sex abuse

Catholic sex abuse cases

Allegations of sexual abuse of children have been made against a variety of religious groups including but not exclusively Roman Catholic priests, monks, and nuns. Several major lawsuits were filed in 2001 alleging that priests had sexually abused minors. Some priests resigned, others were defrocked or jailed, and financial settlements totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars were made with many victims.. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned a comprehensive study that found that four percent of all priests who had served in the U.S. from 1950 to 2002 faced some sort of sexual accusation. Although public school administrators engaged in a similar manner when dealing with accused teachers, the Church was widely criticized when it was discovered that some bishops knew about allegations and reassigned the accused instead of removing them. Some bishops and psychiatrists noted that the prevailing psychology of the times suggested that people could be cured of such behavior through counseling. Many of the abusive priests had received counseling before being reassigned.

Church policies and attitudes

Order of silence in the 1960s

In 1962 Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, the Secretary of the Holy Office, issued an instruction dealing with solicitation by priests in the confessional, Crimen sollicitationis (Instruction on the Manner of Proceeding in Cases of Solicitation). The document dealt with any priest who "tempts a penitent... in the act of sacramental confession... towards impure or obscene matters." It directed that investigation of allegations of solicitation in the confessional and the trials of accused priests be conducted in secrecy.

The 69-page document was discovered in the Vatican's archives, leading to widespread media coverage of its contents. Lawyers for litigants who had been abused as children claimed that the document demonstrated a systematic conspiracy to conceal misconduct. The Church responded that the document was not only widely misinterpreted, but had been superseded by more recent guidelines in the 1960s and 1970s, and especially the 1983 Code of Canon Law.

Legislation and media coverage

Although attorney Marci Hamilton says that the Roman Catholic Church is one of the most vocal adversaries to legislative reform that would protect children, some commentators, such as journalist Jon Dougherty, have argued that media coverage of the issue has been excessive, given that the same problems plague other institutions such as the U.S. public school system with much greater frequency.

Recent Papal statements

Pope John Paul II later stated that "there is no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young". The Church instituted reforms to prevent future abuse by requiring background checks for Church employees and, because a significant majority of victims were teenage boys, disallowing ordination of men with "deep–seated homosexual tendencies". They now require dioceses faced with an allegation to alert the authorities, conduct an investigation and remove the accused from duty. In 2008, the Church asserted that the scandal was a very serious problem and estimated that it was "probably caused by 'no more than 1 per cent' (or 4,000) of the over 400,000 Catholic priests worldwide.

During a recent visit to the United States Pope Benedict admitted that he is "deeply ashamed" of the clergy sex abuse scandal that has devastated the American church. Benedict pledged that paedophiles would not be priests in the Catholic Church.

Sexual abuse

John Jay Report

The John Jay Report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was based on surveys completed by the Catholic dioceses in the United States. The surveys provided information from diocesan files on each priest accused of sexual abuse and on each of the priest's victims. That information was filtered, so that the research team did not have access to the names of the accused priests or the dioceses where they worked. The report presented aggregate findings. The dioceses were encouraged to issue reports of their own based on the surveys that they had completed. The Report found accusations against 4,392 priests in the USA, about 4% of all priests.

Ferns Report

The Ferns Inquiry (2005) was an official Irish government inquiry into the allegations of clerical sexual abuse in the Irish Catholic Diocese of Ferns. The Inquiry recorded its revulsion at the extent, severity and duration of the child sexual abuse perpetrated on children by priests acting under the aegis of the Diocese of Ferns. The investigation was established in the wake of the broadcast of a BBC Television documentary "Suing the Pope", which highlighted the case of Fr Seán Fortune, one of the most notorious clerical sexual offenders. The film followed Colm O'Gorman as he investigated the story of how Fortune was allowed to abuse him and countless other teenage boys. O'Gorman, through One in Four, the organisation he founded to support women and men who have experienced sexual violence, successfully campaigned for the Ferns Inquiry.

