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Priests, Abuse, and the Meltdown of a Culture. The lessons of an important new study.
National Review ^ | 05/19/2011 | George Weigel

Posted on 05/19/2011 7:00:15 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

The American narrative of the Catholic Church’s struggles with the clerical sexual abuse of the young has been dominated by several tropes firmly set in journalistic concrete: that this was and is a “pedophilia” crisis; that the sexual abuse of the young is an ongoing danger in the Church; that the Catholic Church was and remains a uniquely dangerous environment for young people; that a high percentage of priests were abusers; that abusive behavior is more likely from celibates, such that a change in the Church’s discipline of priestly celibacy would be important in protecting the young; that the Church’s bishops were, as a rule, willfully negligent in handling reports of abuse; that the Church really hasn’t learned any lessons from the revelations that began in the Long Lent of 2002.

But according to an independent, $1.8 million study conducted by New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and released on May 18, every one of these tropes is false.

One: Most clerical abusers were not pedophiles, that is, men with a chronic and strong sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. Most of those abused (51 percent) were aged eleven to fourteen and 27 percent of victims were fifteen to seventeen; 16 percent were eight to ten and 6 percent were younger than seven. Males between eleven and fourteen account for more than 40 percent of all victims. Clerical ephebophilia (a sexual attraction to adolescents, often boys) was clearly a serious problem. But to label this a “pedophilia crisis” is ignorant, sloppy, or malicious.

Two: The “crisis” of clerical sexual abuse in the United States was time-specific. The incidence of abuse spiked in the late 1960s and began to recede dramatically in the mid-1980s. In 2010, seven credible cases of abuse were reported in a church that numbers over 65 million adherents.

Three: Abusers were a tiny minority of Catholic priests. Some 4 percent of Catholic priests in active ministry in the United States were accused of abuse between the 1950s and 2002. There is not a shred of evidence indicating that priests abuse young people at rates higher than do people in the rest of society. On the contrary: Most sexual abuse takes place within families. The John Jay study concludes that, in 2001, whereas five young people in 100,000 may have been abused by a priest, the average rate of abuse throughout the United States was 134 for every 100,000 young people. The sexual abuse of the young is a widespread and horrific societal problem; it is by no means uniquely, or principally, a Catholic problem, or a specifically priestly problem.

Four: The bishops’ response to the burgeoning abuse crisis between the late 1960s and the early 1980s was not singularly woodenheaded or callous. In fact, according to the John Jay study, the bishops were as clueless as the rest of society about the magnitude of the abuse problem and, again like the rest of society, tended to focus on the perpetrators of abuse rather than the victims. This, in turn, led to an overdependence on psychiatry and psychology in dealing with clerical perpetrators, in the false confidence that they could be “cured” and returned to active ministry — a pattern that again mirrored broader societal trends. In many pre-1985 cases, the principal request of victims’ families was that the priest-abuser be given help and counseling. Yes, the bishops should have been more alert than the rest of an increasingly coarsened society to the damage done to victims by sexual abuse; but as the John Jay report states, “like the general public, the leaders of the Church did not recognize the extent or harm of victimization.” And this, in turn, was “one factor that likely led to the continued perpetration of offenses.”

Five: As for today, the John Jay study affirms that the Catholic Church may well be the safest environment for young people in American society. It is certainly a safer environment than the public schools. Moreover, no other American institution has undertaken the extensive self-study that the Church has, in order to root out the problem of the sexual abuse of the young. It will be interesting to see when editorials in the New York Times and the Boston Globe demand in-depth studies of the sexual abuse of the young by members of the teachers’ unions, and zero-tolerance policies for teacher/abusers.

So: If the standard media analytic tropes on clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States have been proven false by a vigorous empirical study conducted by a neutral research institute, what, in fact, did happen? Why did the incidence of abuse spike dramatically from the late 1960s through the mid-1980s? The John Jay researchers propose that the crumbling of sexual mores in the turbulence of the sexual revolution played a significant role. As the report puts it, “The rise in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in American society generally. The increase in abusive behavior is consistent with the rise in other types of ‘deviant’ behavior, such as drug use and crime, as well as changes in social behavior, such as an increase in pre-marital sexual behavior and divorce.”

This is not the entire picture, of course. A Church that was not in doctrinal and moral confusion from the late 1960s until the 1978 election of John Paul II might have been better armored against the worst impacts of the sexual free-for-all unleashed in the mid-1960s. A Church that had not internalized unhealthy patterns of clericalism might have run seminary programs that would have more readily weeded out the unfit. A Church that placed a high value on evangelical zeal in its leadership might have produced bishops less inclined to follow the lead of the ambient culture in imagining that grave sexual abusers could be “fixed.” All that can, and must, be said.

