Welcome to RelPol, a student peer reviewed online magazine. This magazine is part of the assessment for the module "In God We Trust" @ the University of Hull.
The United States has faced sexual scandal in all forms and levels of legality throughout the past decade alone. Clinton’s conduct, the Penn State grooming and sexual assault cases just to name a couple and even popular culture is representing the issue in hit dramas like ‘The Killing’ and ‘True Detective’. Long gone are the ill-conceived notions of ‘stranger danger’ and in its place is a more sinister reality that according to a 2003 National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well. And in a Christian society it is unthinkable that a man of God would even consider such a thing. This was until high profile cases, and even more high profile cover-ups from the Vatican, have shone light on the hidden darkness engulfing Catholic life. Serial rapists of children have been supported by the church and their secrets have been hidden from the public and legal systems by various dioceses’, being dictated to by the Vatican. This self-governance has caused responsive outcries for transparency, heard all over the world.
John Jay Study facts: About 4 percent of U.S. priests ministering from 1950 to 2002 were accused of sex abuse with a minor, according to the first comprehensive national study of the issue. Only 7 percent of the accused were reported to have been abused as children, it added.
This is why BishopAccountability.org has been set up from Massachusetts to document all offending priests, by diocese throughout, the entire United States. The website briefing of their objectives is as follows,
‘It is our hope that the information we are collecting at BishopAccountability.org will help expose bishops who have abused children or vulnerable adults, or have aided abusers. We hope we can encourage an informed public to demand indictments of bishops where appropriate. And failing these legal remedies, we hope that our Web site will embolden priests and laity to beg the removal of culpable bishops by the Pope.’
The need for a website of this kind is an indictment in itself because global politics has enabled the Catholic Church to exist law free and it answers only to itself.
In addition to this, the Catholic Church has entire congregations and legislation in place to deal with their multiplying paedophilia problem. The Servants of the Paraclete, which was founded in New Mexico in 1947, is a congregation primarily made up of paedophile priests who are ‘treated’ spiritually through prayer and then re-released back into communities. The idea was that the Church would deal with its own problems regarding the sex abuse cases in isolated compounds yet all this begs the question as to how a government that separates law and religion, fundamentally in its constitution, is unable to deal with a ring of serial sex offenders that have affected every single state in the country within the last 50 years.
From the 1950 to 2002 period “the problem was indeed widespread and affected more than 95 percent of the dioceses and approximately 60 percent of religious communities,” said the John Jay study.
Despite the plethora of victim reports, confessions and pay-outs there are areas of American political and religious society that still believe the Church is being vilified excessively. Bill Donohue is the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil rights and he explained that he felt the ‘paedophilia’ problem was in fact mainly priests with boys over 12 years of age and that it was a homosexual issue and not one of rape. This example is a prime example as to why victims have stayed silent so long. They fear widespread public judgement due to outspoken figures like Donohue.
The Church has spent $2.5 billion in settlements and therapy bills for victims, attorney’s fees and costs to care for priests pulled out of ministry from 2004 to 2011.
There is the possibility that the Catholic Church may have to readdress their response to these accusations as the costs of the cover ups has increased to the point that compensation entitlements have bankrupt dioceses’ and the church may face a worldwide knock on affect with other victims. This means, full transparency may seem the more attractive prospect financially, which would lead to an increase in convictions for offenders. The Archdiocese of Chicago has made public all of its sexual abuse files as of 6th November 2014 and the Pope himself has waged war on ‘playboy priests’. This however, is an inhumane response to the Church’s guilt as it would appear to be a pragmatic, financial decision and not an honest and sincere apology. Clearly, the depiction of Pope Francis facing the established paedophile order is an intelligent attempt to realign the public with the Vatican whilst also accepting the Vatican establishment as the issue at the same time. An example of the sorts of frequent abusers that were protected in the US, is Father Murphy and the St John’s school for the deaf, which showed the true priorities of the Church. They allowed Murphy to continue to work at the school until 1974 despite his personal confession to the Archbishop of Milwaukee, saying that he had sexually abused over 200 deaf boys by 1963. The Vatican never defrocked Murphy and he was buried in a Catholic Church graveyard in 1997. Cardinal Ratzinger publicly defended his decision not to defrock the priest on 25th March 2010, justifying this by stating that Murphy had wrote to him, in the 1990s, apologising for his behaviours.
The American people can now see the redundancy of the Catholic Church as a pillar of the neighbourhood after their role in all these sexual abuse cover ups and as a result attendances have dwindled in churches nationwide. Transparency is the only option left for the Church and perhaps that will also not be enough.
Regarding action by civil authorities, the study said that “3 percent of all priests against whom allegations were made were convicted and about 2 percent received prison sentences.”