One of the most well-known cases of sex abuse in Ireland involved Father Brendan Smyth, who is reported to have raped and sexually abused hundreds of boys between 1945 and 1989. The investigation of the Smyth case was obstructed by the Norbertine Order. This was also seen in other cases, such as that of Fr. Jim Grennan, a parish priest, who abused children as they prepared for First Communion, and Fr. Sean Fortune, who committed suicide before his trial for the rape of children. The abuse by Grennan and others in the Diocese of Ferns in south-east Ireland led to the resignation of the local bishop, Brendan Comiskey.

In Canada the Mount Cashel Orphanage sex abuse cases in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Duplessis Orphans in the province of Quebec were of great public concern.

Church actions

Abusers moved to different locations

Some bishops have been heavily criticized for moving offending priests from parish to parish, where they still had personal contact with children, rather than seeking to have them permanently removed from the priesthood. Instead of reporting the incidents to police, many dioceses simply submitted the offending priests for psychological treatment and assessment. The priests resumed their previous duties with children only when the bishop was advised by the treating psychologists or psychiatrists that it was safe for them to resume their duties.

An example of the policy of shifting offenders from place to place is demonstrated in the case of Fr Ramos. Typical of these examples he was reassigned to another parish after treatment. An unknown Church official in 1985 took telephone notes that indicate an awareness of his continuing child molestation by Church officials well after his initial psychological treatment in the late 1970s. In spite of this knowledge that he re-offended, he continued to molest for a further two years and accumulated 25 allegations of abuse in total.

In response to questions, defenders of the Church's actions have suggested that in re-assigning priests after treatment, Bishops were acting on the best medical advice then available, a policy also followed by the US Public School System when dealing with accused teachers. Critics have questioned whether bishops are necessarily able to form accurate judgments on a priest's recovery.

Failure to report criminal acts to police

From a legal perspective, the most serious offense, aside from the incidents of child sexual abuse themselves, was the active institutional cover-up by the Roman Catholic Church's most senior Church leaders for failing to report these felonies to the police.

In response to the failure to report abuse to the police, lawmakers have changed the law to make reporting of abuse to police compulsory. An example of this can be found in Massachusetts, USA.

Allegations of systematic plots to conceal evidence

Reviewers of the Smyth case differ as to whether it was a deliberate plot to conceal his behaviour, incompetence by his superiors at Kilnacrott Abbey, an institution presuming that what happened to its members was its own business, a failure to grasp the human and legal consequences, or some combination of factors. Cardinal Daly, both as Bishop of Down and Connor, a diocese where some of the abuse took place, and later as Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh, is recorded as having been privately scathing at the Norbertine "incompetence".

William McMurry, a Louisville, Kentucky lawyer, filed suit against the Vatican in June 2004 on behalf of three men alleging abuse as far back as 1928, accusing Church leaders of organising a cover-up of cases of sexual abuse of children. Legal experts predict an unsuccessful outcome to this case, given the sovereignty of the Holy See and the lack of evidence of Vatican complicity. Sovereign immunity however, was recently denied upon appeal in a separate (WW II/ Vatican Bank/Ustazhe Genocide) United States federal lawsuit.

Payments to victims

Some have alleged that Church members paid off victims of child abuse, either in settlement of compensation claims, or in order to prevent them reporting to the police. In the mid-1990s, Archbishop (later Cardinal) Connell of Dublin lent money to a priest, Ivan Payne, who had abused altar boy Andrew Madden; this money was used to pay compensation to Madden and to prevent him from reporting the abuse to the police. Connell later claimed never to have paid money to a victim, insisting that he had simply lent money to a priest who independently used the money to pay off his victim.

Roman Catholics spent $615 million dollars on sex abuse cases in 2007. The American Catholic Church has paid out $2 billion in abuse costs since 1950.

Implications of the accusations

Seminary training

Clergy themselves have suggested their seminary training offered little to prepare them for a lifetime of celibate sexuality. A report submitted to the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 1971, called The Role of the Church in the Causation, Treatment and Prevention of the Crisis in the Priesthood by Dr. Conrad Baars, a Catholic psychiatrist, and based on a study of 1500 priests, suggested that some clergy had "psychosexual" problems. Though the report suggested that immediate corrective action was needed, making ten recommendations, and one of those most active in the Synod was Cardinal Wojtyła, who on October 16, 1978 was elected Pope John Paul II, no implementation of the report's detailed recommendations followed.

