10 Years On, Clergy Abuse Scandal Still Reverberates
NEAL CONAN, HOST:
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Ten years ago this month, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of stories about the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and systematic cover-up by the archdiocese of Boston.
The scandal shocked millions and proved to be just the beginning. It wasn't just Boston, and it wasn't just the U.S. Hundreds have now spoken out around the world. Their stories and their lawsuits forced the church to deal with an issue it kept under the rug for decades.
We'd like to hear from Catholics today, especially from those for whom this story is personal. After 10 years, what's changed? Our phone number, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. You can also join the conversation at our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Later in the program, the false narrative of a debate on climate change, but first the sex abuse and cover-up scandal 10 years on. Reporter Michael Rezendes is part of an investigative team that won the Pulitzer Prize for The Boston Globe and joins us from a studio at that newspaper, and nice to have you with us today.
MICHAEL REZENDES: Pleasure to be here, Neal.
CONAN: And when you guys broke this story back in 2002, I wonder, did you know, or did you suspect that this story was so much bigger than that big story you already had?
REZENDES: Well no, we did not. I mean, first of all, not in our wildest dreams did we suspect that it was as big in Boston as it turned out to be. And I think all of us have been repeatedly thrown back on our heels as this story has spread throughout the country and indeed around the world. None of us foresaw how big this story really is.
CONAN: And we should be reminded about how difficult it was to find out in the first place.
REZENDES: Yeah, it's very, very difficult to get records from the church. The church, after all, just like journalists, is protected by the First Amendment. And so very often, when they're sued, they try to avoid having to produce records in the course of discovery, and when they are forced to produce records, they're often granted confidentiality orders and that sort of thing, as was the case here in Boston.
So we were able to get a lot of very, very explosive records through sources, but the most important thing was that the Globe as an institution went to court, overturned the confidentiality order that existed in the case of a particularly abusive pedophile priest, and we won our case and got those records.
CONAN: And given what we've found out, all the horrors, how is the archdiocese of Boston different today than it was 10 years ago?
REZENDES: Well, in many respects, I think it's quite different. I think the new cardinal, Cardinal O'Malley, has done a lot to prevent future sexual abuse by priests. Just about everybody who works for the archdiocese now has a criminal background check, and all priests and all laypeople who work for the archdiocese, they're all trained in how to recognize signs of abuse and what to do if they encounter abuse.
So I think in that respect, the environment is a lot more aware, and there's a great emphasis, at least here in Boston, and I think it's different in other diocese, but at least here in Boston, I think there is an emphasis on protecting future abuse and recognizing current abuse.
CONAN: What happened as a result? How much has the church been punished? What of those priests who committed these acts? What about those who covered them up?
REZENDES: Well, the answer to your question is complicated because the situation is different diocese by diocese and also country by country. Here in the United States, there have been many priests who have been punished and who are in prison and have served time in prison, but it's only recently that the bishops who were in charge of assigning those priests after they'd already been found to have abused children, assigning them to more parishes, it's only recently that those bishops and other church officials have been held to account.
CONAN: So have - some of them are still in office, some still enjoying great power?
REZENDES: Well, exactly. I mean, for instance, the auxiliary bishops who worked under Cardinal Law here in Boston, many of them were given their own diocese. For instance, John McCormack runs his own diocese in New Hampshire. William Murphy runs a diocese in Long Island. Alfred Hughes runs a diocese in New Orleans, et cetera.
So the bishops really were not held to account in any way for allowing abusive priests to continue to abuse children, but it's only started to happen recently in the United States. A bishop in Kansas City has been indicted for not reporting child sex abuse to police, and there's a monsignor in Philadelphia who I believe is scheduled to stand trial for endangering children because he also oversaw priests who were known abusers who were assigned to other churches.
CONAN: And what about the victims? Can we say in any meaningful way that they have found some justice?
REZENDES: I think for a lot of victims, they have found justice. I mean, part of what happened over the last decade is victims who previously believed that they were alone or somehow responsible for what happened to them, which is a very common phenomenon, I think literally thousands of these victims suddenly realized hey, it's not my fault, hey, this is happening to other people, wow, there's a systemic problem here. And I think a lot of victims have found a sense of liberation in that sense.
