Today, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the largest in America, announced it will pay $660 million USD — $1.3 million USD per child abuse claim — to settle lawsuits filed by 508 victims.
For four years the lawsuit has dragged along the court system and, interesting enough, just two days before Cardinal Rogery Mahony — seen below — would have been required to testify under oath in court trial, the settlement was announced.


The Catholic Church in America has now paid out over $2 billion USD to victims of child abuse at the hands of its priests.

Cardinal Mahony said that $250 million of the settlement
would be paid by the archdiocese, $227 million by insurers and $60
million by religious orders whose priests and brothers perpetrated some
of the abuse. He said the remainder, $123 million, would come from
“other sources,” including religious orders “not yet participating” in
the settlement.

In previous settlements, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had already
promised $114 million, bringing its total to about $774 million in
settlements. Cardinal Mahony said that to pay for the settlements, the
archdiocese would sell some properties, liquidate some investments and
borrow money. He said he would not need to end any core functions or to
sell any parish properties or schools.

What caused this incredible rift between the sacred oaths priests are
required to take and the children they were required to teach and
shelter and not harm?

The settlement is the largest ever
by a Roman Catholic diocese since the clergy sexual abuse scandal
erupted in Boston in 2002. The largest payout so far has been by the
Diocese of Orange, Calif., in 2004, for $100 million.
Facing a flood of abuse claims, five dioceses – Tucson, Ariz.; Spokane,
Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Davenport, Iowa, and San Diego – sought
bankruptcy protection.
T

he Los Angeles archdiocese, its insurers and various Roman Catholic
orders have paid more than $114 million to settle 86 claims so far. The
largest of those came in December, when the archdiocese reached a $60
million settlement with 45 people whose claims dated from before the
mid-1950s and after 1987 – periods when it had little or no sexual
abuse insurance.
Several religious orders in California have also reached
multimillion-dollar settlements in recent months, including the
Carmelites, the Franciscans and the Jesuits.
However, more than 500 other lawsuits against the archdiocese had
remained unresolved despite years of legal wrangling. Most of the
outstanding lawsuits were generated by a 2002 state law that revoked
for one year the statute of limitations for reporting sexual abuse.

Should the vow of celibacy be recanted in the Catholic Church?
Does repressed sexual expression find other, more evil ways, of seeping
out of the body to maim and mark innocent children who are taught to
admire religious authority and not question to motives of God in man?
How can we prevent this sort of child molestation in the Catholic
Church?

No one can claim a sexual relationship with a child is appropriate
under any condition, yet the reality of the priest molestations prove
the opposite condition and the shattering of our most sacred covenant.

35 Comments

  1. Hi David,
    I suspect that we’ll rules change to allow married priests as an effort to prevent future problems and to aid in recruiting new American priests who are currently in short supply. With many older priests retiring, sometimes it seems that the current shortage means that many priests are being brought into the American church from overseas.
    The Church has all sorts of programs designed to prevent these incidents in the future. In fact, on the top of my diocese’ website, there are several links dealing with this issue right near the links for the parishes, hospitals, cemeteries, etc. One of the documents has the telephone numbers for various police departments where crimes are to be reported. There are also mandatory training programs that deal with the issue.

  2. Hi Chris —
    I am glad to hear married priests might be an option for the future. The church certainly seems to need to make some wholesale changes to salvage their image and necessary role in society.
    I realize having married priests doesn’t mean sexual child abuse won’t happen, but married priests will more likely be grounded in traditional sexual relationships between men and women.
    Perhaps then they might be better able to understand that important dyad and counsel with experience and not wondering as well as, perhaps, better knowing and cherishing the relationships they have with children who are not their own but who may share the same fears and dreams as their own children.
    I’m not convinced that training and counseling and awareness are enough to deal with the repressed sexual expression that celibacy commands. It is unnatural in that the experience of sexual ecstasy is a spiritual exchange alone — and the priest abuse scandal appears to prove a change is required because the body’s yearnings are powerful urges that cannot easily be controlled.
    Do you know the percentage of homosexual priests currently serving the church?

  3. Hi David,
    I think the value of the training is that it seems geared toward letting parents know the signs that they should be looking for to prevent any kind of abuse.

