On the sex abuse scandal

I have not visited this topic in a while, but thought I would offer some thoughts on the Catholic sex abuse scandal and the media treatment of that scandal. It should go without saying that none of this is an apology for the abuse; the scandal should haunt Catholics for a long time.  But I do still chafe under the seriously uneven media coverage.

By way of example: Did you see this article on abuse in New York state-run homes for the disabled and infirm? Probably not, it has not received much attention. Of course, during the Catholic abuse scandal, you could not turn around without bumping into coverage of the story. It makes me wonder – where are all of those who were so incredibly concerned about child welfare now?  I don’t see them filling up the blogosphere with caustic posts about the evils of this state run institution.  The “new atheists” particularly had a field day with the Catholic scandal though the insisted, of course, that the feeding frenzy on the Catholic Church had nothing at all do to with any anti-Catholic sentiment. Of course. And yet, I have heard nothing about this state supervised homes scandal on the news, not a peep about it on the blogosphere.  But look at the statistics:

In the NY state supervised homes there were 13,000 allegations of abuse in 2009 alone.  Compare that to the Catholic Church in America, where there were 10,667 allegations from 1950-2002 (about 205 per year).  That is an absolutely shocking difference.  When there is something like 63 times more abuse going on (mind you, in a much smaller institution), where is the outcry?  It would be interesting to add up the numbers, but I would not be surprised if there were fewer allegations made world-wide in any one year in the Catholic Church (a gigantic global organization with over 1.1 billion members) than were made in 2009 in these NY state run homes.

The reality is that there are higher rates of sex abuse among foster parents, boy scout leaders, protestant ministers, counselors, and public school teachers than by Catholic priests.  And in many of these cases, as with the NY homes case, there is ample evidence of cover-ups, people being simple transferred to other homes after an allegation is made, etc etc.  In each of these cases you have, like with the Catholic priests, people that are specifically charged with caring for children and the vulnerable.  In short, there is little difference between these cases except that it was much rarer in the Catholic Church.

None of this makes what some Catholic priests did any less evil.  It simply shines a light on the ridiculously uneven media treatment that we can only infer was driven by considerable anti-Catholic prejudice.  Cuomo has forced a resignation and will undertake a "comprehensive review" in response to the NY scandal.  I will await Dawkins, who (given his obvious and sincere interest in child welfare with the Catholic abuse story) should soon be calling for Cuomo and the heads of these state run institutions to be arrested for "crimes against humanity" (as he suggested for Pope Benedict).  Anyway, forgive me if my eyes roll when atheists and the media in general trash the Catholic Church and insist it is done in the name of the children.  If it were the kids and the vulnerable that were the motivation, this issue in NY would be a huge story.

About Kleiner

Associate Vice Provost and Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Utah State University. I teach across the curriculum, but am most interested in continental philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy as well as Catholic thought, all of which might be summed up as an interest in the ressourcement tradition (returning in order to make progress). I also enjoy spending time thinking about liberal education and its ends.
This entry was posted in Catholic thought/religion/culture, USU Catholic Newman Center. Bookmark the permalink.

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