Questionable Motives

March 12, 2010

What does Andrew Brown think is a proportionate response to priestly pedophilia? Not so bad… in comparison!

Filed under: abuse,Catholic Church,child abuse,Faith,Priests,Scandal — tildeb @ 3:15 pm

Andrew Brown would have you believe that “that the frequency of child abuse among Catholic priests is not remarkable”. He quotes a study from 2002 that shows about 4% of priests and deacons were sexually abusive between 1950 and 2000 in the United States and about half a percent in Britain. Note that this statistic is about abusers.

In comparison, Brown writes, “the most pessimistic survey finds that 27% of American women and 16% of men had “a history of childhood sexual abuse”; while the the most optimistic had 12.8% of women and 4.3% of men.” This statistic is about those abused.

See? The stats for catholic priests and deacons looks to be much lower so we are to assume that the difference between 4% of morally superior clergy who sadly and unfortunately abuse and perhaps up to 27% of women and 16% of men abused as children must have received that abuse from some other “profession”, leading us to the conclusion:

Certainly the safeguards against paedophilia in the priesthood are now among the tightest in the world. That won’t stop a steady trickle of scandals; but I think that objectively your child is less likely to be abused by a Catholic or Anglican priest in the west today than by the members of almost any other profession.

What absolutely disgusting, dismissive, and apologist tripe. There isn’t a shred of evidence that the church has any meaningful and effective safeguards against pedophilia in the priesthood, nor do I think victims would appreciate their personal and profound betrayal from a trusted and supposedly god-besotted cleric being described as a mere “trickle” of scandal. What Mister Brown thinks  and presents to us, his dear readers, is most definitely not objective whatsoever.

Father Bill Carney may very well be a typical example of one of the 4% Brown is willing to concede is a pedophile from the ranks of the catholic clergy,  “a serial sexual abuser of children, male and female,” known to his bishop and local police and named in complaints and suspicions “in respect of 32 individuals.” Also known was that “there is evidence he abused many more children”. A yes… another “trickle” comes to light.

So what did the Church do about this known pedophile?

We now know that complaints about Carney were diverted away from the Irish criminal justice system to Bishop James Kavanagh, a man described by the Murphy Report as someone with “a soft spot for Carney.” Kavanagh did what he could to protect Carney from the law to avoid scandal for the Church.

One conscientious policeman, praised in the Murphy Report, did investigate complaints and they came to court. But the press were kept away as Carney pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault and got probation. Six families were paid compensation and Carney was soon back working, with access to children.

Isn’t that a lovely outcome? Yes there was a bit of slap and tickle one could possibly call assault but nothing too severe… other than the suicide of one “trickled” young man. Nothing to keep this priestly fellow away from passing through the strictest of catholic safeguards and continuing to provide more “trickle of scandal.”

What’s that you say? Not severe enough a punishment? You mean Carney didn’t stop ‘abusing’ children, catholic code for the raping of children? How surprised are we that he continued?

In its 40 pages on Carney, the Murphy report said that his was one of the worst cases the commission investigated and that the Church’s handling of his case was “nothing short of catastrophic”.

“It was inept, self-serving and for the best part of 10 years displayed no obvious concern for the welfare of children,” the report said. In 1992, the Church convicted Carney internally, under Canon law, of child sexual abuse. But this compulsive paedophile refused to leave the parish house. So the Church paid him £30,000 to go away.”

Let’s see: one priest, perhaps hundred of victims: one abuser, many abused, and the church has no problem paying compensation… to the abuser!

Let’s revisit our apologetic Brown’s statistics, shall we? 4% of priests abusers, 27% women and 16% men victims. Might each and every abused victim come directly from the 4% of catholic priests who abuse? Probably not. Most likely not. Almost assuredly not. But what’s glaringly obvious to anyone who has an honest eye for detail and even half a brain is that each abusive priest leaves a trail of numerous victims. Just because the percentage of men and women abused (taken mostly from social service surveys, let us note, which should reflect a clientele in need of social services quite possibly from life altering encounters like sexual abuse from a trusted priest!) is greater than the percentage of abusers from the priestly profession does not mean that some greater percentage must come from “other professions.”  In fact, there is pretty plausible evidence that much abuse of children comes primarily from family members, so to conclude as Brown does that the risk of abuse is lower from the priestly caste than “other professions” is completely unjustified from anything written in his column or from any data I can find. Simply put, Brown’s thinking here is sloppy, wishful, dismissive, and deeply apologetic on the church’s behalf. Also, his ill-formed, unjustified, implausible opinion is grossly misleading and insulting to those in other professions. No other profession stands accused of any kind of long-term, organized, and officially sanctioned cover-ups for its membership to abuse children and avoid criminal prosecution. The catholic church does have exactly that history, with mounting evidence for its active culpability and long-term collusion from those at the highest levels of its leadership for protecting abusers within its ranks.

The Browns of this world may have faith that it is right and proper to protect, excuse, mitigate, and apologize for this child-raping organization. But let’s hope his kind of faith grows weaker as his numbers grow fewer. There is some hope. Each of us can do our part and make sure that we honour the victims of abuse at the hands of priests and turn these “trickles of scandals” into a fully justified reason to condemn this disreputable organization from having anything to do with our children. The catholic church does not deserve our faith.


  1. Ok – in the US there are classes now for all adults and background checks if you are working with children. No adult is allowed to be alone with a child – not even a priest.

    Comment by 4amzgkids — March 12, 2010 @ 9:26 pm | Reply

    • Welcome to the 21st century. Background criminal checks of local, state, and federal criminal checks have been around for more than half a century. So nice to see the catholic church getting wind of this remarkable security system after another 200,000 children are abused. Great timing.

      Comment by tildeb — March 13, 2010 @ 12:03 am | Reply

      • WHere are you getting your info from????? 200,000???

        Comment by 4amzgkids — March 18, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

  2. This article is not an excuse – it clearly states facts – people make such a huge deal about this – it is sad and unfortunate BUT it’s far worse elsewhere so why does only the church get publicized like crazy.

