90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW

James Carroll Reflects On The 10th Anniversary Of The Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal

Ten years ago Friday the Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports on a shocking pattern of clergy sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. That first story revealed how then-Boston Cardinal Bernard Law repeatedly transferred the Rev. John Geoghan from parish to parish, despite numerous reports of sexual abuse by Geoghan.

We mark the sad anniversary with Boston Globe columnist James Carroll. As a former priest, Carroll has written about the crisis with singular passion and clarity.

Guest:

Related:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Anonymous

    His Eminence Cardinal Law should be in jail.

    • http://profiles.google.com/glorybe1929 Gloria Sullivan

      That’s and understatement!

  • John B.

    If anyone thinks this is new or started in Boston, I suggest reading the expose’ by Jason Berry titled :Lead Us Not Into Temptation” published in 1992 and detailing the sex abuse scandal in the Diocese of Louisiana.

  • http://www.mikelerauch.com/ Mikele Rauch

    I am a trauma therapist working with male survivors of sexual and religious abuse.  What never is spoken about is the toll that not only the abuse, but the secrecy, silence, denial and blaming of the victim–takes on their inner lives.  it is the second rape, and in some ways a deeper betrayal.
     

    • Anonymous

      I work as a hospice chaplain and visit families who were affected by former priest James Porter.   It’s not just about the survivors; it’s about a widening circle of family members, neighbors, friends, who end up distrusting their church and distrusting any clergy.   The harm is still there all these years later, the shame, the anger, the unresolved soul wounds. 
      The local paper published an article on this anniversary (The Sun Chronicle) with an abuse survivor out in front of St. Mary’s RC Church in North Attleboro.  This was followed by a letter to the editor saying “St. Mary’s has moved on.”   While I feel for any congregation trying to survive these days, there are many who cannot “move on.’ 

  • chris johnson

    The Catholic Sexual Abuse Scandal  did not begin and end in Boston.. it began when European Catholics came to this country and sexually and other ways abused indigenous people in the name of god..Please stop making this all about boston.. boston just happened to have the fruits of the labors of hundreds of thousands of victims who came before them but whose voices were drowned out or silenced by some of the very catholics who claim to be the saviors..
    plus many other victims in many other states came forward and took action decades before Boston..    and that is just in American.. victims of sexual abuse by the catholic church and its clergy has and is  present all over the world.

    • Anonymous

      the writer is misinformed.  The abuse scandal is worldwide.  And ongoing.  A parallel abuse scandal is unfolding in the Jehovah’s Witness church, with the Watchtower association struggling to deal with court cases in Brazil, Australia, etc.  The abuses in Canada are well known and go back decades and decades.  It’s not a crime of sex but of power over helpless boys.  What no one has answered satisfactorily is what is the relationship between celibacy and sexual abuse??  Or is that still the taboo question to ask? 

      • Anonymous

        The taboo question to ask is, why is the abuse predominantly male on male?  Eighty percent of the abused were boys, a great percentage of that, pubescent boys.  So, the problem was primarily with h0mosexual priests.  I know your liberal NPR audience is aghast at this, but the truth has more to do with men who should never have been ordained, if their sexual compulsions compelled them to abuse boys/teens to which they had access.  Think Paul Porter, Paul Shanley, etc.

        • Anonymous

          No. What you say is a common misconception.  The priests are pedophiles not homosexuals.  Most of the priests were and are heterosexuals but with arrested development, afraid of real women, fixated on children.  James Porter was heterosexual.   Though, yes, I do agree that many of them should have never been ordained and should have been kicked out when it was discovered.  Shanley was gay, that’s true. But he was the exception. 
          Note too that the greatest percentage of sexually abused children are girls.  Somehow this is seen as more normal which it isn’t.  It’s still wrong.  My basic point in all this, is that institutions have not learned the lessons of the clergy abuse crisis.  If we had, Penn State and Sandusky would never have happened.  
          Please check out a memoir by Cambridge writer Hoffman called Half The House in which he details his abuse at the hands of a coach, his troubled relationship with his father, and the fact that when he ‘came out’ about the abuse this same coach was STILL abusing.   

