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All clergy abuse cover-ups are not the same

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From one religious body to another, there's a horrible sameness about the sexual abuse of children by those charged with their moral and spiritual development. The differences come in the institutions and communities, and how they deal with the abusers and their victims.

The trial and conviction of a leader of the Satmar Hasidim in Brooklyn for the sexual abuse of a young girl has laid bare how the sect has protected abusers by ostracizing and threatening those who would call them to account. As the Daily News reported, "Many in the Satmar world were angered to see such a highly-regarded man in the community forced to defend himself in the 'unreliable' secular court system, instead of secret rabbinical court proceedings." That a rabbi active in the effort to bring abusers to justice had bleach thrown in his face on a Brooklyn street yesterday is testimony that the struggle for child protection is just beginning. 

Then you've got the situation of a Southern Baptist pastor in Missouri indicted for abuse of a girl but still presiding over his congregation without so much as a proposal to remove him from his position. In a fine piece of reporting, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Tim Townsend uses the case to explore the challenges of addressing abuse when it comes to self-governing congregations that belong to umbrella denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Meanwhile, out in Los Angeles, the files on abusive priest in the Catholic archdiocese are finally being released to public view, but it's unclear whether the clerical superiors responsible for covering up the abuse will have their names uncovered. Last year, the judge in the case permitted those names to be blacked out. “You know that the Church recycles priests," he said. "Now you want to know who in the clergy recycled. For what useful purpose? The case is settled.” 

Three cases, three religious cultures. What's should be clear by now is that the cultures themselves need to be held to account if the scourge of child sexual abuse is to be controlled. And unless names are named, that will never happen.

Topics: Culture, Gender & Sexuality


  1. I’m still waiting for one to act like a Good Samaritian.

    Have you ever seen or heard of a bishop acting as a Good Samaritan toward attacked, injured sexual abuse survivors laying along the road?  On my numerous advocacy journeys I have not.

    225 Accused MN, SD, ND Clerics:

  2. The hidden and growing epidemic of organizational child sexual abuse and its cover-up is a national problem and needs a national solution.

    Australia has just begun to address this problem effectively with a national investigation commission.

    A brave mother, who lost a her brother to sexual abuse, has petitioned President Obama to establish a similar US commission.

    Many have already signed the petition, including prominent abuse survivor advocates, Fr. Tom Doyle, O.P., and Sr. Maureen Paul Turlish.

    All who want to protect children and aid abuse survivors need to sign this petition and ask their friends and family to do likewise.

    The petition is accessible at: 


  3. President Obama - please establish a commission to address child sexual abuse

  4. After investigating the catholic church for over 23 years, it’s very clear in mind how the abuse and cover ups were able to take place with little or no recourse from our judicial system.

    First, I would define was has and continues to take place as institutionalized, systematic sexual abuse and the obvious cover up of criminal behavior with the help and encouragement of the US Government and law enforcement at all levels.

    Another name for it is Synchronized Crime or the total cooperation of government and institutions, terrorists organization (such as the Sicilian Mob) fully cooperating on an as needed basis to cover up criminal behavior for a variety of motives (too numerous to mention).

    We can toss out terms like common-knowledge or open secret to best describe the catholic clergy sex abuse and cover ups, but we must also identify the enablers who made sure accusations never became full-fledged investigations, as well.

    There’s plenty of blame to go around. Now is the time to start spreading it and spreading it evenly. Expose all who have harmed children, especially the ones in the hierarchy who willingly covered up the crimes.

  5. I fail to see that you make the point you claim to be making. All three cases see a religious community trying to cover up or ignore the fact that their religious leaders are rapists. the distinctions that exists are so subtle as to be meaningless.

    And then we act all surprised when the “nones” double their numbers in a decade ...

  6. I wanted to link to this piece on my blog but the graphic is unnecessary. Do we really need to illustrate this horror in cartoons?

  7. No, but it’s a graphic image that calls attention to what the horror actually is.

  8. Contrary to what the Catholic Church wants you to believe Homosexuals and Heterosexuals are adults attracted to other adults.  Pedophiles and Ephebophiles, however, are adults attracted to children and they go where the children are and possibly the top three places are churches, schools and medical offices.  People need to learn that just because you are dealing with a priest or nun this is no reason to trust them with your child.  Beware Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing.

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