National Catholic Reporter

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Key events in US church response to clergy sex abuse crisis

WASHINGTON -- Here is a timeline for some key events in the clergy sex abuse crisis in the United States and the church response to it.


1983 -- First nationally publicized case: Father Gilbert Gauthe is suspended by Diocese of Lafayette, La., after he admits having sexually abused at least three dozen children.


1985 -- Father Gauthe sentenced to 20 years in prison.

1985 -- Several state Catholic conferences and individual dioceses begin developing policies governing abuse allegations.

1985 -- Bishops discuss problem in executive session at a June meeting.

1988 -- Bishops' general counsel acknowledges scope and extent of crisis in public statement.

1988 -- Victims' advocacy group Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests forms.


1990 -- Bishops' priestly life committee studies question of reassignment of abusive priests.

June 1992 -- Bishops affirm five principles for dioceses to deal with child sexual abuse; they include responding promptly and openly to all allegations.

November 1992 -- Cardinal Roger Mahony and other bishops meet with victims.

US bishops say new John Jay report on abuse key to understanding issue

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Catholic bishops called the newly released report on the causes and context of clergy sexual abuse an important tool to gain insight into the scope of the problem and prevent it from occurring in the future.

"It is important for us to understand, as completely and accurately as we are able, the causes and context of this problem in order to respond appropriately for the safety and protection of our children and young people," wrote St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson in an editorial for the St. Louis Review, archdiocesan newspaper.

The report: "The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010," was released May 18. It was conducted by a team of researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York and commissioned by the National Review Board, a lay consultative body created in 2002 under the bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

An earlier study on the nature and scope of abuse appeared in February 2004. The causes and context study commenced in 2006.

Diocesan programs help build 'safety barriers' against child abusers


WASHINGTON -- It is "critical to build safety barriers around children and young people to keep them from harm," said Teresa M. Kettelkamp, executive director of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington.

The barriers she had in mind take the form of "protective guardians, codes of conduct, background evaluations, policies and procedures, and safety training programs" aimed at preventing sexual abuse of minors.

In a discussion of safe environment programs, Kettelkamp posted 10 child-protection points on her office's website. A report released May 18 in Washington on a major study of the causes and context of the sexual abuse of minors in the church accented the value of safe environment programs.

"No one has the right to have access to children," Kettelkamp said. She insisted that "background checks work," keeping "predators away from children" in churches, schools and other organizations.

Bishops at center of abuse scandal, and potential reform


WASHINGTON -- A sweeping new report on the clergy sex abuse scandal compares the Roman Catholic Church to police departments, with similar hierarchies, moral authority and isolated working environments.

And because the church, like the police, has "historically 'policed itself,"' as the report says, some lay Catholics and victims' advocates say even a stack of damning reports will not change a church that has been historically resistant to reform.

A recent grand jury report that found dozens of accused priests still in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, critics say, gives them little evidence for hope.

The study by New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, released Wednesday, portrays the abuse scandal as largely confined to the past. More than 90 percent of nearly 10,700 allegations against Catholic priests occurred before 1990, according to the report.

Researchers said the abuse of minors correlated to a jump in deviant behavior in society at large, such as premarital sex, experimental drug use and crime.

Report spreads blame for Catholic sex abuse


NEW YORK -- Nearly a decade after revelations of widespread sexual abuse of minors rocked the Catholic Church in the U.S., a comprehensive report on the scandal is set for release on Wednesday (May 18), hoping to provide answers about a crisis that has raised myriad questions despite years of attention.

Was celibacy to blame for the abuse? Gays in the priesthood? The social revolution of the ‘60s, or the benighted seminary education of the repressive 1950s?

The truth turns out to be far more complex, according to a copy of the report by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice that was provided by a church leader who believes the findings accurately reflect the causes of the church’s sexual abuse crisis, for good and for ill.

Catholics still wait for final accountability



What to do when bishops do bad? That’s a question that has gone unanswered ever since the clergy sex abuse scandal first became public back in the mid-1980s after NCR began focusing on it.

From the start it was horrific to discover priests were sexually abusing children. It was more horrific to learn from coast to coast bishops enabled the abuse, more concerned with image and self-preservation than the protection of children.

Human rights report lists Vatican for failure to protect children


VATICAN CITY -- Amnesty International named the Vatican in its annual report on human rights' concerns for not sufficiently complying with international mandates on protecting children from abuse.

It marked the first time the Vatican was named in the group's Annual Report on the state of human rights around the world. The 2011 Annual Report covered human rights in 157 countries, looking particularly at rights abuses and restrictions and at failures to implement international rights' agreements.

The report, released May 13, said, "The Holy See did not sufficiently comply with its international obligations relating to the protection of children," specifically regarding sex abuse.

The Vatican is party to the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Article 19 of the convention says that states parties "shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse."

Poll: Phoenix Catholics side with hospital


Catholics in the Phoenix diocese overwhelmingly side with St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center and Mercy Sr. Margaret Mary McBride in their handling of a case involving a severely ill pregnant woman, according to a recent survey.

Of the 651 Catholics in the diocese who were polled, 72 percent said that when they first heard of the case, they favored the action recommended by McBride; 13 percent favored the action taken by Bishop Thomas Olmsted, who declared that McBride had excommunicated herself; and 16 percent didn't know whom they favored. McBride was a member of the hospital ethics committee that recommended that the pregnancy be terminated in order to save the life of the mother.

According to the hospital, the fetus was dying as a result of the mother's illness, and the mother would have died had the action not been taken.



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