A Catholic blogger by the name of Steven O’Keefe put this account together, and it’s illuminating. He’s charted some of the trends and details of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, to see how it aligns with the John Jay Report of some years back. You can read his full report here. But some highlights:
Back in 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned an independent study of the sexual abuse history of the Church in America. The result was the John Jay Report, the full text of which can be found [here].
It gave us a snapshot of the pedophilia / ephebophilia crisis…It showed an increase starting around 1955, a peak around between 1975 and 1980, which then fell to pre-1955 levels in 1995. That was the scope of the abuse crisis back in 2002.
Now, when the Penn. Report came out, it led to headlines which implied the abuse crisis was continuing unabated, as if there had never been any decrease in incidents. Is that supported by the findings of the Penn. Report? No. The Penn. Report doesn’t reveal a *new* crisis. Instead it describes how that crisis was felt in Pennsylvania.
Both datasets show that 1960-1990 (a full generation!!!) was a terrible time to be a Catholic child. And the period from 1970-1985 was worst of all.
If it is any comfort, we can see that the levels of abuse have now fallen.
And there’s this:
The Penn. Report recorded the ordination dates for most of the offending priests. As one might expect, it showed an increase in sexually perverted men being ordained for a whole generation. The peak of this chart occurs from 1960-1975, ten years preceding the peak of the abuse reports.
The improvements we’ve seen since 2002 did not come from any improvement in our bishops’ moral character. It came because of a newspaper expose’, a public outcry, and the strong arm of the government. The implicit trust which parents used to afford to priests is gone. And while it is sad that priests today live under a dark cloud of suspicion, that is the price paid for the horrors of the past.
As a lay person and a father of young boys, I say: Never again.
Improvements still need to be made. Without the constant vigilance of the laity and law enforcement, we have no expectation that they will happen – or even that we won’t slide back into 20th century negligence.
So, one cheer for the improvements the bishops have made. Three cheers for the laity who demand better from them.
There’s much more, and an abundance of charts and graphs at his blog. Check it out.
While the causes of this present crisis are many and varied, it’s useful to see just how and when this—and to remember that, news reports notwithstanding, the situation has improved.
But we still have a long way to go.
Let’s pray we get there. Soon.