On the other hand, I think many victims still feel the damages of their abuse and continue to be troubled and continue to lead lives that are characterized by a lot of pain.
CONAN: And what about the lawsuits? Have they all been settled?
REZENDES: No, there seem to be an unending stream of lawsuits. I think to date, the church has probably paid about $2 billion I think is the latest figure on settlements with victims, whether there are lawsuits or not lawsuits. But there are still lawsuits active in parts of the country, absolutely.
CONAN: We want to hear from Catholics today. What's changed after 10 years? We'd especially like to hear from those of you where, for whom this story is personal, 800-989-8255. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll start with Brian(ph), and Brian's on the line with us from Portland, Oregon.
BRIAN: Hi, I was a student at Our Lady Queen of Angels seminary in 1965, '66. That was in San Fernando Valley. I was abused there. There was massive abuse there. They had a dormitory room that was set up with mattresses, and that story still hasn't come out. So there's no change. They're still trying to hide everything.
They don't really - they talk about wanting to come out and be open about everything, but that's a lie. They're not doing that.
CONAN: And the story's not come out because - have you told the story? Have you...
BRIAN: I have attempted to tell the story. I've attempted to get other people that I believe were students there to commit. When I talked with the L.A. district attorney, he was - he just listened aghast, and he said, you know, you're the first person that's talked about this. And they still withhold information. It's just extremely frustrating.
And sorry, I'm very emotional about this because after all these years - I'm 60 years old, and it's still - they're not being honest and open.
CONAN: Well, thanks very much for sharing your story, Brian, and we wish you the best of luck. Michael Rezendes, I don't know if you know any of the details of the case that he's talking about, but do you think that there are others like that, still unknown, out there?
REZENDES: Yeah, I think there probably are, and I want to say that without knowing anything about the specifics that the caller is referring to, I said a moment ago that I thought particularly the Boston archdiocese is doing a lot to prevent future abuse, and that's true.
On the other hand, conceptually, I would agree with the caller: When it comes to getting to the bottom of past abuse, I think the church has yet to follow through on its promise to be transparent about this.
In 2002, the national bishops' conference in America approved a charter of the protection of young people and children, and in it, they promised to be transparent about sexual abuse by priests, and so far I think they've fallen short in a lot of areas.
CONAN: Let's get another voice into the conversation, Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund. She worked with the Catholic Church on their Implementation and Oversight Committee shortly after the sex abuse scandal was first reported back in 2002, joins us now from member station WGBH in Boston. Nice to have you with us today.
SUZIN BARTLEY: Nice to be with you.
CONAN: And what did you hope to accomplish as you joined that committee, and has it been accomplished?
BARTLEY: Oh, I think what I hoped personally was to put in place procedures, policies, codes of conduct that would prevent this tragedy from continuing to occur. I think that Michael is right that the transparency within the Catholic Church has yet to be followed in terms of cover-up. But at the same time, I think we need to look at what this particular archdiocese has put into place to prevent it from happening again, whether it's the 250,000 staff and volunteers who've been trained, whether it's an extensive installation and training around codes of conduct, reporting protocols, making sure there are teams in place, I could go on. I think those are important to prevent pedophiles from gaining access to kids.
CONAN: We've since learned, of course, obviously it's not just the Catholic Church, but this is an institution of immense power and immense wealth, and the question has to be asked: Can we be sure about the future unless everything from the past is atoned for, made up for, acknowledged?
BARTLEY: Oh, I think they have huge issues of atonement and acknowledgement. However, when I came to the cardinals' commission and sat on implementation and oversight, I knew that that was not something that I was going to be able to affect, and I think that struggle is going to be ongoing.
CONAN: So as you look toward the future, do you have confidence - and nobody can say any system is perfect - but it's going to be a much better system, a much more responsive system, one where the institution itself will not tolerate abuse?
BARTLEY: Yes, I think so, and I think because you've got the number of staff and volunteers that have been trained specifically in spotting signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect broadly, have been trained specifically on child sexual abuse. In the school system, we've trained the professionals because the reality is the average pedophile has over 140 victims over the course of their lifetime. And 61 percent have been severely physically and sexually abused.
