Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Preeminent Journalist, Walter Robinson, Comments on John Jay Study: "Deeply Flawed"

Valuable perspective on the new John Jay study commissioned by the U.S. Catholic bishops to explain the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church: this is from a veteran reporter and journalism professor, Walter Robinson, who led the Boston Globe's Pulitzer-prize winning coverage of the initial outbreak of stories about the crisis in Boston.

Robinson's take on the John Jay study:  

The fact of the matter is that the data is deeply flawed. So to draw any kind of conclusion like that is, I think, unwarranted. It is more likely that the incidence of abuse of minors by priests was just as prevalent in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s as it was in the ’60s and ’70s. But the numbers John Jay College has don’t support that because a lot of records in a lot of those dioceses from those earlier decades had been destroyed. Also, in those earlier decades, people did not come forward. And by the time people did start to come forward, in the late 20th century and early in this century, many of the people who were abused in those earlier decades were dead.


The study is based upon reporting by the dioceses and the archdioceses in the United States to the John Jay College that was done over time. Some of those dioceses were simply not forthcoming. A recent example of that can be seen by looking at the Philadelphia archdiocese, where, as recently as this February, there were 37 priests with credible allegations against them who were still in ministry.

In other dioceses, many of the records had been destroyed. In the Boston archdiocese, for instance, there were well over 200 priests who were identified as having had credible allegations against them between 1950 and 2002, which is the period under study. In the New York archdiocese, there were only 49 priests [with allegations], and the reason for that is that the New York archdiocese had, sometime before this scandal broke, destroyed all of their earlier records.

Once again, American Catholics and the public at large have been played for fools by the U.S. Catholic bishops and their powerful, wealthy managers.  They count on our naïveté, on our credulity, as they shove yet another "empirical" and "data-driven" study in our faces and ask us dutifully to swallow its manipulation of the truth--another study whose data they themselves have supplied.  Whose data they have carefully hand-picked to prove their foregone pet conclusions.  Conclusions that, predictably and oh so conveniently, yet again exonerate them from any responsibility for what has gone spectacularly wrong in the Catholic church under their leadership.

When there was push-back for the mendacious and exceptionally hateful initial attempt to scapegoat gay priests for the crisis, the Vatican and the bishops were forced to look for another plausible explanation that might, just might, grab media attention and keep the public (and faithful Catholics) chewing a while longer on a diversionary bone.  This go-round, that plausible explanation is the 1960s, the culture of permissiveness that they and their powerful and wealthy managers want to blame for all the woes of the world, because the sixties opened the door to civil rights movements--among people of color and women notably, then among LGBT people--that radically threaten the conservative white men who continue to drive the agenda of the Catholic church, and who continue to try to control media coverage of matters Catholic to remove the spotlight from the Vatican and the bishops.

The one explanatory meme never offered to the public by the present leaders of the Catholic church--the one that is intuitively obvious to any thinking person--is that those leaders have failed spectacularly at being the pastoral leaders they are called to be, in their response to the abuse crisis.  Until that clear and obvious fact, which no amount of diversionary damage control or spin doctoring can disguise for a growing number of people, is dealt with, there will be no headway in resolving this crisis.

Just further waste of valuable Catholic funds--in the case of this spin-doctored study, some $2 million--that would be far better spent keeping Catholic parishes and schools afloat.  And feeding the hungry and tending to the sick.  And to the needs of those who endured abuse by priests when they were children.

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