    Comment by 4amzgkids — March 12, 2010 @ 9:27 pm | Reply

  3. It is a huge deal. That it’s a bigger deal elsewhere is even sadder. If the US military was raping 200,000 children a year, how many people would argue that picking on the US forces was somehow ‘unfair’?

    Comment by tildeb — March 13, 2010 @ 12:04 am | Reply

  4. Andrew Browns piece was certainly not the best argued but hes right to try and use data to provide some perspective. If anything the lack of readily available data is concerning in itself. Particularly when that data we do see from elsewhere , e.g. the US public school system, is so alarming. I also remember how in the past local government in the UK had reports on child abuse suppressed for insurance reasons. Unfortunately this problem goes way beyond the catholic church. It seems to be deep in society generally. Turning it into a Catholic issue does nothing to help the vast majority of those kids at risk.

    Comment by Nor1 — March 15, 2010 @ 12:31 am | Reply

    • That would be a very interesting comparison, if we can make it. Do you have any data?

      When abuse occurs and a government agency is responsible for oversight, there is a huge public outcry here in my home country. Commissions are struck, responsibility is assigned, convictions are sought, lawsuits are settled, and new policies and procedures are rapidly put in place. In the education system, for example, as soon as an accusation is made the teacher is immediately suspended pending the outcome of a mandatory internal investigation – usually with pay unless found guilty – and the results of the findings are published. Criminal charges, if warranted by the police investigation, are also usually laid (lain?). My point is that any comparable organization that requires a level of public trust has no tolerance for abuse or sexual interference of children. None. The charges are taken very seriously by all who are involved and especially by all who have any oversight responsibility.

      In stark contrast, the abuse within the confines of the church have been institutionalized. Abuse is expected to happen. In the event of abuse allegations, the policies and procedures followed first are those meant to protect the church’s reputation. The victim is merely an afterthought in the chain of concern and often falls below that of the accused clergy. In other words, there is some level of tolerance for this crime.

      In addition, the church has been historically complicit in interfering in investigations, known to lobby outside officials to mitigate the public accusations, known to help some clergy avoid prosecution, and has even gone so far as to help the clergy leave the jurisdiction – often across international boundaries – to avoid the fallout of secular investigations from besmirching the public trust in the church and its agents. This is clearly unlike any other national or international organization of which I am aware. But if you have evidence of a similar scope and sequence of institutionalized abuse, by all means post it here. Your contribution is welcomed.

      Comment by tildeb — March 15, 2010 @ 3:15 am | Reply

    • Exactly, it’s everywhere!

      Comment by 4amzgkids — March 18, 2010 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

  5. tildeb

    Thankyou for the reply.

    Yes, I have some data regarding abuse in the context of schools: : The following link is a literature review

    We can read that
    (1) statistics on percentage of US school children suffering from sexual misconduct involving physical contact (actually a tighter definition than many of the cases in recent well publicized data sets concering cahtolic abuse) varies from 6% to over 17% depending on study.
    (2) Ther report mentions how little data there is on percentage of teachers (although the report doesnt mention it, there is a reluctance collecting this type of data from professionals who are very often unionized). A less academic link and more up to date link ( supports comparability in magnitude between priests accused of abuse and teachers actually disciplined for it (if we normalize for time periods and gender). You should also remember it is often very costly to fire a tenured teacher in the US and suing a church is easier than the public school system.
    (3) Reports of sexual misconduct are not always treated seriously (sec.7). Incidents are rarely reported to the police by the schools. This report undermines what you assert in response to my posting.

    The problem is always the question of whether we are comparing apples with apples when comparing data. In my opinion this was a problem with Andrew Brown’s article. And indeed this is what you have picked up on. Unfortunately, mr Brown probably ran into the usual problem, the data is not really that good, but where we have it it is very concerning.

    However, whatever the data says it does not diminish his underlying point, i.e. Have we kept our impression of Catholic child abuse in perspective? If we want to seriously answer that question we cannot allow it to be based purely on sensational case by case news reporting. It should be based upon data driven studies. We would expect to do this in any other context, and we should not let our disgust at the thought of child abuse get in the way of doing it here. If we do not do so then we are open to the possibility of forming irrational conclusions. I do not see from your blog any attempt to look at the data. You are assuming Brown is wrong without any real counter evidence.

    Further, in your reponse to my posting you do seem rather optimistic and trusting of other comparable organizations (whatever they may be). I use the example of US schools and it is clear you are wrong in this case. My original posting referred to UK local government. You are wrong in this case. Would you like us review the Boy scout movement? You will find that you would be wrong in this case. I could go on. Unfortunately, the situation with the catholic church is absolutely typical of how institutions have been dealing with the situation. But it seems the Catholic church is far more visible and the data has been far easier to extract. I also suspect that they are systemically more naive and open to abuse for a variety of reasons.

    We are talking about institutionalized abuse. However, child abuse is changing. Whereas in the past, abusers found it harder to reach positions of contact (e g teaching and priesthood) they could exploit those positions to contact many children over limited periods of time. Today, it is very easy for an abuser to make contact with children (live in boyfriend) but he will not be able to exploit as many children. However he will be able to do it far more intensely and for longer periods. We might expect rates to decrease accordingly, but we will find thse reported abuse cases will be more horrifying. This is likely to be the current issue while we are all busy discussing what may have happened in post war Bavaria 50 years ago.

    Comment by Nor1 — March 16, 2010 @ 1:33 am | Reply

    • Quite simply, my point is that the catholic church’s institutional approach to the problem of sexual abuse is repugnant.

      Let us be honest that abuse occurs in every profession between people in positions of authority and those subject to that authority. But that is neither the point of my criticism nor the central critique against the catholic church, which far too many apologists for the church like Brown assume it to be (or wish it to be). That approach is an intentional misdirection.

      Apples with apples: let’s compare the institutional position between the example you provide – the US Department of Education – and the church and see if they compare favourably: from the US Department of Education, we believe that sexual misconduct in whatever form it takes is a serious problem in our nation’s schools and one about which parents and taxpayers have a right to be informed. Now compare this with the Crimen Solicitatians (, the official Vatican policy on reports and accusations of sexual misconduct. Look at section 4 in particular where the entire emphasis is about secrecy on pain of excommunication.

