The Ongoing Sex-abuse Crisis

The Ongoing Sex-abuse Crisis

Nearly every month since Dallas in 2002 when the U.S. bishops undertook a concerted effort to address the crisis of clergy sex-abuse, I have been covering it in some way, shape or form for St. Anthony Messenger magazine. I have written editorials, rants as a mom in Faith-filled Family, reports on various cases, court settlements and bankruptcy filings in Church in the News and interviewed Bishop Joseph Galante in our June 2003 special issue on the crisis. To say it has been part of the reality of my life for 10-plus years is an understatement.

And to say I feel deeply passionate about the topic doesn’t even come close to summing up my feelings. You see, in addition to all of the above, I’ve seen the crisis up close and personal. I know the names and faces of some abusers. I went to their Masses, and I went to school with some of their victims.

He Said What?

So when I read an article by Catholic News Service on comments Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, president of the Belgian bishops’ conference, made regarding compensating survivors of clergy sex abuse, I was floored.

According to the article, Archbishop Leonard said he “feared the consequences of compensating victims, because payments could also be demanded for ‘unhappy children born via artificial insemination’ or facing the ‘psychological impact’ of being raised by same-sex couples.”

I had to read the article a second time. Are you serious? I thought to myself. He really said that?

I’ve read a number of articles trying to explain the archbishop’s comments—that those who have been abused should seek redress from the justice system before the church and that there should be a “solidarity fund” for those abused when courts are unable to establish “direct responsibility.” He added that the Church would contribute to it “in the same way that it already intervenes for victims of natural catastrophes or for the poor.” Really? Now we’re equating sex abuse with natural disasters?

Unfortunately, if there’s anything I’ve learned from covering this crisis it’s that just when I think I can’t be more shocked, infuriated or saddened by the actions of some in the Catholic Church, I am.

And as I have begun covering this latest round of the crisis erupt in Europe, I shake my head in disappointment. Have these countries not watched the pain and suffering such abuse has caused in the United States? For better or worse, our bishops have certainly provided plenty of examples of both how and how not to handle this crisis. Were these other countries not watching and learning? If so, why are these abuse cases just now making the headlines? If not, did they think they were immune from such evil?

Regardless of the answer, all I know is that I’m infuriated that I have to keep covering this crisis. But at the same time, I am now all the more determined to keep covering it in case there’s even one person out there, like Archbishop Leonard, who still doesn’t get it.

Featured Image: Idea go/


About the Author

By day, Susan Hines-Brigger is the managing editor of St. Anthony Messenger. By night, she and her husband, Mark, are the caretakers and social directors for their four kids: Maddie, Alex, Riley, and Kacey.
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  • Survivorthriver

    Thanks for this Susan. My memories of childhood sexual abuse by a priest were recovered in 1992 ~ when my daughter hit the same age that I was when I was abused. Are any of your children 9 years old?

    I was a practicing catholic at the time, and I could not find one member of the hierarchy to support me. Not the bishop, a nun or a priest. So I left the church. I can’t understand why people remain. The insensitive and hurtful remarks, both public and private, left me a victim for far too long. Once I left I became a survivor and am now a thriver!

    I also went through the legal process where lawyers do whatever they can to drag out the process and blame the victim. What a corporation the catholic church is! Deep pockets to pay their lawyers (plural!) and do all they can to deny, blame, deflect…

    It’s hard enough to try to recover from this, but the ongoing comments just reinforce that I made the right decision to leave.

  • Linda_22257

    I to grew up in a parish which suffered from the hands of an abuser. In my family of 4 children I am the only one who attends Church. We children were affected indirectly by this man. Trust of our priests and trust in God was stolen. For myself it took me over 20 years to return to the Church. It saddens me that this one man is responsible for so many others in my parish who have fallen away. I pray the Bishops in Europe will learn this lesson faster than the American bishops did. Each of these abusers is responsible for so many lost souls. Please my dear bishops be sensitive, truthful, and loving towards the victims and the parish members who were injured by these men. I will continue to pray for all involved, I know your pain and will always remember your suffering.

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  • Teresitascully

    Thank you Susan! I too have seen it upclose and personal and yes continue to be saddened by how those immersed in the clerical culture “have no clue” Teresita

  • Kmakathleen

    There is a DVD lecture by Dr Bruce Perry given in Los Angeles in 2002 called “Safe From the Start” that presents developmental neuroscience and the effects of trauma on the child’s brain ~ this is a must-see for every person who cares about social issues involving children ~ there are a few interviews of Dr Perry on YouTube and his work is explained in

  • Kieran Mcnally

    The main problem is that people in the hierarchy , like Archbishop Leonard, and there are many
    are not accountable to the people in the pew. The old motto of pay, pray and obey is still very much the mindset of the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. In the real world people get removed from their jobs for insensitive comments like those made by Leonard.

  • Swanson

    There just is no accountability of the bishops in the Church.

  • Becca Sue

    The horror and disgrace of sexual abuse cannot be ignored. That clergy are still trying to deny it is sickening. However, I’m saddened by people who have allowed the sin of others to place a barrier between them and the Bride of Christ, His Church. I believe Satan has compounded these atrocities by using them to separate the victims from the community of sinners, the community of Christ, and thus Christ Himself. While continuing to demand acknowledgment and confession of sin from the leaders of our church, we should also be praying for healing of the victims so they can again join with us in the Communion of the Saints.

  • Don D Snow

    There’s really very little compensation for being sexually abused as a child by an authority figure. My abuser was an older half-brother, so I’m speaking from experience.