The Sex Abuse Scandal and the Church That Did Not Know Right From Wrong


The scandal of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests grows day by day with reports from CNN that it has indeed gone “global” (see also here and here and here), and with the scandal edging closer to Pope Benedict XVI. A recent article in the New York Times revealed how the future Pope, while a top Vatican official, deferred requests from the Diocese of Oakland in California to defrock a priest,  the Rev. Stephen Kiesle, who had been accused of molesting children.

I’m originally from Oakland and it was chilling to read the document trail, to see how decisions made far away in another continent affected the communities in the East Bay (indeed, the New York Times reports that Kiesle now lives in a gated community in Walnut Creek, where my mother worked for years). But even more chilling to me are reports from Wisconsin about another priest, the Rev. Lawrence C. Murphy, who molested as many as 200 deaf boys. Top officials in the Vatican—again including the future Pope Benedict XVI—refused to defrock Murphy, “even though several American bishops repeatedly warned them that failure to act on the matter could embarrass the church, according to church files newly unearthed as part of a lawsuit.” 

An April 2nd New York Times story also notes that Father Murphy

was said to gravitate to boys who were sexually inexperienced and lacking in social skills, according to Kathy Lyn Walter, a social worker and an expert on sexual disorders who was hired by the archdiocese to interview Father Murphy in 1993. She said he offered them what seemed like a beachfront reprieve from their lives in the dormitories, with canoe trips, picnics and barbecues.

Boys “lacking in social skills”: Might some of these children have had Asperger’s Syndrome?

A cover story in the April 12 th Newsweek entitled What Would Mary Do? by Lisa Miller straight out asked how women might save the Church from its sins. Maureen Dowd writes in an April 10th column that the Church has treated “children as collateral damage, a necessary sacrifice to save face for Mother Church” and further comments:

The church that through the ages taught me and other children right from wrong did not know right from wrong when it came to children. Crimes were swept under the rectory rug, and molesters were protected to molest again for the “good of the universal church.” And that is bad, very bad — a mortal sin. 

And not only did the Church not know “right from wrong when it came to children,” but it doesn’t seem to have known “right from wrong” in the case of those who are especially vulnerable—in the case of children with disabilities.

200 deaf boys were sexually abused in Wisconsin—-and how many more children who have not spoken up, who are not able to speak about what happened to them?


Photo by Dahon.


Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Lyndsay G.
Lyndsay G.6 years ago

Yes, there have been cases of sexual abuse w/in the Catholic Church, but it's not just the Catholic Church, look at the new info on the Penn State people. Look at what David Koresh did! Look at Rev. Jimmy Swaggert. The Catholic Church catches most of the heat because it is the biggest and easiest target to hit. Nor do I believe each and every accussation. A apt analogy would be the true case of a city bus being rear ended at the bus stop. People who were NOT on the bus at the time were caught on video getting on and then latter filing law suits. A lot of these "victims" were just jumping on the money train.

Lets everyone be fair!

Hugh W.
.6 years ago

I used to be a Catholic, but gave up on their hypocrisy a long time ago. The Catholic Church has had weak leaders that let their priests run amok as long as they brought in the money.

Darlene Tipton
Darlene Tipton6 years ago

The Church placed these men in positions of power. With power came responsibility. The fact that they were responsible for the spiritual well being of their "flock" which included young members should have been a sacred duty with extra care taken for their welfare. Instead, they fell in lust with those innocents and corrupted themselves using the power of their position to abuse and destroy that innocence. In turn, those betrayed will forever have to live with what was done to them and quite probably destroyed any chance of a "normal life". I'm also sure that more than a few along the way grew up to abuse other children, in their turn thus perpetuating the cycle of abuse. Any priest that had been exposed thru complaints or observation should have been removed from their position and given mandatory counseling, both faith based and secular. They should also have never been allowed to be around children again.

Pat Tyler
Pat Tyler7 years ago

Sexual abuse has been going on in the church for a very long time along with the priests that are responsible being moved instead of removing and prosecuting them.
What about the children who will live with this for the rest of there lives and the ones that will be molested because nothing was done to stop them. If the first one was arrested how many Children lives would have been saved. The hierarchy is responsible for all these many abused children and should be punished for every single episode.

Joseph P.
Dr Joseph Pizzo7 years ago

I am a Catholic who is very disappointed in my Church's handling of these matters...past and present! When the NYC tabloids trash all teachers because a very, very small percentage have engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with students (given the wide range of public school student's ages, this is not always a criminal act, but it is always an abuse of authority and betrayal of trust), I cannot help but wonder where these rags are when educators in their circulation areas "commit" numerous acts of professionalism and kindness not required by contract. As a veteran teacher and administrator, I'm offended —especially since I only have come across THREE such educators in a 20 plus career, most of it spent working in a large (2500 kid) school! Of course, the buck stops with the Pope. I've been a principal. As such, I requested the Superintendent to remove from my school those two teachers mentioned previously; she did. As Deputy Superintendent, I removed a third who had become one of our principals since the documented sexual abuse occurred. It never would have occurred to me to do otherwise. The clergy and the schools both have an overriding responsibility to keep children in their charge safe and secure. If one of my principals telephoned me tonight and asked me to remove and institute termination proceedings against, we would discuss it and I ultimately would trust his/her judgment, just as my Superintendent would trust mine. The Holy Father should take a hint!

Al K.
Al Kessler7 years ago

These are CHILDREN and their LIVES we are talking about.... There is no crime worse than a crime against a CHILD. It has been over looked for years by many popes. It would still be a big secret if so many abused did not step forward. I have trouble associating these men with God. A true man of God would never hurt an innocent child................

Marian B.
Marian B7 years ago

I think the Catholic Church need to allow much more than they do, such as contraception, but this goes on in the Church of England too. The Pope is visiting the UK, some say he should not come at all, I disagree with that, but they need to be very careful because someone my try to take revenge, you just don't know, that would be terrible.

Daniel Otero
Daniel Otero7 years ago

Forget judgement day. It is now that The pope needs to act and do his good deed. He needs to unprotect these ungodly priests and unrighteous human beings. "Let the children come to me" he need to protect these children and not these adults who are sick

Aleksandra S.
Aleksandra S7 years ago

finally! There will be no better Pope than John Paul II, Vatican should be ashamed that does nothing in that case!