• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Why the Scandals Increased My Faith in the Church


When people hear that my husband and I began exploring Catholicism in 2005, one of the first questions they often ask is, “What about the sexual abuse scandals? Didn’t that scare you away from the Church?”

They’re usually surprised when I report that the answer is no; in fact, the scandals and the negative media coverage actually increased my faith in the Church. Here’s why:

Getting the Facts Straight

One of the first things I did was to look into the numbers behind the sexual abuse cases. Was I heading into an institution that was filled with sexual predators, as the media would have me believe? I was shocked to find that, by even the most anti-Catholic organizations’ estimates, only about 2 percent of Catholic priests had even been accused of sexual misconduct. And certainly the cover-ups by members of the hierarchy were deplorable, but my research led me to see that that was common in all organizations, not just the Church. To list just one of the many examples, in Washington there were 159 coaches accused of sexual misconduct with minors over a 10-year period. Ninety-eight of them continued to coach or teach. And how did the school hierarchies respond? To quote this article:

"When faced with complaints against coaches, school officials often failed to investigate them and sometimes ignored a law requiring them to report suspected abuse to police. Many times, they disregarded a state law requiring them to report misconduct to the state education office.
Even after getting caught, many men were allowed to continue coaching because school administrators promised to keep their disciplinary records secret if the coaches simply left. Some districts paid tens of thousands of dollars to get coaches to leave. Other districts hired coaches they knew had records of sexual misconduct."

In another example, Carol Shakeshaft and Audrey Cohan looked at 225 cases of abuse by educators in New York City. Shakeshaft reported:

"All of the accused admitted sexual abuse of a student, but none of the abusers was reported to the authorities, and only 1 percent lost their license to teach. Only 35 percent suffered negative consequences of any kind, and 39 percent chose to leave their school district, most with positive recommendations. Some were even given an early retirement package."

I could go on, but you get the idea. After investigating the issue, I found that, sadly, there is nothing different going on in the Catholic Church than in any organization where men are in contact with children, and that it’s an unfortunate fact of human nature—and not something unique within the Church—that people in hierarchy tend to look the other way when it comes to bad conduct by the people who report to them.

However, unlike the coaches or the school teachers, the Catholic clergy were supposed to be men of God. What are we supposed to make of it when even they commit atrocities like sexual abuse? Pondering that question was one of the key things that led me decide to become Catholic.

Understanding Who Guides the Church

While I was researching Catholicism, I seemed to be surrounded by the message that the Catholic hierarchy was corrupt to the core. Not only were negative stories about the Church splashed all over the media, but I’d happened to pick up some historical biographies from times and places that were heavily Catholic, and many of those books gave the impression that every bishop who ever lived had a personal harem that he only left long enough to go steal from the poor and kick puppies. I knew that these were heavily biased accounts that not only exaggerated a lot of the bad deeds, but that also overlooked all the incredible priests, bishops and popes throughout the ages who radiated the love of Christ. However, being surrounded by all this negativity did remind me that not every Catholic is a saint, and that sometimes even people in the hierarchy do bad things.

I found myself in a strange place: On the one hand, I was blown away by the wisdom I’d found in this Church. Reading the great works of Catholic theology left me feeling like I’d discovered the secret owner’s manual to the human life; the Catholic worldview was like the box top that made all the puzzle pieces of the human experience come together in a coherent whole. In the Catechism I saw a seamless, perfectly consistent moral code that was as compelling as it was counterintuitive—and when I tried following it, I found a peace and joy that I have never encountered before.

Yet on the other hand, I had all these reminders that Catholics are sinners too sometimes—that, in fact, even their leaders aren’t exempt from committing some of the most deplorable sins known to man.

It was when these two things collided that I realized: I don’t think people can do this on their own.

Ironically, the more the culture tried to paint the Catholic Church as full of sinful people, the more convinced I became of its truth. I didn’t believe that ordinary people could come up with a set of teachings that contained unparalleled wisdom; maintain them consistently across all times and places, even despite tremendous pressure to recant; and then keep it all going for two thousand years. And even if the media had been right that the priesthood and episcopate were full of corrupt and immoral people, that would have only made the situation more inexplicable in purely human terms—corrupt and immoral people are always the first to sell out and preach whatever message the culture wants to hear in order to get more power for themselves.

In short, I saw something divine at work here.

The Catholic Church has claimed all along that this is an institution “powered by” God, so to speak. It was founded by Jesus Christ, not humans, and a divine Force continues to guide it to this day. Just as he did with Sacred Scripture, God uses imperfect people to proclaim his perfect truth. It’s a crazy claim, particularly hard to believe in this age when atheistic materialism dominates the culture. But I think that the constant negative portrayals of Catholics in popular culture can be a boon to our faith in this department. Because every time the world reminds us that our natures are no less fallen than anyone else’s, it’s a reminder that our Church, its sacraments, and its teachings could not exist without Someone helping us out.
Originally published at the National Catholic Register. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Jeremy Sarber)

Jennifer Fulwiler

Written by

Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer and speaker who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She's a contributor to the books The Church and New Media (Our Sunday Visitor, 2011) and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion (Servant, 2011), and is writing a book based on her personal blog. She and her husband live in Austin, TX with their six young children, and were featured in the nationally televised reality show Minor Revisions. Follow Jennifer on her blog, ConversionDiary.com, or on Twitter at @conversiondiary.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Mark Hunter

    I've heard various statistics about the percentage of priests involved in sexual abuse, I've read that is was typically 4% to 5%, but certainly a small minority. Even 2 % is appalling but what I find more troubling is the apparent fact that nearly every diocese was involved in handling these case using situational ethics.

    Atheists are often accused of moral relativism, of adapting our moral stance based upon time and circumstances. I don't agree with that accusation but I would guess that if you were to sit down a group of religious and non religious ethicists and ask them to formulate a list of moral absolutes that all societies could agree upon, then the sexual abuse of children would probably head this list. This is an act, so egregious that no extenuating circumstances save mental incapacity of the perpetrator would condone it.

    Yet many, if not most, bishops did quietly shuffle these abusing priests around the diocese and country. If pressed as to why would probably say that the made the decision to prevent scandal to the Church. And there's the rub. By the belief that the the Church has both a human and divine component, the divine component trumps worldly concerns, It has shades of Blessed Cardinal Newman's exhortation that "it were better for sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions who are upon it to die of starvation in extremest agony, so far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, though it harmed no one, or steal one poor farthing without excuse" From a purely human perspective this comparison is blatantly ridiculous, add in the divine to the action and conventional ethics is turned on its head..

    I am a volunteer with a youth organization that involves camping with young children and we have all been trained how to protect the children from sexual or physical abuse (frequent police checks, always two leaders, circumstances to avoid, etc.). In our training we were told that should we encounter abuse or suspected abuse we make two phone calls, the first to the police and the second to the organization. You may delay the second, but not the first. The Catholic Church is finally moving in that direction, but one senses it was a reluctant move and it raises the question in a Church that proclaims moral absolutes and eschews moral relativism why it was never done before. Why did the Church need to learn this from civil and secular authorities?

    • Michael Murray

      in a Church that proclaims moral absolutes and eschews moral relativism why it was never done before.

      Yes that bit always gets me. Here in Australia we have three different enquiries going on into paedophilia in the RCC. Time and time again we hear the excuse "things were done differently then".

      • Aren't things different now?

      • Vicky Hernandez

        Excellent point. It is truly frustrating to hear that "things-were-done-differently-then" excuse. As if rape, whether committed against anyone of any age in any time, is not wrong. What's worse, there are prelates who use that excuse to wash their hands of their poor handling of the cases brought before them. And then "move on."

        Here, on the Left Coast, Cdl. Roger Mahony, Ret. a particular prelate, is in the middle of a sort of "rehabilitation tour." Blithely going about as if there are no victims left in the wake of his carelessness as a pastor and protector of the faithful.

        Yes, it's very frustrating.

        • Micha_Elyi

          I disagree with your claims, especially the ones that imply you possess mind-reading powers.

          • Ginger Sarmento

            There is no such implication made by Vicky H....also, how can anyone disagree with "As if rape, whether committed against anyone of any age in any time, is not wrong."???

    • Jill

      I suggest you read this and stop oiling that lying anti-theist propaganda machine:


    • Ben

      There were 12 Apostles. Judas betrayed the Lord with an act of love, a kiss, and he never repented of it prior to his death; that is nearly 10% of the Apostolic group committing a grevious offense. St. Peter fretted under questioning and denied his association with Christ three times; he did repent and was forgiven, but he still erred in that offense.
      Nonetheless, the Church has suffered greatly for this arrogance; Mass attendance has collapsed in the once spiritual Gibraltar of Ireland, as well as other major Catholic areas. Now is still time for the Church's repentance.

      • Michael Murray

        It should have accepted contraception, dropped the celibacy requirement, accepted women into the priesthood and come to some sensible position on abortion that recognised the unique conflict it presents between the rights of the mother and the foetus.

        • Ben

          So just become Episcopalian then? Hence our stance against moral relativism. Agreed on the celibacy requirement though- that is a mere discipline, not a matter of Church doctrine. Eastern Catholic priests can be married, and so can Protestant/Anglican clergy who convert.

          • Michael Murray

            It's always one extreme or the other isn't it. Why Episcopolian ? There are lots of protestant faiths outside the evangelicals that would happily sign up to all the above.

          • Ben

            That is why they are Protestants, because they create and alter "truth" as need be. They are not of the original Church, which is prone to suffer social scandals of sinful disgraceful men, but not false teachings.

          • Michael Murray

            Well I guess that is some comfort for all children raped by priests. At least they didn't suffer false teaching.

          • Ben

            Your whole point is to disprove the Church, regardless of people's responses. I was just like you, friend, when I renounced the Catholic Faith for five years and some change. Any news of scandal increased my vitriol, and confirmed me in my opposition.
            The fact is, it is the Judas faction. Judas betrayed Christ, but the other 11 remained firm. That was about 10% of the Apostles who erred and also did not beg forgiveness; the Church has been plagued by the horrid sins of 2% of its clergy. You do realize that the theology of "infallibility" does not mean that the Church's members are free of making errors? I ponder.
            Seeing your whole point is Napoleanic conquest, and not dialogue, I bid you adieu and God's blessings on you and yours.

          • Ben

            *meaning personal errors as private members in their daily lives. Aka, regular life.

          • Michael Murray

            You do realize that the theology of "infallibility" does not mean that the Church's members are free of making errors? I ponder.

            Yes. I also realise it doesn't mean that every time the pope makes an utterance it is infallible.

            I bid you adieu and God's blessings on you and yours.

            Thanks. And to you but obviously with any god's blessings.

          • Max Driffill

            That two percent you keep referring to neglects the mass of children molested. And that number is huge. In Wisconsin just one priest managed to molest at least 200 deaf boys. You will be surprised to know, or maybe you won't be, that the Church and Pope Benedict (at the time Ratzinger) did not elect to defrock this person.
            So by all means keep noting that it is a small percentage of priests who molest kids. But quit failing to note the totality of the situation. That is to say, these priests managed to affect, in ways disproportionate to their numbers, thanks to Church policy and practice, a very very large number of kids.

          • Andrew G.

            The figure from the John Jay report is not 2% but between 4% and 5% depending on what figures you take for number of active priests, with regional variation from 3% to 6%.

          • Max Driffill

            Doesn't the Catholic Church also alter truth as needs be? I mean, why did the Church abandon the Inquisition? Or rather abandon its tortuous practices?

          • Pedro Dias

            That is not really altering the truth. Technically, the Church still has the Inquisition, currently known as the Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith, and it's main purpose is to keep the Church community with no heretics (for instance, in Spain was to get rid of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Muslims), and the "turtuous practices" are far more rare than it's thought to be https://strangenotions.com/spanish-inquisition/ So I don't think your assertion has any grounds....

          • Michael Murray

            Hence our stance against moral relativism.

            You should come down here to Australia and explain to the Bishops and Cardinals fronting a serious of enquiries into abuse that things weren't "different back then".

            It seems to me that the RCC asserts no moral relativism some times and at other times is happy to argue that in the past things were different and now they have changed.

