Sexual Abuse by Priests: The Unrelenting Crisis

By Jones, Arthur | National Catholic Reporter, March 3, 1995 | Go to article overview

Sexual Abuse by Priests: The Unrelenting Crisis


Jones, Arthur, National Catholic Reporter


WASHINGTON - The "sustained crisis" - the emergence of ever more victims of clergy sexual abuse - continues.

The Feb. 5 announcement from pulpits in the Washington archdiocese spoke of four priests, including two known sex abusers, having molested one young man.

By the end of that week, one of the priests admitted to abusing a second young man. By the end of the following week, a victims' group, Survivors of Clergy Sexual Abuse LINKUP, reported that 18 more young men had come forward with allegations against priests in the Washington archdiocese.

Two days later, as a second victims' group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, held a press conference outside a Washington hotel regarding its demands of the bishops, the LINK-UP group's Washington numbers were moving higher - to 40 young men reporting they were molested and four additional priests accused. The archdiocese has begun investigations of the newly reported allegations.

Meanwhile, in Detroit, two young men are involved in a civil case in federal court regarding alleged longtime abuse by Capuchin friars in a Wisconsin minor seminary.

Milwaukee lawyer Robert Elliott said that he has eight additional suits stemming from the alleged Capuchin abuses and a ninth has already been settled.

In Covington, Ky., two women have filed molestation charges against a Catholic pastor alleging incidents as recent as 1994 and as far back at the 1960s. In Baltimore Cardinal William Keller has suspended Fr. A Joseph Maskell from priestly functions following allegations by two women.

There are many more clergy abuse allegations nationwide. Elliott alone said he is handling the cases of "40 or 50 victims in four states"; SNAP has 2,000 victim members; Link-up is currently "in dialogue" with 22 dioceses in addition to Washington.

The phrase, "a sustained crisis," comes from a report to the U.S. Catholic bishops in 1993 from a panel of psychotherapists, church officials and victims' advocates called together earlier that year by the bishops. The panel urged the bishops to deal quickly and decisively with the pedophilia issue.

The bishops responded by forming the Ad Hoc Communicate on Sexual Abuse under the chairmanship of Bishop John Kinney of Bismarck, N.D.

The Kinney committee's initial recommendations were received by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops last November, and the committee was back in Washington Feb. 19 for more deliberations and meeting with groups such as SNAP and LINK-UP.

The decade-long and rising number of cases of abuse against children is only part of the larger issue of wider clergy sexual activity. There is a support organization for the children of Catholic priests, Catholic priests continue to die of AIDS and there are active homosexual priests in some dioceses.

But it is the predominant abuse of young boys, the resultant trauma plaguing many of them into adulthood, and the multimillion dollar out-of-court settlements, this caught the public attention. …

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