his parish. Again, I don't think this is about sexual frustration.

I'm sure that given these sorts of scandals that there must be many priests carrying on secret, consensual affairs. The Catholic church needs to figure out a better way to deal with that.
posted by amanda at 12:11 PM on January 31, 2002

The fact that disturbs me more than anything else is the fact that the Archdiocese, in paying victims hush money over the decades, perpetuated these crimes (a la Geoghan) when they didn't work to immediately move these monsters out of positions of access to children. So in order to save the public face of the institution, they created a widening group of victims and perpetrators by not throwing the criminals in jail (where they learn what it is like to be the victim.)

I'm all for forgiveness, but this was organized and institutionalized protection of rapists/criminals over decades. Who can forgive that? "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" (Who watches the watchman?- Juvenal.)

The other thing I wonder is whether this is a Boston-only situation or if the Church is hiding rampant pedophilia across the US or the world even.

So sad...so, very, very sad. This kind of thing makes it more difficult to understand the value of organized religion.
posted by gen at 12:21 PM on January 31, 2002

who probably likes soccer, Marmite and girls with teeth the size of tea saucers.

Don't go dissin' tiggletaggletiger's cat now!
posted by y2karl at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2002

Andrew Sullivan commented today on the situation in Boston, as well as in Los Angeles, attacking Cardinal Mahony for his role in covering up three cases. This book by Philip Jenkins, originally published in '96, debunked the concept of a mass epidemic of pedophile priests. However, Jenkins' book also makes it clear (I'm not sure whether advertently or inadvertently) that the situation in Boston tends to be the norm: pedophiles simply get moved from one parish to another until somebody finally refuses to keep quiet. For the point of view of one exasperated British priest, see this article from the Guardian.
posted by thomas j wise at 1:02 PM on January 31, 2002

The church last year quietly issued new guidelines about priests who are suspect of pedophilia.

A local Church tribunal, made up of priests, should hear the case, which could be referred to the Vatican, but the procedures would be covered by church secrecy.

The letter made no mention of whether a bishop should inform civil authorities if a Church court found a priest guilty.

posted by kittyloop at 1:19 PM on January 31, 2002

It's also possible that people who have sexual desires they know cannot be fulfilled morally turn to jobs that demand celibacy.

mdn, that's an excellent point, and not one that had occurred to me. I can understand why the Catholic church doesn't care to allow its priests to marry, or for women to take the vestments. It doesn't mean I agree with them, but that's a fundamental part of their faith. While I don't subscribe to their dogma, that's still their church and they should be allowed to express their religion any way they like, but I don't think that religion should be allowed to shield pedophiles.

I'm disturbed that the Vatican finds the church's reputation to be more important than the wellbeing of the victims and potential victims. This is in an organization which is not shy about activism in its ranks, protesting executions, protesting abortions, with the Pope going so far as to make direct appeals to government leaders. Surely the church can't approve of child molestation, so why can't they be brave enough to embrace their dogmatic truth that no human being is without sin, speak out and actively drive out the pedophiles in their own ranks?
posted by headspace at 4:04 PM on January 31, 2002

I'm disturbed that the Vatican finds the church's reputation to be more important than the wellbeing of the victims and potential victims.


Someday I'll break the news to ya about corporations, too....
posted by rushmc at 4:57 PM on January 31, 2002

Okay, rushmc now owes me a new keyboard, and a new Coke. I'm not at all surprised the Vatican is all about covering its own ass. I just sorta like to think that an institution that holds itself up as a moral authority would actually, y'know, try to act morally. Silly, I know...
posted by headspace at 5:01 PM on January 31, 2002 [1 favorite]

I can't fathom what was going on in the heads of those people when they decided to put known pedophiles in positions where they could molest more children. Were they just that ignorant about pedophilia?
BTW, I also recall, though, that the Catholic tradition of not allowing priests to marry doesn't stem from the early church (which had married priests, like the Orthodox church), but from a desire to stop church property from leaving it through inheritance. (no marriage=no legitimate heirs)
posted by Charmian at 7:05 PM on January 31, 2002

Okay, rushmc now owes me a new keyboard, and a new Coke.

Tell you what, I'll split the cost with you and spring for the Coke.
posted by rushmc at 9:32 PM on January 31, 2002

I was taught that celibacy was introduced into the priesthood to "raise the bar," so to speak, in an era where many priests were poorly educated, to the point where many couldn't even read or write. Celibate priests = more time for study. Of course, Tis was the version given by Benedictine Monks, so I'm not sure how accurate it is.
posted by hipstertrash at 10:09 PM on January 31, 2002

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