Questions Answered on Catholic Sex Abuse Settlement

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Today, we will go directly to your comments about my Wednesday article regarding the $660 million legal settlement of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles with 508 plaintiffs of sexual abuse by clergy.

I continue to receive notes from many readers who say this Friday feature — a posting of some of your reactions and my responses — is their favorite part of this blog. This direct interaction with all of you keeps me going too! Thank you.

Hope you are all following my regular Sunday morning on FOX & Friends, during the 7 a.m. hour!

God bless, Father Jonathan

Greetings from Texas! I have been reading your periodic columns fairly regularly and am always very impressed. In this particular column you addressed just about every issue that is presented with these pedophilia payouts that the church has been plagued with over the last few years and provided a excellent summary of the issues.

However, your last statement regarding lawyers was both unwarranted and a little bitter. For each of these situations, the client who was abused approached a lawyer to aid him — not vice versa.

Yes, these lawyers receive large chunks of personal injury lawsuits (30 to 40 percent is accurate), but the cost to the church could be double if this matter was not handled in a single case, with a single settlement.

As a practicing Catholic, I know that every week a part of my check that I place in the collection plate will, at some point, be used to compensate a victim of an alleged perverted priest. But I don't blame the lawyer who defended the rights of the victim, nor do I blame the lawyer that the church inevitably must hire to protect itself. I blame the sick, evil soul who masqueraded as a servant of our Lord.

So, thank you very much for your wonderful comments on They are insightful, entertaining and extremely well written. I look forward to reading your next one but please, in the future, have mercy on the lawyers. — John W. (Houston, TX)

RESPONSE: John, full disclosure here … are you a lawyer? My father and brother are both lawyers and my sister is starting law school this year, so I don’t have anything against the profession. But … I think our legal system, especially as it relates to personal injury law, is out of whack. Does it seem right to you that one of the lawyers representing half of the alleged victims will walk away with 30 to 40 percent of about $300 million? There is no simple fix, but I don’t think you can say the lawyers are free of social responsibility just because the clients were the ones who solicited their service.

I am here to chime in on this article (of course!). A few points were of particular interest to me. You mentioned percentages — specifically that 4.5 percent of Catholic priests are molesters. That figure, to me, is just incredible and staggering. But you whitewash it by saying that’s "a number about equal (given the margin of error) to similar studies of other homogenous groups." If you said the same thing, but used "teacher" instead of Catholic priest, there would be riots in the streets.

To be fair to Catholics, the Protestant Church is being outed with the same issue right now. But the fact of the matter is, priests and ministers are in a position of power, a power perceived by many to be second only to their higher power. To have nearly 5 percent of them abusing that power is just incomprehensible. That’s one in 20.

Again, if you said one in 20 teachers was a child molester, my kids would be home schooled. I really do not believe that the figures are comparable to any other group, because if they were, then that would mean that one out of every 20 people was a child molester.

I work in a building with 500 people in it — does that mean that there are 25 child molesters here? I find that very, very hard to believe. —Dan D. (Warwick, RI)

RESPONSE: Dan, perhaps it’s hard to believe because any single case of child abuse is so absolutely sick and wrong. But the studies that are coming out today back up my statement. I have recently seen several independent reports which concur that one-third of all children are sexually abused before they turn 18 years old (30 percent of males and 40 percent of females!) The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress has done some good research. Take a look at this article, by Barbara E Bogorad, the founder and former director of “Sexual Abuse Recovery Program Unit” of South Oaks Hospital in New York.

I am a practicing Catholic and agree completely with your article. I am perplexed though; why these alleged victims did not go to their parents or some other authority figure at the time of the abuse? Now that so many of these cases have come forward, all of a sudden these alleged victims have all of these psychological problems, etc. because of the abuse they suffered so many years ago.

At the age of 15, I was groped by a neighbor at a first Communion party for their daughter. I was terrified and shocked at what had happened, and ran into their house in a panic. His wife happened to be at the door when I ran in and could see the look of horror on my face. She asked what the matter was, and I had no problem telling her.

While it distanced our families due to their embarrassment, I have never had any psychological issues because of this occurrence. While I know this does not compare to the priest situation, he was someone I trusted and had known since I was a toddler. I am in my 50s now and forgave this man years ago … I pray these victims can find a way to forgive and move on with their lives.

Thanks for your wonderful and inspiring reports on FOX. — Kim E. (Memphis, TN)

RESPONSE: I’m so glad, Kim, the traumatic experience did not cause lasting damage in your case. Not all are so lucky. Young children often fail to report abuse on account of shame or fear. Many victims come to believe they are partly responsible for the crime, either because their abuser told them lies, or because of a common psychological reaction of false guilt. When the abuse scandal in the U.S. broke in 2002, many victims felt invigorated to report their stories. Of course, there will always be those who are just trying to milk the system, but we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that all of the cases we see appearing after such long periods of silence are false.

