Exorcising Catholic Priest Stereotypes



The Altoona-Johnstown diocese has been dealing with multiple tragedies recently: various sexual abuse scandals and cover-ups from several leaders in the church.

Unfortunately, the stereotype that Catholic priests everywhere are pedophiles and child abusers has resurfaced. This stereotype has continued to be the monster-in-the-closet for the Catholic Church.

Some people continue to hold prejudice against the Catholic Church, claiming that all of the clergy engages in these practices.

This problem is not exclusive to the Catholic Church. However, the Catholic Church has received more publicity when scandals have surfaced within the Church. There are several instances where others who are not Catholics have fallen under these titles.

Ultra-orthodox Jewish rabbis have come under fire in recent years not only for child molestation, but also for not responding to these allegations. According to Brooklyn Ink, a local paper for Brooklyn, NY, more than 26 rabbis and teachers were accused of varying degrees of child molestation throughout the orthodox community in 2010.

Since then, many orthodox rabbis and teachers have reformed their policies. According to The Times of Israel, a Jewish news source based in Israel, 100 rabbis and teachers in the US “signed a proclamation saying that Jewish law obligates all Jews to report suspected child sex abuse to the authorities.”

The Methodist Church of Britain came under investigation in May of 2015 after a report was released which found nearly 2,000 incidents of abuse.

According to RT UK, a global news network, these abuses date back to 1950. Of these cases, “1,885 cases identified included sexual, physical, emotional and domestic abuse including cases of neglect.”

Sexual abuse made up “the largest number of cases,” including one that involved “grooming of teenage girls on Facebook” and “a minister allegedly making sexual advances on children.”

Back in 2015, when the RT UK article was published, the Methodist Church in Britain was open about what had happened and “put in place stronger safeguards and procedures” to ensure things like this do not happen again.

Many of the victims of these abuses were taking legal action at the time against the Methodist Church of Britain.

These abuses are not exclusive to these faiths either. With a simple Google search, articles dating back as little one year ago can be found detailing abuses of clergy of other faiths.

This is much more than an issue exclusive to the Catholic Church. Many religions have had to combat this issue. Catholic priests need to stop being the victims of this harsh stereotype.

The Catholic Church is still in the process of reforms, unfortunately not at the pace that its followers wish.

In an article from The Guardian, the Catholic Church said in a document that “senior clergy members ought to deal with allegations of abuse,” but calls for the victims and their families to report the abuse to authorities, not clergy.

In a letter to the editor for the New York Times, one former priest called for the American bishops to “stand together to prove that they are making the reforms they say.”

We are all human; we all make mistakes.

Priests are still human and make mistakes, and they must face the consequences for any poor choices they may make exactly like all of us.

At the same time, not all priests are pedophiles and child molesters just because a minuscule percentage have been.

There are some bad people in the world, but not all people are bad.

We must support the victims, try the guilty and defend those being wrongfully stereotyped because of the actions of the few.

We must convince the Catholic Church to enact reforms that will make protecting its followers from abuse a higher priority.

I am truly sorry for the victims that have had to endure abuses at the hands of people they should be able to trust.

I pray that they find peace one day, and that they can remain faithful in whatever religion they practice.

May this passage from Isaiah 41:10 give them strength to endure and stay faithful:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”