In Kansas City, one of the most disturbing and attention getting headlines in both The Kansas City Star and on local news programs has involved Father Shawn Ratigan, improper relationships with children, and the diocese failing to respond promptly and appropriately to concerned parents, parishioners, and school administrators. The Catholic sex abuse scandal continues to grab headlines.
That is why this posting by Ben Meyers struck me as fascinating. Scott Stephens at the ABC has done some research on the Catholic sex abuse scandal, and has found that a different narrative may need to be told by the media in order to proper contextualize what has been happening, and what continues to happen, among Catholics with regard to the sexual abuse of minors.
The study, Scott says, shows "a sudden and disturbing increase in instances of sexual abuse from 1960, reaching its hellish pinnacle in 1975, followed by a sharp and sustained decline from 1985 to the present". By 2001, there were 5 reported cases of sexual abuse per 100,000 children (compared to 134 cases of abuse for every 100,000 children in American society as a whole in the same year). By 2010, there were just 7 reported cases across the entire Catholic Church in the United States. The report thus describes "the 'crisis' of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests" as really a "historical problem."
Scott discusses many other aspects of the report's findings. Most interesting, I thought, is his suggestion that "the foetid cultural soil of the 60s and 70s proved uncommonly conducive to the commission of sexual abuse" – and that the Church's reinstatement of a "punitive approach" to sexual deviance (as opposed to its earlier adoption of fashionable "therapeutic" approaches – counselling, treatment, relocation), together with "John Paul II's radical reform of seminary life and the spiritual formation of priests".
Thus Scott offers his own blistering conclusion: "Those who incessantly call for an end to sexual abuse in the Church are effectively trying to break down an open door." The deepest problem, he thinks, was the cultural milieu of the 1960s, with its vociferous opposition to all taboos, and its sinister promotion of unchecked sexual experimentation. (Sinister if you happened to be a child at the time.)
While I have not encountered additional coverage of The Catholic Church's report, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors By Catholic Priests in The United States, 1950-2010, I hope to. If there are aspects of the report that are in need of challenging, such analysis would prove beneficial in establishing what has actually taken place, and the reasons abuse has been a problem among clergy.
Considering that sexual abuse has been a major obstacle in people taking seriously the claims of the church, if the issue has been addressed and is improving among Catholics, then this serves to clear away some of the debris for all Christian people to give faithful witness to Christ.