The more we can prevent it from happening, the better we all are, and, you know, Neal, we wouldn't be surprised if you went into a bar and found an alcoholic. None of us should be surprised to go into a child-serving agency and find that there is a pedophile there, and it behooves all of us, whether we're in the Catholic Church, where we're in any kind of a large institution - Penn State leaps to mind - that we have good reporting protocols, that staff are trained in understanding how to use those protocols, that there is staff conduct so, you know, if you should wander into a shower and see something that's inappropriate, you know exactly what to do.
You've trained staff. Importantly, you've trained parents. And last, but not least, you've trained children.
CONAN: Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children's Trust Fund and member of the Catholic Church's Implementation and Oversight Committee in Boston; also with us Michael Rezendes, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter with the spotlight team on The Boston Globe that broke this story 10 years ago.
We'd like to hear from Catholics in our audience today. What's changed after 10 years? We'd especially like to hear from those of you for whom this story is personal. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, email@example.com. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. When The Boston Globe published its story "Church Allowed Abuse by Priest for Years" in January, 2002, the allegations within were shocking enough: one defrocked priest, more than 130 possible victims and an archdiocese that shuttled him from parish to parish after abuse reports and his own casual assertion that he'd molested seven boys.
As it turned out, that story was just the tip of the iceberg. In the years since, hundreds of victims worldwide have accused Catholic priests of sexual abuse. The church turned over priests' files and adopted new policies on abusive clergy. But what's really changed after 10 years? We'd like to hear from Catholics in our audience today, especially those of you for whom this story is personal, 800-989-8255. Email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.
Our guests are Michael Rezendes, Pulitzer Prize-winner for The Boston Globe; and Suzin Bartley, executive director of the Children's Trust Fund. And let's get Frank(ph) on the line, Frank's calling us from Bedford in New Hampshire.
FRANK: Yes, good afternoon. I'm a lifelong Catholic, deeply pained by this. And I think the changes the church has made have been all window dressing. Time magazine did a cover story in June of 2010, "Why Being Pope Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry." Pope John Paul was aware of all of these issues. He covered them up.
The current Pope Benedict was also aware of them when he was archbishop of Munich. His brother was engaged in that. He's looked the other way. In fact, the church is now trying to make John Paul a saint. I mean, he may have been a great man in many ways, but he overlooked this child sexual abuse, and when Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston was guilty of moving a priest to 20 different schools when he knew that the priest was sexually molesting children, Massachusetts State Police came to arrest Cardinal Law, and what happened? Pope John Paul had him spirited out of Boston on a 10 o'clock flight to Rome, gave him a cushy job there where he still remains.
And he's guilty of child sexual abuse himself because he tolerated it. He should be in prison someplace. And the International Court of Justice should be talking to the pope about putting handcuffs on him, as well, and I say this as a Catholic because it's all window dressing. They haven't changed substantively at all.
CONAN: We're getting - we think we're getting your point, Frank. I just want to ask Michael Rezendes, as it deals with the very highest authorities not just in the archdiocese of Boston, as he mentioned, Cardinal Law is now at the Vatican.
REZENDES: Yes, I just want to correct a few details of what the caller said. I mean, the state police did not approach Cardinal Law seeking to arrest him. Cardinal Law resigned after a year of stories by The Boston Globe, and he went to the Vatican, as the caller says.
And it is true, as the caller says, that when Cardinal Law arrived at the Vatican, he was given a very nice job. He was made the archpriest of the Saint Mary major basilica. He was in charge of one of the five most important basilicas in Rome. It's a beautiful job, a beautiful position.
So I think many victims, like the caller, felt that in fact Cardinal Law, rather than being disciplined for what he had done, was in fact rewarded. And I think to a lot of Catholics, it was a sign that the Vatican was really not quite sincere in dealing with the issue of clergy sexual abuse.
CONAN: Frank, thanks very much for the call. But Suzin Bartley, is it fair to describe the things the church has done, the changes that have been made, as simply window dressing?
