The Corner

We Know We Have a Problem. We’re Dealing with It. Others Do Too, By the Way.

Bishop William Lori of Connecticut writes in defense of the pope, with some questions for the New York Times and others: 

In 2002, I helped write the Charter and the Norms for the protection of children. I was one of four U.S. diocesan bishops who went to Rome to secure approval of the Norms. I personally witnessed the pivotal and positive role that Cardinal Ratzinger played in helping the American bishops respond to the sexual abuse crisis. Thanks to Cardinal Ratzinger the United States Norms won approval from the Holy See. Together with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Norms have helped the U.S. Bishops to bring about a true culture change in the Church. State of the art safe environment programs have been developed. Countless victims have been assisted. Priests who posed a danger to young people are out of ministry. Dioceses cooperate closely with law enforcement officials (contrary to the faulty op-ed piece by Frank Bruni in the New York Times). The Congregation also helped bishops of other countries deal with the sexual abuse crisis. When he became Pope, Benedict XVI made resolution of the abuse problem a priority. Instead of attacking this Pope, we should be thanking him for helping the Church confront this crisis in a way that benefits victims, the Church, and society.

There is an additional problem with the New York Times report worth mention. It states that Father Murphy “also got a pass from the police and prosecutors who ignored reports from his victims.” This clause is the entire comment that the Times gives to the failure of the one government entity that had the greatest power to conduct an investigation and remove an alleged sexual perpetrator from being around children.The Church has no search warrants or prisons. The police do.

When government fails to manage the risk of sexual abuse, the New York Times and other media too often give government a pass. If we really care about protecting children, then the fourth estate needs to focus its spotlight on those institutions with the greatest problems. In January of this year, the U. S. Department of Justice reported that one out of ten young people incarcerated in government-run detention facilities were sexually victimized by their guards during the single year of 2008. This represents 2,370 victims. Where was the Times report? And the number of sexual abuse victims in public schools dwarfs the problem in juvenile detention facilities.

The Times just sued our Diocese to acquire confidential documents from a court file so that it could re-publish stories of abuse that occurred during the 1960s and 1970s. Yet it ignores that in Connecticut alone, 112 Connecticut public school teachers and coaches have lost their license to teach because of sexual contact with students since 1992; and 19 foster parents paid by the State of Connecticut have been disciplined for sexually abusing the children in their care since 2006. Where’s the outrage and the calls

for resignations?

Having the Pope and the Catholic Church bear the entire blame of childhood sexual abuse may benefit the trial lawyers and serve the agenda of their media partners, but it does nothing to protect children today. Transferring billions from Catholic dioceses, religious orders, and their charitable and educational ministries in a time of economic crisis only creates new victims. It is time that Church-bashing give way to responsible reporting and even-handed public policy.

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