    This is classic sex offender behavior—those who molest children must manipulate us and convince us that they can be trusted. They must convince us to overlook the behaviors that are questionable or completely inappropriate. It is up to us to avoid these traps. We must trust our instincts and interrupt situations that raise concerns. We must continue to raise our awareness about adult behaviors that are questionable. We must become experts at both recognizing inappropriate or risky behavior and in speaking up in favor of protecting children.

    http://www.virtus.org/virtus/
    I don’t know the figures for priests who are homosexual vs. those who aren’t, but there is an article at Religious Tolerance that suggests that the percentage is from 10% (probably about the number in the regular population) to 58% (which seems very high).
    It should be made clear that just because a priest is of a particular orientation that doesn’t mean that is an indicator of a threat to children.
    I wonder if the numbers change with priests who immigrate from other countries. I’d assume that the numbers would be different for priests born and trained outside of the United States.
    Another key difference than in the past might also be greater lay minister involvement than in the past because of the priest shortage. Vatican II has also changed the way that churches operate as well — the service is in the local language and people aren’t separated from the priest as in the past. Greater lay involvement also means more eyes are on the priest during the day and not just during the mass.

  4. Hi Chris —
    The problem with priests as child molesters is most “good Catholics” were raised in the church and likely believe in the infallibility and by-default sanctity of those who serve the Lord.
    That kind of blind affirmation can be dangerous because they then teach their children the church is right, can do no wrong, and with that kind of setup a child is held helpless when sexual lines are crossed.
    I haven’t read many news articles where priests molested female children. I have only seen reports of young boys. Do you have any links concerning the molestation of young girls by Roman Catholic priests?
    I agree that just being a priest doesn’t indicate you are homosexual or a child molester, but the innate trust one expects to be given any priest is completely destroyed in the light of multi-million dollar settlements from the church for the sexual abuse of children by their ordained priests.
    Will we see women priests in your lifetime serving in the Roman Catholic Church?

  5. Hi David,
    I think people are less inclined to see the priest as being infallible these days than they were in the past. I also don’t think the modern church views priests that way these days. They aren’t gods. They instead are spiritual directors.
    People are savvy — they switch churches if the priest is too strict or talks too much about money or rubs people the wrong way, etc.
    I know someone who left a parish in Lake Co. for another in because he felt that the priest was too fixated on a huge “mega-church” building project. There seems be a lot of “forum shopping” to find the best church that works best for the parishioner, rather than forcing the parishioner to fit into the parish.
    Priests are also more in tune with their community and the current culture than they might have been in the past. Check out Chicago’s St. Sabina Parish for an example of a parish that reflects the concerns of its parishioners.
    I doubt that anyone would want to cover for a bad priest.
    I suspect that the abuse of boys came about in the old days because they were around the priest and were available. These days, there are alter girls and also older people who serve the same duties at times. I don’t think people drop their kids off at the church to be left alone with anyone for long periods of time like they may have done in the past.

  6. Hi David,
    I see married priests before I see women priests.
    I was United Methodist before I converted, so I came from a church that had a female pastor, but I just don’t see if happening in the Catholic Church.
    (I don’t think that there is any scriptural prohibition because one can find women pastors in some of the most conservative protestant denominations).

  7. Chris, I hope you’re right about the changes. I still know devout Catholics in their 20’s who believe a priest’s integrity is unquestionable merely because he wears the uniform.
    I thought this was interesting:

    A few months ago in the London Tablet a woman named Melanie McDonagh honored the death of her old parish priest, Father Breen. As a teenager, she worried about “keeping up my end with the Protestants. It had been brought to my notice that the home life of the Renaissance popes fell well short of Our Lord’s.” Also foreseeing trouble with the Reformation, she nervously approached her Irish parish priest for counterarguments.
    After tea and cakes she explained her problem. Unruffled, he explained that the church was “simply awful. Worse than I could possibly imagine. … [But] the church was like a jewel, which passed from one dirty hand to the next, without the jewel ever losing its beauty. The church’s truth, in other words, was quite distinct from the ratbags [sic] who passed it on.”

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1141/is_n24_v29/ai_13685902
    Do you think we’ll ever see women priests in your lifetime or not? If not, why not?

  8. Chris!
    Our comments passed in the night! Your previous comment was Akismetted and I had to fish ‘er out.
    Thanks for answering about the women priests.
    I wonder why the Catholic Church is against women taking leadership roles in the forming of the church doctrine?

