On BBC this morning, this item from Australia.
An inquiry examining institutional sex abuse in Australia has heard 7% of the nation’s Catholic priests allegedly abused children between 1950 and 2010.
Australian bishops and religious orders weren’t singled out. Consider sports like gymnastics and soccer, Scouting, schools, and likely the number one location for abuse, though non-institutional, the home. The government’s committee cast its eyes far and wide:
(M)ore than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia were identified in claims of sexual abuse, with a total of 1,880 alleged perpetrators between 1980 and 2015.
The meme that blames homosexuals targeting teenagers is pretty much dismissed by the Australian numbers:
The average age of the victims was 10.5 for girls and 11.5 for boys.
This aligns with the Jay Report: average age well into pre-adolescence and girls younger than boys.
Seven percent is crushing. It would be in any American diocese, where the percentage here have hovered around half that, if memory serves. Other cultural factors have already battered the Church by chasing away members. I wonder what this report will do for remnant Catholics in parishes down under. More discouraging exits by believers who see that the Church has abandoned them.
Many people may feel that things have moved on. We have francisbishops now instead of JP2-bishops. Institutions have not only lawyered up, but insurance companies now require due diligence. I still think bishops and parishes must provide significant leadership in special and extraordinary ways to win back the trust of those who believe Church has left them behind.
The key is to take actions that match the perception of the institution as less moral and more sinful than victims of abuse and cover-up. That may or may not be true in all cases. But there is a sense that non-believers and newcomers have a conversion journey as a prelude to belief. Likewise responsible leaders must recognize they are being held to the same standard of morality, ethics, and membership. In the early centuries, those who committed serious sin entered an Order of Penitents. I don’t know how an institution fits into something like an Order. Until the institution figures it out, these discouraging reports will continue to drive wedges between bishops, victims and their allies, chanceries, parishes, clergy, religious orders, parents, and the ideological extremes of Catholicism.