Rome's Congregation for Catholic Education issued an official document, the Instruction Concerning the Criteria for the Discernment of Vocations with regard to Persons with Homosexual Tendencies in view of their Admission to the Seminary and to Holy Orders (2005). The document has attracted criticism based on an interpretation that the document implies that homosexuality leads to pedophilia.

Declining standards explanation

In the book, The Courage To Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church, George Weigel holds that it was the infidelity to orthodox Catholic teaching, the "culture of dissent", which was mainly responsible for this problem. By "culture of dissent" he meant priests, women religious, bishops, theologians, catechists, Church bureaucrats, and activists who "believed that what the Church proposed as true was actually false.

Also, traditional Catholics have made the charge that the Second Vatican Council itself (1962–1965) fostered a climate that encouraged priests to abuse children. The council essentially directed an opening of the doors to meet the world. This was considered an appropriate way of going forth and spreading the Good News. However traditional Catholics believe that this led to a conversion of Catholics to secularism rather than vice versa. In the January 27, 2003 edition of Time magazine, actor and traditional Catholic Mel Gibson charged that "...Vatican II corrupted the institution of the church. Look at the main fruits: dwindling numbers and pedophilia." However it is important to note that abuse by priests was occurring long before the start of Vatican II and that many of the Roman Catholic sex abuse cases did not, strictly speaking, involve pedophilia. For instance the apostolic constitution Sacramentum Poenitentiae which established general notice of the problem of sexual abuse among the clergy was published by Pope Benedict XIV in 1741.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired Archbishop of Washington, blamed the declining morals of the 1960s as a cause of the high number of sexually abusive priests. However it must be realised that the increased reporting of abuse in child-care institutions during this time was concomitant with rising police interest, investigation and prosecution of such crimes. As such it is not certain that a sudden "crisis of abuse" ever existed, instead the dramatic increase in reported abuse cases may simply have heralded the end of a long-term endemic problem found throughout a number of institutions, both secular and religious, prior to the introduction of quality control measures specifically aimed at preventing such abuses from occurring.

Philip Jenkins claims that the Catholic Church is being unfairly singled out by a secular media which he claims fails to highlight similar sexual accusations in other religious groups, such as the Anglican Communion, various Protestant churches, and the Jewish and Islamic communities. Jenkins later authored the book The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice in 2003, touching on some of the same issues.

Supply and demand explanation

Catholic clergy are in short supply in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

Catholic doctrines and this understaffing combine, it has been claimed, to make Catholic clergy extraordinarily valuable. It is alleged that the Catholic hierarchy acted to preserve the number of clergy and ensure that they were still available to supply priestly services, in the face of serious allegations that these priests were unfit for duty.

Others disagree and believe that the Church's mishandling of the sex abuse cases merely reflected prevailing attitudes of the time towards such activity, in which the tendency was to suppress the information lest it cause scandal and a loss of trust in the institution.

Celibacy explanation

It has been said that there is no indication of a higher level of child-oriented sexual activity among the unmarried Catholic clergy than that of the married clergy of other denominations and of schoolteachers.

Molestation of pre-pubescent children was rare in the Roman Catholic sex abuse cases and opinion is very divided on whether there is any connection between the Catholic institution of celibacy and the incidence of child abuse. Factual analysis is difficult for a number of reasons, including that there are relatively few statistical studies on the issue of sexual abuse among the clergy and that sexual abuse rates among the general population are almost impossible to determine, since not all of the instances are reported.

In 2005 the Western People, a conservative Irish newspaper, commented that celibacy itself had contributed to the abuse problem in another way, as it created a "morally superior" status that was then misapplied by abusing priests. "The Irish Church’s prospect of a recovery is zero for as long as bishops continue blindly to toe the Vatican line of Pope Benedict XVI that a male celibate priesthood is morally superior to other sections of society.

