The terrible revelations of sexual misbehavior and cover-ups, exposed in 2002-2003 remain a huge and unspeakably evil scandal. I've never seen any conscientious, serious Catholic try to excuse or justify what happened. It's a black mark that has caused untold damage in many ways.
Yet Catholics are sinners like anyone else, and we should not be utterly shocked when we see instances that prove this: even in cases of heinous sins. King David murdered and committed adultery, yet God still entered into an eternal covenant with him. Indeed, God knew (since He knows everything) when David was a boy that he would eventually commit these terrible sins.
That said, it is also true that media coverage of the outrages and the general issues involved, has been severely distorted. Statistics clearly show that the problem of sexual abuse is a societal-wide one, with occurrences farmore prevalent in other circles. Yet the focus and spotlight continues to be basically only on the Catholic Church. It's classic selective, cynical, agenda-driven reporting, with the result being false and distorted perceptions.
An independent study conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the USCCB, from May 2011, found that sexual abuse from priests occurs at a much lower rate than in the rest of society, and that most abuse takes place in families. The rate among priests was determined to be five per every 100,000 young people, whereas the larger societal rate was 134, or almost a 27 times greater likelihood.
Even if we examine fellow Christians (non-Catholics), the known statistics are very sobering and revealing. For example, the “flagship” evangelical Protestant magazine Christianity Today noted that there were “70 child abuse allegations reported against American Protestant churches each week during the last ten years,” a quarter of which were against pastors. (“Go Figure” 21 May 2002). If we do the math, that adds up to 36,400 cases in ten years.
In a 1983 doctoral thesis by Richard Blackmon, entitled The Hazards of Ministry (Fuller Theological Seminary: Pasadena, California), it was revealed that 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with congregants, and 38% admitted to other sexualized contact.
A huge amount of documented material about sexual abuse in non-Catholic religious circles is easily obtainable via Google search. Accordingly, Rt. Rev. William Persell, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, frankly and fairly admitted in his Good Friday Sermon from 2002:
"We would be naïve and dishonest were we to say this is a Roman Catholic problem and has nothing to do with us because we have married and female priests in our church. Sin and abusive behavior know no ecclesial or other boundaries."
Leaving the religious realm, we find even moreoutrageous statistics. Thus, for example, a 2004 study, commissioned by the U.S. Dept. of Education, and entitled, “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature” (Carol Shakeshaft), soberly concluded that “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”
The reporting has become so systematically distorted, that even atheists are strongly speaking out against the smearing campaign. Brendan O'Neill's article, “Catholic-bashers have embellished the truth about abuse in Catholic institutions. It's time to put the record straight,” in The Telegraph (14 February 2013), noted that the Irish government's McAleese Report on the Magadalene laundries, “utterly exploded the popular view”. This myth includes the usual ridiculous exploitation of a film devoted to the supposed (grossly exaggerated) sordid goings-on. O'Neill observed:
"The idea of the “good lie”, the lie which helps open people's eyes to the existence of wickedness, should be anathema to anyone who cares about getting history right and establishing the truth. Yet there seem to be many in Ireland who believe that telling “good lies” about the extent of abuse in Catholic institutions is an okay thing to do since it might prove cathartic for a nation allegedly in denial about its dark past. . . . When the Irish government published its Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse in 2009, newspaper headlines declared “Thousands were raped in Irish reform schools” . . . actually, the commission heard allegations of 68 rapes, . . ."
What a breath of fresh air, for an atheist to so eloquently denounce what he describes as the “fashionable and irrational new religion of anti-Catholicism.”
In the final analysis we must be aware that Satan will utilize any tactic he can to bring dishonor and shame upon the Catholic church. He loves to take real scandals (as every effective lie has some truth in it) and magnify them a hundred times, so as to cause as much damage and devastation and slander as possible. This, too, is nothing new. It's so old that St. Augustine (354-430) took note of it in words that are strikingly relevant to and descriptive of our own times:
"[W]hat do they watch for, if it be not for this, that so soon as any bishop or clergyman or monk or nun has fallen, they may have ground for believing, and boasting, and maintaining that all are the same as the one that has fallen, . . . ? . . . the moment that any crime is either falsely allegedor actually proved againstanyonewho makes a profession of piety, these men are incessant and unwearied in their efforts to make this charge be believed against all religious men." (Epistle 78 : to the Church at Hippo, 404 A.D.; my italics)