Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Rapist Shuffle 

"In the United States, there is constant news on this topic [sexual abuse], but less than one percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type. The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts."

-- Then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, quoted in
"Cardinal Ratzinger Sees a Media Campaign Against Church,"
Zenit.org, December 3, 2002.

Interesting line of reasoning by the new Pope Benedict: presumably, if serial killers represent less than one percent of the general population, then the news media, in the interest of "statistical objectivity," should just ignore them. Unfortunately for his (transparently specious) argument, the pope appears to have fudged his numbers -- but on that count we are prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, since we can think of no good reason why the ability to multiply and divide should be considered a prerequisite for the papacy:

Children accused more than 4,000 priests of sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002, according to a draft survey for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The survey, to be released February 27 [of 2004 -- S.], found that children made more than 11,000 allegations of sexual abuse by priests. The 4,450 accused priests represent about 4 percent of the 110,000 priests who served during the 52 years covered by the study.
And those figures, obviously, do not include the sex crimes that went unreported in the last half-century. Why do we bring it up?
Thousands of pages of confidential church documents detailing sexual abuses by priests in Orange County, Calif., were released this week, exposing the extent to which clergy members, one of them now a bishop elsewhere, concealed accusations of abuse.

In the documents, unveiled Tuesday under a court order after a $100 million settlement of charges involving 90 accusers, senior officials of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange County were shown to have routinely moved priests and church employees accused of sexual misconduct from parish to parish, usually without warning anyone of the extent of the accusations against them and often providing glowing reports of their abilities. At the same time, the documents show, families that complained of certain priests' behavior toward their children were often ignored or told lies.

In one case, the Rev. Eleuterio Ramos, who admitted to the police in 2003 that he had molested at least 25 boys, including involvement in the gang-rape of a boy in a San Diego hotel room in 1984, was transferred in 1985 to a parish in Tijuana, Mexico, where the Orange County Diocese continued to send him a monthly paycheck and pay his car expenses. The Tijuana Diocese was not informed of the full extent of the priest's abuses, according to the documents.
Orance County bishop Tod D. Brown says the focus of the diocese, naturally enough, is on "healing and reconciliation" -- as opposed to, say, jail time and restitution:
Bishop Brown said the diocese had established safeguards to prevent a recurrence of acts of molesting, particularly, he said, "in terms of trying to educate children and youth to be aware of any dangers they might come across." Asked about what was being done about priests and church employees, he replied that they, too, were receiving "regular education sessions."

The vast number of pedophile-priest cases around the country, while "appalling," he said, amounts to "only a minuscule number" of active clergy members . . . .

John Manly, a lawyer who represents 30 of the plaintiffs in Orange County and 100 elsewhere, said the documents show that the diocese was aware of the scope of the abuse and did little to stop it. "They were certain these people were going to molest again, and they did," Mr. Manly said.

The documents released under the Orange County settlement show that several church officials either actively concealed the actions of abusive priests or sought lesser punishment for them.

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