But if the Times, the Globe, and others who have been chewing this story like an old bone for almost a decade are genuinely interested in helping prevent the crime and horror of the sexual abuse of the young, a good, long, hard look will be taken at the sexual libertinism that has been the default cultural position on the American left for two generations. Catholic “progressives” who continue to insist that the disciplinary and doctrinal meltdown of the post–Vatican II years had nothing to do with the abuse crisis might also rethink their default understanding of that period. The ecclesiastical chaos of that decade and a half was certainly a factor in the abuse crisis, although that meltdown is not a one-size-fits-all explanation for the crisis and the way it was handled.

The John Jay study is less than illuminating on one point, and that is the relationship of all this to homosexuality. The report frankly states that “the majority of victims (81 percent) were male, in contrast to the distribution by victim gender in the United States [where] national incidence studies have consistently shown that in general girls are three times more likely to be abused than boys.” But then the report states that “the clinical data do not support the hypothesis that priests with a homosexual identity or those who committed same-sex sexual behavior with adults are significantly more likely to sexually abuse children than those with a heterosexual orientation or behavior.”

The disconnect, to the lay mind, seems obvious: Eighty-one percent of the victims of sexual abuse by priests are adolescent males, and yet this has nothing to do with homosexuality? Perhaps it doesn’t from the clinicians’ point of view (especially clinicians ideologically committed to the notion that there is nothing necessarily destructive about same-sex behaviors). But surely the attempt by some theologians to justify what is objectively immoral behavior had something to do with the disciplinary meltdown that the report notes from the late 1960s through the early 1980s; it might be remembered that it was precisely in this period that the Catholic Theological Society of America issued a study, Human Sexuality, that was in clear dissent from the Church’s settled teaching on fornication, self-abuse, and homosexual acts, and even found a relatively kind word to say about bestiality. And is there no connection to be found between the spike in abuse cases between the mid-1960s and the early 1980s, with its victimization of adolescent males, and the parallel spike in homoerotic culture in U.S. Catholic seminaries and religious orders in that same period? Given the prevailing shibboleths in the American academy (including the Catholic academy), it may be that no clinically or statistically demonstrable linkage will be found, but it strains credulity to suggest that there wasn’t a cultural connection here, one that bears serious reflection.

Empirical evidence is unlikely to shift the attention of the mainstream media or the plaintiffs’ bar from the Catholic Church in this matter of the sexual abuse of the young. If would be a good thing for the entire society, however, if the defenders of the sexual revolution would take seriously the question of the relationship between their commitment to lifestyle libertinism and this plague. If the John Jay study on the “causes ands context” of clerical-sexual-abuse problems in the Catholic Church prompts a broader public reflection on the fact that the sexual revolution has not been, and is not, cost-free, and that its victims are often the vulnerable young, then the Church will have done all of American society a signal service in commissioning this study that looks into its own heart of darkness.

— George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. His book on the abuse crisis, The Courage To Be Catholic, is available from Basic Books.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture
KEYWORDS: homosexuality; priests; sexualabuse
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To: TSgt

This article was done by National Review— not the Catholic Church. Did you miss that fact?

21 posted on 05/19/2011 7:40:24 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: mas cerveza por favor
Careful with your accusations; this study has been ongoing.

Source: The John Jay Report

22 posted on 05/19/2011 7:43:46 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: bboop

Thanks for the clarification. By the way, the Bible specifically says that they can be married.

23 posted on 05/19/2011 7:44:06 AM PDT by sigzero
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To: Salvation



Sex Abuse by Teachers Said Worse Than Catholic Church

Jon E. Dougherty, Newsmax
Monday, Apr. 05, 2004

In 2002, the Boston Globe uncovered a scandal of international proportions when it began running a series of investigative reports detailing dozens of cases in which Catholic priests had sexually abused scores of children.
The paper’s damning revelations shook the church to its core, prompting outrage and calls for reform all the way from California to New York to the Vatican in Rome.

By year’s end, some 1,200 priests had been accused of abuse nationwide, the New York Times reported, in an investigative report of its own. In the ensuing maelstrom, five U.S. prelates resigned. Also, bishops from Argentina, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Switzerland and Austria were also forced out of the church. More than 80 percent of the church’s victims were male.