      Do you detect a difference? I do. By fair comparison, the institutional approach is strikingly different, and that is my point. The perspective should not be one of whether or not abuse occurs but how the institutions deal with the problem. By colluding with abusers to protect the reputation of the church, the catholic institution is reprobate. Brown would have us think such a fair criticism is anti-catholic. What apologetic rubbish: it’s a recognition of the facts as they stand, and the catholic church has been found to be, once again, grossly negligent in its moral duty to those under its care.

      Comment by tildeb — March 16, 2010 @ 1:09 pm | Reply

  6. Hello Tildeb

    Well, I’m pleased we can at least now agree that Andrew Brown had a point about the statistics.

    However, I think your example for comparison of institutional approach is far from fair.

    You quote:

    “we believe that sexual misconduct in whatever form it takes is a serious problem in our nation’s schools and one about which parents and taxpayers have a right to be informed.”

    Not particularly meaningful in practice , but fair enough as it goes. Anyway, I’m sure there is far more on the subject from the US Dept. of Education to actually give this single sound bite some substance.

    Probably something similar to what you might find here:

    This is the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People issued by the Catholic Church in the US. You will find similar documents issued by the Catholic authorities in various other countries if you look for them. You might be particularly interested in article .4.

    Of course, charters like these work like quality systems used in all sorts of organizations. They are of varying effectivenes and are useless when not adhered to. But still, its fairly clear that the Catholic Church is actually remarkably consistent with other institutions and organizations in its approach to dealing with this problem.

    I’m surprised you didn’t link to this type of document if your intention was to compare “apples to apples” rather than linking to some translation of an obscure document written almost half a century ago relating to how abuse of the penitential rite should be dealt with under church canonical law.

    Comment by Nor1 — March 16, 2010 @ 7:20 pm | Reply

    • Not so fast, Nor1. Andrew Brown’s point about the statistics were a diversion from the issue: that abuse in the catholic church has been institutionalized and that criticism of that institutionalization is not tantamount to anti-catholic bigotry.

      There isn’t a public or national program anywhere that I can find that doesn’t condemn without reservation the sexual abuse of children. That’s very meaningful in practice; as I have pointed out, the response from other equally national or international organizations is expected to be immediate, public, and taken very seriously. In stark contrast, the church has the policies and procedures in place for secrecy. It is on this issue in particular where the comparison is to be made and not on other organizations having abuse occur within its ranks.

      You blithely suggest that the 2002 USCCB policy is equal to the task of dealing with cases of abuse equal to any other typical organization.


      You make it sound as if the American bishops aren’t concerned with properly adhering to canon law! Are you for real?

      Evidence: Read the Charter. Go to page 2, point #2, and note the following caveat, clear as a bell for those who have ears to hear, plain as day for those who have eyes to see: This policy is to comply fully with, and is to specify in more detail, the steps to be taken in implementing the requirements of canon law, particularly CIC, canons 1717-1719

      That’s in the letter from the Holy See about Norms that provides papal authority for the granting of Recognitio to the USCCB. That’s absolutely central to understanding and appreciating this charter’s authority, which comes not from the USCCB but from the Vatican.

      Now what might cannons 1717-1719 actually say? Can you guess? Can you? Yup: no doubt much to your disappointment, we’re right back to that “translation of an obscure document.”


      From the Code of Canon Law, Latin-English Edition 1998 we find on page 1809 the following directive to bishops on how to carry out an investigation of sexual abuse and on what grounds dereliction is to be determined:

      In other instances, however, although a process may be warranted and there is evidence of an ecclesiastical delict, such a process may not be expedient. The Church’s well-being and that of the offender might be better served by legal-pastoral measures other than a penal process, for penalties are to be imposed only as a last resort when all other legal-pastoral measures (eg., fraternal correction, rebuke, therapy) have failed to repair scandal, restore justice, and reform the offender (c.1341).

      If a penal process is justified, other considerations then come into play. The code clearly favours a judicial process because it better safeguards the common good of the Church and provides more effective legal protection for all concerned. However, for a just cause to be considered very carefully, the ordinary may use an administrative process unless the law specifically require a judicial process, eg., perpetual penalties such as privation of office or dismissal from the clerical state.

      For you to suggest that the institutional problem of remaining more concerned with maintaining the good reputation of the church over and above collusion with abusers is ‘fixed’ by feel-good but toothless documents and proclamations like this one by the USBBC simply isn’t true no matter how much you wish it were. Because the USBBC and its committees are subordinate to the Holy See, the criticism remains valid that the institutionalized policies and procedures from the Vatican continues to promote secrecy and the reputation of the church as of primary concern.

      Once again, that institutionalization of dealing with sexual abuse by putting the reputation of the church first remains central to the legitimate criticism aimed at the catholic church.

      Comment by tildeb — March 16, 2010 @ 9:41 pm | Reply

  7. Hello Tildeb

    Looking at the statistics is not a diversion. If the data shows that the Catholic church does not have a comparatively larger problem (and as discussed we have seen little evidence to suggest it does) then it undermines allegations that the size of the problem is inherently related to it as a specific institution. This does not mean to say that there havent been problems, or that problems do not continue to exist. Furthermore, I cant really agree with your view that its the comparison in process or reaction to abuse allegations that is necessarily more important than the level of abuse itself. If an institution were to have demonstrably minimal rates of abuse, for example, I wouldnt really be too focussed on their policies other than to try and understand why the rates are as they are. However, the fundamental point is to use information correctly to help bring about improvements to the situation rather than to merely fuel irrational prejudice.

    Regarding the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, I used it as an example in response to the statement you quoted from the US Dept. of Education. It was you that suggested this simple statement as some kind of bench mark for gauging institutional approach. The charter more than compares favorably to it.

    You say that I make it sound that American bishops aren’t concerned with properly adhering to canon law. I really do not see where you read that in my previous post. In fact the charter clearly draws upon canon law as a basis for internal procedure. You yourself comment upon this fact at length. And its right that a policy document such as this should be backed up by more detailed sets of procedure. This is how all decent quality systems work, whether they are found in social service bodies or within large corporations. And actually, cannons 1717-1719 are not the same as “Crimen Solicitatians” as it happens.