Advocacy for mandatory celibacy

Philip Jenkins, a Conservative Episcopalian and Professor of History and Religious Studies at Penn State University, published the book Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis in 1996. In it, he calculated that approximately 0.2 percent of Catholic priests are child molesters. His 2002 article "The myth of the 'pedophile priest' expresses his views. In contrast to Louise Haggett's statement, Professor Jenkins states:
"My research of cases over the past 20 years indicates no evidence whatever that Catholic or other celibate clergy are any more likely to be involved in misconduct or abuse than clergy of any other denomination—or indeed, than nonclergy. However determined news media may be to see this affair as a crisis of celibacy, the charge is just unsupported."

Supporters of celibacy claim that Catholic priests suffering sexual temptations are not likely to turn immediately to a teenage boy simply because Church discipline does not permit clergy to marry. Supporters of clerical celibacy suggest, then, that there is some other factor at work.

Other Catholic teachings, practices

The Catholic Church clearly teaches the sexual abuse of children to be gravely sinful. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church's list of moral offences, one finds:

"...any sexual abuse perpetrated by adults on children or adolescents entrusted to their care. The offense is compounded by the scandalous harm done to the physical and moral integrity of the young, who will remain scarred by it, all their lives; and the violation of responsibility for their upbringing." (CCC 2389).

In the Bible's New Testament, Jesus tells his disciples, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." (see Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42; and Luke 17:2)

The Apostle Paul in his 1st and 2nd letter towards Timothy notes that, if they are to marry at all, "Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons, should be the husband of one wife...". This tradition can be seen practiced in the Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, although no bishop of any church may be married, and bishops are therefore either widowers or lifelong monastics.

Despite these teachings, some critics have charged that specific doctrines or traditional practices in Catholicism contributed to the problem. Catholic teaching affirms that so long as the officiant has been validly ordained, his personal sins have no effect on the validity of the Masses, absolutions, baptisms, and other sacraments he has administered. The doctrine of apostolic succession makes valid ordinations and institutional affiliation the chief consideration in clerical status.

Abuse by priests in Catholic Orders

As distinct from abuse by some parish priests, under diocesan control, there have also been sexual abuse cases concerning those in Catholic orders, which often care for the sick or teach school. In the United States, Salesian High in Richmond, California lost a sexual abuse case, whilst in Australia there are allegations that the Salesians moved a priest convicted of abuse in Melbourne to Samoa in order to avoid further police investigation and charges.

  • The Christian Brothers in Canada more than 300 former pupils were physically and sexually abused at the Mount Cashel orphanage in Newfoundland. When allegations of physical and sexual abuse started to surface in the late 1980s, the government, police and church conspired in an unsuccessful cover-up. In Ontario in January 1993 the Christian Brothers reached a financial settlement totaling $23 million with 700 former students who alleged abuse. In Ireland in March 1998, the Congregation of the Christian Brothers published full-page advertisements in newspapers apologizing to former pupils who had been ill-treated whilst in their care. The unprecedented advertising campaign expressed "deep regret" on behalf of the Christian Brothers and listed telephone lines which former pupils could ring if they needed help. In Australia the Christian Brothers protected Brothers accused of sex offenses.
  • In July 2007 in the United States a lawsuit was filed against the Brothers of the Sacred Heart which alleged that they moved around a Brother who was accused of sexual misconduct with an adolescent.
  • A eight-year (1999–2007) enquiry and report by Dr Elizabeth Healy and Dr Kevin McCoy into the Brothers of Charity Order's "Holy Family School" in Galway, Ireland, and two other locations, was made public in December 2007. Eleven brothers and seven other staff members were alleged to have abused 21 intellectually-disabled children in residential care in the period 1965–1998. By 2007, two members of staff were convicted of abuse, eight had died and the rest had retired. It emerged that the Order had attempted to transfer at least one accused brother to another place.

Dr Jimmy Devins, a junior government minister, regretted that "some of the most vulnerable people in society were let down in the past". Brother Noel Corcoran, head of the Order's services in Ireland, apologized sincerely. However the report was criticized by Dr Margaret Kennedy for not naming the sex offenders who were convicted or dead, and for interviewing just 21 out of 135 complainants.

