Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Continued False Meme about False Allegations of Abuse Against Catholic Clergy: Dave Pierre Attacks SNAP

As 2011 got underway, I took note of a statement by Los Angeles attorney Donald Steier, who has defended numerous priests in abuse cases, which maintains that false allegations about sexual abuse against priests are on the rise.  Steier maintains that most allegations of abuse made against priests are false.   

A month or so after I noted that Steier's claim about false allegations against Catholic clergy had been circulating on right-wing Catholic websites, I then noted that no less than the president of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' Conference, Timothy Dolan, had recently stated that he had the "perception" that most allegations of abuse made against priests were false, and that false allegations were on the rise.  I noted that Steier had maintained that the motivation of many of those reporting abuse by priests was primarily financial (a constant meme of the Catholic right), and that Archbishop Dolan's friend and ally Bill Donohue of the Catholic League was seeking to float that same suspicion around the same time that Dolan made his statement about his "perception" that most abuse claims are false, and that false allegations are on the rise.

Donohue's 14 February press release about this issue specifically attacked the group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), with the claim that SNAP was "salivating" at the prospect of making financial gain by allying itself with attorneys such as Jeffrey Anderson in attacks on the integrity of USCCB president Dolan.  As I blogged about the Dolan-Donohue statements in February, on the heels of Steier's 2 January statement with the same themes, I concluded,

In other words, it [i.e., Steier's 2 January document] has all the appearances of being an opening salvo, for the new year, in a war designed to assist the bishops in continuing their cover-up of the abuse situation, as more and more information about the cover-up becomes public every day. 

And the beat goes on: yesterday, at his Renew America website, Matt Abbot published an email he had received from SNAP critic Dave Pierre of the MediaReport site, which continues the meme that a large proportion of accusations of abuse against priests prove to be false, and that SNAP is deliberately disguising this fact to serve its own ends.  Abbot's posting links to a posting of Pierre at his MediaReport site, which maintains that SNAP is perpetrating "massive fraud" by assisting in the fabrication of false allegations against Catholic clergy--allegations that Pierre maintains are on the rise.

What's interesting to note about the claims of Dave Pierre now being circulated by Matt Abbot is that they don't in any way seek to engage the bishops' own self-reported evidence about the abuse crisis.  In their 2010 annual report issued in March 2011,* the U.S. Catholic bishops demonstrate that 1) false allegations are, in fact, rare in the Catholic abuse crisis, and 2) the number of false allegations has not increased significantly in recent years.  

The 2010 USCCB annual report on the abuse crisis gives the combined totals for false or unsubstantiated allegations from 2006 through 2010.  For dioceses, these amount to a percentage ranging from 7 to 17%, with an average percentage of 12%.  For religious orders, the combined false/unsubstantiated percentage has ranged in the same period from 10% to 15%, with an average percentage of 11%.  If we make the common-sense assumption that unsubstantiated allegations outnumber false ones, we can safely conclude that even the church, in the last five years, has consistently found that far fewer than 10% of all allegations are false.

When those pushing the meme that most allegations against Catholic clergy are false and false allegations are on the rise offer no substantial evidence to buttress these claims, and when the data provided by the U.S. bishops themselves contradict these claims, I continue to come to the conclusion that the attempt to undermine the credibility of survivors' groups such as SNAP with these unsubstantiated charges is all about misleading the public and providing cover for Catholic leaders as they disavow responsibility for their pastoral failure in the crisis.

Nothing Dave Pierre says in his latest blast against SNAP causes me to alter that conclusion.

*For readers who have concerns about knowing the type of file to which a link points before they click, this is a pdf file.

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