          • Ben

            Because some Church officials commit the grave error of putting their office/position over the needs of the people. Ecclesial history is ripe with such sinners. You're not going to surprise any of us with "new facts" who already know the history of the Church on Earth. I left the Church for five years because of the scandals, so it is nothing fresh to my psyche.
            The Church has suffered and deserves to suffer for the sins of some of its members, from the lowest to highest rungs on the ladder. But that still doesn't disprove the Church; it shows that evil corrupts the hearts of many people, and some of those people are in positions of authority.
            In a similar vein- modern Australia was founded by
            Europeans who stole the land and denied the culture of Aborigines. Are you going to renounce your citizenship and return to Europe? How can you bear to be Australian, with these truths in mind?

      • Max Driffill

        1. You cannot say that Judas never repented of his act. The text does not give you that option. Repentance and regret are deeply implied, but the suicide.Though the bible is inconsistent on what he did with his bribe (in Matthew he casts his silver into the temple-a pretty repentant act, though in Acts it appears he bought a field with it, not so much) killing yourself over what you have done seems also a pretty final declaration of repentance.

        2. Church attendance is falling for several reasons. The world has grown up around it, and it wallows in rather byzantine discourses on morality. Many (most people in the Western Industrialized world?) think the RCC is wrong, on birth control, on bio-ethics, on questions of GLBT equality, on abortion (at least in cases of incest, and threats to the life of the mother), on women's ordination, on marriage of priests.

        And of course its deplorable record on not just the sex abuse (where that small percentage of priests affected a large number of Catholic kids) but and especially for its handling of that abuse. Shuffling priests around and letting them continue to have access to victims for a fresh round of abuse and emotional scarring.

        There is also, of course, a very long history of immoral behavior within the RCC that seems to go right back to its inception.

        The RCC's moral authority long rested in the ignorance of the masses and the political power it possessed. No longer can the church prosecute those whose ideas run contrary to RCC teaching. That leaves the RCC with two choices really. Change or wither.

        • Judas was a Jew, and suicide for Jews is no more permissible than it is for Christians. While we don't automatically condemn someone for committing suicide today, and we certainly can't know exactly how culpable Judas was for committing and act that was unequivocally condemned for Jews, I wouldn't call the suicide of Judas "a pretty final declaration of repentance."

          • Andre Boillot

            A "declaration of remorse" would probably be more appropriate.

          • Max Driffill

            That course would certainly would have allowed him to not be dead. And may be do something to make up for the actions he regretted.

          • Max Driffill

            In any event we can't know much about why Judas did what he did in the story. There is no note, no interior monologue. If you take the suicide together with the casting of the bribe into the temple the picture that emerges is highly sympathetic to Judas' character.

          • Martin Sellers

            Judas's did not repent of his act- he may have been sorry, which led him to despair and finally commit suicide. It seems to me thought that repentance entails an act of humility in order to seek forgiveness and continue on- this Judas did not do.

          • Max Driffill

            We have no idea what Judas did. The bible is unclear and contradictory on the matter of Judas. How did he die for instance, we always hear about the casting of the silver back to his pay masters and the regretful hanging of himself. But the bible tells two contradictory stories of Judas. In Acts Judas buys a field to farm is and seems to have exploded. These accounts are not congruent. Either Judas threw the money down in the temple and then went and hanged himself, or he later went off and purchased a field and exploded, creating such a mess that the place was called "Field of Blood. (though of course in Matthew a different set of buyers for the field is offered)." These stories can not both be simultaneously true.

            In any event,lets proceed with the version of events everyone seems to prefer, the Sad, Sorry Judas version. To whom would have repented? Jesus was gone, and his inner circle scattered. And how would any of the authors know whether he asked for any forgiveness?

            A person who felt particularly guilty might feel there was no where left turn and be unable to live with themselves after getting a friend killed. Judas in that story probably ought to have thought the matter through. Jesus never indicated that Judas was going to be left out of future plans.

            Again, we don't know why, or what Judas did.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I've always felt sorry for judas; after all, for the entire "gave his only begotten son" shtick to work, SOMEBODY had to betray him. Judas was the unfortunate sucker who got stuck with it.

          • Martin Sellers

            Judas's great sin was not his betrayal of Jesus, it was his despair and his suicide.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Dante would disagree; as would most medieval theologians. Besides, his despair is a direct result of an act that HAD to take place for the race to be saved. Nasty.

          • Martin Sellers

            1) It seems likely from this explanation that both accounts are true.

            2) He should not have despaired by committing suicide and faced Jesus upon his resurrection. Jesus was forgiving of Peter and Thomas, he would have forgiven Judas.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Please - not answers in genesis; they have no intellectual credibility; it's essentially a game desperately straining to reconcile two irreconcilable narratives.

          • Max Driffill

            The beginning of the "analysis" at AIG, goes like this,

            "Some people have wrongly assumed that Matthew and Luke (the author of Acts) are contradictory in their account of Judas’ death. Since the Bible is inerrant Judas cannot have died by hanging and died by falling and bursting open."

            They begin with the a priori assumption that the bible is inerrant and then craft a rather poor interpretation to some how erase the contradiction. Sorry, we know the bible is errant in many of its assertions, thus, without much more evidence there is no reason even to deal further with the preposterous "scholars" at AIG.

            Falling headlong and bursting open (that is to say falling HEAD FIRST) and then bursting open "in the middle" so that his guts shot out is the not the same thing as hanging oneself. There are other problems with the hanging story (who found Judas, what did they do, if anything with the body, why would anyone find him, the sum that Judas is alleged to get is a paltry one, why bother colluding etc).

            And even if we grant that the falling head first and bursting open like a tauntaun on a cold day, were the same thing as hanging oneself from a tree we are still left with the fact that one cannot buy a field with money from the iniquity if one has thrown that money back into the temple (in another gospel the author claims that the field in question was purchased by a bunch of priests-twist that around AIG).

  • You hear and read a lot about how the Catholic clergy should refuse the sacraments or declare excommunicate lay people who support women's right to reproductive decision, full participation in church life for both women and LGBTs, those divorced and cohabitating out of wedlock and others that may be guilty of some transgression, at least according to clergy .

    The clerical community should begin to realize that in many Catholic communities today, the laity has excommunicated them by not attending mass, receiving the sacraments or participating in parish life altogether or have gone elsewhere for their spiritual family. Some join Catholic offshoot worship groups, these often have priests who are women, openly Gay and/or married and have also left the Catholic community. Some maintain their faith in the home and family, many drift out of observance entirely but still strongly consider themselves Catholic.

    What is the Catholic Church? Do the aging, autocratic, self loathing, closeted Gay, clergy and a relatively few "true believing" reactionary followers, both dwindling in numbers, effectively "own" the Church franchise?

    Is the vital future of the Catholic Church to be relegated to Africa and some parts of Asia?

    • Randy Gritter

      "What is the Catholic Church?"

      That is the essential question for this website. The owners of the church are the bishops and the pope. Still in other mainline churches we have seen liberals take over positions of power. Only in the Catholic church have the core doctrines remained essentially unchanged by modernity. Is it just old clerics and poor Africans? I don't see that. The young priests are amazing. We will get smaller in Europe and North America for sure. Smaller and purer can still be quite powerful.

      • Michael Murray

        Smaller and purer can still be quite powerful.

        I think it reality smaller means less money and less political influence. With the increasing rise of secularism and the loss of the average Catholic on the street who doesn't go to mass anymore or obey any of the rules you will dwindle to a negligible political force. Of course you might have meant spiritually powerful as some sort icon of morality. Possibly but I can't see that either while the misogyny and homophobia and the general rejection of human sexuality continues.

        • Randy Gritter

          You are right. Logically the church should fade into nothing. In fact, it should have done that many times over the last 2000 years. The only reason it will get stronger is the same reason it has not died yet. God is real. He really does work through her and strengthen her and protect her from error.

          • Mark Hunter

            Time will tell. It won't fade to nothingness but even during my lifetime I've seen a huge drop in attendance. It may recover, bit there's no indication of it. Quebec here in Canada had 80 to 90% Sunday attendance a generation ago, now they have 10 to 20% and no sign of reversal.

          • Amy Corrieri

            Well, it is literally standing room only at all FIVE masses at my parish every week.

          • fredx2

            I suspect that you are in the city. People have moved to the suburbs and the suburban churches are overflowing.
            Where I live, it is standing room only to get in on Sunday. You better come 15 minutes early.
            This is the same as schools - schools in the city are being closed as well as cities lose population.

        • Paul Campbell

          "...you will dwindle to a negligible ... force. Of course you might have meant spiritually powerful ... but I can't see that either while the ... general rejection of human sexuality continues."

          WHAT? Does the Catholic Church reject human sexuality, or embrace it to the full? Which is the true rejection of human sexuality... sodomy, abortion, fornication, contraception, and divorce? Or is it openness to life in faithful marriage that results in abundant life? In my Parish, most young families have between five and eight children; I'm not sure I would call that a "general rejection of human sexuality!" Nor would I call it a formula for "dwindling to a negligible force."

          Progressives like to claim they are on the right side of history, but they've already lost the battle, committing demographic suicide by insisting on self-gratifying sex lives of inherently sterile sodomy, artificially sterile contraception, killing off many of the children they do manage to procreate, and destroying the lives of the few survivors through adultery and divorce. It will take time, but the future belongs to fervent Catholics (and, it must be said, Muslims) who faithfully live out the teachings of their faith by embracing the authentic human sexuality that inevitably leads to an abundance of life and joy.

          • Michael Murray

            Which is the true rejection of human sexuality... sodomy, abortion, fornication, contraception, and divorce? Or is it openness to life in faithful marriage that results in abundant life?

            Hhm. Tricky choice. What about "sodomy, fornication, contraception and a faithful marriage with two children" where does that score on your sin-ometer ?

            By the way you can have all the children you like but they won't stay Catholic. Look at me.

          • Yes, genetics don't determine faith. It is more of a memetic thing.

          • Paul Campbell

            Michael, I don't think I said I was erecting a "sin-o-meter." I was questioning which lifestyle is the rejection of authentic human sexuality, and which is indicative of its embrace.

            This is a genuine question, how many brothers and sisters do you have? Five or six? If not - and I'm certainly not passing judment for sure since there may have been legitimate extenuating circumstances - but there at least seems a strong likelihood that your parents were not faithful to Catholic teaching, and parents unfaithful to the Church don't give their children much of an example to be faithful to her either. There's a whole new generation in the Church that recognizes the failures of the former generation, of which, sadly, you may well be one among far too many victims. But among this generation, in which there is far better catechesis and a joyful embrace of the entire faith as witness to our children, our kids have much better reasons to remain faithful as well. "By your fruits you will know them."

          • Michael Murray

            No but the RCC has a sin-o-meter.

            As for my family background. No problem at all. Mother Anglican. One sibling. So yes definitely not a proper RCC upbringing. It's obviously been the ruin of me. An eternity of torment awaits.

            Just out of interest as we have having show and tell what country are you in ?

          • Paul Campbell

            In the U.S.A.

            I was raised Anglican as well, converted to the RCC five years ago. Anglicanism certainly wasn't the ruin of me, she upholds many beautiful traditions I'm now able to retain and share in the Catholic Church by way of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

            The Church makes no claim that eternity of torment awaits her separated Protestant brethren; nor does she make that claim about anyone, including atheistis and even Judas.

            As fo the sin-o-meter, if by that you mean mortal and venial sin, and the authority to forgive or retain them, that's all straight out of Scripture; that may not hold much water with someone whose gripe is not just with the RCC, but Christianity in general, but at least it's a consistent position.

          • Micha_Elyi

            "An eternity of torment awaits."--Michael Murray

            "You have said so."--Jesus the Christ (Matthew 26:25, NAB)

          • Erdos

            > By the way you can have all the children you like but they won't stay Catholic. Look at me.

            By your own admission, you weren't Catholic to begin with, so your example is disingenuous (and also helps to explain why you obviously don't know the teachings of the Church). In the meantime, we see the author of this article converting from atheism to Catholicism. Would the number of children in her family be relevant to this?