Worse for the church, Americans discovered some of the most abusive priests were protected by upper echelons of the clergy. Repeated abusive offenses by men like Revs. James Porter and John Geoghan were covered up by the church or, when they occasionally were made public, dismissed as rarities or infrequent behavior.

These priests were moved around from diocese to diocese, given positions that limited their contact with children, or moved to administrative duties – but they usually found their way back into a parish, holding Mass and coming in contact with more potential victims.

In the end, the Vatican’s credibility, the church itself, and the entire Catholic faith, was damaged to the point where it will take decades to repair; the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a report on the nature and scope of the abuse problems, found almost 11,000 cases of abuse by about 4,000 priests and deacons since 1950.

“The heartfelt sorrow that we feel for this violation and the often ineffective ways with which it was dealt has strengthened our commitment to do everything possible to see that it does not happen again,” said Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Now, on the heels of the Catholic abuse scandal comes another of historic proportions—one that has the potential to be much greater and far-reaching. According to a draft report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, in compliance with the 2002 “No Child Left Behind” act signed into law by President Bush, between 6 percent and 10 percent of public school children across the country have been sexually abused or harassed by school employees and teachers.

Charol Shakeshaft, the Hofstra University scholar who prepared the report, said the number of abuse cases—which range from unwanted sexual comments to rape—could be much higher.

“So we think the Catholic Church has a problem?” she told industry newspaper Education Week in a March 10 interview.

To support her contention, Shakeshaft compared the priest abuse data with data collected in a national survey for the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation in 2000. Extrapolating data from the latter, she estimated roughly 290,000 students experienced some sort of physical sexual abuse by a school employee from a single decade—1991-2000. That compares with about five decades of cases of abusive priests.

Such figures led her to contend “the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”

Early Comparisons

The comparison of church-school sexual abuse cases began early—years before Shakeshaft’s report was completed.

In June 2002, The Associated Press reported clergy abuse cases overshadowed teacher-student sex abuse cases, though the report stated the school cases were not “uncommon.”

“Some experts point to what they see as a permissive attitude toward such relationships and a double standard because cases involving female teachers and male students are treated less severely,” AP reported.

“The dynamics of the teacher-student cases are often different than the classic sexual abuse cases because they seem to involve consenting relationships between teachers and students,” Finkelhor, director of the Center for Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told the wire service. “. . . Clear boundaries have to be enforced.”

Nan Stein, director of a project on sexual harassment in schools at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College, cited far fewer cases annually than Shakeshaft; she said she believes “several hundred” cases of student-teacher sexual abuse cases occur each year.

And six years earlier Education Week searched newspaper archives and databases, finding 244 cases in a six-month period. The allegations in that short 1998 study ranged from unwanted touching to sexual relationships and serial rape.

Currently, there is no single agency that tracks such incidents. And only a few national surveys, as of 2002, had been conducted on the subject of teacher-student sex—and most of them were sexual harassment studies.

“None of these studies—either singly or as a group—answer all of the reasonable questions that parents, students, educators, and the public ask about educator sexual misconduct,” says Shakeshaft, in her draft report. “And certainly do not provide information at a level of reliability and validity appropriate to the gravity of these offenses.”

The Death of Outrage?

What is also different about the school cases is the level of secondary media coverage it has—or, in this case, hasn’t—received.

Yet, media coverage of the Catholic priest abuse scandal was nearly wall-to-wall; every major television news program, every major newspaper and wire service, and most mass market magazines covered the scandal relentlessly.

But, reports the National Catholic Register, a leading faith publication, “a search on the media database LexisNexis for “Charol Shakeshaft” turned up no articles eight days after” the Education Week report.

An online search by found similar disinterest.’s news database, for example, returned just four entries for “Charol Shakeshaft;” two were Catholic publications.

The Indianapolis Star and Christian Science Monitor only briefly mentioned Shakeshaft’s data; the later publication couched her remarks about schools in an article primarily rehashing the Catholic church abuse scandal.’s news search engine returned only three; two were similar stories from the Indianapolis Star.

‘Serious’ Issue?

Catholic leaders especially are wondering why more coverage of the issue, as well as more action by government education officials, hasn’t been forthcoming, in the weeks since the Education Week story.

“If the country is serious about [sexual abuse of children] as a national issue, we have to direct our resources to where the problem is worse,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, an New York-based Catholic advocacy group, told the Register. “But instead what we get is a selective indignation that suggests there is an agenda here.”

