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Press Release, March 1, 2004

3150 Newgate Drive
Florissant, MO 63033
John Sheehan 413-527-9929
Mary Louise Hartman 609-921-9134

The Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church (ARCC) commends all those who cooperated in preparing the report released February 27 by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on the number of Catholic priests and religious accused of molestation between 1950 and 2002. The amount of detail in the report precludes easy generalizations, and individual statistics are likely to be cited out of context. What we do see already is that the majority of incidents, typically involving teenaged boys, occurred thirty to forty years ago but were not reported until the last decade when a traditional culture of silence began to break down. What we cannot know is how many more cases have gone unreported, or how often victims did attempt reports only to be pressured into keeping quiet. And the figures do not yet tell us how often an offending priest was simply moved on, to another parish or another diocese.

ARCC acknowledges the analysis issued the same day by the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People in response to the John Jay study and agrees that most priests would never molest a child and most bishops would never condone an abusive priest. The exceptions have shamed us all. Still, the demand for accountability triggered by the scandal cannot end with these two studies or with the zero-tolerance policies already accepted by the bishops, and we are concerned about a rush to judgment on the part of the Review Board on the causes of the scandal.

According to Mary Lou Hartman, ARCC Board President, the Review Board's recommendations do not go far enough. "They fail to address the larger issue of governance in the church," she commented. "Until parish councils and diocesan councils are more than just advisory bodies serving at the pleasure of a pastor or a bishop, the rights of Catholics set out in the Second Vatican Council will not be respected as they should be. We are concerned that Rome will see this as primarily an American problem and the American bishops will be inclined to target gays as the source of the problem. This can lead to a misguided effort to protect the rights of some at the expense of the rights of others."


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(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

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