    Regarding what you quote as a directive to bishops as stated in the “Code of Canon Law (Latin-English Edition 1998)”. This is simply wrong. You are not quoting form the code of canon law, you are mistakenly quoting commentary from a book called “New commentary on the code of common law”. Unfortunately, this somewhat undermines the rest of your argument as it is based upon your own debatable interpretation of the book’s author’s comments and not on the canon law itself.

    But anyway, you yourself make the case that the USCCB charter draws from canon law. This means that it would be far more pertinent to refer to this document if we want to know how canon law is not only interpreted but actually applied in the context of sexual abuse. After all this is the definitive working document to that end (in the US). Frankly speaking I think this type of charter is very welcome and its a shame that it wasnt introduced earlier when individual bishops either ignored canon law or interpreting it too loosely.

    As for your view that it is “bunk” in terms of dealing with cases of abuse, well of course you have the right to make this assertion. However, it might be more constructive to indicate ways of improving the framework. Perhaps the independent auditors who review its operation would be interested to hear your views on the matter.

    As an interesting aside to your earlier comments on institutions where abuse is “expected to happen” you might be interested by this:

    Im rather shocked at the way rape has become an expected part of prison life in America and almost regarded by the public at large as part and parcel of the punishment. In some juvenile detention centers about 1 in 3 children are abused. The government is not in a hurry and I guess the public dont really care.

    Comment by Nor1 — March 17, 2010 @ 8:05 pm | Reply

    • But the issue is not whether or not the catholic church has a larger problem than other institutions, Nor1; it is the policy of secrecy and avoidance of responsibility when abuse occurs. That official position is not like other institutions who claim power and authority from god. But even if it were, my point remains that it’s a corrupting policy and needs to be changed. Being classified as anti-catholic for maintaining this opinion, as Brown proposes, is self-serving apologetic tripe meant to deflect legitimate criticism – once again – from the church where it rightly belongs and onto the messenger for pointing out the obvious.

      Let’s put this more plainly: are you actually suggesting that an institutionalized policy of secrecy and avoidance of responsibility by helping child abusers avoid prosecution for child molestation is hunky dory? Come on. Your argument – or apology for the institution’s abetting of those who perpetrated these crimes to be more accurate – seems aimed at suggesting just like Brown that because abuse occurs here, it is perfectly reasonable and understandable – as unfortunate and as unwanted as it may be – that it should occur there. But on sober reflection, one should expect an institution who advertises its moral superiority derived from god like the catholic church should have next to none. It would reasonable to expect a statistically insignificant number of cases by comparison than, say, a prison. I notice you avoid this painfully obvious point entirely.

      You suggest that it might be more helpful if I made suggestions rather than criticisms on how to improve “the framework.” Like thousands before me who have all failed to have their criticism taken seriously, how about the institution accepts responsibility for its policies and procedures that placed the best interests of the church along side those who stood accused of molestation and sexual abuse and justified the church’s decisions to actively interfere with investigations through collusion, culpability, and complicity in these crimes?

      I have been assured by many that it is an important first step to recognize that one has a problem before one can address how to best overcome that problem – to change “the framework, if you will – rather than shrug, suggest that others also have this problem so it’s worth a good amount of tsk tsking, calling up the familiar notion that there are always a few bad apples in every barrel, that some of this abuse by clerics is not really so bad as critics would have us believe, and rely on apologists to make the institution’s case that everybody should just forgive and forget and move on, all the while holding fast to the very policies of secrecy and primary concern for the church’s reputation that allowed the problem of child abuse to make such deep roots into the very fabric of the roman catholic church. Unless and until those polices and procedures radically change from the Vatican on down through every level of management, the catholic church in practice will continue to produce scandal after scandal after scandal.

      Finally, if the church fails to alter its policies, then I can only hope that fewer parents everywhere will allow catholic clergy to have access to their child’s moral instruction. That’s not anti-catholicism: it’s good sense. And without access to malleable children, I predict the catholic church will experience a rapid decline in adult membership. That’s the kind of change to the institutional “framework” that I think will yield the greatest reduction in child abuse within the catholic church.

      Comment by tildeb — March 17, 2010 @ 9:26 pm | Reply

    • Oh lookee… another cardinal admitting to following official policy but ‘mishandling’ cases of sexual abuse of children:

      As a priest in 1975 Cardinal Sean Brady was at meetings where children signed vows of silence over complaints against paedophile priest Fr Brendan Smyth. (Source)

      Imagine that. Why, that sounds suspiciously like other comparative organizations like public schools who also have official policies of silence and secrecy, doesn’t it?


      On Tuesday, the Catholic Church in Ireland released more details about why Cardinal Brady asked two victims, aged 10 and 14, to sign secrecy agreements.

      The church said the boys were asked to sign oaths “to avoid potential collusion” in evidence-gathering for an internal church inquiry.

      Sound familiar? It should. He was following proper procedures commented on in Canon Law quoted in my previous post.

      Cardinal Brady added that the church “must humbly continue to deal with the enormity of the hurt caused by abuse of children by some clergy and the hopelessly inadequate response to that abuse in the past”.

      What’s this? Criticism of the church? He’s toast.

      But despite allegations being previously investigated by church officials, including Cardinal Brady it was almost 20 years before he (Fr Brendan Smyth) was brought to justice.

      I am so close to being surprised. Really. A pedophile priest brought to justice? It boggles the mind.

      He (Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness) questioned how many other children were asked to stay silent.

      We’ll never know, will we, because of the official policy of secrecy the cardinal followed.

      Hundreds of allegations, many going back decades, of systematic child abuse by Catholic clergy have come to light this year across Europe.

      The scandal has surfaced in Germany – Pope Benedict’s homeland – Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands. Earlier, scandals have rocked the Catholic Church in the United States, Canada, Australia and Mexico.

      So maybe it’s not just a ‘few bad apples’ as Mr. Brown suggests, similar in scope and frequency to any other comparable organizations. And his opinion has allies in high places like Chancellor Angela Merkel (who) said on Wednesday the only way to come to terms with it was to find out everything that has happened. (source)

      Yeah, good luck with that. What problem?