Indeed, even some judges express a more permissive attitude regarding teacher-pupil sex.

Case in point: In Hackensack, N.J., in the spring of 2002, a state judge sentenced 43-year-old teacher Pamela Diehl-Moore to probation for having sex with a seventh-grade student who was only 13 at the time.

Though prosecutors had argued for jail for Diehl-Moore, the judge in the case, Bruce A. Gaeta, disagreed. He put the onus on the student, saying the encounters with his teacher may only have been a way for him to “satisfy his sexual needs.”

According to court transcripts, as reported by AP, Gaeta said, “I don’t see anything here that shows this young man has been psychologically damaged by her actions. And don’t forget, this was mutual consent.”

He was referred to a judicial disciplinary committee.

That is one identifiable double-standard: relationships between male students and female teachers. For one, say experts, most school sexual abuse occurs between male teachers and female students. For another, male students tend to report sex with female teachers far less; they are treated less severely because boys see little wrong with the acts.

“I think our society sort of says to the boy: ‘Congratulations, that’s great. Everybody fantasizes about having a sexual relationship with an older woman,’” Bob Shoop, an education professor at Kansas State University and an expert witness in 30 court cases involving sexual abuse in schools, told AP.

Case Studies

Some of the most recent cases of school sexual abuse include the following:

In 2002, a California high school teacher ran off to Las Vegas with one of her 15-year-old students;

The same year, a Louisiana teacher was accused of having an affair with a 14-year-old student;

In the Bronx, one teacher was charged with the statutory rape of a 16-year-old former student;

In March, a 20-year-old Anderson, Ind. choir aide was charged with allegedly raping a 16-year-old female student—the two had a consensual relationship for three months before the girl asked to break it off;

A week earlier, an Indianapolis Public Schools substitute was caught having sex with a 15-year-old student in a vacant classroom;

A Washington state teacher was convicted of 10 counts of sexually exploiting minors by persuading them to pose nude for him—he then uploaded some of the images to a Web site;

Also in Washington, state officials say 159 coaches of girls sports have been fired or reprimanded over the last decade for sexual misconduct;

An investigation found more than 60 instances in the last four years of Texas high school and middle school coaches losing jobs as a result of allegations of sexual misconduct.
What Next?

Some states have specific laws banning sex between teachers and students. Many others, however, rely on statutory rape laws, but they sometimes do little to protect student-teacher sex that is consensual or between an adult and minor child close to the age of consent.

For her part, Shakeshaft believes more study of the issue is needed, but that officials and educators should take the available data in her report to heart now.

“Some individual districts might have changed some policies or had an in-service workshop, but really there hasn’t been any systematic response to this issue,” she said.

“It isn’t as if we need to stop and wait for a study. I do believe we know enough to take some actions.”

24 posted on 05/19/2011 7:44:46 AM PDT by SeekAndFind (u)
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To: Owl_Eagle; Salvation

The article was written by George Weigel a Catholic theologian.

No bias here...

George Weigel
George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, is a Catholic theologian and one of America’s leading public intellectuals.

Professional Experience
A native of Baltimore, he was educated at St. Mary’s Seminary College in his native city, and at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto. In 1975, Weigel moved to Seattle where he was Assistant Professor of Theology and Assistant (later Acting) Dean of Studies at the St. Thomas Seminary School of Theology in Kenmore. In 1977, Weigel became Scholar-in-Residence at the World Without War Council of Greater Seattle, a position he held until 1984. In 1984-85 Weigel was a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. There, he wrote Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace (Oxford University Press, 1987).

25 posted on 05/19/2011 7:45:04 AM PDT by TSgt ("Some folks just need killin'" - Sling Blade (2006))
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To: Upstate NY Guy
What???! Not pedophilia??? This writer is nuts.

Pedophilia is part of the problem, but it is almost always homo-pedophilia along with homo-hebephilia and adult homosexuality. Fags took over the Catholic seminaries and opened the floodgates to perverts while keeping heterosexuals out. A gay cabal propelled homosexual priests to the top rank as bishops. These gay bishops did not move against pedophiles because the bishops themselves were subject to blackmail. As this latest whitewash proves, the cover-up continues.

26 posted on 05/19/2011 7:45:52 AM PDT by mas cerveza por favor
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To: wideawake

Nice personal attack. Let me know when you have something of value to add to the conversation.

27 posted on 05/19/2011 7:45:52 AM PDT by TSgt ("Some folks just need killin'" - Sling Blade (2006))
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To: wideawake

Discuss the issues all you want, but do not make it personal.