          • TrueCatholic

            No, lookicat3, check YOUR stats. Most of the perpetrators ARE homosexuals and most of the victims ARE pubescent boys.

          • Anonymous

            Are you by chance a “Lost in Space” fan club member ???  Or a subscriber to the Catholic League comic book ???

          • Anonymous

            a “real Catholic” and I know many, has an ethic of healing and caring.  He or she can face reality and work to end suffering in the world–not deny and prolong human suffering. 
             

          • Anonymous

            You Sir are misinformed or blind.  Check with SNAP and other organizations of those abused by priests / former priests.   
            If a clergy person abuses a male teenager, it’s still pedophilia and don’t try to distort and confuse the issue.  
            These are real people who have been traumatized, not statistics.   And these are real abusers who often went into the ministry in order to target and rape children, male and female.  That what pedophila is!   
            The Penn State incident shows this.  Jerry Sandusky is married and heterosexual.  James Porter was married and the father of children (whom he abused, both sexes).  Marriage is just  a cover for their pedophila.  Get it!? 

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1482842942 Christine M. Hickey

            The gender of the victim - and the sexual identity of the perpetrator - doesn’t matter.  All of the abusing priests committed the same crimes of sexual abuse and rape.  In every case it is a betrayal of trust, an abuse of power, a crime.  The rape of a 14-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl are both rape. And the main issue regarding clergy abuse is the cover-up, the protection of the perpetrators by the bishops.  One cannot blame the enabling by bishops on homosexuality (though some will try!).  All this talk of gay priests just takes the focus from the core issues and on trying to prevent future abuse. It serves no useful prpose other than to promote an anti-gay agenda.

        • Anonymous

          Gee, I wonder if any “conservative” prepubescent girls or boys were also abused ???  

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1482842942 Christine M. Hickey

          Eileen,

          Porter and Shanley raped girls as well as boys.  Porter and Shanley abused younger children as well as teenagers.    (Shanley is in jail for the rape of a younger child.)
           
          At least 30% of those abused by priests were female. Half of SNAP’s 10,000 members are female.  Should the church refuse to ordain men who identify as heterosexual?  

          Sexual abuse is not about sexual orientation. 

  • Anonymous

    I happened upon this show today in the car, and I will say that this is SUCH a tired old story.  The abuse occurred years, even decades ago, and it has been dealt with, over and over and over again.  As a religious ed teacher, I will say, there is no place safer for children today than the Catholic Church, due to procedures put into place – mandated – for years.  And…  James Carroll is a predictably negative commentator on the Church, as well.  

    As we now see with Penn State, etc., sexual abuse of minors has occurred in many spheres.  Why don’t you do an expose on its existence in public schools?  Alternatively, you would be doing society a favor to deal with the places most dangerous for children TODAY – their own homes, at the hands of their mothers’ boyfriends…  This issue is serially treated in the media as outrageous crimes are revealed, but the breakdown of the family and marriage has endangered many more children than has the Catholic Church.   

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1482842942 Christine M. Hickey

      Eileen,  If you listened to the entire interview, you would have heard the discussion regarding the hierarchy, as well as the way in which the abusing priests were protected.  The discussion puts focus on the structure, the power dynamic, the history, which is unique to the church.   Carroll is discussing the need for real reform.  Carroll is articulate and well educated on the topic.  He is not “negative,” he is informed, realistic and not afraid to share the bad news. 

      In no way is this story old or tired.  As Carroll points out, we continue to learn of bishops covering up abuse still today.  Victims continue to come forward around the world.  We know that priests have abused children in recent years.  And, healing is an on-going process for victims and their families. The pain and the healing do not stop because the story gets “old.”   Most enabling bishops have not yet been held accountable.  Many abusing priests are walking free, free to harm more children. As Carroll said, this is only just beginning.  It has not been “dealt with.”