          • Michael Murray

            No that wasn't my admission at all. My father was Catholic my mother was Anglican. That was perfectly acceptable to the RCC in the 50s in Australia as long as the children were raised Catholic. Which they were. I was baptised, did my first communion and was confirmed. It wasn't until I was about 15 that I gave up on theistic belief. I was quite keen on it up until then. I was a regular weekly mass attendee until I left home around 21 I think.

            My point really is that the kind of argument that proceeds "religion X is having more children than religion Y so it must take over" is very naive and fails to take into account how well the religion transmits to the children and, as you point out, how well religion Y is taken up by people not raised in it.

          • fredx2

            Yep, Michael Murray, the guy who in about a year will be surprised that he is going to mass again.

          • Martin Sellers

            Haha fair point- My parents had five- 1 protestant convert, 1 secular atheist, 1 relapsed catholic, and 2 faithful Catholics.

            Ill give that a 3.5 outta 5 ;) Not a bad ratio.
            (just kidding about the .5 for my protestant sister- shes great)

          • Michael Murray

            Blimey that was an old post :-) I've kind of given up responding here. I still lurk occasionally.

          • Delphi Psmith

            Which is the true rejection of human sexuality... sodomy, abortion, fornication, contraception, and divorce? Or is it openness to life in faithful marriage that results in abundant life?

            Why are those the only two options? How about a faithful same sex marriage that adopts otherwise unwanted children (created because their mother didn't have access to, or didn't learn about, birth control) and raises them in a loving home? How about a faithful marriage between two people who choose not to have children?

            A better question would be, "Which is more truly honoring God: taking full advantage of the scientific advances that resulted from the intelligence He gave us, to ensure that every child is a wanted child? Or ignoring those advances and condemning women essentially to biological servitude?"

            At least the Church is consistent: they're against in vitro fertilization, as well. Meaning that they're just fine telling wives who don't want children that they have to have them, and wives who desperately want children that they can't have them. Who, or what, is being honored in that scenario?

          • Paul Campbell

            Scientific advances may indeed proceed from our God-given intelligence, but that does not begin to address the question of whether those advances are being used morally. The atomic bomb may have come about through our God-given intelligence, but whether vaporizing 150,000 Japanese civilians in the blink of an eye is how God would want us to use that intelligence is another question altogether; which is to say, the right question.
            The same applies to same-sex marriage (as much a contradiction in terms as "married bachelor") and artificially sterilized marriages. Just because we can re-write civil law to undefine marriage, or surgically mutilate ourselves to evade the burden of children (strange that we call this "getting fixed" when in fact we're breaking ourselves). Just because we can, or want to, it does not follow that we should.
            As for couples that "want" children and can't "have" them and vice versa, children are not commodities to be wanted or had. All children are created by, and belong to, God, and parents are but their caretakers until they are old enough to discern their own vocations as to how they can best serve and glorify Him in their lives. So to answer your question, it is God who is indeed honored in that scenario. The fertile woman is not "condemned to biological servitude," but either thankfully receives a precious gift, or selfishly rejects it.

          • Delphi Psmith

            Simply by claiming that women must "receive [pregnancy] as a precious gift or selfishly reject it" you are, in fact, condemning women to biological slavery. We condemn puppy mills where female dogs are bred again and again and again, as often as biologically possible, until they are worn out, drained, sick. How can you possibly claim that that is a woman's appropriate fate??

          • Paul Campbell

            I don't think I ever said that a woman's appropriate fate is to be "bred again and again and again, as often as biologically possible, until they are worn out, drained, sick." I didn't even say women should receive [pregnancy] as a gift (though once pregnant, how else do you think she ought to receive it?). What I said was that women should receive FERTILITY as a precious gift, which one does not do by mutilating herself, drugging herself, or otherwise negating her fertility with artificial contraptions. A fertile woman and her husband can, of course, avoid pregnancy as circumstances dictate, by way of self-control, i.e., natural family planning.

            And to anticipate the next objection, "What's the difference between NFP and artificial contraception, since they both pursue the same outcome (avoidance of pregnancy)?" Well, your grandmother is going to die eventually... why not just kill her now? The outcome will be the same. The answer, of course, is that one outcome is achieved naturally, the other immorally. So to return to my earlier theme, the question should not simply be the achievement of a desired outcome, the question should be whether we are pursuing that outcome by moral, or immoral, means.
            (By the way, the other response to the charge that "there's no difference between NFP and artificial contraception!" is, "OK, if they're the same, then I'm sure you'll back that up by proceeding to use NFP from now on, instead of its exact interchangeable equivalent, artificial contraception."

          • Micha_Elyi

            Q. Why are those the only two options? How about a faithful same sex marriage...?--Delphi Psmith

            A. There's no such thing as a "same sex marriage". There are same sex sham marriages being attempted but they aren't marriages.

          • Delphi Psmith

            Well, that's your opinion. Other opinions differ. Until relatively recently, there was no such thing as interracial marriage either, and yet now it's widely accepted.

            More to the point, there are two types of marriage, civil and religious. The church (whichever one you ascribe to) is entitled to define religious marriage. The state is entitled to define civil marriage, If a majority of citizens have no problem with two people of the same sex entering into the legal contract known as "marriage" the church has no standing to object. Likewise, if the church (whichever one you ascribe to) chooses to decline to recognize same sex couples with the sacrament of marriage, the government has no standing to object. It is crucial to separate these two things, and given the Constitutional separate of church and state, one cannot to otherwise than recognize the difference between them.

          • Martin Sellers

            "Well, that's your opinion. Other opinions differ. Until relatively recently, there was no such thing as interracial marriage either, and yet now it's widely accepted."

            The church has never said that interracial marriages were not marriages. However, historically, there have been certain instances where individual priests have denied couples interracial marriage based on personal prejudices.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You did not address his point of civil vs religious marriage. You have no objection to his assessment?

          • Martin Sellers

            I was correcting his wrong statement- but sure, I can comment on the rest of his post...

            - I disagree- I think the church, or any body of citizens, not only has a standing to assert what they believe to be correct, but has the responsibility to let their officials know what they believe, regardless if they are in the majority or not. This is how the democratic process works.

        • fredx2

          The Catholic church continues to grow.in the US


          The churches that have women priests, etc are collapsing in on them selves.

        • Ben

          Catholics need to be ready to form a counter-culture in the West. Catholic scouting and sporting organizations, dating sites, investment in farmlands to introduce our future generations and children to the productivity of natural creation, and so forth. We must set ourselves aside, all the while intending to engage the culture. Go forth, as our Lord admonished.

          • Michael Murray

            I can't believe after all the scandals of the last 50 years you could seriously suggest that you'd want a Catholic scouting group.

            In any case you can't escape the rest of the world. The environmental devastation which is coming our way due to overpopulation will affect all farms, christian, amish, catholic, new age, organic, industrial, GM, ... whatever.

            Mind you Catholic rules on contraception and abortion are part of the reason the world is over-populated so perhaps that is fitting.

          • Ben

            Part of the reason is that sex has lost the sense of sacred in most of the population, as it has been turned into a no-strings frill fest by our societies. My fiancee's parents have used NFP for years, and as a married couple, they have engaged in the "marital act" for years, yet they only have two children.
            Society needs to mature and become more human and less animalistic. The Catholic faith supports and emboldens humanity, whereas secular culture wants to embellish our less than human animalistic tendencies. Society is better when abiding in order, not chaos.

          • Michael Murray

            So you would like a return to the good old days, Magdalene Laundries, single mothers babies removed from them, women dying in childbirth, illegal back street abortions. The Catholic Utopia. Sorry we didn't like it last time.

            The Catholic faith doesn't support and embolden humanity it wants to impose an unrealistic and unnecessary set of rules that would cause harm and suffering. But no matter suffering is a good think in Catholic theology. We can just offer it up to God.

            People having responsible sex in situations of mutual respect is not chaos. Neither mind you is people having sex by themselves.

          • Ben

            "In the Irish mind, and in the minds of everyone else who has seen or read one of the many films, plays and books about the Magdalene laundries, these were horrific institutions brimming with violence and overseen by sadistic, pervy nuns. Yet the McAleese Report found not a single incident of sexual abuse by a nun in a Magdalene laundry. Not one. Also, the vast majority of its interviewees said they were never physically punished in the laundries."


          • Michael Murray

            The small number of cases of corporal punishment reported to McAleese consisted of the kind of thing that happened in many normal schools in the 1960s, 70s and 80s: being caned on the legs or rapped on the knuckles.

            So where is your stand against moral relativism. Surely nuns knew then that such things were wrong ?

          • Ben

            The Catholic Church encourages humans to be actual sentient human beings. Not just creatures who "do it like they do it on the Animal Planet," as the modern rap culture encourages. The Church recognizes there is responsible behavior required in every act. Sex itself is not a negative deed; it is a wondrous relationship-affirming act that must be used wisely in the union of a married couple, one man and one woman. It is not only for pro-creation.

            Detroit is one of America's most secular and liberal cities for example, so they no doubt offer a fair availability of contraception and condoms. Yet it also has an 80% out of wedlock birthrate. Mature responsibility should always trumps juvenile attitudes.

          • Andre Boillot

            Please show the data on Detroit being a secular city. As for handing out birth control, I highly doubt they have the funding for that. What are you basing these claims on?

          • Michael Murray

            A random google


            suggests Detroit is about the US average on matters religious although up a small amount on Islam. Down a bit on LDS but that makes sense as the spread of LDS can't be homogeneous.

          • Andre Boillot


            I've seen that and a few other studies. I can't find the source for the data used in the Best Places report. In other reports, the methodology (such as polling congregations for their membership numbers) seems highly variable and much too subjective. I would love to hear how Ben came to his conclusion though.

          • Longshanks

            1. http://www.theatlanticcities.com/neighborhoods/2013/04/americas-most-and-least-religious-metro-areas/5180/

            2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/18/most-and-least-religious-cities_n_1522644.html#slide=993184

            3. http://rcms2010.org/compare.php

            From the data i'm seeing, Detroit is generally in the bottom half of various variables you could pick to make your case for "secular," for "liberal" I have no idea.

          • Andre Boillot

            That could well be, though even those surveys don't support the idea that Detroit is "one of America's most secular and liberal cities". I suspect it's a convenient target because of it's high wedlock birthrate. The problem is, I would imagine one would need to limit oneself to looking at Detroit's city-population of ~700k to arrive at the 80% rate. In contrast, the studies you're linking all seem to incorporate Detroit's metro areas, which more than quadruples the sample size to ~ 4 million, and drastically shifts the demographics. Ben is using one metric, measuring a population that is much poorer (thus more likely to be religious) for his birthrate stat, and then juxtaposing it with another metric which is measuring a much more affluent population (which is likely to be less religious) for his secular claim.

          • Longshanks

            The uptick on Islam makes sense to me given the compositions of Ann Arbor and some of the other areas of South East Michigan.

          • Martin Sellers

            Detroit and other cities are facing troubles because of the erosion of the tax base coupled with the rising costs of pension and other entitlement payments.

            The erosion of the tax base in Detroit has a lot to do with major manufacturing corporations leaving town and mass exodus of wealthy tax payers to the suburbs over the last 50 years.

            However, Chicago faces none (or a much smaller degree) of these problems. It has a booming job market and young wealthy people are moving back into the city in droves (gentrification and the hipster movement)- yet the tax base continues to decline and Chicago may ultimately be heading Detroit's way.

            Chicago is a very secular city. It's not implausible that secularization could be the major cause of that erosion of the tax base (large families discouraged, mass promotion of contraception, etc...)

          • Michael Murray

            Hi Martin, I'm responding for Andre B who was banned in the last purge. You can see his response to you over here.



          • Susan

            >The Catholic Church encourages humans to be actual sentient human beings

            In what sense? What do you mean by sentient and how does your church "encourage" sentience?

            >The Church recognizes there is responsible behavior required in every act.

            How do you define "responsible" behaviour? I don't agree that your church as an institution encourages "responsibility". It does encourage obedience to an authority traditionally based on superstition.
            Adam and Eve (who are mythical characters), Yahweh's insatiable desire for blood sacrifices culminating in him becoming the ultimate blood sacrifice to himself in order to save us from the big booboo committed by Adam and Eve (who never existed).

