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Religious Tolerance logo

Child and youth sexual abuse by clergy

Child & youth sexual abuse in the
Catholic Church, 2011-NOV to 2013-DEC

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This is a continuation of an earlier essay on the same topic.

Week of 2011-NOV-13: Parallels of Catholic abuse scandal/coverup and Penn State abuse scandal/coverup:

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York City and area, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) said at their annnual meeting in Baltimore, MD that the sex abuse scandal at Penn State "reopens a wound" for the church.

Kevin Eckstrom, editor of Religion News Service, said in Religion & Ethics Newsweekly:

"Well in both cases you had people who should have known better who made bad decisions and often times the worst part of this whole scandal is not necessarily the abuse, I mean as bad as that is, that’s horrible, but it’s the cover-up that really gets people upset. And you saw that with bishops who would move priests from one place to another and you saw it from people at Penn State who knew what was going on but didn’t report it to the police and kind of, at least from the outside it looks like they tried to keep it quiet."

Deborah Potter, moderator of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, commented:

"And they moved locations. They allowed Jerry Sandusky to have access to a satellite campus and it’s sort of like the same thing you are mentioning with the priests being just moved even though you know something’s going on. It’s that sort of effort to protect the institution that seems to take over, doesn’t it, Kim?

Kim Lawton, managing editor of Religion & Ethics Newsweekly commented:

Right and that’s what a lot of people are noticing is this, you know, circle the wagons, protect the institution at the expense of the children. So that was one of the parallels. I think one of the differences though is that the institution at Penn State moved, in a certain sense, belatedly, but they moved to hold some people accountable. And some of the victims’ rights groups that I’ve been talking with this week were frustrated that the church itself hasn’t always seemed to do that. Or, if there were repercussions it comes from the state as we saw in the Kansas situation where it was the state that did the indictment.


"What do you think the church really has to teach on this subject? Are they in a position to be advising others on how to deal with a sex abuse crisis like this?"


" Well to their credit, the church has actually done a fairly comprehensive study with John Jay College in New York about the roots of the problem, how it developed, how it got worse, how it was ignored. So they do have some sort of statistical data to offer on this is what we’ve learned and these are the steps that we’ve taken to try to prevent this from happening again. So, Archbishop Dolan says, you know, we learned the hard way how this got out of hand and to the extent that we can help other institutions deal with this, you know they’re happy to do it."


"It’s interesting because when they first put those new guidelines together in 2002 even back then the bishops were saying they hoped that they could be a model for other institutions and of course, they point out that the church isn’t the only place where sex abuse takes place. And so they’ve been hoping all along they could be a model, but you know, they haven’t always lived up to the guidelines and to the things that they’ve done. And Archbishop Dolan acknowledged that this week and he said we’ve been hesitant to offer advice. He said people in glass houses and all of that. But, indeed, he feels that they do have some resources to offer for how to deal with these situations."


"Right and the big challenge for the church and for Penn State is it’s one thing to have policies and guidelines, but if you can’t implement them. And that’s been the big problem for the church is getting the bishops or the individual dioceses to implement these policies and if you can’t do that, the policies are sort of meaningless."

The full article is well worth reading. 1

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2012-JAN-27: Los Angeles coverup of child molestation by priests:

An editorial in the New York Times stated:

"No member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy fought longer and more energetically than Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles to conceal the decades-long scandal involving the rape and intimidation of children by rogue priests. For years, the cardinal withheld seamy church records from parents, victims and the public, brandishing endless litigation and fatuous claims of confidentiality.

The breadth of Cardinal Mahony’s cover-up became shockingly clear last week with the release in court of archdiocese records detailing how he and a top aide concocted cynical strategies to keep police authorities in the dark and habitual offenders beyond the reach of criminal prosecution.

'Sounds good — please proceed!' the cardinal, now retired, instructed in 1987 after the aide, Msgr. Thomas Curry, cautioned against therapy for one confessed predator — lest the therapist feel obliged to tell authorities and scandalize the archdiocese. The two discussed another priest, Msgr. Peter Garcia, who admitted specializing in the rape of Latino immigrant children and threatened at least one boy with deportation if he complained. Cardinal Mahony ordered that he stay out of California after his release from a New Mexico treatment center out of fear that 'we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors.' Monsignor Curry worried that there might be 20 young people able to identify the priest in 'first-degree felony' cases.

It was the cardinal’s obligation under the primacy of secular law to instantly notify authorities of any priest’s criminal behavior. Instead, he invoked a nonexistent church privilege to hide miscreant clergy and shield the church and his own reputation. Cardinal Mahony has repeatedly apologized in recent years and insisted that the archdiocese was mending its ways. A lawyer for the archdiocese insisted that the scandal and the cardinal’s cover-up were 'part of the past.' Not really. While statutes of limitations on possible criminal charges may have run out, Cardinal Mahony and his former aide could be deposed in civil suits. Monsignor Curry also managed to advance up the hierarchical ladder and would seem to merit instant removal from his current post as auxiliary bishop for Santa Barbara." 2

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2013-DEC-05: Vatican establishes special committee on child sexual abuse:

Pope Francis has organized a group of eight cardinals to improve church policies to protect children from predatory Catholic clergy.

Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley the archbishop of Boston, said: 

"Up until now there has been so much focus on the judicial parts of this but the pastoral part is very, very important. The Holy Father is concerned about that. [The commission of experts would] ,,,study these issues and bring concrete recommendations."

Cardinal O'Malley issued a statement saying:

"Continuing decisively along the lines undertaken by Pope Benedict XVI, and accepting a proposal presented by the Council of Cardinals, the Holy Father has decided to establish a specific Commission for the protection of minors, with the aim of advising Pope Francis on the Holy See’s commitment to the protection of children and in pastoral care for victims of abuse."

According to ABC News, the committee will:

1. study and present programs in place for the protection of children.

2. formulate suggestions for new initiatives on the part of the Curia, in collaboration with bishops, Episcopal conferences, religious superiors and conferences of religious superiors.

3. indicate the names of persons suited to the systematic implementation of these new initiatives, including lay persons, religious and priests with responsibilities for the safety of children, in relations with the victims, in mental health, in the application of the law. 

ABC News concluded that Pope Francis':

"... newly announced committee will be faced with the difficult task of re-establishing faith in the Church’s ability to tackle evil from within." 3

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Sadly, this topic continues.


2014-JAN-16: The Vatican is grilled by a United Nations committee for sex abuse:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
  1. "Penn State and Clergy Sex Abuse Parallels," Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, 2011-NOV-18, at:
  2. Editorial, "The Cardinal and the Truth," New York Times, 2013-JAN-27, at:
  3. Claudio Lavanga, "Vatican sets up special committee on child sex abuse," ABC News, 2013-DEC-05, at:

Portions copyright © 2011 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2010-NOV-19
Latest update: 2014-JAN-18
Author: B.A. Robinson

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