Posted at 03:01 PM ET, 07/09/2012
By Thomas G. Plante
Recent weeks marked several landmarks in the Catholic Church’s dark history with child sexual abuse. In Pennsylvania, the Rev. William Lynn became the first American church official convicted in the cover-up of child sex-abuse. In an Atlanta meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the bishops recognized the 10th anniversary of the Dallas Charter, the church’s document to prevent child abuse in its ranks, with a reflection presentation by the National Review Board, an independent lay advisory group to the bishops.
What have we learned in the past ten years?
We have learned that more than 10,000 youth were victimized by perhaps four percent of Catholic priests in America during the past half century, with the vast majority of cases occurring during the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, 94 percent of all cases occurred before 1990, according to the recent John Jay College of Criminal Justice study on the causes and context of the crisis. The sexual abuse of children by priests is horrific enough but it was the repeated stories of cover up and lack of accountability of bishops and other church leaders that has made this crisis a decade-long story.
The sexual abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky at Penn State underscored the fact that child sexual abuse is certainly not confined to the Catholic Church or to any church organization, but can and does occur wherever adult men have power, control and unsupervised access to youth.