            >Detroit is one of America's most secular and liberal cities for example, so they no doubt offer a fair availability of contraception and condoms.

            Are you guessing?

            >Yet it also has an 80% out of wedlock birthrate.
            Are you suggesting that availability of contraception "and" condoms contributes to out of wedlock birthrates? Can you show causation?

          • Michael Murray

            There is also the interesting question of why birth out of wedlock is a bad thing. Good parenting doesn't require marriage it just requires a commitment to being a good parent as well as some luck in terms of financial resources and family or community support.

            Interesting graph here on the rise of out of wedlock births in Europe from 1980 to 2007.


            The biggest jumps seem to have been countries you might think of as Catholic. For example

            Latin America has the highest rates of non-marital childbearing in the world (55–74% of all children in this region are born to unmarried parents)

            Iceland has 66% of its births out of wedlock. Is it suffering from some major moral degeneration ? It doesn't seem so I thought it was actually pioneering controls on internet pornography.

          • Longshanks

            Actually, the kids are saying:

            "do it like they do on the Discovery Channel"

            Which is far worse.

          • Longshanks

            "Part of the reason is that sex has lost the sense of sacred in most of the population, as it has been turned into a no-strings frill fest by our societies. "

            The confidence with which you assert this belies the fact that the most secular countries have the lowest birthrates.

          • Longshanks

            Sooo, we're going to have a new type of Amish on our hands soon?

      • What a bizarre thing to say that the bishops own the church. The people's sweat and blood built the church. Bishops are lisping, mincing parasites.They divide the faithful, subjugate women, vilify and ostracize LBGT and aid and abet sexual predators among the clergy.

        • Delphi Psmith

          And yet, somehow, they're still in charge...

    • fredx2

      Membership in all churches that have women priests has collapsed. These churches have, for the most part, chosen suicide over growth. Eugene Robison's church has shrunk immeasurably.
      The Catholic church has grown by about 10 percent in the last ten years.
      Go take a look at the CARA site

  • Catholicism is acceptable because the sexual abuse isn't as big as in other denominations or organizations? I'm speechless. When any religion or denomination claims to have God on its side, by my standards, that all powerful God has to take full responsibility for the terrible things He lets the people in that religion get away with. Any God out there can't just take responsibility for all of the good stuff and none of the bad stuff.

    • Michael Murray

      He apparently doesn't have to take responsibility for all the other evil and suffering in His creation so what's a bit more ?

      • Now, now. Can't you unravel the logic without having to play the "problem of evil" card?

        • I think the problem of evil is at the center of the God debate. There's even a specific word for the issue: theodicy.

          • Yes, theodicy has often been cited as the deal-breaker by ex-clergy who just can't keep it from grinding away at them. When honesty can no longer be put aside, they end up at the Clergy Project.

    • Robert Chacon

      "Catholicism is acceptable because the sexual abuse isn't as big as in other denominations or organizations?" That was not her point! Simply, the author wanted to see to what extent these reports were media fiction. Yes, one case in the Church is too many! But the one thing that is already being observed is that the Bishops have not forcefully defended themselves to the reality of the situation. And that reality is this. At the time of many of the molestation cases, medical experts were advising the Bishops that they could treat the offenders and they could be "normalized" and returned to service. Furthermore, there were not reporting laws in many cases. So, following the secular experts advice in many cases, offending priests were released to offend again. Again, one case in the entire Church is too many! And, furthermore, admittedly, the Bishops failed in their responsibility! This did horrible damage to the Church, not to mention the victims. HOWEVER, God is NOT responsible! He created us with free will. And this allows us and the Bishops to do evil things! You are not let off the hook because God allows evil things to happen! That's a cheap and easy OUT!! He could have made you to be a robot that always does good, but that's NOT love. He wants us to love Him on our own free will just as we would never want a spouse who was forced to love us...we want our spouses love freely! So why would you only believe in a God that created beings that could only do good and avoid evil? That's not God, that's an android builder! God does not create the evil or even accept it. Its a product of our own free will to reject Him. And yet you reject the God who created you because He doesn't force you to love HIm or to avoid evil, while at the same time you have such disdain are completely unmerciful to those who did evil. I'm sure you want your free will, but then you disdain a merciful God who loves us so much He gave you that very same free you have used to reject HIm! Furthermore, He forgives those who do turn away and even do evil, while you seem disdainful and unmerciful towards your fellow human beings. So, it appears you want an unforgiving God whose creatures have no free will to do evil. Now, that's not a God, that's cruel slave master. Regarding the Church, the Church isn't holy because of its followers, its holy because it proclaims the truth of the Lord. And the truth of the Lord is we are sinners capable of great evil, but He gives us free will to choose to love Him and do good, great holy things. He is not responsible for our evil, only we are. He is responsible for our salvation, for knowing true and eternal love. And while there was great evil allowed to be perpetrated on innocent children by members of His Church, there are thousands upon thousands of holy and incredible saints who good and righteous ONLY due to God Almighty and HIs Grace. You can reject God by only focusing on those who have done evil on their own accord. Or, you can choose to look toward the millions upon millions of saints who do good and come accept the true love and goodness that flows from one True God. I pray you look for the goodness in the saints and not the evil in the sinners. The true God, the God of the Bible, gives you the free will to love Him whether you believe in HIm or not. But, if you choose to look for Him, He will NEVER disappoint. I dare you to seek, my friend!

      • Doug Sirman

        "...medical experts were advising the Bishops that they could treat the offenders and they could be "normalized" and returned to service."

        I challenge this. Name the "medical experts."

        That is another piece of lying propaganda put out by the Bishops and their PR functionaries. Less than 30% of offenders were ever subjected to any treatment. Over 90% of the treatment providers were, themselves, priests or ordained religious. I defy you to look through the last century of published, peer-reviewed journal articles in psychology and psychiatry and find one replicated study which asserts a cure.

        • Andre Boillot


          In fairness, if you're going to challenge somebody to cite experts, you should probably be providing citations for the statistics you're presenting.

          • Doug Sirman

            Not a problem, While I don't have them in front of me, both the original and follow-up studies by the John Jay college are the sources of these percentage citations. This is not to suggest that the JJ studies should be accepted without question. They are, after all, the ones who decided that 11 year old boys are "post-pubescent" when the current average age of onset of puberty for American boys is 12, and takes approximately 2 years to complete.

    • Erdos

      Do you typically test in the lower percentiles on reading comprehension, or is this just willful?

  • severalspeciesof

    "I didn’t believe that ordinary people could come up with a set of teachings that contained unparalleled wisdom"

    Could this be a bit more specific? What is meant by 'unparalleled' wisdom?

    • David_William

      Actually, the Stoics also have unparalleled wisdom, and many of them did not live up to their best intentions (thinking Seneca here). Also the precepts of Master Kung ring in from the East with unparalleled wisdom also. Not to mention the teachings of the Buddha.
      Perhaps "truth" is where you find it, and "proof" is that -- whatever it might be -- that convinces.
      In fact, as anyone who has studied comparative religions knows, almost all of the major faiths have similar ethics, precepts, and strictures. (ForEx, in Christianity, we have Christ, Bible, and Church, and in Buddhism we have Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. A fellow named Jeffrey Moses did an interesting book *Oneness* where he made explicit parallels.) What Karl Jaspers refered to as "Axial" religions, those whose origin/development happened around 600 BCE, are remarkably similar at the core, regardless of where on planet Earth they came from.
      Withall, I confess difficulty whenever anyone says, "God told ME to tell YOU..." As a Theist, I believe God is perfectly able to tell ME without some self-appointed intermediary. But that thought rules out almost all of the Axial religions.
      Of course, Oliver Cromwell's advice is always good -- "..think, ye may be wrong."

  • Hi Jennifer,
    If the presence of the scandals lead to an increased faith for you, would the absence of the scandals have lead to a decreased faith?

    If No, then the central claim of the article is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.
    If Yes, then there's no logical fallacy, but there is a strong appearance of having missed the forest for the trees: the scandals' biggest lesson is that there was no divine providence safeguarding the Church's holiness.

    • Randy Gritter

      "the scandals' biggest lesson is that there was no divine providence safeguarding the Church's holiness."

      The church's holiness or the holiness of ordained men? The difference is key. The church claims she is holy. It is one of her marks. She does not claim priests, bishops or even popes are always holy. Notice none of the sins involve official church teaching. Nobody is saying the doctrine is wrong or even that canon law is wrong. They are just saying certain Catholic leaders did not follow their own doctrine or obey their own laws.

      • Hi Randy,
        Prior to the scandals there was never considered to be any difference between the mystical Church's holiness and the institutional Church's holiness. The Catholic view of the Church was as a city on a hill, unable to be hid, versus the Protestant view that the Church is something secret, interior to the heart, and distinct from ecclesial institutions.

        When it appears to the world that the institutional Church (which includes the ordained men and the rest of the institution, too) is manifestly unholy, what Catholic sense can be made of the insistence that it is unobservably holy? Catholic theologians have been wrestling with this since the scandals. I don't know what their proposed solutions to the difficulty are. It's clear, though, that the balance of the evidence from the scandals favors the position that the Church is not all she claims to be.

        • Michael Murray

          I wonder which of these Churches has observer status at the UN ? Cause I'd really like to get that one out.

          • It is a strange contradiction where the political right supports the Church and hates the U.N. while insisting that the Church be part of it. What is that?

        • Randy Gritter

          Which Catholic theologians have been wrestling with this? The scandals add nothing new. Clergy have behaved badly before starting with St Peter denying Jesus 3 times. Nothing in the Catholic understanding of the holiness of the church claims this will not happen.

          • Mark Hunter

            Does this mean we should be expecting more like this from the Catholic Church?

          • David Egan

            As long as the church has power and people who want to protect it, this type of thing will happen again and again.

          • Randy Gritter

            This kind of thing? Yes. To this degree? No. That was the realization Pope Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger, came to in the late 1990's. That the church indeed did have a problem beyond the normal few bad apples and few unfair reports you would expect. There was something in the culture that needed to be fixed. That is why he fought with John Paul and other cardinals for tougher action. He was eventually put in charge of those files and when he became pope the responses did get more aggressive.

          • What was new with the scandals was rightful moral censure by the secular world of the institutional Church.

          • Randy Gritter

            Maybe to some degree. Still that is not a change in the church. That is the change in the secular world. There was a lot of moral outrage at the church for various things at various times. I don't know what level the moral censure got to. After the reformation there was certainly lots. It is hard to be precise about exactly how this can be seen as unprecedented.

      • Mark Hunter

        Not "certain Catholic leaders" but arguably most. There are very few diocese that didn't shuffle abusing priests around and not remove them from ministry or report child rape (has always been a crime) to local authorities.

        • Mark, I don't know how you could argue most. If at most 5%, and as little as 2%, of priests behaved so deplorably, then most bishops never dealt with it in their own diocese.

          If, on the other hand, you mean most who dealt with this, then from what I've been reading you're right. Just asking for a clarification.

          • Mark Hunter

            The abusing priests were in practically every diocese, not just concentrated in a few. There are practically no dioceses that are not being sued for cover-up child abusers. I honestly feel sorry for the 95% (or so) of priests who did not abuse and have to be viewed with this stigma, but I have no sympathy for the bishops who chose to cover it up.

          • I stand corrected.

          • David Egan

            "Mark, I don't know how you could argue most. If at most 5%, and as little as 2%, of priests behaved so deplorably, then most bishops never dealt with it in their own diocese."

            The John Jay study which was commissioned by the US Bishops National Review Board found that, from 1952 to 2002, "the problem was indeed widespread and affected more than 95 percent of the dioceses and approximately 60 percent of religious communities."

    • Mark Hunter

      I didn't see your post when I posted mine. I find this reasoning appalling. So much agony and tortured lives to increase the faith in a few.

    • Micha_Elyi

      If the presence of the scandals lead to an increased faith for you,
      would the absence of the scandals have lead to a decreased faith?
      --Noah Luck

      Scandals that have not happened have neither increased nor decreased her faith.

      Try again.

