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We are continuing our series exploring #Trump and his platform as we build to our #question4Trump. So far we have examined Trump’s views on Christianity and the State, Christian voters, Muslims, terrorists, refugees, the pope, and abortion. We will now take a closer look at Christianity itself in the US.
The first notes of sexual scandal in the US Catholic church sounded in Louisiana in the early 80s but nothing was done to address the issue until 1992 in Massachusetts with the prosecution of James R. Porter (described below).
Then, as reported in this detailed PBS Frontline account :
Nearly two decades later in 2002, after The Boston Globe broke a series of stories [Spotlight, described later in this series] detailing a broader crisis, the public backlash forced the church to confront the problem. The [US] Conference [of Catholic Bishops] founded a committee dedicated to protecting children, and established a charter with guidelines to prevent abuse and deal with allegations.
… Today, allegations are also supposed to be forwarded to a review board appointed by the bishop. The board reviews the evidence and makes recommendations on whether or how to discipline the offender. …Notzon [review board chair] said that most dioceses now follow that procedure, but acknowledged that not all do.
The article explains that the scope of this crisis is global with widespread reports of abuse surfacing from North America, South America, Europe, and elsewhere. It is difficult to estimate the extent of the abuse since, as victims’ advocacy groups point out, many young victims do not report until they are adults.
Furthermore: (please note these figures are from February 25, 2014)
In the U.S. alone, 16,787 people have come forward to say that they were abused by priests as children between 1950 and 2012, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the organization for the Catholic hierarchy in the country. Those figures are incomplete. The data excludes, for unclear reasons, any people who came forward in 2003. The conference also counts only allegations it determined were “not implausible” or “credible.”
Each diocese determines on its own whether an allegation is credible. A recent investigation of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis by MPR News found that after adopting a rule barring abusive priests from the ministry, officials raised the burden of proof for credible allegations. “Church officials created difficult, vague and shifting criteria for an allegation to be deemed credible,” the MPR investigation found, noting that church officials dismissed some cases because the people seemed “too angry to be believed.”
By 2012, the Catholic church had spent more than $2.6 billion USD on civil suits in the US.
In 2013 a new pope was chosen, Pope Francis, the successor of Pope Benedict XVI who was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years. Before that, a Polish pope, John Paul II, was pope from 1978 – 2005.
The next parts of our series will look at the major events of the progression of the Catholic church sexual abuse saga in the USA, as well as the response and role of the Vatican and pope during each of these last three men’s reigns.
If Trump is the #ChristianCandidate, perhaps we should start fearing religion less and, instead, learn more about it and how it, in fact, operates. Knowledge is power.
Key U.S. Cases of Abuse
James R. Porter, Fall River, Greater Boston Area, Mass.: The first stories of priestly sexual abuse to make mainstream headlines came in 1992 with the exposure and eventual prosecution and conviction of James R. Porter.
NBC’s article gives a brief summary of his story:
Allegations of abuse began following Porter immediately after he became a priest in 1960 in the industrial town of North Attleboro.
The seminary recommended him as “a manly, genuine young man” of “excellent character,” according to The Boston Globe. But even though he was molesting children within weeks, sometimes brazenly, and rumors about him quickly spread through the town, a culture of shame and denial allowed him to stay in the town until 1963. He was eventually accused of having molested 68 boys and girls in North Attleboro.
At least four parents went to church officials with their suspicions, and in 1963 church authorities transferred Porter to a Fall River parish, where complaints about his behavior continued.
In 1965, he was transferred again, this time to New Bedford, where he allegedly molested more children. After he was ordered back to his parents’ home, another priest who would later himself be accused of abuse — Paul Shanley — sent Porter to New Mexico for treatment. As Porter moved between states, allegations of abuse followed him: in Texas, Minnesota, and New Mexico.
Porter left the priesthood in 1974, married and became the father of four children. He was convicted of molesting his children’s teenage baby sitter in 1987 and was released from a Minnesota jail after serving four months.
He returned to face trial in Massachusetts, and in 1993 he pleaded guilty to molesting 28 children and was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison. He was scheduled to be released in January 2004, but the state moved to have him classified as sexually dangerous to keep him behind bars indefinitely.
From the on him:
The Rev. James R. Porter abused some 100 young boys and girls at parishes in North Attleborough, New Bedford and Fall River in the 1960s. In December 1993, Porter was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison in a case that shocked Catholics in the Diocese of Fall River and the neighboring Boston Archdiocese. At the time, Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law called Porter an “aberrant” and blasted the media over their intense scrutiny of the case. But the scandal prompted the Boston Archdiocese to enact a new sexual abuse policy which church leaders said would prevent future acts of molestation.
It is obvious now that it did not.
You can find more links to news stories about Porter and the slew of other accused priests that came after him on the Boston Globe page linked to above.
That’s enough for today, it’s difficult to take too much of this at once especially since we will continue this topic tomorrow with a look at another pedophile priest in the greater Boston area, John J. Geoghan, next time.
These topics are super heavy and some of the following articles in this series may be disturbing for some readers. Actually, we hope they are disturbing for all readers. But we hope you don’t turn your eyes and minds away from them.
We can change this world but we have to do it together. We have an idea for how we can use only our minds and our collective voice to influence politics. How we can use the system to change the system. This series is the background intelligence info on what you’ll need to know for the mission, if you choose to accept.
Stay tuned as we get closer to our #question4Trump.