  • On 19 December 2007 a Fr Patrick McDonagh of the Salvatorian Order admitted eight counts of sexual and indecent assault on four girls (aged 6 to 10) in the period 1965–1990 in Ireland. He was sentenced to four years in prison, with the last 30 months suspended. He gave the police the names of three girls, but also admitted to assaulting six other victims whom he has refused to identify. The judge described this as "remorse" and suspended most of the sentence for his guilty plea. Aged 78 in 2007, he had joined the Salvatorians in 1955 and retired in 2004.
  • In Sligo County Sligo, St. John's School had five teachers who have faced abused charges, of which three were Marist Brothers. In January 2008 "Brother Gregory" (real name Martin Meaney) admitted to abusing a boy 20 or 30 times in a four-month period in 1972, apologized unreservedly and was sentenced on five sample charges to two years imprisonment. He described the boy as "a weak little lad", and told police he had "picked on children who were not getting love at home". Meaney had previously served 12 years of an original 18 year jail sentence imposed in November 1992 where he admitted eight sample charges of buggery, rape and indecent assault on other boys, out of 109 charges. These charges arose when he was teaching at Castlerea, County Roscommon.
  • In the 1990s, abuse by a Father Eugene Kennan (baptismal name John Joseph), a priest of the Passionist Order, originally from Liverpool, came to light. An extremely powerful man who had held high positions in the order, he had given retreats and counselled vulnerable girls over many decades, including those in care and approved schools in the 1960s. A man of great charisma, he was able to abuse girls in whom he inspired devotion. It was, however, the sexual abuse of a former novice nun that first brought the abuse to light, after which many women came forward with their own testimonies of his sexual abuse. One story he would tell the girls was that he had trained as a gynaecologist, which led to intimate physical examinations. In the late 1990s Father Eugene was relieved of his official duties and was investigated by the police, however his age and failing health saved him from prison. He died in 2002. The scandal was largely covered up by the superior of the Passionist Order, Father Nicholas Postlethwaite, who managed to keep it out of the English newspapers, though it was mentioned in the Irish press. In 2003 another Passionist priest in Chicago, Father John Ormechea, faced his sixth accusation for allegedly abusing young boys. As in other cases, it was alleged that the local diocese knew of similar allegations, but did nothing.
  • The Norbertine Order (or White Canons) neglected to inform the police about the abuse by Brendan Smyth from the 1950s. He was eventually charged in 1994.
  • Father Jeremiah McGrath of the Kiltegan Fathers was convicted in Liverpool in May 2007 for facilitating abuse by Billy Adams. McGrath had given Adams £20,000 in 2005 and Adams had used the money to impress a 12-year-old girl who he then raped over a six-month period. McGrath denied knowing about the abuse but admitted having a brief sexual relationship with Adams. His appeal in January 2008 was dismissed.
  • William Manahan, the Father Prior of a Buckfast Abbey Preparatory School was convicted of molesting boys in his school during the 1970s.

Episcopal resignations

  • Bernard Francis Law, Cardinal and Archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts, United States resigned after Church documents were revealed which suggested he had covered up sexual abuse committed by priests in his archdiocese. For example, Father John Geoghan was shifted from one parish to another although Cardinal Law had often been informed of his abuse. In December 1984 auxiliary Bishop John M. D’Arcy wrote to Cardinal Law complaining about the reassignment of Geoghan to another Boston-area parish because of his “history of homosexual involvement with young boys. In 1987, after at least 23 years of child molesting by Father Joseph Birmingham during which time he was shuffled to various parishes, the mother of an altar boy at St. Anns wrote to Law asking if Birmingham had a history of molesting children. Cardinal Law wrote back "I contacted Father Birmingham. ... He assured me there is absolutely no factual basis to your concern regarding your son and him. From my knowledge of Father Birmingham and my relationship with him, I feel he would tell me the truth and I believe he is speaking the truth in this matter." The Vatican announced on December 13, 2002 that Pope John Paul II had accepted Law's resignation as Archbishop and reassigned him to an administrative position in the Roman Curia and named him archpriest of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Cardinal Law later presided at one of the Pope's funeral masses. Bishop Séan P. O'Malley, the Capuchin friar who replaced Law as archbishop, was forced to sell a good deal of valuable real estate and to close a number of churches in order to pay $120,000,000 in claims against the archdiocese.
  • Bishop Brendan Comiskey, Bishop of Ferns, resigned when similar facts were revealed. His senior associate Monsignor Micheal Ledwith also resigned in 1994 and paid money to a boy who alleged abuse.
  • Cardinal Hans Hermann Groër resigned from his post as Archbishop of Vienna over allegations of sexual abuse in 1995.
  • Two Bishops of Palm Beach, Florida resigned due to child abuse allegations. The first was Joseph Keith Symons, who was replaced by Anthony O'Connell, who later also resigned.