      • Pardon? It looks like you're denying that the scandals occurred. No one was talking about scandals-that-have-not-happened.

      • Andrew G.

        It is a necessary result of probability theory that if event E increases your belief in hypothesis H, then the event not-E must decrease your belief in H (though not by the same amount).

        (specifically, if P(E|H)/P(E|~H) is greater than one, then (1 - P(E|H))/(1 - P(E|~H)) must be less than one)

  • Mark Hunter

    "Why the Scandals Increased My Faith in the Church" It's a terrible price to be paid by children to increase the faith of some Catholics. Even the most "notorious" atheist I know wouldn't wish this harm on innocent children in order to accomplish the end of discrediting the Catholic Church.

    • mephis

      What article have you been reading? O_o I doubt Jennifer thinks that it's good that children were abused - I don't see that written anywhere. (Though I'll admit that the wording of the article could be a little clearer at some points.) Children were not abused 'to increase the faith of some catholics'. They were abused because human beings are capable of horrendeus evils. But christians believe God is capable of making a little good grow out of even the big sins we do (like killing the son of God, for example). This doesn't mean that he approves of those sins, only that he can lessen the mess that we make.

      • Mark Hunter

        Perhaps next we'll see an article on "Why abortions in Catholic Hospitals increased my faith in the Church"

        • Vicq_Ruiz

          Mark, you win the thread. My hat's off.

    • Could that not be said of atheists as well when their brethren in the Soviet Union murdered millions of Christians because of their faith, remember the 2 Million women and children raped by the members of Stalins atheist army in Prussia in 1945. I presume that those atrosities done to innocent women and children does dampen the enthuasism of the atheists.? Did the slaughter of 2996 people by Muslims in 9/11 decrese the faith of Muslims in their religion ?. Jennifer believes unlike some here, that the vast majority of Catholic both Clergy are decent people , the same as the vast majority of atheists and Muslims

    • FrancisXIII

      Yes, that is true ... while I agree that the most notorious atheist wouldn't wish such harm on innocent children ... on anyone actually ... for whatever reason, I am certain as well that the author feels the same. I doubt very much that anyone would express the desire to pay such a price for anything ... and I think that most of us do recognize that the take on it that you describe was not what was meant by the article. I do suppose such is the mystery of evil that, like other things, it may have its unintended consequences. When I was younger, being told the story of the Passion, I used to dream of being present at the crucifixion of the innocent man in order to stop heroically the evil from happening ... and I do feel a heavy sadness still when I feel the same abandonment that Jesus must have felt. Until I am told of the Resurrection and the redemption of all men that would not happen otherwise ... even the redemption of those responsible for the evil. I don't fully understand the what and why of evil. But the story of the Passion does enhance my wish to participate in the life of Christ. I presume that means it helps my faith.

  • AshleyWB

    Children were raped and the baby rapers were protected over and over again, and your main concern is how it affected your precious faith. Stunning.

  • gwen saul

    Leave it to a bourgeoisie, white American to make an argument like this, fully ignoring (in her "research") that many of the pedophile priests who were shuffled around ended up "conveniently" in poor,rural, non-White communities. In NM for instance, the Holy Servants of the Paracletes attempted to "cure" pedophile priests before sending them off...where? oh, to Pueblo and Indigenous communities, or other rural areas in the U.S.

    And then of course, there's the monstrosity of St. Michaels, a community 200 miles south of the Arctic circle where the majority of the Inuit children in the community were molested and/or raped during the 1960s and 70s.

    • "Leave it to a bourgeoisie, white American to make an argument like this" (ad hominem, also she doesn't make an argument, it's a reflection piece)

      "fully ignoring (in her "research")" (another ad hominem)

      "who were shuffled around ended up "conveniently" in poor,rural, non-White communities. In NM for instance, the Holy Servants of the Paracletes attempted to "cure" pedophile priests before sending them off...where? oh, to Pueblo and Indigenous communities, or other rural areas in the U.S." (She said shuffling was bad. Very bad. Inexcusable. Does it matter where they were shuffled to? Not at all. Appeal to emotion, a red herring.)

      And then of course, there's the monstrosity of St. Michaels, a community 200 miles south of the Arctic circle where the majority of the Inuit children in the community were molested and/or raped during the 1960s and 70s. (Again, misleading vividness (fallacy) because the whole point of this post was that the sex scandal was inexcusable.)

      Fallacy, fallacy, aaand fallacy. Nothing you said was substantial. Nothing you said moved the conversation forward. Nothing you said was productive. Everything you said was tainted with misplaced vitriol and bile.

      It's infuriating that people like this go around posing as shepherds of souls but in reality are devouring their flocks. It's heinous, evil, and one of the gravest sins I can imagine ("If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." Matthew 18:6) and it goes doubly for the bishops who shuffled them around, exposing others to these animals.

      But Jennifer neither was party to this, nor was she condoning it, she merely spoke about its effect upon her.

      • Mark Hunter

        It's good, I guess, that she was able to draw something positive from this. One presumes a different outcome if it had have happened to her or one of her children. But the real fact is that this scandal has destroyed the faith of a large number of Catholics and the silver lining in this case is just cheap tin no matter which side of the religious/atheist divide one is on.

        • Personally I agree. I just think that this forum shouldn't become the place for misdirected anger.

          • Mark Hunter

            I agree with the anger issue too. It's understandably am emotional issue but this site is not the place for that discussion.

      • gwen saul

        No, it's heinous and evil that people like yourself refuse to face the music and see the very real strategy used to cover up pedophile priests by shuttling them off to poor, rural, non-White communities.

        Only a white person of privilege fails to see that fact.

        There are oral histories in many rural New Mexican communities (Hispanic, Indians and mixed) of abusive and sketchy priests being placed in parishes and the consequences.

        Jennifer's article is ridiculous because clearly she'd already decided to join the Catholic Church and "researching" the abusive priest scandals was merely an exercise in denial.

  • There is an odd psychological property of some part of humanity that is best expressed by the statement, "I believe it *because* it is absurd!" Unfortunately, as Voltaire observed, "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities." Believing that evils are supportive of faith is just such an absurdity that did lead to those atrocities.

    • Where does that leave you then about the murder, rape and slaughter committed by atheists

      • Please don't do this here, about this. It's fundamentally different (and I don't think *wrong*, but different) to say you don't believe in god, and the actions of other atheists aren't your's to explain, than to say "I believe because it's absurd". Again, to me the latter makes sense, but its categorically different from the former.

        • Atheist heve abused children ( I have produced evidence for that in Prussia) so is there any difference between evil atheists committing child abuse and evil Catholics committing child abuse. Both must be condemmed in the strongest terms.As for covering up, in The Forest of Katkn the atheist army of Stalin murdered 20,000 Poles and tried to pin it on the Nazis. What is therefore the difference besides the covering up of some Catholics and the covering up of some atheist, are they both not evil. Are we going to damn all Muslims after 9/11 and Boston as well.

          • Yes, there is, in that what one person does to injure the body of Christ is inflicted upon all of us, both spiritually and reputationally. An atheist has no such ties to other atheists.

          • People in glass houses should not throw stones

          • I... agree? I just don't see the relevance.

      • Con, atheists make no claim that they are serving a supernatural force for good. I, and many others believe that together we can use our powers of reason to find behavior that makes this a better world to live in, but recognize that some people are going to do some bad things. That is why we have civil laws to protect vulnerable groups like children. Faith that a supernatural power would make it okay to just transfer a child rapist to another place, obstructing our civil laws, exactly shows the real world danger of absurd beliefs.

        • Where was the civil law to protect those women and children in Prussia, were they not vunerable, or the civil law to protect the innocent Polish Men in Katyn, or the Religious believers that were sent to the Gulags and never returned. And where is the civil law to protect the children in state schools that are abused according to Dr Charol Shakeshaft, Absurb beliefs you sneer, but Lenin, Stalin, Mao, had the same sneering attitude to believers as you. I fear you do not care about child abuse but you just want to have a kick at Catholics

          • Con, I don't want to kick them, I just want them to stop and think. Reading Jennifer's article, I can't help but see her as one of those unfortunates kidnapped by a cult, who through Stockholm Syndrome starts to see her criminal holders as heroes.

          • A bit hypocritical from you is it not with the criminal gangs of your atheists Government in Russia, Roamania Hungary China, Poland, and the not forgetting North Korea that was responsible for the deaths of about 100,000,000 people

          • You can't talk about atheists as a corpus! They don't act like one, they don't judge as one, and its unproductive to--

            You know what? I give up. I tried.

          • Mark Hunter

            Thanks for trying. People should never be judged collectively, I agree.

          • I'm going farther than that, in trying to point out that condemning atheists in this forum for things the USSR or DPRK does is like blaming that Catholic Church for Westboro Baptist Church stuff.

          • Mark Hunter

            Thanks again.

          • I like the website, and I like the people on it. I'd like to keep us here if I could.

          • Are you joking, The people who committed those atrosities in the USSR were atheists no more no less . Now here you surpass yourself by comparing the Catholic Church to Westboro Baptist Church. Let me enlighten you on November " members of the "sister church" of the RC Church stood outside St Stephens Catholic in New Orleans and shouted visious verbal abuse at the congregation as they were entering for the 10.30 Mass. I would suggest that some of the contributers have vey much in common with this mob of Catholic Haters

          • ...It was an argument by analogy...

          • Vicq_Ruiz


            If you would like this to be a site where only 100% loyal Catholics care to post, by all means keep up the invective and ad hominems as you have on this thread.

            Somehow I do not think that is what Brandon and the other authors here have in mind.

          • Except Catholics Mr Hunter (from the auld sod)

          • Try saying that to the women and children in Prussia.

          • Try saying what? That the people who slaughtered and abused them are different from the people I'm talking to in this forum? Ok.

          • Mark Hunter

            Okay, Okay. You've outed me. My entire house is filled with pictures of my great-great uncle Otto von Bismark.

          • Longshanks

            Look, say what you will about the Austro-Hungarian empire, Bismark had a heck of a facial-hair style.

          • Thanks, Epicus, you might be interested in a piece I wrote about how not all atheists are pro-Atheism.

          • I love reading these pieces. Thanks for pointing me to it!

          • Thanks for the reply.

          • Andre Boillot

            "your atheists Government in Russia, Roamania Hungary China, Poland, and the not forgetting North Korea"

            I didn't realize Quine was that powerful...or old.

          • Well, Andre, I have gotten used to that misconception.

          • yes you are right but they both hate Catholics

          • When raising my children I had to, from time to time, explain to them why telling me about something worse that "joey down the street" had done was not going to excuse what they had just been caught doing.

          • No the problem with you and your sneering attitude to believers is that atheists and atheism, what I have educated you today in is that atheists have committed great evils of chil;d abuse as well as Catholics. If you want to contradict me , go right ahead

          • Longshanks

            " what I have educated you today in "

  • Andre Boillot

    It's staggering that this article made the cut and is being presented here.

    First, let's just agree that the actions of a few should not tarnish entire organizations, especially with something as big as the Church. Maybe I'm being flippant, but I don't think it's as important to argue whether it was 2% or 5% of priests - though let's be clear that most of these cases involved repeated offenses of multiple children (it's better PR for the Church to cite the percentage of offenders, rather than the number of victims).

    What disgusts me is the immediate attempts to point out other organizations that have similar failings, as if this somehow exonerates the Church (which supposedly has timeless/universal truths guiding it). More to the point, as awful as the crimes are, they were not the real cause of the outrage towards the Church - it was the widespread covering up of these scandals across the world, cover-ups that almost certainly reached high up the Vatican hierarchy That this is the main grievance with the Church is almost never addressed by these sex-abuse apologists - and when it is, it's usually to point out how "liberal seminaries" paved the way for this tragedy.

    This really is a staggering attempt at defending the Church in this case, and I'm surprised that it was chosen.

    • David Egan

      With this article, it's pretty clear that the admins have abandoned their goal of presenting arguments that might convince atheists of the truth of the catholic church.

      • AshleyWB

        This is speculation, but I wonder if they don't realize the damage articles like this do. One thing I noticed growing up in a Catholic family is that an extreme defensiveness about the faith is pretty common among enthusiastic Catholics, especially converts. Every perceived slight or criticism must be challenged, especially if the Church has done wrong.

