The Catholic Church, along with almost every other religious organization, has sheltered child molesters within their “families.” It is just that there has been a lot more coverage of the Catholic Church by the media. What is very obvious to me and other survivors is the hypocrisy and feigned repugnance of the American public about these abuse revelations. It happens every day in American homes and yet there is no public outcry.
Here are the statistics: Over a period of five decades 5,148 Roman Catholic Priests have molested more than 10,000 people.1 Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States have paid an estimated $1.5 billion since 1950 to handle claims of sex abuse by priests.2 This does not include the number of children abused by other religious institutions.
The Catholic Church’s “family” and American families exhibit identical shameful behavior when it comes to not protecting children. In fact, the number one priority in incestuous families is NOT to protect the innocent victim. It is to:
- Protect the perpetrator(s) from being outed and punished,
- Not tarnish the family name,
- Minimize the harm caused,
- Discredit the reputation of the victim, and if legally accused,
- Make a circus out of the proceedings by associating pedophilia with homosexuality or drug abuse/alcoholism.
- Justification of reprehensible conduct (such as saying the abuse was helpful for the child, or thinking the abuse was not as bad as other behaviors that could have been done),
- Misperception of consequences (such as thinking the child really didn’t suffer), and
- Devaluing and attributing blame to the victim.
Does any of this sound familiar with the excuses of non-action by the Catholic Church?
As I wrote in Child Abuse Perpetrator Behavior, child molesters did not get their developmental needs met when they were growing up, so as adults they turn to vulnerable children to get their emotional and power needs met. That’s the bottom line.
In fact, W.D. Murphy3 wrote about his research in understanding the distortions perpetrators use to deny, justify, minimize or rationalize deviant sexual behavior. Murphy outlines three cognitive processes used by offenders:
So, the next time you see a media release about a Catholic clergyman making excuses for his behavior, think about what I have written today. But don’t just stop there because until the tens of millions of American families who do the same thing are brought out into the public eye, American society is being just as repugnant as the Catholic Church and every other organization that puts up with this ongoing criminal behavior.
1 “Five Decades of Abuse,” The Washington Post, February 28, 2004
2 “Victims of abuse, Ore. church settle suit,” The Sun, December 12, 2006
3 Murphy, W.D. (1990), Assessment and modification of cognitive distortions in sex offenders. In W.L. Marshall, D.R. Laws & H.E. Barbaree (Eds), Handbook of sexual assault: Issues, theory, and treatment of the offender. New York: Plenum Press.