The Ongoing Saga of the Priest Sex Abuse Scandal

Deal W. Hudson
April 19, 2010

In October 2001, crisis Magazine published an article, titled “The High Price of Priestly Pederasty,” by Dan Michalski. Reporting on publicly known cases of sex abuse by priests, Michalski summarized his findings:

So far, more than 3,000 Catholic priests in America have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors, and nearly 2,000 insurance claims have been paid… [E]very one of the 188 dioceses in the American Catholic Church has faced or is facing claims… [T]he total payout has climbed past $1 billion, with another half-billion pending.

The crisis article was published three months before the first Boston Globe article on sex abuse by priests in the Archdiocese of Boston. The Globe‘s extensive coverage led to Bernard Cardinal Law’s resignation in December 2002 and their winning a Pulitzer Prize in 2003.

Meanwhile, the reaction to the crisis article on “priestly pederasty” was nearly complete silence. I did receive one e-mail from a bishop who was a friend of mine asking angrily, “Why did you publish an article about that scandal?”

“So it will stop,” I replied.

I had been talking with the crisis staff for more than a year about finding a writer who could summarize the dimensions of sexual abuse by priests. I was turned down by a number of Catholic journalists before finding Michalski. No one wanted to talk about it or acknowledge it, even after we published the hard evidence of its pervasive and persistent presence throughout the Church.

It took the constant hammering of the Boston Globe series, along with reports from other major newspapers, for Church leadership to admit they had a problem needing a solution other than sending priests for a “cure” that did not exist.

At their June 2002 meeting, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops established the National Review Board for the purpose of collaborating “with the USCCB in preventing the sexual abuse of minors in the United States by persons in the service of the Church.” Under the leadership of former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, the NRB hired the John Jay School of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York to conduct a survey of all the dioceses in the United States. The John Jay report, covering a period from 1950 to 2002, was presented two years later.

The report indicated that dioceses found credible allegations against “4,392 priests in the USA, about 4 percent of all 109,694 priests who served during the time covered by the study.”

In a period of two years, the bishops, in a complete turnaround of institutional behavior, made transparent what had been shielded in secrecy for decades. They also implemented a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People intended to create uniform procedures for the handling of sex-abuse allegations.

With this decisive action by the bishops, the priest sex-abuse crisis in the United States slowly quieted down, although the debate over the role of active homosexuals in the priesthood continues to be debated to this day. (See my newsletter from the time, “Ten Myths About Priestly Pedophilia.”)

The issue of improper sexual behavior by Catholic priests was brought back into the headlines by the publication of official reports of sexual abuse by priests in Ireland, especially the Murphy Report, and now in Germany and Austria.

For Catholics in America, the intensity of the media coverage, particularly its personal attacks on Pope Benedict XVI, brings a reprise of the highly charged emotions of the 2002-2004 period when the bishops were finally facing the problem.

But these reports from abroad have opened old wounds and given Catholic-bashers new life, as seen in the efforts by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins to have the Holy Father arrested when he arrives in the UK in September.

Eight years ago, when the U.S. bishops began their work with the National Review Board, no one anticipated that the same scenario was going to repeat itself in countries around the world.

If similar procedures had been mandated by the Vatican throughout the Church, then all the bad news would have largely been known by now. Instead, the stories of sexual abuse by priests will be forthcoming from different countries around the globe for years – perhaps decades – to come. The wound is going to be kept open for a long time if the Vatican does not act decisively, as the U.S. bishops did in 2002.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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