      Describing the sexual abuse of children as a “despicable crime”, Mrs Merkel said abuse was a challenge “for the whole of German society”, and that it “made no sense” to focus solely on the Catholic Church.

      Right. It’s a German problem, Angela. Surprisingly, it’s also an Irish problem. And a Swiss one. An American one, too. Let’s not forget that this just so happens to also be a Canadian problem, by the merest of coincidences. Oh, and a Dutch problem. Australia? Yup. An Australian problem, to be sure. But we must keep in mind that it cannot possibly be a catholic problem because that just makes no sense at all; it’s really more of a Mexican problem.

      Good grief.

      Maybe, just maybe, there’s some official problem within the policies and procedures of the catholic church that has led to such ubiquitous abuse within the church. I know, I know… for such blasphemy excommunication alone is too good for someone like I; rest assured that I’m probably going to hell and, if I’m Irish, maybe Court. Thank goodness and god that there are least secular laws on the Irish books that will protect the church from such unwarranted criticism like mine. As Brown suggests, it must be my anti-catholic bigotry that leads to such criticisms. It cannot possibly have anything to do with facts and the church.

      Comment by tildeb — March 18, 2010 @ 11:18 am | Reply

    • Yes

      Comment by 4amzgkids — March 18, 2010 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

    • Nor1 claims that “Looking at the statistics is not a diversion.”

      Oh really.

      Just for the fun of poking our catholic self in the eye once again, let’s have a bit of fun and actually look at Brown’s statistics:

      Over their lives, children encounter hundreds or thousands of adult authority figures. If 4% of those authority figures raped them, we would be counting the average number of adults each child had been raped by rather than the chances of each child being raped at all. (My point at why Brown’s use of the stat is a diversion from the issue of official secrecy.)

      Seriously, if after encountering 100 authority figures, a child was likely to be molested by 4% of them, then the average number of rapists they would encounter would be 4. And the chances of being raped at least once would be 98.3%. Thus we can see that the number of child rapists is far less than 4% in the general population. In fact, it’s less than 1%.

      In the US:

      6.8% of violent crimes are forcible rape.
      4% of priests are accused of raping children.

      But remember that the numbers aren’t remotely comparable. There are 1,380,000 total violent crimes, and only 41,400 priests in the United States (according to wikipedia). So that’s about 94,000 rapes – but only 1,700 rapist priests (that we know about). So unless those rapist priests are raping 55 people a year each, they aren’t covering the total rapes in the country.

      But what’s really horrifying though, is the sheer discrepancy between the Priests and the total population. There are over three hundred million Americans, and only 94,000 rapes. The total rapists are only about .03%. Not four flipping percent.

      The Priests are 0.01% of the population, and they are apparently committing nearly two percent of the rapes! That’s about 150 times more raping than the national average.

      Still want to go down this road?

      Comment by tildeb — March 19, 2010 @ 8:38 am | Reply

  8. Tildeb, you seem to be misunderstanding their regulations on this. I have given you several articles. This is the worst thing a priest can do -molest a child. They are not to openly speak about it but they are handled. The fear of openly admitting (publicly) that they are sexual abusers will just bring everyone into it – even those (sadly) that have not been abused. Like people seeking money everywhere – McDonald’s had to give someone a million dollars for hot coffee….give me a break here….our society is money hungry and no one cares about what is truly right. Greed is a horrible thing and so many have it. That’s why we should not seek the material things of this world as hard as that is!!!

    Comment by 4amzgkids — March 18, 2010 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

    • Oh, lookee, another one:


      It must therefore be a Brazilian problem!

      SBT television last week aired video from a hidden camera showing father Marques Barbosa, 82, having sex with a 19-year-old boy in the northeastern state of Alagoas. After the show was aired, Alagoas bishop Valerio Breda ordered the removal from church work of priests Luiz Marques Barbosa, Edilson Duarte and Raimundo Gomes. Graphic video of Marques Barbosa’s abuse last year with a victim identified as Fabiano is being sold on the streets of the town of Arapiraca, website Alagoas 24 horas reported. (Source)

      Comment by tildeb — March 18, 2010 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

      • Ok gross if this is true….but 19…he can consent for himself and truly another whacko hiding

        Comment by 4amzgkids — March 18, 2010 @ 11:11 pm

      • I’m not saying it’s ok by the way….it is very disheartening but it’s the person not the church! And he was handled properly! Will go to trial!

        Comment by 4amzgkids — March 18, 2010 @ 11:13 pm

  9. Hello Tildeb

    Firstly, in the original guardian article, where did Andrew Brown make any claim that holding a particular opinion was anti-catholic?

    You ask me whether “an institutionalized policy of secrecy and avoidance of responsibility by helping child abusers avoid prosecution for child molestation is hunky dory?”. The answer is obviously no, but the issue is whether there actually is such a policy that marks the catholic church out as different to other institutions. Your arguments so far have not advanced the case that there is. Just by saying it is so enough times does not make it so. Now I’ve already linked to the policy document operational in the US and it seems more than reasonable to me when compared to elsewhere.

    As your main objection to the policy document seemed to be that it was “bunk” and linked to canon law (when such a document should be linked to more detailed procedures anyway), I suggested that you advance ways that it could be improved. Your ideas consisted of (a) accepting responsibilites for failures – except this already seems to be adressed in the document and (b) change its policies regarding secrecy and self interest – well, so far you havent really offered much to go on with this as weve already established (c) “hope that fewer parents everywhere will allow catholic clergy to have access to their child’s moral instruction. “ – Ok, I guess you can suggest it if you feel this is a useful contribution to policy change. But once again, it doesn’t seem to have any real tangible objectivity behind it. Are you really surprised your criticism has not been “taken seriously”?

    You also state that my argument boils down to being one that if abuse occurs here then it should occur there. Well, no. My point is that abuse seems to have been a problem in various places and within various organizations and that the data relating to catholic abuse does not particularly stand out when normalized against various factors when looked at objectively. I don’t think that if abuse occurs in one place it necessarily occurs somewhere else. It can be radically changed by various actions including policy for example. The fact that comparative data with the catholic abuse is actually quite consistent is an argument that policy was actually fairly similar across organisations. This is just one of my objections to your theory that catholic policy was somehow unique. Now, as it happens, catholic policy has changed over the last decades (and rightly so) and it is no surprise that this is also being reflected in better catholic specific data relative to time.