        I suspect this attitude bleeds over into evangelism until the Defense of the Holy Mother Church At All Costs becomes evangelism in their minds.

        One thing I'm certain of is that American Christians in general are really, really bad at evangelism, and they don't seem willing or able to acknowledge it. The trickle of converts they win isn't coming close to matching either the flood of people leaving their churches or the massive drop in involvement among those who remain. The usual response is to blame the culture (as if they are not part of forming that culture) rather than analyzing their own failures. This site is a good example of how doggedly Christians stick to the same old approaches that have been largely failing them for at least twenty years.

        • Vicq_Ruiz

          I've observed that as well. There is another Catholic blog I visit where the owner will get cranked up about "insults" and "attacks" on the Church when faced with even mild disagreement. Too bad, since he is an intelligent and highly articulate man the other 98% of the time. I certainly hope this site does not go down that path.

    • Mark Hunter

      Also by pointing to a study that claims that abuse in schools was 100 times higher, it makes one wonder why they would claim that abuse in Catholic Schools was so high.

      • Andre Boillot

        They're not necessarily unrelated, but the issue of the instances of abuse is separate from the issue of the cover-up. I think people understand that, even in the ranks of the Church, any organization of sufficient size will include criminals, and even sex-offenders. It's just a sad fact. However, I've never understood why everyone seeking to defend the Church in these cases tries to point at similar instances in the secular world. First, it comes off as trying to distract from what the Church is guilty of. It also usually ignores the elements of systemic cover-up, some of which went quite high up the hierarchy. Finally, the reason for the special attention given the Church by the media is at least in part due to the special place the Church gives itself in the sphere of morality.

        • The only reason I could see to bring up that fact (that other communities are plagued with this problem as well) in a productive way would be to point to cultural trends that are incredibly harmful and absolutely dangerous to our children, no matter where they are, and try to find the common denominator for this depravity (some say porn, some say video games, I don't think it's as simplistic as any of that but there it is) in churches, schools, sports teams, etc.

        • Mark Hunter

          As I posted earlier I am a volunteer and leader in a youth organization that takes child abuse prevention seriously. Committed to the organization as I am, I would not hesitate for a second about reporting any incident or suspicion of abuse I encountered.

        • Richard A Imgrund

          Because the point of the criticism is that something about being a Catholic priest 'caused' (or tended toward) that kind of immoral behavior. And when similar immorality is observed, in much higher proportions, among other populations of youth-'serving' professions, then you realize that that point is pointless.
          Or is it that the Church isn't really holy, as she teaches that she is? When you start investigating that question, you start to realize that the holiness of the Church is in the holiness of her founder, not as much of her members (although we will gladly line our saints up against anyone else's). You start thinking along the lines of the article above, mostly because you realize that the Church's definition of holiness is the best.
          What other point is to be made? That priests shouldn't sodomize teenage boys? That would be the teaching of the Catholic Church, but not the editorial position of the New York Times. Is the New York Times the official enforcer of the Catholic Church, enforcing a morality they don't believe in?

          • Andre Boillot


            No, I took exception to the idea that the Church was being unduly targeted for merely having sexual-offenders in it's ranks. The Church was criticized primarily for the way it handled these cases, and the cover-ups that ensued. Did you miss that this was my main point? Maybe the author didn't know any better, but I've seen the same tactic used by those that did - distract and diminish - point to all the other cases, stay away from all the effort at high levels to bury the crimes to avoid scandal.

            "although we will gladly line our saints up against anyone else's"

            It's too bad the Church didn't have a saint around the last few decades that could have blown the whistle on this earlier.

          • Longshanks

            It's not like JPII was good friends with the head of a private, world-wide, rich and influential army of priests and religious, who turned out to have been abusing young men, adults, his own (illegal) family and children....

            It's not like the accusations against this hypothetical head-of-religious-order and good-friend-of-the-pope first arose over 40 years ago, were hushed up, and then through accumulated weight and stench forced themselves back into the light of day....

            Oh, Fr. Marcial Maciel, how's it goin? I didn't know you read blogs. How did the saintly JPII not catch on to your shenanigans?

          • Strange behaviour I note, you are talking to yourself

          • Longshanks

            Is that strange?

            Then I stand accused and convicted :)

          • It's only because you're an atheist. Believers get off on those charges all the time.

      • Charol Shakeshaft's investigation was carried out in state schools, now are you clear

        • Mark Hunter

          Do you think Catholic Schools were any different? If so, why? Here in Canada we had the pope apologize for the abuse in them "His Holiness recalled that since the earliest days of her presence in Canada, the Church, particularly through her missionary personnel, has closely accompanied the indigenous peoples. Given the sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian Residential School system, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity."

          • I doubt they were statistically different in past decades, but I bet they're different now. At least in my diocese, the Church has implemented similar techniques to your organization (what you've alluded to in other posts), for the diocesan schools and private catholic schools as well. I've seen no such move to fix the accountability issue in public schools (again, I am only speaking to my area of the world).

            The only "silver lining" to come out of this scandal as far as I am concerned is it shook the Church to it's core, and the Church is working to make sure this doesn't happen again.

          • Mark Hunter

            I hope so. And if the bishops stray from the law one iota, jail them. I'm not normally this vindictive but when it comes to adults abusing children, all niceties are gone.

          • Is it only Bishops should be jailed or would those teachers in public schools get a pass, but they may be athesits so would you excuse that?

          • Andre Boillot


            Yeah, in the mind of atheists, only believers are to be held morally and criminally accountable. You nailed it.

          • *Facepalm*

          • Mark Hunter

            What do you honestly think?

          • Anyone one who abuses children and covers up the same should be punished according,I presume you dissagree but i believe that it should happen to atheists as well as Catholic child abusers. On another point you seem silent on the abuse meted out by your Colonial ancesters to the native people in Canada. We in Ireland know well enough about these things for we suffered at the hands of the same people

          • A Tu Quoque is not the proper response in this forum, especially when the "tu" is someone who's been dead for hundreds of years...

          • Mark Hunter

            I am part native (Mi'kmaq) and I know very well about the abuses. (The other part of me is Irish)

          • Who are trying to kid, Hunter is an English name not an Irish one, I know about the British abuses of the native peoples, or are you going to deny that happened either.

          • Mark Hunter

            Actually the English in Canada were relatively good to the native peoples. South of the border, not as much. It was the Natives who stood by the British in the War of 1812 and are to a large part responsible for Canada not being an American state.

          • Yea they were they just stole their land and raped their women and starved them like they did in Ireland and I like the word relatively

          • Shoukld atheist Child abusers be jailed or only Catholic. I know none of the monsters in Prussia were not punished and they were atheists, any comment

          • Mark Hunter

            I think you know the answer.

          • I do not, enlighten me

          • Longshanks

            Do you want to move to the topic "Abuse of Indigenous Peoples" while trying to defend the Catholic Church?

          • Mr Hunter brought up the abuse of indigenous people and where did I defend the Catholic Church, an answer would be welcome

          • Longshanks

            You are correct, I apologize. The flat nature of disqus comments past a given tree-depth makes quick browsing of comment/responses confusing to me, at times. I will live my comment in for context, but consider it answered.

          • You might alsoexplain to me about the suffering of indigenous peoples caused by you British Colonial Ancestors. The rapes and abuses suffered at the hands of your beloved redcoats and the stealing of their land. Maybe you should read The Essay Colonisation and Racism By Dr Emma LeRocque. I am delighted that the Pope apoligised for the abuse caused to children by some members of the Catholic, but it was not the Catholic Church that stole the land from those people. Now let me repeat again Dr Shakeshafy's investigation was about child abuse in public schools, are you clear on that.

    • Vuyo

      I'm an evangelical but even I think it's a little disingenuous of you to write that this article is trying to exonerate the catholic church. Pointing out that other organizations have similar failings is to point out that it is a human failing not a Catholic one. Also many believe that if priests were allowed to marry, then this would decrease the incidences of abuse. Again the point that other organizations that have married clergy, coaches, teachers etc is brought up to counter that belief. That's all. You know full well that Jennifer is not attempting to reason away the horror that is child abuse. Let's be honest here.

      • Andre Boillot


        I've read countless articles by Catholics in response to the Church sex-abuse scandal. You know what they all start with? 'Look at how bad everyone else is!' Usually followed by, 'Look at how mean the media was to the Church!" This is an attempt to distract/diminish what happened. She goes on for half the article about all the instances of sex-abuse in public schools her "research" turned up. Apparently she didn't find much to critique the Church on besides:

        "certainly the cover-ups by members of the hierarchy were deplorable"

        "it’s an unfortunate fact of human nature—and not something unique within the Church—that people in hierarchy tend to look the other way when it comes to bad conduct by the people who report to them"

        It's also not comparing apples/apples. This is the Church we're talking about. An institution that prides itself in being the unwavering, timeless, universal champion of truth and goodness. These cover-ups were perpetrated by high-ranking officials who, especially before the scandal came to light, were paying millions of dollars to silence hundreds of victims. Men who were supposed to be paragons of virtue and holiness, not mere bureaucrats in a public school system. These men knowingly covered up the crimes of their subordinates, and put more children at risk to avoid the possibility of scandal.

        I'm sure she's not trying to reason away the horror of child abuse, it's the reasoning away of what the core of the scandal was that annoys me.

    • Dcn Harbey Santiago


      I have to agree with you. This been a site for dialog between Atheists and Catholics, for the life of me, I can not understand what this article can add to this discussion.

      We could talk about percentages, human weakness, legal technicalities and the efforts the Church has been undertaking so this never happens again until the Second Coming and you know what? It means nothing for those who were hurt by these actions. I think is time for us Catholics to admit that we failed those who were most vulnerable within our mists, the ones we were supposed to protect and that some day, we will have to give God an account for our actions (Regardless if we get to answer for these in this life or not).

      I personally believe that when confronted with the sexual abuse of young people by clergy and the subsequent cover up, the only acceptable response by ANY Catholic (lay person or clergy) should be to humbly ask for forgiveness and to promise (and work very hard) so that this never happens again.

      "Viva Cristo Rey!!"

      Deacon Harbey Santiago

      • Mark Hunter

        I agree. Although I would add that when confronted by sexual abuse and cover-up the perpetrators should be prosecuted to the full extend of the law. And especially the cover-up as that allowed abusing priests to keep on raping. And if the RCC is to take this seriously, civil suits and payments are one thing, but jailing bishops who covered up will really prevent this from happening again.

      • Andre Boillot

        Deacon Santiago,

        Thanks for your words. Like I said, I would never think of holding the entire Church (or any organization) responsible for the actions of a small fraction of their members - that would be terribly unfair. I've just grown tired of the seeming attempts to distract or diminish the gravity of the cover-up. Even here, I blame only the hierarchy (which is itself another small-fraction), and reserve contempt for those who wish to downplay their crimes.

    • Randy Gritter

      It is something that gets brought up a lot. We need to discuss it. We don't need to let all our other discussions be sidetracked by it. Now that there is a place to bring all the scandal-related questions it is easier to rule sex-scandal discussion out of bounds on other threads.

      • Andre Boillot

        I'm all for discussing it, I just couldn't believe this was the article they chose for it. To the extent that it's possible, I've seen much better defenses of the Church on this issue than this. It's, at best, quite a strange conversion story. At worst, it's the same sort of distraction/diversion I've grown accustomed to seeing.

  • stanz2reason

    Here's the difference, if it weren't obvious. If there are accusations of abuse, true or untrue made at, say the Department of Sanitation or a local restaurant, neither of these organizations claim some sort of divine moral authority.

    The catholic church is held to a higher standard because they claim a higher standard. And this might be news to you, but when a small part of an organization does something bad, it reflects poorly (fairly or not) on everyone. If a police officer commits a crime its worse due to their position in society and it reflects badly to some degree on all officers. Ditto to teacher who have sexual relations with their underage students. Was all the media coverage fair? Probably not, but don't blame this on the press. Was every priest guilty of what they were accused of? Probably not, but attempts to hide behind this reek of not accepting responsibility for those that did.

