GQ on Priest Sexual Abuse

Why is it I always hear about such cases that “the church investigated” such claims?!? Isn’t that the fox guarding the hen house? Where’s the police investigations into all these claims? Isn’t it only the law enforcement that can incarcerate and/or prosecute, anyway? (I am posting here for factual answers, not opinions about this very emotional issue.)

It’s standard procedure in about every company and organization to investigate internally any accounts of misbehavior either before or in combination with calling the authorities. That’s one detail in which the RCC simply behaves like everybody else. Do you also use that much mixed punctuation when you hear the same line about issues at the local school or at a corporate location?

Interrobang is the term for that much mixed punctuation.

In many cases the victims did not go to the police so they did not investigate the crimes. The crimes were reported to the church hierarchy and they are the ones who did the investigation.

And that seems to be the crux of the present problems. When an abuser was identified, they should have reported them to the police; that they failed to do so meant that the abuser just got moved elsewhere.

Their first instinct was to keep it under wraps.

Such is the power of the church, that preys on its own flock. It’s easy to convince the angry parents that the parish will deal with it. Most people don’t want their child’s trauma publicized so you have a good chance of them not reporting it to the cops. This represents an abuse of power and trust on a criminal level, in my opinion. But such is the depravity of the church and it’s priests. God forgave them, you see. And that’s all they really need.

The church looked after it by telling the offending priest to pray it away. Then sent him elsewhere. Without telling the new parish. So they could molest someone else’s child.

They failed to report the sexual abuse of children. Repeatedly. Over decades. And the Popes? Totally complicit, 100% responsible, in my opinion.

Moderator Note

The OP specifically asked not to interject your opinions into this issue. I also remind you that religious jabs are not permitted in General Questions. If you want to express your opinions, there are Pit threads about this issue.

General Questions Moderator


Since this is GQ, restrict your responses to the legal questions involved. If you want to express your outrage, take it to another forum.

Thank you for your attention to the rules of GQ.

A long delay between reading the OP and responding caused me to forget that bit.


The church did nothing more or less than any organization, from the Boy Scouts to government orphanages and juvenile detention facilities, schools, Penn State, and any private company. They hide their dirty laundry. they do an inspection, and depending on the determination of the “inspectors” they either choose not to find anything, to not believe the complaints, to sweep it under the rug, to shuffle people around to hide the problem, etc. In many cases until recently, the civil authorities were complicit. The city hall and police headquarters were not interested n prosecutions that would expose the church to bad publicity. One report on abuse in the church mentioned that the outright predators often were also pathological charmers - when confronted by the bishop, claimed momentary weakness, acted contrite, promised to never do it again, and were moved elsewhere. An advantage the church had as the problems came more to the attention of authorities was the option to move people to other locations beyond the jurisdiction of police investigators.

Our current “must report” laws are a direct consequence of the numerous cases, not just church, of abuse that was ignored by higher-ups.

It’s true; evidence of institutional abuse has surfaced all over the world and in every case, the institution involved has done its best to conceal it. Of course, it is sometimes the case that the senior managers are (or at least were) involved in the abuse, so they have a doubled interest in hiding it, but I think it is just the belief that the problem is minor and exposing it will cause disproportionate damage to their organisation.

It also follows that people who want to abuse children will gravitate towards the priesthood, children’s movements, orphanages etc. It also follows that when some people see others doing what they do and getting away with it, they may well decide to join in. This is no different in essence the corporations where dishonesty and bad practices get covered up by management and no one ever gets fired because they know where the bodies are buried.

I don’t think that the controversy is that the church conducted its own investigation, as you say that is standard practice everywhere, it’s the actions (or lack thereof) that they took once their investigations were complete that has generated criticism.

I would argue the opposite - I don’t think people who are targeting children from the get-go pick the priesthood. There are plenty more occupations that give more access to children without the lifestyle restrictions that the priesthood will impose.

I think a lot of people - especially decades ago, and in social circles where Catholicism was strong - would with encouragement from family and church, view their lack of interest in the “locker room talk” and typical adolescent sexual interest in their opposite sex peers as evidence they were meant for a “higher calling” and gravitate to the priesthood. (Although a lot of straight men did so too - I know when leaving the clergy became less stigmatized, a huge number dropped out and got married. My high school principal was an ex-priest married to an ex-nun.)

Also, don’t equate gay with child molester. I cannot think of two diametrically opposed body type preferences than young boys and hairy-chested men.

That’s not to say any profession does not end up with a few bad apples. but I suspect that a lot of the molestation typically of altar boys was a crime of opportunity on the available victims, not a long term goal from the day they joined the priesthood, much like gay behaviour in men’s prisons.

But yes, the hierarchy of the time, like any institution, preferred to bury their problems rather than expose dirty laundry to the world - the reputation of the church was more important than any offense, in their eyes.

Also remember - “The past is a foreign country - they do things differently there.” In the last few decades there has been a greater willingness to discuss sexual behaviour. Everyone involved in their inner circles may have known, for example, that JFK boinked everything (female) that moved and Rock Hudson was gay, but it was never discussed outside their quiet inner circles. Similarly, even being a rape victim was a stigma that few cared to disclose in public, let alone being a male victim of child molestation. 70-year-old bishops may have thought they were also doing a favour to the victim and his family by keeping the whole thing out of the news and the courts. It’s just as time changed, the old dinosaurs in charge did not until forced to. (should also point out how recent rape shield laws are - victims in past decades would have been subject to probing cross-examination if they had the temerity to press charges.)