BARTLEY: I think you really need to divide it up, Neal. On one hand, you have the hierarchy of the church and the responsibility that they hold for the level of child sexual abuse that was not only allowed but almost encouraged by their very secrecy, their male domination.
On the other hand, you have the amount of work that has been done in this archdiocese by the laity, who is committed to making sure that this situation never happens again. And I think there are, you know, two ends of the spectrum here. And, you know, for someone who grew up Catholic, who the priest in my parish, Thomas Welsh(ph), was a prolific abuser as it turned out.
You know, I've seen the pain and the suffering, and I think many of us want to make sure that out of this tragedy comes something good and that we make sure that it doesn't happen to a child again, or if a pedophile begins to seduce, because this is the seduction of a child, that we are sophisticated and knowledgeable and trained enough that we can spot it, that the child knows how to talk about it and that we can prevent this from happening.
The hierarchy and how the Catholic Church - you know, I struggled with this. Was I talking to them as a corporation, or was I talking to them as a church? And I think their confusion about their roles here is something that contributes to, as Michael said, the lack of transparency.
And I'd point out that, you know, even with the audits that are done nationally, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops passed both Kansas and Philadelphia, which Michael, you know, mentioned have both had criminal complaints filed against the Catholic hierarchy in those diocese.
CONAN: One final question for you: You've talked about the policy changes, and I accept that those are real and important. As you look at the church, though, as an institution, has it been humbled by this? Has it really looked inside itself as an institution?
BARTLEY: I would have to say that's not been my experience. I don't see that it has been humbled. I don't see that it has really looked internally. I would say those of us who are Catholics, we have looked internally, we have looked in our parishes to see what we can do. But as much as it saddens me, I don't see Rome or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops really looking at the quality of the implementation, the - you know, the whole piece around, you know, disclosing who has abused in the past and what's being put in place to make sure that they are kept from children. I just don't see that happening.
CONAN: Suzin Bartley, thanks very much for your time today, appreciate it.
BARTLEY: No problem, thank you, Neal.
CONAN: Suzin Bartley, executive director for the Massachusetts Children's Trust Fund. She worked with the Catholic Church on their implementation and oversight committee, with us today from member station WGBH in Boston.
We have this email from Nicole(ph) and many others like it: I'm a 30-year-old practicing Catholic, and while the abuse is deplorable, and those guilty should be removed from the church and punished for every crime they committed, my family and I decided not to let these incidents stop us from believing in our faith and remaining a Catholic.
And we'd like to bring another voice into the conversation, and let's introduce Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases, represented hundreds of victims in suits against the Catholic Church and with us today from member station WBUR in Boston. Nice to have you with us.
MITCHELL GARABEDIAN: Thank you for having me.
CONAN: And do you believe that fundamental changes have occurred in the church over these past 10 years?
GARABEDIAN: No, not at all. It's business as usual. For instance, Cardinal O'Malley asked parishes to institute child safety programs in the parishes within the archdiocese of Boston within the past few years, and 20 percent of those diocese chose not to, and Cardinal O'Malley said, well, I don't have any power over them. There's nothing I can do about that.
Recently, I filed 20 lawsuits in federal court in Connecticut against Douglas Perlitz, who was running a Jesuit-run institution down in Haiti. And he received 20 - almost 20 years in prison for sexually molesting children down there, and eight of those children were molested after the National Catholic Conference of Bishops instituted their new rules and norms.
To put this in focus, you have to realize you have - you are dealing with an institution that got caught. They did not volunteer their guilt. They got caught, and they fought it tooth and nail. They got caught allowing thousands of children to be sexually molested by thousands of priests over the course of centuries.
They're not going to change on a dime. They have no reason to. They have - in their own minds. They have not opened up the parishes and asked victims to come in and speak about their experiences. They have not opened up the parishes and asked victims to speak on panels about how to prevent child abuse.
They have hidden and shuffled priests from parish to parish to parish. In my Geoghan cases, which triggered the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the United States and around the world, I showed that Bernard Cardinal Law, it was documented, Bernard Cardinal Law allowed Goeghan to go to another parish, and he did not warn the parishioners when he knew that Father John J. Geoghan was a child molester.
CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller into the conversation. This is Amy(ph), Amy with us from St. Louis.
AMY: Well, hello. I am the typical Catholic mom with kids in Catholic school, and one of the reasons that I can say things have changed in the past 10 years is the education of the heart of the church, which is the parishioners. Here in St. Louis, if you so much want to drive on a field trip for the kids, you have to take the protecting God's children class, which is one of the creepiest evenings of your life.
And it made us all talk about and look for and watch for these sorts of situations so that way this doesn't occur in the future. I as a typical parishioner cannot comment on what horrible things the hierarchy has done to hide this, but what I can say is that we are talking about it. We've watched for it. And it's become something that we specifically don't want to ever happen again, particularly in the Catholic Church, because we've got such a stigma about it.
CONAN: Mitchell Garabedian, can you - we talked about some of the changes that have been instituted there in Boston. Amy is talking about some in St. Louis. It does seem that these policies are certainly different than those 10 years ago.
GARABEDIAN: Well, cosmetically, they are. But who is instituting those policies? Is it an objective outside entity? Or is it the church itself that allowed this to happen over the course of hundreds of years? I mean, how can you trust an institution to allow - that allowed thousands of children to be molested by thousands of priests and while thousands of supervisors turned their back on those children? You have to remember canon law states child sexual abuse matters when looked into shall be kept in secret. So there's a secret society there.
When the priest molested the child, the priest would threaten the child to keep the matter a secret or, for instance, their mother would burn in hell. Then, the supervisors when they receive the report of the sexual abuse by a parent would tell the parent - and this is all documented - to keep this matter a secret. So you have this secrecy within an entity that has started to circle the wagons, and they play upon people's faith and morality. You have purportedly the most moral institution in the world acting the most immorally and using for leverage the fact that they tell little children if you tell anybody your parents are going to burn in hell.
CONAN: Amy, I'm not sure that burning in hell has been threatened in your case but...
AMY: Yeah. I am quite confident that my children have never been told they would burn in hell if they told me something happened to them.
CONAN: And do you trust the priests and the other people there who work in your diocese, in your parish?
AMY: Absolutely in my parish. But the smart - the best thing that's happened is to make those of us looking around and with children in situations smarter and more able to handle a questionable situation that things don't become a deplorable situation.
GARABEDIAN: And the victim should be given credit for that, not the institution, because the institution tried to hide that - those facts. Now, you have to remember...
AMY: I (unintelligible).
GARABEDIAN: ...the same people who implemented the old policies in - within the church are implementing the new policies within the church. It's the same regime. The attitudes haven't changed. As the earlier caller stated, these higher-ups are still running the institution.
CONAN: Let's Amy get back in. You were trying to say something?
AMY: Well, I was trying to say, I think, there's a huge difference between the hierarchy and the heart of a parish.
AMY: And if we are watching, we can make sure the individual can help make sure and watch for these deplorable things. Again, I can't comment on how things were covered up...
CONAN: Got you, yeah.
AMY: ...or what (unintelligible).
REZENDES: Neal, if I could...
CONAN: Amy, thanks very much for the call.
AMY: Thank you.
CONAN: And, Michael Rezendes, go ahead.
REZENDES: Yeah. If I could just jump in here, I think what a lot of victims are wondering is the extent to which the hierarchy in Rome is really behind the changes that some people are seeing in - at the local level in dioceses across America. In other words, right now, there's a heightened consciousness about clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. But what happens a year from now? What happens two years from now when perhaps the awareness isn't high? And I think some people feel that if the hierarchy is not behind these changes and if the hierarchy is not willing to change some things in church law, then perhaps what we're seeing in terms of change is just a temporary phase.
CONAN: We're talking with Michael Rezendes of The Boston Globe Spotlight Team that broke the story of the sexual abuse scandal and cover-up scandal in the Catholic Church 10 years ago. Also with us, Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
And this email from Anne(ph) in Newark, Delaware. You're asking what's changed in 10 years. I'd like to think that the church's paradigm has shifted from protecting priests to protecting parishioners, particularly children. But I wonder how much of the shift is due to a real change in priorities and how much is due to having been caught. What do your guests think?
