Stereotypes about priests must stop, for children’s sake

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“I heard that one of those Catholic popes was molesting children again!” said my mother-in-law’s friend the other day, presumably referring to the news in Kansas City. One isn’t sure where to begin addressing a statement like that. As it turned out, I didn’t have to. She was so busy making comments about how awful “those Catholic popes” are that she didn’t hear any of my attempts to respond.

The conversation was an unfortunate reminder of just how powerful the unbalanced media coverage of scandals involving Catholic clergy has been. I have no objection to even-handed, fact-based news stories about abuse within the Church; the problem is that these stories are reported far more than stories of abuse within other institutions. For example:

When the Hare Krishnas in California settled the largest sex-abuse lawsuit in history, resulting from sexual abuse of children, it generated 44 stories in California over a six-month period. During the same period, Californians were treated to 17,310 stories about sex abuse in California Catholic institutions. That’s 39,341 percent more coverage than was generated by the most serious sex-abuse case in history.

Other men who work with kids are just as likely to be sex offenders as Catholic priests*, but you’d never know that from the emphasis the media places on crimes by Catholic clergy.

As a Catholic who knows many wonderful, kind priests, I find this situation upsetting. As a mother, I find it deplorable.

Last year, we sent our son to a local public school. Within the first few days of classes, my husband and I noticed some serious red flags in terms of children’s safety. The kids shared a bathroom with adults, including adults that had no affiliation with the school (I once saw a package delivery guy waiting in line with the second graders). The rules for who could enter and exit the campus were not enforced; random adults without badges were constantly wandering around the premises. Older boys, sometimes as old as 17, would escort kindergarten- and 1st grade-aged girls to the bathrooms, which were single-stall rooms that locked from the inside. And these were just a few of the problems.   Read more

Jennifer Fulwiler is a writer from Austin, Texas who converted to Catholicism after a life of atheism. She’s a columnist for Envoy magazine, a regular guest on the Relevant Radio and EWTN Radio networks, and a contributor to the books The Church and New Media and Atheist to Catholic: 11 Stories of Conversion.

News category: Opinion.

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