    But you say that obviously the standard should be far higher for the catholic church and we should expect next to no cases of abuse. Superficially, I can see this as an attractive argument, particularly as christian cultural impact has been an important driver as to why much of this crime is considered appalling in the first place. But on reflection it doesn’t really seem convincing. Child abusers are drawn to opportunities to abuse children. It would be strange if they were not drawn to the catholic church as well. Couple this to the era when most of the abuse took place, the medical opinion and knowlege on abuse at the time etc etc and its really not actually so surprising. This is not to say that the catholic church has dealt with the issue well, they havent and far too many of the decisions have been shown to be appalling.

    You then say that it is obvious that we should expect a statistically insignificant number of catholic abuse cases relative to cases from prisons. Firstly, the probability of being abused by a member of the catholic clergy is indeed statistically insignificant to that of being abused whilst in prison. But you seem to imply that we should be expecting to see relatively high rates of sexual abuse in prisons? Why? A prison should be one of the most controlled environments you can end up in after all. I thought that the existence of institutions where abuse is “expected to happen” was the thing you particularly objected to? Can you explain this apparent inconsistency?

    Comment by Nor1 — March 18, 2010 @ 5:59 pm | Reply

    • I’ve spent hours on this reply, now lost three times, and am getting sick and tired of repeating myself.

      Quite simply, Brown does not use the words “anti-catholic”. But he does ask “was the Catholic church unfairly singled out?” His reasoning is that because abuse occurs elsewhere, it is unfair to think the same kind of abuse within the church is any different. But its not a question of abuse occurring: it’s a question of what the institution has done about it. In that regard, criticism of the church is not unfair if there is evidence, as I have pointed out, that the church’s response is unlike any other institution in that official policy has been one of maintaining secrecy above all concerns. Brown then misdirects us without dealing with the issue at hand – the culpability of the institution – by writing that “The other point that makes the Catholic abuse is that it is nowadays very widely reported. It may be the best reported crime in the world: that, too tends to skew perceptions.” Right. So criticism, according to Brown, is unfair and skewed. That suggests that Brown thinks those who criticize the church have some ulterior motive based on bias, which I simply relabel as meaning anti-catholic.

      You then correctly point out that “the issue is whether there actually is such a policy that marks the catholic church out as different to other institutions.” I have supplied sourced information that you summarily dismiss with very weak excuses, such as a document showing this official policy of secrecy is too old to count, or that what defines the Norm for the usccb is merely commentary when it accurately defines the official policy of secrecy, and then come to your conclusion that my “arguments so far have not advanced the case that there is” any difference between the church and other institutions where abuse occurs.

      Fine. Ignore whatever evidence disagrees with your beliefs.

      Pope Benedict XVI faced claims last night he had ‘obstructed justice’ after it emerged he issued an order ensuring the church’s investigations into child sex abuse claims be carried out in secret.

      Note that assertion is not simply my belief. It is not unfair nor skewed. It is fact. It is from a letter fromn Ratzinger in 2001. Deal with it or dismiss it as you choose.

      The order was made in a confidential letter, obtained by The Observer, which was sent to every Catholic bishop in May 2001.

      It asserted the church’s right to hold its inquiries behind closed doors and keep the evidence confidential for up to 10 years after the victims reached adulthood. The letter was signed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected as John Paul II’s successor last week.

      Lawyers acting for abuse victims claim it was designed to prevent the allegations from becoming public knowledge or being investigated by the police. They accuse Ratzinger of committing a ‘clear obstruction of justice’.

      The letter, ‘concerning very grave sins’, was sent from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that once presided over the Inquisition and was overseen by Ratzinger.

      It spells out to bishops the church’s position on a number of matters ranging from celebrating the eucharist with a non-Catholic to sexual abuse by a cleric ‘with a minor below the age of 18 years’. Ratzinger’s letter states that the church can claim jurisdiction in cases where abuse has been ‘perpetrated with a minor by a cleric’.

      The letter states that the church’s jurisdiction ‘begins to run from the day when the minor has completed the 18th year of age’ and lasts for 10 years.

      It orders that ‘preliminary investigations’ into any claims of abuse should be sent to Ratzinger’s office, which has the option of referring them back to private tribunals in which the ‘functions of judge, promoter of justice, notary and legal representative can validly be performed for these cases only by priests’.

      ‘Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret,’ Ratzinger’s letter concludes. Breaching the pontifical secret at any time while the 10-year jurisdiction order is operating carries penalties, including the threat of excommunication.

      The letter is referred to in documents relating to a lawsuit filed earlier this year against a church in Texas and Ratzinger on behalf of two alleged abuse victims. By sending the letter, lawyers acting for the alleged victims claim the cardinal conspired to obstruct justice.

      Daniel Shea, the lawyer for the two alleged victims who discovered the letter, said: ‘It speaks for itself. You have to ask: why do you not start the clock ticking until the kid turns 18? It’s an obstruction of justice.’

      Father John Beal, professor of canon law at the Catholic University of America, gave an oral deposition under oath on 8 April last year in which he admitted to Shea that the letter extended the church’s jurisdiction and control over sexual assault crimes.

      The Ratzinger letter was co-signed by Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone who gave an interview two years ago in which he hinted at the church’s opposition to allowing outside agencies to investigate abuse claims.

      ‘In my opinion, the demand that a bishop be obligated to contact the police in order to denounce a priest who has admitted the offence of paedophilia is unfounded,’ Bertone said.

      Shea criticised the order that abuse allegations should be investigated only in secret tribunals. ‘They are imposing procedures and secrecy on these cases. If law enforcement agencies find out about the case, they can deal with it. But you can’t investigate a case if you never find out about it. If you can manage to keep it secret for 18 years plus 10 the priest will get away with it,’ Shea added.

      A spokeswoman in the Vatican press office declined to comment when told about the contents of the letter. ‘This is not a public document, so we would not talk about it,’ she said.


