Tuesday September 29, 2009
By Hilary White
GENEVA, The sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the US and abroad was a matter of homosexuals preying on adolescent boys, not one of pedophilia, said the Vatican's representative at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. It is "more correct," said Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, to speak of ephebophilia, a homosexual attraction to adolescent males, than pedophilia, in relation to the scandals.
"Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90 per cent belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17," said Tomasi. His statement is backed up by a report commissioned by the US bishops that found that in the overwhelming majority of cases the clergy involved were homosexuals, with 81 percent of victims being adolescent males.
Tomasi also responded to criticisms,
saying that while the Catholic Church has been "busy cleaning its own house, it would be good if other institutions
and authorities, where the major part of abuses are reported, could do the same and inform the media about it."
According to information from various sources, the problem of sexual abuse of minors in religious organizations
is widespread among Protestant churches and Jewish communities.
"The Holy See has been heavily implicated for decades in covering up cases of child abuse carried our by its clergy and religious orders, in obstructing justice, and in failing to deal appropriately with abusers," said Roy Brown, IHEU Main Representative at the UN Geneva.
"Yet for too long it has been given a free ride by the international community because of its presumed moral leadership. Our report is the first to bring the issue to the attention of the Council. We shall be referring to our report in the plenary of the Human Rights Council next week."
Tomasi, however, defended the Church's record, saying that "available research" showed that only 1.5 to 5 per cent of Catholic clergy had been implicated in abuse allegations, and suggesting that some of the focus ought to be shifted to other organizations that are plagued by accusations of sex abuse.
The vast plurality of Protestant churches in the US, numbering more than 224,000, including thousands of independent non-denominational groups, make the kind of organized tracking and recording of individual abuse cases as was done in the Catholic Church all but impossible. Nevertheless, some of the sex abuse cases in other religious communities have been documented piecemeal.
In June 2007, the Associated Press revealed that three companies that insure the majority of Protestant churches in the US said they receive upward of 260 reports each year of young people under 18 being sexually abused by clergy, church staff, volunteers or congregation members. Church Mutual Insurance Co., GuideOne Insurance Co. and Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co., which insure 165,495 churches for liability against child sex abuse, emphasized that their figures did not always specify which cases were against minors and added that not all allegations were followed by convictions or even investigations.
National surveys by Christian Ministry Resources (CMR), a tax and legal-advice publisher serving more than 75,000 congregations and 1,000 denominational agencies, has also issued a report that found that child-abuse allegations against American Protestant churches averaged 70 per week since 1993, with a slight downward trend starting in 1997. The same report also found that among Protestant churches, volunteers are more likely than clergy or paid staff to be abusers.
In 2002, Rt. Rev. William Persell, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, said in a sermon on Good Friday, "We would be naïve and dishonest were we to say this is a Roman Catholic problem and has nothing to do with us because we have married and female priests in our church. Sin and abusive behaviour know no ecclesial or other boundaries."
The John Jay Report, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and based on surveys completed by the Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States, found that between 1950 and 2002, a total of 10,667 individuals had made allegations of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Of these, the dioceses had been able to substantiate 6,700 accusations against 4,392 priests.
In 2002, at the height of the media frenzy over Catholic sex abuse cases, James Cobble, executive director of CMR, said that although the Catholic Church had received the most media attention, "this problem is even greater with the Protestant churches simply because of their far larger numbers." Of the approximately 350,000 churches in the US, only 5 per cent are Catholic.
Moreover, the evidence showed that abuse cases in the Catholic Church had been linked to the surge of sexual license in society in general coinciding with the "sexual revolution" of the 1960s. Alleged abuses increased dramatically in the 1960s, peaked in the 1970s, declined in the 1980s and by the 1990s had returned to the levels of the 1950s.
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