Church Actions in Dealing with Sex Abuse Cases

Apology and Meeting with Victims

In Sydney's St. Mary's Cathedral, Pope Benedict XVI made a historic full apology for child sex abuse by priests and clergymen in Australia, on July 19, 2008. Before a 3,400 congregation, he called for compensation and demanded punishment for those guilty of the "evil": "Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country. I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in their suffering." The Pope added: "Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice. These misdeeds, which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve unequivocal condemnation. I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more wholesome environment, especially for young people." On the 21st of July before flying out of Australia Pope Benedict met with a group of four victims of sexual abuse. He met them at St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, listened to their stories and celebrated mass with them.

The Pope met two male and two female victims of sex abuse by priests at St. Mary's Cathedral. Broken Rites criticized the meeting as hand-picked: "I'm afraid that what they've done is selected victims who have agreed with what the church's policies are. The pope should have met with Anthony Foster, the father of two girls abused by a priest, who cut short a holiday in Britain to return to Australia in the hope of meeting the pontiff. The New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma hoped "it will be a sign of righting the wrongs of the past and of a better future and better treatment by the church of the victims and their families. The victim's rights advocacy group Broken Rites welcomed the Pope's apology.

Compensation payouts

  • January 15, 2007 Diocese of Charleston Bishop Robert J. Baker agreed to pay $12 million to settle numerous cases concerning abuse by priests.
  • In December 2006 the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (its archbishop was Roger Cardinal Mahony) agreed to a payout of $60 million to settle 45 of the over 500 pending cases concerning abuse by priests. In July 2007 the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles agreed to pay a $660 million settlement to hundreds of people who claimed to have been abused by clergy.
  • In September 2003 the Archdiocese of Boston agreed to pay out $85 million to 552 victims.
  • In 1997 the Diocese of Dallas negotiated a $31 million settlement with victims.
  • In June 2003 the Archdiocese of Louisville made a $25.7 million settlement involving 240 victims of sexual abuse.
  • On January 3, 2005 Bishop Tod Brown of the Diocese of Orange apologized to 87 alleged victims of sexual abuse and announced a settlement of $100 million following two years of mediation.
  • In December 2006 the Diocese of Phoenix agreed to pay $100,000 to William Cesolini, who claimed he was sexually assaulted as a teenager by a priest.
  • In Canada the Christian Brothers have paid out approximately $35 million (Canadian) in compensation.
  • In May 1994 the Diocese of Lincoln (Nebraska) agreed to pay Rob Butler, FKA Adam Butler, $40,000 after he claimed he was abused weekly for two years.


  • Citing monetary concerns arising from impending trials on sex abuse claims, the Archdiocese of Portland (Oregon) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 6, 2004, hours before two abuse trials were set to begin, becoming the first Catholic diocese to file for bankruptcy. If granted, bankruptcy would mean pending and future lawsuits would be settled in federal bankruptcy court. The archdiocese had settled more than one hundred previous claims for a sum of over $53 million. The filing seeks to protect parish assets, school money and trust funds from abuse victims; the archdiocese's contention is that parish assets are not the archdiocese's assets. Plaintiffs in the cases against the archdiocese have argued that the Catholic church is a single entity, and that the Vatican should be liable for any damages awarded in judgment of pending sexual abuse cases.
  • In December, 2004, the Diocese of Spokane, Washington agreed to pay at least 48 million dollars as compensation to those abused by priests as part of its bankruptcy filing. This payout has to be agreed upon by victims and another judge.
  • The Diocese of Tucson filed for bankruptcy in September, 2004. The diocese reached an agreement with its victims, which the bankruptcy judge approved June 11, 2005, specifying terms that included allowing the diocese reorganization to continue in return for a $22.2 million settlement.
  • On October 10 2006, the Diocese of Davenport filed for Chapter 11 protection. The decision to file for bankruptcy was driven by many claims which focused on Bishop Lawrence Soens, who had been accused of fondling as many as 15 students during his tenure as priest and principal at Regina Catholic High School in Iowa City during the 1960s. Soens denies the allegations. A judge discharged one suit in October 2006.
  • On February 27 2007, the Diocese of San Diego filed for Chapter 11 protection, hours before the first of about 150 lawsuits was due to be heard. San Diego became the largest diocese to postpone its legal problems in this way.