And, Michael Rezendes, I'd like to ask you, too. How much of this change is due to the stories by yourself and other reporters, and how much do the lawsuits brought by Mitchell Garabedian and the victims' stories as they've come out?
REZENDES: Well, it does seem that virtually all of the change is due to the stories in newspapers, like The Boston Globe, and the lawsuits filed by attorneys, like Mitchell Garabedian, and the growing outrage and anger of the victims. It really does seem that that is really the impetus for the change. For instance, very recently, Pope Benedict seems to have made clergy sex abuse a priority. He said as much just last year, and he's requiring all dioceses to come up with procedures for cooperating with law enforcement by this year.
So this is 10 years after the scandal broke in the United States. And some people feel that if the scandal had not blown across Europe in recent years, that perhaps the Vatican would not be acting as decisively as it appears to be right now. Clergy sex abuse scandal has hit Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and, as we said earlier, Germany, where Pope Benedict was the archbishop of Munich.
CONAN: And, Mitchell Garabedian, the church would have us believe that this is behind us, that the investigations have been completed, that the new policies are in effect. Do you foresee a day when this can be behind us?
GARABEDIAN: Well, let me just say this. It takes decades for victims to gather the strength and courage to come forward to report the abuse. I have individuals in their 80s reporting abuse for the very first time. One man has been carrying it around for 81 years, and I'm the first person he told. And really, individuals, will not then report the sexual abuse, for the most part, who were sexual molested in the '90s and within the last 10 years for another 30 years or so. So in another 30 years or so, you're going to have children coming forward who will be saying, you know, I was sexual molested in 1995 or 2002 or whatever. It's going to take time for those individuals to come forward.
And let me also add something that my clients have told me in terms of their experiences with Cardinal O'Malley. Many clients went to see Cardinal O'Malley because he would speak to them individually about their plight, but 95 percent of them were totally disappointed. They told me, Mr. Garabedian, all the cardinal did was talk about how great the church was.
He didn't even say he was - he cared about my sexual abuse. He didn't inquire into it at all. He just gave us a speech about how great the church is. So that could be reflective of the attitude of the Archdiocese of Boston and the church on a whole.
CONAN: Mitchell Garabedian, thanks very much for your time today.
GARABEDIAN: Thank you.
CONAN: Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who specializes in sexual abuse cases and represented hundreds for victims in suits against the Catholic Church, with us today from WBUR, a member station in Boston. Michael Rezendes is from The Boston Globe. He's going to stay with us. We're going to take more of your calls about, well, we're going to hear from Catholics today and especially those for whom this story is personal. We'll also be talking with Naomi Oreskes, an historian who says the verdict is in on climate control. It's not a debate. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
CONAN: We're talking right now about what's happened in the 10 years since the abuse scandal erupted in the Catholic Church. Michael Rezendes is our guest. He was part of the team that broke that story for The Boston Globe, and they won the Pulitzer Prize for that. We'd like to hear from Catholics today. In a few minutes, we're also going to be talking with Naomi Oreskes about what she says is the false paradigm of a debate on climate change. In the meantime, let's take a couple more calls.
And let's go to Dennis(ph), and Dennis is with us from Broomall, in Pennsylvania.
DENNIS: Yes. Hi. How are you doing?
CONAN: Well, thank you.
DENNIS: I just had a comment from the one caller who, you know, said about how things in St. Louis are or wherever. I mean, I really think that this is - everybody kind of needs to stay focus. This is really about their, you know, showing some remorse from the Catholic Church, which to date they have not done whatsoever in my mind. I'm a Catholic for, you know, 59 years. They're not showing remorse. And there's a stigma attached with, you know, surely for being a priest but to some degree for being a Catholic due to the fact that these folks were used to put themselves out there. What happened to, you know, confession and all these things that should, you know, they wouldn't want anybody else to do? And I'll take the comments off air.
CONAN: All right, Dennis. Thanks very much. And, Michael Rezendes, as we've found out, other institutions are also reluctant to tell - be fully transparent. There seems to be, though, a particular reluctance in the case of an institution that - or particular quandary in the case of an institution that bases its teachings on morality and ethics?