  9. Chris —
    I found the following on Catholic.com and I’m curious if you agree or disagree with the argument:

    Can women be ordained to the priesthood? This is a question which provokes much debate in our modern world, but it is one to which the Church has always answered “No.” The basis for the Church’s teaching on ordination is found in the New Testament as well as in the writings of the Church Fathers.
    While women could publicly pray and prophesy in church (1 Cor. 11:1–16), they could not teach or have authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:11–14), since these were two essential functions of the clergy. Nor could women publicly question or challenge the teaching of the clergy (1 Cor. 14:34–38).
    The following quotations from the Church Fathers indicate that women do play an active role in the Church and that in the age of the Fathers there were orders of virgins, widows, and deaconesses, but that these women were not ordained.
    The Fathers rejected women’s ordination, not because it was incompatible with Christian culture, but because it was incompatible with Christian faith. Thus, together with biblical declarations, the teaching of the Fathers on this issue formed the tradition of the Church that taught that priestly ordination was reserved to men. Throughout medieval times and even up until the present day, this teaching has not changed.

    http://www.catholic.com/library/Women_and_the_Priesthood.asp

  10. Hi David,
    It’s interesting to take a look the instruction against letting women teach in 1 Timothy. The author of that book writes: “I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.” 1 Tim 2:12 (NLT). I take the use of the word “I” by Paul in this letter to Timothy in the same way that I take Paul’s instruction to not get married. The Bible obviously sanctions marriage and even allows married men to be church leaders. 1 Timothy 3:2.
    The spirit of Jesus’ teachings were equality. Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28 (NLT): “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
    We are no longer male and female for we are all one in Christ Jesus. This says that we must not make distinctions based upon the social classifications of whatever particular society is in operation at any particular time.
    Says Rev. Raye Nell Dyer of the Baptist Women in Ministry:

    Because I believe when we look at all the Scripture, it’s real clear that God calls men and women to equality, and Jesus was an incredible example of that. Jesus related to women and affirmed women in every event of his life. And, we believe, many of us believe, that if you look at the way to interpret the whole Bible as a whole and not take Scriptures out of context, then you can see clearly that God calls us to be equal partners in ministries of servanthood and grace.

    Scriptures point out that women spread Jesus’ teachings. See Philippians 4:3 (NLT): “And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.”
    Jesus in Luke 13:16 calls a woman a “daughter of Abraham.” Some suggest this shows Jesus was placing women on the same spiritual level as men.
    Also, women were active in the early church. See the previous link and Bible citations as well as the following: “Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus.” Romans 16:3 (NLT).

  11. Hi David,
    There is a saying in our language –
    “Under the brightest lamp you find the darkest spot”.
    It doesn’t surprise me because there are similar instances in Hinduism too. Though Hinduism allows the “priests” to be married but majority follow the path of “celibacy”. Sexual abuse/child molestation is not new; there are power hunger and absolute corruption in the name of religion too.
    Today’s date, Hindu women aren’t allowed to perform any religious rituals, but they used to – in early Vedic Period.

  12. Regarding child abuse in the Catholic church, I am concerned with present and future abuse. I think training of new priests, requirement of police reporting, and other church repairs to the problem are commendable.
    However, these repairs do not address a fatal flaw: The church cannot fully solve the problem of abuse of minors. To rely on a church representative to report a crime committed by a fellow representative, perhaps a friend, is naive. A cleric facing a complaining parent should advise: “The church cannot mediate felonius crime. Please see your local police department.”
    Eventually complainants of abuse would automatically go directly to the police for justice. This would circumvent the ‘fox guarding the henhouse’ effect we see when a cleric is the first line of complaint. Additionally, a cleric may decide to shelve a complaint ‘for the greater good’, that is, rather that bring one violater to justice, morally feel that it is better to protect the church institution so that it may more fully serve others.
    Initial police involvement should have always been the practice. I believe the ‘halo effect’ afforded clergy has prevented it.

  13. There is very strong proof that if a child is sexually abused there is the possiblity that it will grow up and abuse some one else. I suspect many of the priests that abused were abused them selves as alter boys…etc. Its highly likely that this behavioural pattern has been going on for CENTURIES.
    I must stress that children that are abused may not carry on the cycle, but a percentage certainly will.
    If one contemplates the matter the result is devastating. However its not just RC priests that have indulged in such practises, clergy of other faiths are also guilty. Celibacy is CERTAINLY an issue.
    Guilt is a very interesting subject.