Government solution in Ireland

In May 1999 the Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern apologized for an overall lack of supervision and funding by past Irish governments. Despite the eminent position of the church in Irish society, suing it (as in the case of Sean Fortune) was found to be equivalent to suing any club or social group. In 2002 his government agreed to take on €128 million in church property and investments and in return it would pay compensation to all church abuse victims, so that bankruptcy could be avoided. This deal was estimated to cost over €1 billion to Irish taxpayers of all religions, and the relevant minister, Michael Woods, was criticized by some for undue leniency to the church. Criminal actions could still be brought separately against alleged abusers.

The compensation arose because many of the victims had been placed in the care of church Orders by the Irish government, with inadequate supervision. Victims could claim for a range of other wrongs as well as sexual abuse, including mistreatment, to the Residential Institutions Redress Board. This included cases of alleged starvation and cruelty between 1920 and 1970, but claims had to be made by 2005. This was later extended, and over 14,500 have applied to the Board by 2007. Most of these were not cases of sex abuse but indicated a general lack of compassion by some church officials in the past. However, some families of claimants have publicly disagreed that there was abuse; see "Kathy's Real Story" below.

The main Dáil debate on the Ferns Report was in two parts on 9 November 2005. The Irish Senate debate started on 10 November.

Continued Allegations

While the church in the United States claims to have addressed the issue, others maintain the only change is the church has hardened its defences while allowing abuse to continue. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops convened a meeting in Dallas on June 12, 2002 to address the sex abuse scandal. However a Dallas Morning News article revealed nearly two-thirds of the bishops attending had themselves at one point covered for sexually abusive priests.

Abuse in literature

The Magdalene laundries caught the public's attention in the late 1990s as revelations of widespread abuse from former inmates gathered momentum and were made the subject an award-winning film called The Magdalene Sisters (2002). In 2006, a documentary called Deliver Us From Evil was made about the sex abuse cases and one priest's confession of abuse. A number of books have been written, see List of books portraying paedophilia or sexual abuse of minors, about the abuse suffered from priests and nuns including Andrew Madden in Altar Boy: A Story of Life After Abuse, Carolyn Lehman's Strong at the Heart: How it feels to heal from sexual abuse and the bestselling Kathy's Story by Kathy O'Beirne which details physical and sexual abuse suffered in a Magdalene laundry in Ireland. However grave doubts have been expressed about the authenticity of the latter book. In a new book, Kathy's Real Story, Kathy O’Beirne’s family tells the story behind her bestselling book, casting light on false allegations hurting innocent people in Ireland.

Abuse in film

Several films have been made about sex abuse within the Church, including:

See also

Education - Jehovah's Witness communities - scouting


Additional reading

  • Groeschel, F. Benedict, From Scandal to Hope (OSV, 2002)
  • Jenkins, Philip, Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis (Oxford University Press, 2001). ISBN 0-19-514597-6.
  • Lobdell, William, "Missionary's Dark Legacy; Two remote Alaska villages are still reeling from a Catholic volunteer's sojourn three decades ago, when he allegedly molested nearly every Eskimo boy in the parishes. The accusers, now men, are scarred emotionally and struggle to cope. They are seeking justice," Los Angeles Times, Nov 19, 2005, p. A.1
  • Webb,Charles, "Sex with the Virgin Mary" (thekickasspress 2008) an Archdiocese of Boston based religious satire. ISBN 978-0-615-21231-9
  • Ranan, David, Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church (Theo Press Ltd., 2007) ISBN 978-0-95541-330-8.

External links



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