Blessing Child Sexual Abuse
Blessing Child Sexual Abuse
By Melanie Blow
The Catholic church is encouraging parishioners to see the movie “Spotlight”. The movie makes it abundantly clear that the church facilitated the sexual abuse of thousands of children around the world, over decades. It shows how willing otherwise good people are to turn a blind eye, to give the institution a chance to save face. But the movie was set in 2001-2002. Since then there have been thousands of platitudes delivered by Catholic clergy, and three separate popes have said “we’ll do better”.
A small percentage of priests sexually abusing children isn’t remarkable. What is remarkable is the number of people, going straight up the Church’s hierarchical ranks, who knew what was going on and didn’t stop it. And by spending millions of dollars every year in every state that tries to eliminate the Statute of Limitations for this crime, the Catholic church makes it clear it would rather facilitate child sexual abuse in every other corner of society than to be held accountable for what they’ve done.
And now, as the New York Daily News is clearly connecting the dots and saying essentially “the Catholic Church is responsible for the child sexual abuse that happens outside its walls because it supports the law that keep offenders on the streets”. What the article doesn’t say is how effective the current legal system is at keeping predators on the streets; experts agree that at least 90% of those who sexually abuse children never see a day behind bars for their crime.
It takes child sexual abuse survivors an average of 21 years before they can talk about their victimization. That means Statutes of Limitations like New York’s, which keep victims out of court shortly after reaching majority, keep most victims out of court and most offenders on the street.
The Church argues that if it became easier for their victims to sue them, they’d go bankrupt. This is an odd argument. By the admission of their own defense attorneys, and of every study ever done on the subject, false accusations of child sexual abuse are very rare; about 2% of cases. So their argument hinges on how wrong it is that bad guys go bankrupt, an argument I’ve never seen succeed elsewhere.
When Massachusetts advocates worked on SOL reform within their state, it became clear that financial loss wasn’t the only thing the Church feared. Massachusetts already had not-for-profit immunity built into their laws, which meant a church could not be sued for more than a nominal sum (around $5000). The average Catholic church payout to a confirmed victim, when the process was handled through the Church’s internal systems, was greater than that. What they fear most appears to be exposure lawsuits would bring to each new predator and each new cover-up. The Catholic church has vast financial resources, and paying out a finite number of cases, while not something they want, is a finite expense. The loss of credibility that comes with exposure of sex offender after sex offender and cover-up after cover-up harms their future.
The Catholic church has to make a decision when it comes to their tolerance of child sexual abuse. They can confess to their sins of playing a role in the sexual abuse of many children, even children who have never set foot inside a church, and they can promise to go forward and sin no more. Or they can argue their right to financial solvency is more important than children’s rights not be sexually abused.
The choice is theirs. I just hope they make the right one. It would seem like that is what Jesus would have done.
The law couldn’t protect the adopted son of an accused pedophile during eight years of sexual abuse — or after he finally revealed the details of his secret torment.