      Go ahead. Dismiss the notion that the church had, and continues to have, a policy of secrecy about sexual abuse within the institution, which is – as you write – the issue here. Dismiss this letter by Ratzinger. Dismiss his position as head of the Inquisition having any authority whatsoever over establishing the Norm I have already posted that informs your usccb document. Dismiss my points one and all and pretend that the US catholic church is quite a bit different than elsewhere. But forgive me for thinking you can only stick your head so far into deep and dank and smelly places before you realize that your denials and apologies for the Vatican’s policies and procedures still in effect do not stop at the American border because a group of catholic bishops assure you that they really, really do… now. Such apologies like Brown’s and now yours continue to reek only of self-delusion.

      Comment by tildeb — March 18, 2010 @ 8:40 pm | Reply

  10. Hello Tildeb

    I appreciate your response all the more for your having spent hours on it.

    OK. So in actual fact you merely assume that Andrew Brown thinks the unfairness is due to anti-Catholicism because you cant imagine any other reason as to why an unfair reading of the situation could take place. Seems like you are over-sensitive to the idea of accusations of anit-Catholicism. Personally, I do agree that the reaction is unfair. And although I think it is partly driven by anti-catholicism (especially in the UK) this is certainly not the whole story because it is also being driven by many other factors. Some of which are perfectly understandable.

    Now lets look, for yet another time, at your “sourced information” that I apparently dismiss with “weak excuses”:

    “such as a document showing this official policy of secrecy is too old to count,”

    No, this wasn’t the issue. You wanted to compare a zappy modern soundbite from the US Dept. of Education to a translation of a Latin procedural document from almost 50 years ago as a means for comparing “institutional approach”. Of course I dismissed it. The comparison was ludicrous. It would be like making judgements on automotive quality by quoting something from a GM pamphlet that might say:
    “we make great cars and take quality seriously because we want the best for our customers” and then comparing it to a translation of a procedural document relating to brake pads that someone had dug out of VW in Wolfsburg and translated into English. Nonsense.

    “or that what defines the Norm for the usccb is merely commentary when it accurately defines the official policy of secrecy “

    I’m sorry but you really did quote commentary and then attempted to pass it off as canon law. Give it up. if you want a “commentary” as to how canon law translates into practice then go to the USCCB charter itself. As to why you are so insistent on using your own interpretation of sources other than that actually used to drive practice itself, well, I just don’t know.

    Now for Ratzinger’s letter:

    “It is from a letter fromn Ratzinger in 2001. Deal with it or dismiss it as you choose.”

    Actually, I have no problem with the idea that internal investigation of allegations of child abuse are kept confidential. Most other institutions have a policy of confidentiality. This does not imply a cover up nor does it conflict with civil proceedings as the USCCB document released a little while later makes amply clear. And actually, this letter was a good thing because this really marked the point when the Catholic church started to make sure that their bishops were following canon law as it should have been and in the appropriate fashion.

    So again, we are back to the point.

    “the issue is whether there actually is such a policy that marks the catholic church out as different to other institutions.”

    Well, you just havent made the point as Ive made quite clear. You just assert it over and over again. What we do know is that the Catholic church did have a policy and that policy clearly condemned child abuse and required action to be taken. Whether that policy was applied properly and interpreted wisely is another matter. The evidence shows that it too often was not and to disastrous consequences. Other institutions actually had no policy and frankly, we really have no record of what was going on within them. We probably never will. Why isnt that fact troubling to you?

    Oh, and I do note that you are still grappling with your apparent inconsistency on the abuse that is “expected to happen” within the prison system right now.

    Comment by Nor1 — March 19, 2010 @ 8:26 pm | Reply

    • From Slate:

      Very much more serious is the role of Joseph Ratzinger, before the church decided to make him supreme leader, in obstructing justice on a global scale. After his promotion to cardinal, he was put in charge of the so-called “Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” (formerly known as the Inquisition). In 2001, Pope John Paul II placed this department in charge of the investigation of child rape and torture by Catholic priests. In May of that year, Ratzinger issued a confidential letter to every bishop. In it, he reminded them of the extreme gravity of a certain crime. But that crime was the reporting of the rape and torture. The accusations, intoned Ratzinger, were only treatable within the church’s own exclusive jurisdiction. Any sharing of the evidence with legal authorities or the press was utterly forbidden. Charges were to be investigated “in the most secretive way … restrained by a perpetual silence … and everyone … is to observe the strictest secret which is commonly regarded as a secret of the Holy Office … under the penalty of excommunication.” (My italics). Nobody has yet been excommunicated for the rape and torture of children, but exposing the offense could get you into serious trouble. And this is the church that warns us against moral relativism!

      The fact that you see this official policy as one of ‘confidentiality’ similar to all others is rather telling. You make the same mistake Brown does, assuming that the active involvement of the church in covering up the sexual raping of children by its clergy must be seen in the best possible light with the best possible motives, thus conveniently rejecting and then either ignoring or excusing all damning evidence to the contrary. This favourable interpretation by you is neither legitimate nor believable.

      Comment by tildeb — March 20, 2010 @ 8:22 am | Reply

    • From the Economist:

      Comments by his (Ratzinger’s) officials have shown little appreciation of the scope and depth of the crisis. No working group or individual is fully in charge of clearing up the mess. Nor has any systematic explanation been forthcoming of the (numerous but piecemeal) steps already taken, ranging from compensation for victims to new rules on child protection. Instead the papal spokesman has hinted at an anti-Catholic plot and complained that the church is being unfairly treated because paedophiles are at least as common in other walks of life. That sits oddly with the Church’s claim to represent God on earth and with the trust and respect it expects from the faithful, particularly from children (exemplified in the priestly title, “Father”).

      That sounds familiar.

      Comment by tildeb — March 20, 2010 @ 8:28 am | Reply

  11. Noting that it was released in 2002:

    Ive already pointed you to article 4 once already. I do it again because it shows how hollow your latest argument is.

    Comment by Nor1 — March 20, 2010 @ 3:28 pm | Reply

    • Article 4 is terrific. Too bad about Article 5.

      Why won’t the Vatican agree with 4 and leave it at that? Why direct jurisdiction back to the Vatican?

      Maybe I’m confused but I thought the Vatican was superior to the usccb. The change that is needed must come from the Vatican when it is the Vatican that sets the rules and not the usccb.