  • So if the flawed and sinful nature of those who make up the church strengthens your faith, does that mean that if the church were full of righteous people throughout all of history and no sex abuse scandal occurred, then you would have less faith?

    Somehow I doubt it. This sounds like a way to make a situation, and it's negation, both count as evidence for the truth of your beliefs.

    • On a related note, it seems strange to present evidence yourself that the rates of child abuse in the church are indistinguishable from those in other organizations, and yet the church is uniquely guided and powered by God.

      This looks to me like clear evidence that the church is powered by humans.

      • Randy Gritter

        We believe the church is run by humans that have access to special graces. They may or may not cooperate with those graces. In matters of church governance their cooperation is needed. In matters of church teaching there are rare cases where infallibility kicks in regardless of cooperation. In matters of sacraments the cooperation of the ordained minister is irrelevant. So we a guaranteed some holiness but we have the potential for much more.

  • Mark Hunter

    To claim that sexual abuse is 100 times more prevalent by teachers than by Catholic priests is to raise the question of why aren't schools and schools boards being sued 100 times more than the RCC is? If there's one thing we should agree on is that lawyers give no quarter to schools just because they are public. If there's a good law suit ....

    • They are the facts as presented by Dr Shakeshaft, I know it does not suit your agenda and maybe there arec 100 times more schools sued than Catholic churches

      • Mark Hunter

        And maybe the media is covering it up as thousands of school boards are bankrupted by law suits.

        • They covered the activities of the murderer Gosnell, I suppose he was Catholic as well was he?

          • Longshanks

            There is no hierarchy to "the media." You and I are a part of it right now, contributing to the public discourse.

            There are in-finite, without number, limitless ways for journalists and media-outlets to fail, individually and collectively. You don't need a top-down order for them to suck.


            Your last pope made it a crime punishable by excommunication for his organization to discuss these things with the authorities.

            You should re-read that last line about fifty times until it sinks in, I know you won't, but one can hope.

          • Do you have a link for that?

          • Mark Hunter

            I think Longshanks is referring to Crimine solicitationies butr that was by Pope John XXIII ( see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/aug/17/religion.childprotection) and a pdf of the document ( http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Observer/documents/2003/08/16/Criminales.pdf )

          • I can always count on you Mark. I'll read it now.

          • This has to do with the Ecclesiastical crime of solicitation, or tempting to indecency during Confession (and only during Confession). It isn't meant to address sex-abuse at-large, and especially not child-sex cases.

            In fact, the solicitation law was in effect not to protect children (as it was unthinkable at the time, I presume) but was meant to protect adults going to confession. Solicitation, when not with a child (again, the crime of solicitation was never meant to apply to children because pedophilia is a crime in most countries), would not be a crime under the civil statutes of most countries.

            Again, I'm the last person to claim the Church handled the abuse cases properly, but I would say it's far more likely that they were a) unprepared and b) ignorant as to just how widespread it was. Rather, the Church as a whole and at the head was. The Bishops, on the other hand, still have most everything to answer for.

          • Longshanks


            In my haste I misspoke, and that's on me.

            He does not lay out excommunication as a punishment for talking to authorities.

            He only calls these investigations subject to the pontifical secret, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontifical_secret#Sanctions_for_violation, which doesn't NECESSARILY mandate excommunication if broken.

            He also goes the pains of starting the statute-of-limitations clock running on a 10 year countdown after the victims 18th birthday. After that, no dice.

          • Longshanks, that website is far from being objective. The fact that they have received multiple requests to take down the names of priests who were accused and then the accusations were withdrawn shows to me that they're not after accountability, they're after blood, and it doesn't matter who's.

            Not that I think you were using it as such, I'm just pointing out a bias.

            Also, that makes the statute of limitations longer, not shorter, so I'm confused why you say that triumphantly? The statute of limitations for all delicts (abuses of the sacraments) is a set thing. Isn't that how laws work?

          • Longshanks

            As to the nature of the webpage hosts, I have no comment, other than to indicate that this article http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0325.htm#001 uses that same URL as the english-language translation of the original document which was apparently in a publication called Origins, of which I know nothing.

            Origins 31:32, January 24, 2001.

            As to who's after what, why and how? I don't care. Information is pure, in my view. If they're the only ones hosting that particular document, I have no other choice. If the document is real, then what it contains is all I care about. It seems, at first glance, to be real.

            That the statute of limitations was INCREASED to 10 years is not a distinction I thought worth making. It is ONLY 10 years. There should be no statue of limitations on bringing accusations of child abuse to light. The nature of the offense/offender relationship makes these incredibly difficult to divulge in a *timely* fashion.

            In a properly observant Catholic child, there should be no one more trusted than the priest/pastor, the man standing in-persona-christi, the man to whom you must tell all your darkest and most intimate sins and self-loathings, the man who brings God down from the sky into a wafer every week or every day. Your parents trust him. Your grandparents trust him. Your other relatives, your friends, their parents, your neighbors, the police...everyone trusts the priest.

            Or they did.

            If you get chosen for special attention, to stay late after catechism to talk after serving mass, or god forbid if you're a deaf kid with parents who don't sign...who's going to listen? Who's going to believe you?

            Apart from the normal, and utterly terrible, prices victims of child abuse pay in terms of self-doubt, loathing, fear and shame...you have to add complete isolation. The man who brings god down into the wafers abused you?

            How are you ever going to live down being the kid that accuses him?

            There should be no statute of limitations.

          • The statute of limitations does not preclude pursuit by authorities of the country it occurred in, nor should it. As I've said many times, this is the most heinous thing I've ever heard about happening.

            What I am saying is that to claim this goes "all the way to the top" is misguided, I think. What bishop would tell the Vatican that priests are abusing children in his parish? And when it did come out that this was systemic, the Church acted systemically.

            I'm not saying give credit to the foul priests or enabling bishops. I'm just hoping the anger is directed appropriately, and not used as a means to "squash the Church" (not that I think you are). Fix the Church, make the Church that place where you trust your priests, yes. Use it for that. Don't villainize the Church, though, because a selection of them behaved disgustingly.

  • Dave

    In other words, Jennifer, you agree with Hilaire Belloc, who stated almost 100 years ago that the Catholic Church is "an institute run with such knavish imbecility that if it were not the work of God it would not last a fortnight."

  • The Catholic Church claims that the pope, in communion with the bishops, is infallible in matters of faith and morals.  It claims that the institutional church is the true church founded by Jesus Christ and his apostles, and that this church is guided by the Holy Spirit in matters of truth.  While the Catholic Church doesn't claim to be sinless, it does claim to be an authority on moral questions, such as the nature of sin.  Likewise, obedience to one's bishop has long been regarded as a virtue among faithful Catholics because the Bishop is a representative of Christ, himself.

    But when a Bishop protects a pedophile and the institutional church above its children, they are essentially saying "do as I say, not as I do."  One cannot help but wonder why such an institution should have a cliam to moral authority. This is about an entire hierarchy, including the pope, protecting themselves at the expense of the most vulnerable.  It is only natural for a person to wonder about the other lies a liar is telling--lies about morals, lies about the supernatural, lies about the magic of the sacraments?  This is not Donatism.  If the whole thing is a lie, sacraments do not matter. I can't help but wonder how one can hold to a general suspicion of one's leaders' personal moral lives without being suspicious of the leaders' teachings.  It takes a great feat of mental gymnastics and quite a bit of cognitive dissonance to be comfortable in such a world. This is another example of how the Catholic Church affirms philosophical/theological ideas above the real physical world -- a world containing people harmed by the cover-up and people who in every other aspect of their lives would question the moral authority of someone who they found complicit in a child abuse scandal.

    • If you're not on this site to have a conversation, but just to make your loud proclamations that have been made and covered several times in the 125+ comments on this piece, I honestly don't know why you're here. Go write a blog post, most of us are having a back and forth. Join in, or don't, but at least read the conversation already going on before repeating everything.

      • Sorry for having a life and not having time to read the 100 plus comments before my young children got up from their nap. Sorty for being too poor to afford a new computet and having to carefully pick out my coments on a tablet. I did keep a blog at one point, which you can find by clicking on my profile. The mods can move or delete my comment if they like. Now I remember why I stopped trying to discuss t hesr yjings on the internet. My perspective isn't welcome, and it's too time consuming to keep up using s poor person's technology. I'll go back to doing better things with my limited and precious free time.

        • Michael Murray

          Ignore the complaints Kacy unless the come from the guy moderating the site. Personally I think the truth is always worth repeating. Not your fault some people don't like hearing it.

      • And niw that i have read all the comments, I don't even see where the same issue is addressed. No one else mentioned that hearing a lie from the Catholic heirarchy, and a big one like the sex scandals could cause a faithful Catholic to wonder if the Church was telling other falsehoods. While I didn't leave the Catholic Church because if the cover-up scandal, it did lead me to question other things the Catholic Church said, going as deep as very core doctrines. If someone else made such a point, please point me to it.

    • Well, Kacy, the power of cognitive dissonance never fails to impress (and frighten) me.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    Hey Jennifer,

    Are you following this thread? Do you realize that you've rolled a hand grenade down the meeting house aisle? How about a response??

  • fats

    Not true, in the 50's and 60's i remember the attitude of such "experts" as Playboy , pretty much gave tacit agreement to the "anything goes" philosophy, and at the time, allowed such organizations such as NAMBLA to air their views without opposition.

    • Mark Hunter

      Maybe, but it was still illegal ad needed to be reported.to police.

      • fats

        I remember reading one of the accounts where the police sent the parents complaining, back to the Church for resolution.

    • Michael Murray

      Surely the RCC, holder of eternal moral truths, new this paedophilia was and always had been evil and was not swayed by Playboy ? Or is it perhaps, forgive my cynicism, that the only eternal truth the RCC believes in is survival of the Church.

      • Mark Hunter

        They may be swayed by Playboy but they should be Repenthouse.

      • fats

        I was Atheist when i read that stuff, and didnt you buy Playboy for the articles?

  • fats

    and the prevailing "scientific" viewpoint was that pedophilia was curable, and treatment was the major option, both inside and outsid ethe Church

    • Mark Hunter

      Yes, but rape was still a crime and needed to be reported to authorities.

  • fats

    Any person looking for the Catholic Church to be perfect as far as her people are concerned ( including Cardinals and Popes) , has forgotten Christ's words about the "wheat and tares" in His Church. We will be judged as individuals by Him, and based on what the Church teaches and has been handed down from Christ to the Apostles to us, I find that she is consistant.

  • ponerology

    Life of 'atheism' until 2005? Just in time.

  • Bob S. in Benson

    I've read the entire list of comments (as of 1145 PM EST18 May). Lots of interesting mini-discussions; felt it best to jump into the pool at the spot I stopped reading. I heard about the site and, being new to the whole discussion, wanted to join in and learn in the process. Seems the author's point was simply that a human institution which had terrible people doing terrible things should / ought to had faded away quickly. On the face of it, it couldn't sustain itself with such a reputation. It could, if it was only human (but falsely claimed divine inspiration and authority), prey on the "superstition" of ignorant people but, if it were really only human, that charade would eventually implode. Yet, yet...here the Catholic Church is, 2,000 years after being founded by Jesus, still standing filled with sinners and saints. And that is the question - why is it still here if it is only a human invention with terrible people doing terrible things? I'm not denying the terrible things - like everyone else in this thread, the acts and the cover up sicken me. And that seems the author's point: such things should tear down the facade, house of cards. Instead, sinful people are slowly (much too slowly) being held accountable, protections for children are being implemented to such a degree that, remarkably, the Catholic Church is in some small, faltering ways an example of how to (finally) implement training and procedures which face up to terrible events in its midst. The question then of the article isn't why it happened (that is vital to resolve) but instead why is this group still around after 2,000 years...and there seems to be a valid point that only something with a supernatural explanation could continue to exist given what has happened...

    • Michael Murray

      But the recent problems are recent. You wouldn't expect them to immediately destroy the Church. So there is no real argument there. As for the longer term survival it is clear that religion exerts a hold on people and it is clear that the Catholic Church has always been good at political survival. These two things together I find completely adequate to explain it continuing to exist today.

