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Religious Tolerance logo


Clergy sexual abuse

2019-APR/MAY: Is sex abuse in the
Roman Catholic Church a new crisis
or a systemic disorder with ancient
roots? Pope Francis mandates
system to report abuse.

Part 8:

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This topic continues here from the previous essay.

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2019-APR-03: Thomas P. Doyle discussed sex abuse in the Catholic Church:

Writing In Conscience Magazine, he said:

"... sexual abuse and related cover-ups are the fruits of a systemic disorder in the church: toxic clericalism." 1

He believes that the sexual violation of children, youth, and vulnerable adults is not a new development. The church has been aware of its existence for centuries. It first became public when a perpetrator was exposed in Louisiana during the mid 1980's.

Doyle writes:

"... it is, in truth, not a crisis. It is something much worse. It is a worldwide manifestation of a complex, systemic and self-destructive condition in the church."

He suggests that the root of the problem is not a few misbehaving clergy. Church reaction has been based on:

"... what is best for the image, the reputation, the power and the financial security of the clerical elite." 1

He believes that the Church's efforts to date have been inadequate. A major problem is the lack of church programs for "consistent pastoral care for victims and their families."

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During Pope Benedict's flight to the U.S. on 2008-APR-16, he addressed the clergy abuse problem, saying:

"We will absolutely exclude pedophiles from the sacred ministry. It is incompatible. Whoever is guilty of being a pedophile cannot be a priest."

His choice of the word "pedophile" was confusing to some. The term refers to adults who are preferentially sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children. Many pedophiles do not act on their feelings of sexual attraction and thus are not abusive. Also, much -- perhaps most -- of the sexual abuse by Catholic Church clergy is by ephebophiles -- adults who are sexually attracted to older teenage victims, generally 15 to 19 years-of-age. 2

The next day, Pope Benedict addressed the U.S. bishops, saying:

"Rightly, you attach priority to showing compassionate care to victims. It is your God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation. and to reach out with loving concern to those seriously wronged."

However, the Pope's order for clergy to give sustained help to victims of sexual abuse has not been consistently followed. Such support has been offered only by some clergy and some non-ordained members of the church.

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Marie Collins served on the Papal Commission for the Protection of Children until she resigned in frustration at the lack of meaningful Church effort against the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. She advocates a seven step process -- for the Church to:

1. Agree on a universal definition of child abuse with worldwide accountability.
2. Create a universal definition of zero tolerance and then apply it worldwide.
3. Change canon law so that it contains a realistic definition and narrative about sexual abuse of vulnerable adults.
4. Enact universal safeguarding standards to which every bishop will be held accountable.
5. Demand that every bishop commits in writing that he will abide by these standards.
6. Enact a universal set of action steps and practical plans to face abuse, which is criminal behavior, and every bishop must be held strictly accountable for enforcing this policy.
7. Effectively respond to clergy abuse, independent of involvement or interference by the Vatican bureaucracy. 1

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2019-MAY-09: Pope Francis mandates the internal reporting of sexual abuse:

The Pope has created a new church law that requires nuns and priests -- who total one million worldwide -- to report abuse cases to church authorities whenclergy sexual abuse of a minor, sexual misconduct with an adult, possession of child pornography, or coverups of such abuse is involved. It specifies special procedures when the accused person is a bishop, cardinal, or religious superior. The obligation to report also includes old cases. 4

Archbishop Charles Scicluna, the sex crimes prosecutor at the Vatican said:

"People must know that bishops are at the service of the people. They are not above the law, and if they do wrong, they must be reported." 5

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops, said:

"We have said for years that priests should follow certain strict rules, so why should bishops and other members of the Church hierarchy be exempt?" 5

Canon lawyer Kurt Martens referred to the new law as:

"... revolutionary. ... We owe gratitude to Pope Francis for this universal law of the Church, ensuring that a victim who wishes to tell his or her story cannot be silenced."

The law also allows victims to request information about the outcome of the Church's subsequent investigation.

Philip Pullella of Reuters, writing for Global News, said:

"The decree also allows victims or their representatives to report alleged abuses by bishops directly to the Vatican or a Vatican ambassador, bypassing diocesan procedures that have been discredited by multiple instances of cover-ups." 5

Finally, the decree allows victims or their representatives to reort abuses by bishops directly to the Vatican or a Vatican ambassador. This should prevent local cover-ups.

The Vatican already has a policy that requires clerics to report alleged sexual abuse to civil authorities, when their local law requires it. This policy will continue.

The law became effective on 2019-JUN-01. Dioceses must confirm that they have a reporting system in place by 2020-JUN-01. 4

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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. Thomas P. Doyle, "The Sexual Abuse Crisis is Not a Crisis," Conscience Magazine, 2019-APR-03, at:
  2. "Ephebophilia," Wikipedia, as on 2019-FEB, at:
  3. William D. Lindsey, "Tom Doyle on Why Clericalism Is Primary Root of Catholic Abuse Horror Show (Contra Benedict)," Bilgrimage [sic], 2019-MAY-08, at:
  4. Nichole Winfield, "Pope mandates reporting of sex abuse to church, not police," Associated Press, 2019-APR-09, at:
  5. Philip Pullella,"Pope makes it mandatory for priests, nuns to report sex abuse." Global News, 2019-MAY-09, at:

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How you might have arrived here:

 Home page > Religious Info. > Basic info > Clergy sex abuse > here

or Home page > Religious Violence > Clergy sex abuse > here

or Home page > Christianity > Roman Catholicism > Clergy sex abuse > here

Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2019-JUN-14
Author: B.A. Robinson
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