The Catholic Church is supposed to be a safe haven for many, it is supposed to be a place of worship, acceptance and love. But, for thousands of victims, the Catholic Church is a place of torture, abuse and neglect. The Catholic Church has been involved in many instances of sexual abuse, instead of admitting to and trying to make up for the wrong that they have done, they instead have exploited and minimized so many people. “They like to use those fancy words. They don’t like to say “raped,’” he said. “They say “misdeed,’ “inappropriate touching,’ “mistake.’ That’s insulting. I’m not a mistake” (Bailey, 2006, p. 179).
To make a victim feel less than they are, and to make them feel less than they are is a crime all in itself. For decades, the Catholic Church has minimized and silenced thousands of victims to the horrors of sexual abuse that has been done to the many helpless children in the congregation. In the United States alone from 1950 to 2013, there have been 17,200 people that have stepped forward and alleged that they were sexually abused by more than 6,500 clerics (Wertele, 2019, p. 1). “The Catholic Church’s exercise of power through models of dominance and submission, sometimes devolving into sadism and masochism” (Frawley- O’ Dea, 2007, p. 45). These clerics are given one of the highest powers in the church and are trusted by many, but somehow they have found a way to manipulate the minds of many and commit one of the biggest sins against the innocence.
The Catholic Church has been around for almost 2,000 years, “insightful comments about clergy sexual abuse were recorded as far back as 1,700 years ago when St. Basil wrote, ‘a cleric or monk who seduces youths or young boys. . . is to be publicly flogged. . . for six months he will languish in prison-like confinement’” (McChesney & Plante, 2011, p. 11). This quote from St. Basil goes to show that members of the clergy were continuously sexually assaulting these children and leaders of the Church were well aware that this problem existed.
If leaders of the Church were aware that this was happening, why did it take so long for people to voice the horrible things that were happening to them? The truth is, when children or parents would come forward with these allegations, the Church would put them to shame for making such allegations. If and when they came forward about their sexual abuse, they were seen as traitors to the church. Having a sense of religion and stability is something that is very important to people with a strong faith, an anonymous victim came forward and said “I loved being Catholic, in fact, it was my love of Catholicism that placed me in the path of the one who would hurt me” (McChesney & Plante, 2011 p. 3).
Finally voices broke through the void of silence when one of the first cases was brought to the public eye in 1985, a Louisiana priest, Gilbert Gauthe was convicted of abusing as many as 39 children (Wertele, 2019, p. 7). After this first case surfaced in the following weeks and months victims filed numerous lawsuits against many different members of the clergy (McChesney & Plante, 2011, p. 10). Following the case of Gauthe, Father James Porter of Louisiana, abused nearly 200 victims. Research shows that bishops of five dioceses had known about the abuse (Wertele, 2019, p. 8). These bishops did not want this to become a public case so instead of reporting Porter and revoking him from his position, he was sent to a treatment facility.
After he was done with treatment he was sent to a Massachusetts parish where he abused another 21 young people during his time there. After it was found out that he was abusing young children, he was moved to another parish in Minnesota. With moving him to a new parish it confirms that the Catholic Church will often times recycle child molesters rather than turning them into the police. Porter eventually left the priesthood in 1974, but even after leaving his sexual exploitation of minors did not stop there, he was accused of sexually abusing the baby-sitter of his children at home. Throughout the next couple of years, many victims came forward with similar stories regarding Porter, on December 6, 1993 James Porter was sentenced 18 to 20 years in a maximum security prison (The Boston Globe, 2004).