      How sad that a religious ed teacher for the church does not understand the lasting impact of this abuse on children, the damage done to so many Catholics, the unfinished search for justice, the continuing lack of understanding by church leaders.  The fact that you don’t want to hear about it only indicates a desire to wish reality away.  This is not going away.  It is unfortunate for the children you teach that you are unable to understand what is happening in their church.  Denial is dangerous.

      • Anonymous

        Christine, please do not lecture me about reality and crime and media circuses.  I have had enough, living in this decrepit, liberal graveyard of a declining commonwealth.  The abuse the media harps upon incessantly was vile, yes, but was largely perpetrated years ago, in a different era in so many ways.  

        Lest you think I ‘deny’ the truth, I will say I am quite aware of the crimes committed, and am quite aware of the complicity of the hierarchy in some of these cases, and yes, it was despicable.  However, my point is that these crimes were largely committed long ago, during an era of hidden perversions of many types.  Many serious observers have thus concluded.  

        I remember certain creepy public school teachers and male public librarians we teens whispered about, most of whom, like many of the guilty priests, are now dead and buried.  Why doesn’t NPR search out those stories – they are legion, and just as salacious as any in the Church.  The list of accused priests recently published by the Archdiocese included some men ordained in the 1920′s and 1930′s!  Please, stop beating this dead horse – enough already!  If you don’t like the Catholics, go to some other church – you will probably find just as many sinners there, regardless of the politics or polity of the denomination.  

        It is time for some fairness in the media’s incessant drumbeat on this issue.  The Pope and countless bishops have responded to you and us ad infinitum.  I cannot even count the number of apologies that have been offered in so many venues, not to mention the $$ paid out to victims and their lawyers, like the clever Anderson.  I have known many  wonderful and holy and moral priests, and I pray for them every day, as I witness the endless scourging they suffer due to the sins of others long preceding them, and the endless and unfair focus on this issue in the face of so much real harm to children today in our debauched culture, in their very homes … 

        • Jim978

          Eileen,

          You seem to miss the point that Christine makes.  The sexual abuse of children is a symptom of a much greater problem.  The problem is the culture that enabled the abusers.  You can formulate rules to deal with the symptom,  you can offer apologies and you can pay the victims, but if you don’t deal with the underlying problem it will manifest itself again some day, albeit in another form.  That’s James Carroll’s message.

        • Anonymous

          Gee, I did not know “conservatives” were not subjected to being sexual abuse victims !!! 

    • Anonymous

      What took you so long to realize sexual abuse is the primary social sickness ??? Why have you not been engaged in social awareness efforts to recover from and prevent ALL sexual abuse ???

  • H. Boston

    Rome glorifies Bernard Law 80th birthday bash…only the Vatican can make the Devil’s Bowels smell like roses  http://popecrimes.blogspot.com/2011/11/rome-glorifies-bernard-law-80th.html

    Boston 10th anniversary and Bernie Law is still cloning Jesus in the Eucharist  http://popecrimes.blogspot.com/2012/01/boston-10th-anniversary-and-bernie-law.html

  • Anonymous

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses have a policy within their religion that protects pedophiles.
     
    The official policy is that the elders of the “Church” are supposed to handle the matter internally, without contacting the police. They do this so that shame will not be brought on the religion.
    It’s important that they keep a squeaky clean image to the public. Remember they believe they are the only “True” religion and all other Christian Churches are under the control of Satan. JW’s are not supposed to sue other JW’s or involve the police or courts. They believe these are Satan’s organizations and any crime by a JW should be dealt with internally.The elders will contact the police ONLY if they’re forced to by state law. Otherwise they are forced to follow official policy from headquarters. Some states require that “priests” or “pastors” report child abuse to the authorities. If they are not forced to report them than they cover it up.
    You might actually get a unreported pedophile knocking on your door next time they show up peddling pamphlets and selling “Eternal Life”.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adina-Hope/100001995533077 Adina Hope

      The Jehovah’s Witnesses have an advocacy site http://www.silentlambs.org

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1482842942 Christine M. Hickey

    Eileen,
    I did not lecture you about “media circuses.”  I never mentioned the media (or the circus).