      Comment by tildeb — March 20, 2010 @ 5:00 pm | Reply

  12. “Why won’t the Vatican agree with 4 and leave it at that? Why direct jurisdiction back to the Vatican? ”

    Because article 4 only deals with compliance to civil law and reporting to public authorities. Sexual abuse is at the same time an issue for the church itself. This is what section 5 deals with, i.e. compliance to church law. The Vatican considers sexual abuse too serious to be left at a diocesan level hence requirement to report it back since 2001. It has been clear from the data that different dioceses within the US (and across the world) have handled abuse allegations in very different manners and to different effect. Some extremely badly. There had in fact not been a single coherent institutional response to the issue despite the existence of canon law.

    Comment by Nor1 — March 20, 2010 @ 6:49 pm | Reply

  13. There had in fact not been a single coherent institutional response to the issue despite the existence of canon law.

    Isn’t that exactly the whole point of this being a global scandal?

    Comment by tildeb — March 20, 2010 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

    • I should have clarified that by ‘response to the issue’ I meant a responsible institutional response, meaning the Vatican, to the global scandal of child sexual abuse no matter in what country the latest catholic diocese in which it occurred.

      Comment by tildeb — March 21, 2010 @ 10:39 am | Reply

  14. But for sure, had all dioceses adhered strictly to canon law and excercised good judgement then there would possibly not have been a “global scandal”. This was clearly recognised in 2001 by Ratzinger. Systemic issues afflicted most other institutions involved with children. The irony is that the failure was so gross that there is now actually no traceabilty and so little data to draw on. And, as Ive mentioned, there is still child abuse on a massive scale in the education system, and, although you clearly wish to ignore the subject, within the penal system. It makes less good copy for media of course.

    Dont forget that the catholic church is about the only “global” institutional player involved in child welfare. So it will be about the only one that will be involved in a global scandal The only other one I can think of, off the top of my head, is the UN and it seems to face a continuous struggle to prevent pedophile rings forming under its auspices. That said, I still think the UN is more often than not doing an excellent job and would not want to use the exceptions in an attempt to destroy its credibility.

    Comment by Nor1 — March 21, 2010 @ 9:37 am | Reply

    • The single coherent institutional response is clear: secrecy and the failure to address necessary institutionalized changes to end the abuse. All other diversions and excuses from this root cause is a moral capitulation by the church and its unwavering supporters.

      What has been recognized by Ratzinger – and revealed plainly yet again with his most recent letter – is that the fault of decades of child sexual raping within the church always lies according to him in local middle management who actually follow the rules set down by the Vatican. Funny how exactly the same pattern of exactly the same secrecy and exactly the same reassignment of clergy pops up on a global scale every single time another one of these ‘local’ catholic scandals finally hits the news. You may be flummoxed at how this can be explained but your unwillingness to consider an institutional problem in spite of plain evidence to the contrary is not a helpful response dealing with the problem but only with symptoms.

      Comment by tildeb — March 21, 2010 @ 10:36 am | Reply

    • But for sure, had all dioceses adhered strictly to canon law and excercised good judgement then there would possibly not have been a “global scandal”.

      That is flat out wrong and a paltry excuse that has allowed these scandals to proliferate unimpeded.

      It is precisely because no changes to the institutionalized policy of secrecy and concern for the reputation of the catholic church over and above the welfare of the children under its care that has fueled scandal after scandal after scandal in country after country after country. One must be singularly obtuse to fail to recognize the repeating pattern of sexual abuse having its root not in each locale as you are willing to support but in what each locale has in common. And what each has in common is submission to the policies and procedures of the Vatican, policies and procedures that clearly DO NOT WORK to end abuse. In effect, the policies and procedures laid down by the Vatican enhance abuse to continue in some other location!

      Unless and until this central problem is recognized and appropriate changes made to put an end to this failure of policy, this failure of procedure, the catholic church will remain a credible threat to children under its care.

      Comment by tildeb — March 21, 2010 @ 10:49 am | Reply

  15. “That is flat out wrong and a paltry excuse that has allowed these scandals to proliferate unimpeded.”
    Hi Tildeb

    I know you were busy second guessing what Andrew Brown was thinking in his article but one of the points he was making, and the point I made further up this thread, is that we can learn alot from data. You would find that it is not flat out wrong if you actually cared to review it rather than busying yourself redefining statistics to suit your own purposes.

    As for allowing scandals to proliferate, well, perhaps its worth our while paying a little attention to where the eye of the storm is currently rather than fixating ourselves on the tail wind of scandals that actually took place twenty years ago.

    Comment by Nor1 — March 22, 2010 @ 5:10 pm | Reply

    • As I wrote in my very first post, this pointing to other data about various statistics involving various kinds of definitions about what constitutes child abuse that is not germane for a fair comparison is merely an attempt at a diversion, and a rather despicable one if finding lasting solutions within the church itself is the goal. Obviously, this is NOT the goal of the Vatican. And isn’t that telling.

      The reason why many of the abuses seem to be ‘old’ is because of the Vatican policy to bury the scandals in secrecy with very set rules and regulations about waiting for the victim to attain age of majority PLUS ten years!

      Comment by tildeb — March 22, 2010 @ 5:47 pm | Reply

  16. Well, I think we’re back where we began.

    Its been nice discussing with you.


    Comment by Nor1 — March 22, 2010 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

  17. […] much for all the commentary here and here that insisted that the catholic church had no official policy of secrecy and denial and […]

    Pingback by Can anybody still be surprised that the Vatican intentionally covered up child abuse?? « Questionable Motives — March 26, 2010 @ 1:05 pm | Reply


    So much for Nor1’s faith in the US catholic bishops and their lovely little website of guidelines.

    Comment by tildeb — April 2, 2010 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

  19. […] (Commentator Nor1 scoffed to this official directive as merely a “dusty old document” here and wrote “its (sic) fairly clear that the Catholic Church is actually remarkably consistent […]

    Pingback by The smoking gun of catholic church’s culpability in the global sex abuse scandal: haven’t we already been here, done this? « Questionable Motives — April 19, 2010 @ 9:16 pm | Reply

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