28 posted on 05/19/2011 7:48:30 AM PDT by Religion Moderator
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To: Upstate NY Guy

According to the study, 73% involved kids under 15. My youngest daughter is 13...and yes, she is a child. It is not “ignorant, sloppy, or malicious” to call it pedophilia, but it should also be emphasized it is primarily homosexual pedophilia.

“Ephebophilia” does NOT describe the problem.

“Ephebophilia is the sexual preference of adults for mid-to-late adolescents, generally ages 15 to 19...

...The term has been described by Frenchman Félix Buffière in 1980[12] and Pakistani scholar Tariq Rahman,[13] who argued that “ephebophilia” should be used in preference to “homosexuality” when describing the aesthetic and erotic interest of adult men in adolescent boys in classical Persian, Turkish or Urdu literature...

...Generally, the preference is not regarded by psychologists as a pathology when it does not interfere with other major areas of one’s life, and is not listed by name as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition...”

Ephebophilia is a term invented so homosexuals can pretend they don’t have a tendency to prey on the young. It is a ‘gay rights’ term used so homosexual activists can say there is no link between homosexuality and pedophilia.

See? There is nothing wrong with ephebophilia, and that is what the author claims is the problem - in spite of the fact that 73% of cases involved those UNDER 15!

29 posted on 05/19/2011 7:48:51 AM PDT by Mr Rogers (Poor history is better than good fiction, and anything with lots of horses is better still)
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Comment #30 Removed by Moderator

To: TSgt
Let me know when you have something of value to add to the conversation.

If the standard for added value to a conversation is: "I have to go throw up now", then there is literally nothing I could post that would not add superior value.

31 posted on 05/19/2011 7:50:08 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: wideawake

32 posted on 05/19/2011 7:51:19 AM PDT by TSgt ("Some folks just need killin'" - Sling Blade (2006))
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To: TSgt

Source for all of that?? Or are you fabricating it?

33 posted on 05/19/2011 7:51:31 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Flightdeck
Malicious, because ephebophilia is so much less disgusting and evil than pedophilia?

Malicious, because it sweeps the truth under the carpet, and malicious, because it's being propagated, in many cases, by parties which hate the Church but have no problem with homosexual ephebophilia.

The truth is that this is precisely a homosexual problem, caused by letting homosexuals into the priesthood. People who want to normalize homosexual behavior don't want you to know that.

34 posted on 05/19/2011 7:51:54 AM PDT by Campion ("Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies when they become fashions." -- GKC)
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To: TSgt; Religion Moderator

Did you miss the word” credible” in the above statement for 2010?

Credible does not mean listing the false cases too. But then I have asked you once for a souce. Now I am asking you twice. Where did you get that diatribe?

35 posted on 05/19/2011 7:53:39 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
"Just so the facts get out here: In 2010, seven credible cases of abuse were reported in a church that numbers over 65 million adherents.

Just some anecdotal information here: I have been told by at least 7 of my own personal friends of attempted seduction or rape by catholic priests when they were boys and active in the CC. None of these guys have anything to do with the CC now.

36 posted on 05/19/2011 7:56:39 AM PDT by Upstate NY Guy
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To: TSgt

George Weigel is a writer. He is not the Catholic Church. I believe you said above “whitewash by the Catholic Church.” Is that correct?

37 posted on 05/19/2011 7:56:39 AM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation; TSgt
He's cutting and pasting from an anti-Catholic blog.

Which may be his own blog or not.

And that blog's sources seem to be sometimes sourced, sometimes not.

And the sourcing seems to be sometimes from credible sources, sometimes not.

38 posted on 05/19/2011 7:56:53 AM PDT by wideawake
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To: Salvation

I call BS. If these liberal bishops are not still in cover-up mode, why do they continue denying the homosexual infestation? These shepherds are hirelings. (John 10:13). I would hope to see an honest bishop stand up an denounce this pathetic study

39 posted on 05/19/2011 7:56:53 AM PDT by mas cerveza por favor
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To: TSgt
Weigel is only reporting the results of "an independent, $1.8 million study conducted by New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice".

If you have facts that dispute their findings, present them.

"I have to go throw up now" just tells me that you'd rather shoot the messenger.

The same study also shows that only 149 priests -- that's one in 750 -- accounted for fully 1/4 of all verified abuse cases.

40 posted on 05/19/2011 7:58:39 AM PDT by Campion ("Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies when they become fashions." -- GKC)
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