    If you were aware of the entire clergy abuse crime situation,  as you claim, you would not keep repeating inaccurate statements.  One example, it is simply not true that all of the abuse by priests took place decades ago.  It is simply not true that this is ancient history, as I outlined with specific examples previously.  Examples you apparently chose to ignore, hence my use of the word denial.    May I suggest you read the Abuse Tracker, posted by BishopAccountability.org daily for up-to-date information.  Focus on the content and facts described in the articles, please, not the idea that articles are being written.  It’s far too easy to blame the messenger when you don’t like the message.

    You appear to connect sexual abuse, and the discussion of clergy sexual abuse, with liberal policies.  I find that interesting, given that the Catholic church holds conservative views regarding all aspects of sexuality.  It was within a conservative organization that these particular crimes took place.  Not quite sure how that’s the liberals fault.  

    Discussing facts regarding the crimes perpetrated by clergy has nothing to do with “not liking Catholics.”  It appears that your defensiveness regarding the topic is causing you to make false assumptions.

    I’m glad you know many wonderful priests and I’m sure they appreciate your prayers.  Maybe you could get to know some of the wonderful survivors and keep them in your prayers as well.

    • Anonymous

      Christine, your patronizing attitude towards me, who you don’t know, or toward anyone who is tired of the overexposure of this story, is frustrating, but my faith commands me to forgive, and to accept insults, as gracefully as possible.  

      The media’s incessant harping about the RC Church is spent, and no information I’ve heard or read here adds anything to what we’ve already learned about this sad story. It has fueled a virulent anti-Catholicism that is akin, to me, to the type of hatred and vitriol that has fueled anti-Semitism.  Furthermore, it can serve to deflect attention away from other problems, including dangers for children elsewhere, most often IN THE HOME, at the hands of their mothers’ boyfriends, statistically.  The number of abusing priests, although always unacceptable, was always low, both in absolute and relative numbers.  I repeat, look at where children are abused, and indoctrinated, and sexually exploited NOW.  The number and place is legion.

      There is no one sadder to me than an ex-priest like James Carroll, who makes it his life work, seemingly, to discredit and criticize and demoralize the Church.  She is not perfect, as none of us are perfect, and she is also NOT a democracy, or a coffee klatsch at Starbucks, subject to the changing whims of a declining, shallow and often outright debauched society.  I say, thank God for that.  Back when I was a liberal, (when current issues were racial equality and equal pay for women, for example), I liked Carroll,  but most of us grow and change, and if one has eyes and a heart and a mind, and cares about the declining morals in our nation, one might very well become a conservative, as I have.  

      No thoughtful person in the RC Church or anywhere else, will claim that the church is perfect, and if you don’t care for the Magisterium, or value its time-honored structure, and thoughtful encyclicals, and independent calls for peace, justice, and (sometimes counter-cultural) values, you are free to worship elsewhere, (or more likely, nowhere).  I love my faith and my church, which is the people, as imperfect as we all are. I am so proud of my church, of her humble leaders, and of the faithful who worship and pray and serve the least of our brothers every day, all over the world.  And, contrary to what certain mainstream media will attest, the RC Church is open to all, to all persons of faith in Jesus Christ, of all race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.  She will not shut the door to anyone who wants to be part of the Body of Christ.  