REZENDES: Yeah. I think to a lot of victims, it's simply hypocritical. This is supposed to be a very moral institution, and it has not acted in a moral way in the eyes of many victims. I think a lot of victims feel, as the caller was suggesting, that confession is good for the laity but not appropriate for the hierarchy. As we were saying earlier, I think the church could do a lot more to investigate past abuse and be transparent about past abuse. For instance, the church could tell us what percentage of priests had sexually molested children.
This was an issue 10 years ago. Cardinal Ratzinger said the - then-Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, said that the percentage was very low - certainly, no greater in the general population. But here in Boston, in 2004, the archdiocese said that it was 7 percent of the priests that had served since 1950. Since then, there have been a lot more allegations against a lot more priests. And suddenly, the church is saying, well, we're not going to calculate the percentage of abusive priests anymore.
I think the lack of candor on past abuse inevitably makes people wonder about the sincerity of the measures that seem to be adopted now to prevent future abuse.
CONAN: Let's go to Lindsay(ph). Lindsay with us from Pensacola.
LINDSAY: Hi, Michael. Hi, Neal.
LINDSAY: I was just calling to bring another perspective, which is I've worked with youth in the Catholic Church for many years. And just the anger and the hurt that I can hear in your callers' voices let's me know that there hasn't been enough done with humility from the hierarchical and institutional church. At the same time, those of us who work with youth have an increasing amount of barriers that our insurance companies and lawyers in the church require to the point where it's impossible to ever have a private conversation with youth alone.
I work at summer camps run by an archdiocese in America, and they suggested - this wasn't implemented yet - that two people be awake at all times. That's the kind of barrier that you don't have in other camping - I've worked with other camps. And there are protective things of those too but not to the same extent. You know, to even be around youth in a Catholic setting, people have to go through training for safe environment, and it's different in every diocese. You can't go to one diocese with training from another diocese.
And it almost feels - and I know that my friends who are priests feel this way - that it really creates a barrier and an increasing lack of trust between the ability to administer to young people, and there to be any trust there.
CONAN: Yet, given what's happened, given the scale of what's happened, do you really think that's gone too far?
LINDSAY: I don't think it's gone too far. I think that the wrong people have been punished, and the people who I feel have been wrongly punished are workers of good wills who work with the youths in their spare time, the youth themselves who don't have access to the hierarchical church because the priests want to be more distant now. And instead of taking the kind of kids - the measures that ought to be taken against priests who've been abusive and in transparency of the entire institutional church, it seems that the people who've been victimized once - youth and those that served them - are being victimized again.
CONAN: Lindsay, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.
LINDSAY: Thank you.
CONAN: We'll end with this email from Paul in Missouri: There is still a very large shoe to drop on this issue, that's the Third World continents of Africa and Latin America, both very patriarchal societies. The Catholic Church has publicly and officially put on a full-court press to strengthen their positions in those countries. As these areas gain in maturity and sophistication, this could go another half century as it echoes throughout those societies.
And, Michael Rezendes, we've talked about the scandals in various European countries, not so much from Africa and South America, though there are a lot of suspicions.
REZENDES: Yeah, that's true. And I think - unfortunately, I think the writer of that email might be onto something. It's only recently, as we were saying earlier, that this clergy sex abuse phenomenon has kind of blown across the continent of Europe. And I think it's just going to take a little bit longer for folks in underdeveloped countries who often don't have a sense of what their rights might be, who often may be living in dire poverty and be very, very grateful for some of the very good services that the Catholic Church provides overseas. They might be especially reluctant to speak out against the Catholic Church for that reason. But I think, eventually, it will happen. And eventually, we'll know - eventually, I think there'll be an accounting, but I think it will take awhile.
CONAN: Michael Rezendes, thanks very much for your time.
REZENDES: My pleasure.
CONAN: Michael Rezendes, a member of the 2002 investigative team that broke the story on the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal and cover up, still, of course, with The Boston Globe Spotlight Team. And he joined us from studios at the newspaper. More in just a moment.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.