I always enjoy reading your commentaries. I am a devout Christian, who happens to be a Protestant. My lifelong best friend is a devout Catholic, who attends mass daily in her community outside of Atlanta, Ga. I have spent many Christmas Eves in midnight mass with her family. I have nothing but respect for the Catholic faith. I must tell you that I thought your comments about the money made by the attorneys were beneath you. That was such an easy point to score — everyone beats up on trial lawyers these days! I am married to a trial attorney who is an amazing, Christ-like man. I realize that as in every profession, there are good and bad examples. To suggest that these lawsuits are being brought about simply by greedy attorneys is typical of the way the Catholic Church as a whole has dealt with this horrid situation. — Heather S. (Hendersonville, NC)

RESPONSE: Heather, I understand your concern. If my article were only, or even primarily, about questioning the trial lawyers’ intentions or actions, I would agree it would be totally out of place. I would invite you, however, to read the article again, and put my commentary about lawyers into the context of every one of the other paragraphs. I knew I would ruffle some feathers by saying we should also keep our eyes on lawyers in order to make a fully informed judgment of the situation. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear … and no worries … I’m sure your husband is a great guy! He certainly has a good attorney defending him!

With all due respect, you did not address “managements’” responsibility in all of this. How many of the Bishops that condoned and moved around pedophiles to shield them and the church from lawsuits and shame have been dismissed? Zero. Accepting a resignation should not even be an option because this allows the perpetrator or his enabler to “save face.” — Tim N.

RESPONSE: Tim, thank you very much for your note, of which I didn’t include the second half because it was more of a personal nature. But I want you to know that I respect your honesty and especially your sense of balance, even after apparently experiencing some trauma yourself. In contrast to your mature attitude, I regularly see others respond to real or perceived injustice with hatred and anger. They allow themselves to corrode from within by cultivating revenge. Many start out looking for justice, but soon end up losing all sense of proportion. They become slaves to their past and feed off bringing others down with them. Regarding the first part of your note, I did try to address the issue of poor and shameful management within some sectors of the Catholic Church. Here’s the exact quote from my Wednesday article: “Almost without exception, credible accusations against a given priest came in bunches. Sadly, and inexcusably, some bishops ignored or underestimated the first accusations and permitted the sick priest to have continued access to young people. Anyone who knowingly transferred a dangerous priest from one parish to another is, of course, guilty of participation in great evil.”

Thank you for speaking the unvarnished truth, as ugly as it is and for acknowledging the costs to parishioners. I am saving your article for discussion with friends and family, both in the faith and outside.

God bless you for all you do. It's been hard for us out here in the world to graciously and accurately represent the Church and its teachings. You shed a well aimed spotlight on the truth for us. — Kathy C. (Kingwood, TX)

I am a pastor of a Baptist Church and I want to tell you that the Catholic Church is now WAY out ahead of us in making sure abuse doesn’t happen again by pastors or other church-related people. I’m not saying the Catholics have finished cleaning up the mess, but I’m saying that we have barely begun. I think your point about celibacy not being a cause of abuse was also very well-put. Most abusers are married men! You are courageous even for saying all of this. When will you come speak to our church? I can assure you we would put on a great welcome. Many of the members of my church read your blog and see you on FOX News! They would be so excited to have you at our church. — Pastor Jim R.

RESPONSE: Dear Pastor Jim, I would love to talk to your church as well, if we can work it out. As you know, I am based in Rome, Italy, but I am back and forth to the states often. We can stay in touch.

Thank you for this report. I just celebrated the 50th year of a very happy and memorable priesthood myself on June 9, and to this day many of my former students keep me posted on their lives and what it means to them to have been associated with me as a priest. So that the damage to the Faith we are experiencing as a result of clergy sexual abuse is in the headlines, there is still hope for the future in our priests of today! — Fr. Howard C. (Essington, PA)

RESPONSE: Thank you, Fr. Howard, for your input and above all, for your many years of faithful service to all of these young people! Just as inappropriate behavior can scar young people for a lifetime, examples of faith and disinterested service can leave an indelible, positive mark on a young person’s soul.

This is a great article. I hope many will read and share it as I intend to do. As a Catholic, it has been disheartening to hear about the abuse. However, I see great promise in the new recruits and priests. As a worker in Sierra, we have the opportunity to see the many positive results of our prayers and continued interest in the seminarians. God is richly blessing the church with many good and godly men. — C.

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