      I am concerned about the innocent victims of clergy sexual abuse, and I hope and pray that their souls are healed.  I tried to include a link here, but can’t get it right, but there was a wonderful story in the 1/6/12 National Catholic Register blog about a local young woman who writes about her abuse experience and how she has come to terms with her faith and healing.  She met B16 on his visit here in 2008, and was grateful and hopeful and restored, somewhat, in her faith.  I urge you to read it.  We Catholics are not all bad.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1482842942 Christine M. Hickey

        Eileen, I read the NCR story re. the young woman’s path of healing (before you recommended it).  I read vitually every article written on the topic.  Each survivor has their own journey.  Others who have met the pope, unlike the young woman interviewed, are now very disappointed in his lack of action/sincerity since their visit (and they have also been interviewed).  Speaking as one of those “innocent victims of clergy sexual abuse,” I have no interest in “healing” through the church.  But I respect that other clergy abuse survivors do.  It is wonderful when  any survivor find peace-of-mind and positive recovery as this woman has. I wish her well.

        I have never, ever said Catholics are “all bad”.  I have never commented on all Catholics.  I never said that you should not be proud of your faith, and the good works done by the church.  Your faith is unrelated to the crimes of clergy sexual abuse and the protection of abusers by church leaders.  There is not much of which to be proud regarding the way they continue to handle the issue of clergy.  Some positive changes have taken place, but there is a very long way to go.

        My focus in my replies to you is regarding inaccurate statements which you present as facts.  That is my issue with you.  For example, you have made factually incorrect statements regarding Shanley and Porter. You have made incorrect generalizations/assumptions regarding the gender of some victims and sexual identity of some perpetators.  You have incorrectly stated that there is nothing new to the story.  If you read the “Abuse Tracker” on Bishop Accountability, you will see new stories on new accusations, legal actions, etc, every single day.

         I am sorry if you find my attitude patronizing.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion; I welcome hearing all opinions in a civil discussion.  However, when those opinions are based on incorrect information or a refusal to accept facts, I find that frustrating.  When I view an attitude as “denial,” I state that.  Some of your comments indicate that you are in deliberate denial as you seem to refuse to accept some facts as facts.  I stress the word facts, not my opinions.

        We disagree on media coverage.  You call it anti-Catholic.  I call it anti-child-abuse and anti-those-who-protect-child-abusers.  There are many articles in many papers, every single day, regarding child abuse (sexual, physical) perpetrated by those with no relation to the church.   My guess is that you focus on stories regarding clergy abuse because it is a sensitive subject to you, understandably. But there is no need to be defensive if you are doing all you can you can to inform yourself on the facts, accept the reality, support victims, and demand accountability and honesty from your leaders.

        By the way, I too have open eyes, a huge heart and a very good mind, and I am not a conservative. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1482842942 Christine M. Hickey

         There is “no one sadder” to you than an ex-priest like James Carroll?  How about all the church leaders who refuse to take accountability for their role in protecting child abusers?  How about those who publicly blame and attack clergy abuse victims who come forward?  Those people really make ME sad.
         James Carroll is well-informed as a former priest and has come to some conclusions which differ from yours.  He is entitled to criticize the church, as you are entitled to defend it.  Nothing sad about that, in my view.  He is not deflecting from abuse perpetrated outside the church.  In my view, any discussion of child abuse, related to the church or not, is a positive thing in that the public becomes better educated on the topic.

  • http://profiles.google.com/kene616 Ken Ericson

    The mindless haters out there are worried about sex abuse in the
    Catholic church the way that Democrats were worried about petty break
    ins during Watergate or the way Republicans were worried about perjury
    in a civil deposition during the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

    100

    times more sex abuse takes place and is taking place in the government
    schools than in the Catholic church from many decades ago.  See: 
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/21/AR2007102100144.html

    So if sex
    abuse and not hatred of the church worries you you may want to take just a
    little peek over there.

    Oh well never mind the man behind the curtain….

  • Anonymous

    The following SUMMARIES OF OVER 1700 JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES CRIMINAL and CIVIL COURT CASES will provide the BEST and MOST ACCURATE info about Jehovah’s Witnesses, their beliefs, and how they ACTUALLY practice such day to day. 

