A welcome inquiry into sexual abuse, and a new honesty
In one sense, any inquiry into sexual abuse should be welcome. But there has been such a strong preference for investigating Catholic institutions—which are an easy target for huge financial settlements—that many people seem to think the whole mess is primarily a Catholic problem. And that is simply not true.
The incidence of sexual abuse by priests and bishops in the Catholic Church actually compares favorably with the same problem in families, other religious groups and secular institutions, especially public schools. Moreover, priestly abuse peaked over thirty years ago, and was already in sharp decline long before the revelations that brought it to public attention in 2001.
Every time I write something like this, people accuse me of justifying sexual abuse in the Church. Certainly not! Wherever it is found, such abuse is reprehensible. But what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander! Now an investigation in the United Kingdom promises, at long last, to honor that old proverb.
Ten months ago, an Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse was announced by the UK’s home secretary. This week, inquiry leader Lowell Goddard revealed she will supervise a dozen simultaneous investigations into multiple churches, children’s homes and political bodies. In particular:
The investigation will focus on high-profile allegations of child sexual abuse involving current or former members of parliament, senior civil servants, government advisers and members of the intelligence and security agencies. It will consider allegations of coverup and conspiracy and will review the adequacy of law enforcement responses to these allegations.
Moral behavior is not promoted by identifying it only as a failure of others, particularly of groups that are culturally out of favor. Crimes in Great Britain are not committed only by the proverbial passing tramps, or the passing Catholics. This investigation promises to bring far greater honesty to a problem that is deeply rooted in our fallen human nature, and particularly rooted in the sexually dysfunctional culture of the modern West.
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