      • Bob S. in Benson

        Hi Michael - Bob Soucy here. Are those two things you state really completely adequate to explain 2,000 years of existence? The Catholic Church lives solely on human energy, wit, political connivance, and power only? The Roman Empire is gone as is the British and the American experiment seems on death's door step...they are gone (or soon will be) despite the best efforts of many but the Catholic Church continues to drive on using human effort alone. Are human beings really that gullible with no ability to discern right from wrong? Wouldn't such an entity solely reliant on corruptible human beings be gone by now?

        • Michael Murray

          Hi Bob. Yes that's my contention. Of course as an atheist and materialist evidence for anything supernatural has a high barrier in my mind to surmount. I would also throw some luck into that mix because I think some sort of religion was bound to exist given humans are the way they are. So my response is a bit like the anthropomorphic response to fine tuning. Given we are here we would almost certainly be seeing a world in which there were some large religions. So any of them could argue "look at me I survived".

          I would also note that the Catholic Church has splintered dramatically over the two millennia. So it is not entirely clear what survival means. That is entirely what I would expect from a human run institution. We know that if you put two humans in a room they can almost always find three opinions on any topic.

          Re the US and UK empires. It is also true that the Catholic Church as a political power is not what it once was. So maybe this is not a good comparison.

          • Bob S. in Benson

            Thanks Michael for the clarifications. First, nicely put: "...if you put two humans in a room they can almost always find three opinions on any topic."! Now, onward we go. I take it then that you see nothing distinctive about the Catholic Church, that it is the expected result of luck and the human condition needing some sort of large religion ("bound to exist given humans are they way they are"). It has also certainly splintered but that isn't new. Jesus asked his followers, after teaching about the Eucharist, if they, like many others, would also leave him. He didn't change his teachings to conform to public opinion and there is a remarkable consistency from now back to then in the core message of the Catholic Church. This is what Jennifer found remarkable. It if is phony, I can see some scam lasting two, twenty, maybe even two hundred years - but two thousand years with a consistent core message that Jesus is Lord? The political power of the Church wasn't the primary founding theme. Sure, it came along later but spreading the life-changing message of Jesus was and is its reason for being.

    • Mark Hunter

      Also why did the Church with access to timeless morality require secular, civil society to finally get it to change its ways? Do you honestly think the Church would have reformed itself on its own. If it would have why didn't it do it 50,100 years ago?
      And as to the Church surviving, in Quebec in one generation during the quiet revolution the Church went from 80 to 90 percent attendance to 10 to 20 percent. Similar things are happening elsewhere in the West, Rest assured however, the Church won't disappear, it will just in the West become smaller and marginalized.

      • Unlike you fellow atheist in the Eastern Europe which withered away around 1990 the Church for all its faults is still there. Secular Civil Society took years to bring Gosnell to justice and the media then failed to cover the story, planned parenthoodwill not be brought to justice by secular civil society. Secular civil never brought any of the juntas run by your atheist brethren to justice, Secular Civil has not rooted out the widespread child abuse in public schools in America has it, remember the passing of child abusing teacher from one district which is called, pass the trash. In fact secular civil society has failed Secular Civil Society has failed the native people of Canada first stealing their land , then by raping and abusing them and now by I note that the nativ people have far less chance of going to university and surrer more poverty that you and you comfortable class. Far bigger abusers than any Catholic Church were your British Colonial ancesters who murdered, elslaved and deatroyed millions, so when you can confront that maybe you can talk about child abuse in the Catholic Church

      • Bob S. in Benson

        Good morning Mark! Sorry for the delay in replying - just got back from Mass. I don't know why Jesus founded the Catholic Church and chose flawed human beings to be instruments of the plan for salvation. I've seen that when people adhere to Jesus' teachings (Love God and their fellow man, to lay down one's life for others, etc.) that life unfolds differently than when they are selfish and power hungry. Strangely, that fundamental choice is faced each day: to give or to take. Conversion is a daily event. I don't know how recent events might have unfolded; I only know how they are unfolding and the media has been part of the needed cure. I travel around the world a lot, not too much to Africa but Europe and Asia. The Catholic ("Universal") Church ebbs and flows, shrinks and grows, depending on many factors but mostly, it seems, in relation to how closely Catholics truly follow Jesus. Many Catholics in the West have betrayed Jesus and bought into the secular culture. But betrayal isn't new: it was there at the beginning of the Church. Judas gained his infamy, Peter denied Jesus and the others fled in fear. Yet, yet...the Catholic Church is still here - and I don't think it did so out of any cleverness or instinct for "political survival". Challenging Rome by calling Jesus "Lord" wasn't politically smart...but it reflected what the early Christians knew as true.

    • Andre Boillot


      I'm curious as to whether this '2000 years and going strong!' argument applies to other faiths? Do Hinduism and Buddhism seem equally impressive by comparison? Islam is *only* 1,400 years old, so I understand why they're less impressive.

      Are you at all concerned that the period of time you're holding as evidence of divine support represents a mere fraction (< 2%) of our existence on Earth?

      • Bob S. in Benson

        Andre: Just getting home from work; sorry for the "silence"! I don't have much time and am afraid to devolve into a comparative religions sub thread. My comments were an attempt to address the angst of those like B

  • Delphi Psmith

    ...certainly the cover-ups by members of the hierarchy were
    deplorable, but my research led me to see that that was common in all
    organizations, not just the Church...

    Your point being?

    The enormous, and very important, difference is that Little League coaches don't hold themselves up as arbiters of God's will.

    I can see that you might argue that the scandals did not
    deter you from becoming Catholic, but to say that
    theystrengthened your faith seems incomprehensible.

    • Bob S. in Benson

      Hi Delphi! I just reread Jennifer's article (after going through the whole thread of comments as her message got lost in the midst of the other reflections). Does it help if I take a liberty and try to interpret a piece of her thoughts, namely, that her faith in the "supernatural nature" of the Catholic Church was strengthened? She, like all normal people, was appalled by what happened. If those people doing those sick actions were all that sustained the Church, how does it survive now? How has it survived 2,000 years? Her point seems to be only something beyond the power of human beings sustains its existence. This period of scandal and abuse is, unfortunately, not unique. I'm reading about the 1300's and the Papacy in Avignon and the role of Catherine of Siena (d. 1380). Scandal and abuse plagued those times as well but, as evidence by Catherine's actions, saints were also at work then as they are now. God's Holy Spirit, then as now, renews those who turn from their sin, seek God, and respond to a call for holiness, a call lived out in small, faltering steps each day.

  • DavebyC

    The author states ...."The Catholic Church has claimed all along that this is an institution “powered by” God, so to speak. It was founded by Jesus Christ, not humans, and a divine Force continues to guide it to this day."

    This isn't true. There's no indication that Jesus, assuming he existed, had and desire to found a new church. At the most he wanted to reform the Judaism of that time. The Christian Church, as such, was founded by Paul.

    As for any empowerment by a divine being, it's strange that such a being should allow widespread child poverty, children born with debilitating congenital illnesses... never mind the far less worrying effect of a few predatory priests. And before anyone brings up "original sin" ... sorry I just don't buy into that cop-out.

    • Bob S. in Benson

      Hello DavebyC! I apologize up front. My posting "ID" shows Bob S. and I just read the posting rules and they require actual names: mine is Bob Soucy. To your points:

      1. I've read some Church history and think it is fair to point out your position is an "outlier" view; what I've read (and admittedly it is not extensive although I do have a history degree) seems to indicate the majority of historian's say Jesus was a real historical figure.

      2. History again seems to contradict your view that Jesus didn't found a new Church. Those known as the "Church Fathers," who were closest in time to Jesus, not just Paul, wrote as if Jesus meant for a particular group to continue his work and to spread his Gospel.

      3. I've got the same question about the children - but that gets into the mystery of sin and evil and human free will and responsibility. Those certainly are tangential to this discussion (and important to talk about) but not the primary focus of her article, right?

      • DavebyC

        Bob, I know it's off topic but ....

        1) Josephus? Many historians think this reference may have been 'edited'. No other contemporary non biblical references.

        2) "Paul wrote as if Jesus meant ..." But Jesus DIDN'T found a church did he?! By the way Paul doesn't even mention an empty tomb! So much for the resurrection and the 'Holy Trinity' was decided by committee at Nicaea!

        3) You're right. no miracles today! No proven power of prayer! Seems like no God to me!

    • Ben

      Council of Jerusalem in the Book of Acts, Chapter 15

  • Brian Pansky

    this article is just gross. "the Scandals Increased My Faith in the Church" is exactly what is wrong with you, it's not a selling point.

  • articulett

    I wonder how many peoples' faith increased because of the Inquisition?

    How much does Muslim faith increase when one of their faithful dies for their faith- like the 9-11 hijackers?

  • fats

    according to henry kamen ( the spanish Inquisition) , most people accused of crime, preferred the inquisitorial courts vs the governmental courts, because they felt they could get a fair trial) . Henry is not Catholic, in case you wondered.

  • Seeing the truth takes a lot of humility. Thanks for this article! :)

  • Michael Murray
  • skepticker

    The problem with all of the scandal in the Church has nothing to do with the numbers involved - it has to do with the doctrine of obedience. Would you instruct your child to do anything a priest tells that child to do outside of the confessional, for example, "See me in the sacristy for your penance." A child doesn't have discernment, and if you can't trust your child with a priest until you've evaluated the priest, then the doctrine is ridiculous. You simply can't, a priori, "obey" the hierarchy. If you can't trust them with children, why trust them at all? Why does the Holy Spirit call such people to the priesthood in the first place? Sorry, I just don't buy this junk anymore.

  • Sandy Zaragoza

    Wtf-were you born yesterday or just stupid? Sexual abuse is just that and who cares what the stats are and what context. The Catholics are freaks... And I can say that after attending a parochial school from grades 1-12 from 1968-1980. They are full of condradictions, hypocrisy , lies and deceit. Wake up it 2016 get your head out of your ass!!

  • Jim

    I have often wondered just how many altar boys a priest has to molest to qualify for Pope.

    Any ideas?

  • Edmund Jones

    Even if the abuse statistics are the same for Catholic priests as in the rest of society that is of little comfort. The duty and calling of a priest surely is at least as comparable to a doctor and the courts take that duty of care into consideration when sentencing members of the medical profession.
    The scandal in the Catholic Church is the leniency shown to the perpetrators of abuse which is fortunately now being addressed.

    • Mark

      The abuse statistic are not the same. In fact, according to a different scholastic article Shakeshaft produced while at Hofstra, it is about 100 times more likely your child is abused by a public school employee.


      Also I don't want to add discomfort to your paradigm, but medical professionals are not as accountable as you believe. While cases like Larry Nasser are uncommon in the news, it is thought that as few as 1 percent of sexual misconduct and violation of doctor patient relationship are reported. Most of the time the reporting results in inquiry and temporary license revocation and if there is credibility the doctor or therapist go into treatment and get their license back with some restrictions to how they practice (i.e. have to have a nurse present)



      The problem with all these scenarios (clergy or other professions) is that the employers and the professionals are supposed to self report have an obvious conflict of interest. Civil courts are a joke, it really isn't about truth per see, it's about two people's story and who is most credible, high priced lawyers, BS and big $. As a licensed professional I understand the conflict, but I also understand how unsubstantiated accusations by mentally unhealthy individuals can ruin a person's career. We are guilty until proven innocent.

      • Edmund Jones

        I also understand how unsubstantiated accusations by mentally unhealthy individuals can ruin a person's career. We are guilty until proven innocent.

        Of course one would have to agree with your above statement, however there is something of a "Catch 22" therein as sexual abuse from a trusted professional can lead to psychological problems or as you put it rather bluntly "mentally unhealthy individuals"

        • Mark

          Agreed. And the situation is worsened by abuse victims' reliability of recall of pertinent facts to a situation as displayed with Dr. Ford last fall in the SCOTUS hearings.

          One thing everyone should agree with is that we need better and more unified reporting systems, better research, and better protections for victims of abuse. I, like you, realize there is not much recourse for victims of accusation, it sort of comes with the badge.