    The following website summarizes over 1000 court cases and lawsuits affecting children of Jehovah’s Witness Parents, including 400 cases where the JW Parents refused to consent to life-saving blood transfusions for their dying children, as well as nearly 400 CRIMINAL cases — most involving MURDERS: 

    DIVORCE, BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS, AND OTHER LEGAL ISSUES AFFECTING CHILDREN OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES

     jwdivorces.bravehost.com 

     The following website summarizes over 700 lawsuits filed by Jehovah’s Witnesses against their Employers, incidents involving problem JW Employees, and other secret JW “history” court cases:

     EMPLOYMENT ISSUES UNIQUE TO JEHOVAH’S WITNESS EMPLOYEES

     jwemployees.bravehost.com

  • Anonymous

    Christine, my frustration is with the media overkill on this issue.  As a lifelong Catholic, I condemn the past abuse, and hope and pray for the victims, without cease.  I have taken Virtus and other child safety courses for almost ten years in my church, and I repeat, no place is safer today for children than our church.  That this wasn’t the case during the height of the abuse, in the ’60′s, ’70′s and ’80′s, is reprehensible.  We will always be vigilant.  

    The relentless focus on the hierarchy is demoralizing to us in the Body of Christ, for the Church is the people.  B16 has spoken of the ‘attrition’ in the Church due to this protracted scourging.  Enough already.  We have heard enough derisive comments from celebrities, the likes of whom are Susan Sarandon, Bill Maher, Lady Gaga, etc.  The scorn of these people towards my Church is biting, unfair, and bigoted to the max – you can have them!  I’ll take heart in all the wonderful, thoughtful new converts, such as Hadley Arkes, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson and others.  These serious and loving people have seen what I  see in the Catholic church.

    I did not know that you were a victim of clergy sex abuse.  I am sorry about that, and hope that you will overcome this past evil in your life.  I do not know any victims personally, which is surprising due to my lifelong connection to the Boston church.  However, almost every woman I know was sexually assaulted at some point in her life, often via ‘date rape’.  Usually, shame and embarrassment and a feeling that they set themselves up for abuse keeps them from confronting abusers. Also, practically every woman of my generation has had an abortion;  certain woman aborted the only children they had ever conceived.  This life can be a vale of tears…

    This will be my last post on this site.  You can get the ‘last word’ if you want.  I hope and pray that you, and others disaffected by the Church will come home.  As actor Martin Sheen, a Catholic revert, said recently, upon his return to the faith, ‘…I left a church of fear and have returned to a church of love.’

    Peace 

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1482842942 Christine M. Hickey

      Eileen, This will be my last post as well.  Not because I want the “last word,” but because I want to respond.  Yes, I was violently raped by a priest at age ten.  Yes, I have “overcome this past evil.”  (The Catholic church played no part in my healing.  If anything, the continuing actions/attitudes of church leaders negatively impacts my healing.)   

      My guess is that you do know victims of clergy abuse, they have just not identified themselves to you.  Many sexual assault victims never speak publicly/report the abuse, as you know. 

      I, too, know many women who had abortions.  Many of them do not regret the painful decision to do so.  Some do have regret, but certainly not all.  Many who had abortions do not live a life of tears.

      If criticism of the church is demoralizing to the you, the blame belongs only to those who committed the crimes, those who allowed the crimes, and those church teachings which some others view as discrimination.   If “outsiders” feels  injustice or discrimination is being perpetrated by church teachings or clergy behavior, they may feel compelled to speak out against these perceived wrongs and immoralities, just as you speak out against that which you as perceive immoral and wrong.

      Please, do not pray that I will return to the church.  Those prayers will be wasted.  I left the church over 40 years ago and have no desire to return.  The church is not “home” to me.  Many “serious and loving” people are not Catholics, myself included.  For you to assume that you know what is best for me (us) is very disrespectful.  My spiritual life is not your concern.  Thank you. 

Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

  • Listen: Weekdays, 3 p.m. on 90.9 FM
  • Live Call-In: (800) 423-TALK
  • Listener Voicemail: (617) 358-0607
Most Popular
This site is best viewed with: Firefox | Internet Explorer 9 | Chrome | Safari