The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights took out a full page ad in The New York Times Monday, filling the space with a long letter written by League President Bill Donohue, in which he rebuts “those who are distorting the truth about priestly sexual abuse.”
The Catholic League describes itself as “the nation’s largest Catholic civil rights organization.”
“There is no other group in the U.S. which is subjected to such gross unfairness,” Donohue writes, of priests.
Donohue claims “some are exploiting this issue for ideological and financial profit,” and tries to combat specific points he takes exception to. He writes that he finds two problems with the “refrain that child rape is a reality in the Church.”
[L]et’s get it straight—they weren’t children and they weren’t raped. We know from the John Jay study that most of the victims have been adolescents, and that the most common abuse has been inappropriate touching (inexcusable though this is, it is not rape). The Boston Globe correctly said of the John Jay report that “more than three-quarters of the victims were post pubescent, meaning the abuse did not meet the clinical definition of pedophilia.” In other words, the issue is homosexuality, not pedophilia.
In the letter, Donohue says the claims of abuse that are surfacing today “are almost all old cases [italics his].” He cites a “landmark study” conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in 2004 (a study that was funded by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) to argue that “most of the abuse occurred during the heyday of the sexual revolution, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.”
“Why are priests being singled out when the sexual abuse of minors among other segments of the population is on-going today?” Donohue writes.
Toward the end of his letter, Donohue takes a thinly veiled shot at liberals.
“What accounts for the relentless attacks on the Church?” he writes. “Let’s face it: if its teachings were pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage and pro-women clergy, the dogs would have been called off years ago.”
Donohue also blasts The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and other victims advocates, saying the Church needs to “fight back with greater vigor.”
“No amount of reform will ever satisfy some,” he writes. “Attorneys like Jeffrey Anderson, and his well-greased friends at SNAP, a professional victims’ group, are dogmatic in their convictions; their hatred of the Catholic Church is palpable.”
David Clohessy, National Director of SNAP, told TPM in an interview that Donohue’s letter is “ludicrous” and an attempt to “shift attention elsewhere.”
“There is little Catholic officials can do to impact the leadership of sports and camp and daycare officials,” he said. “There’s tons Catholic officials can do to make their own institutions safer for kids.”
“There’s a need to pay more attention on child molesters in every walk of life, of course,” Clohessy said. “But are priests being unfairly targeted? Absolutely not.”
Clohessy said the “biggest and most tragic miss” in what Donohue wrote is that the issue isn’t about particular priests.
“The crux of this crisis has always been the complicity of top church supervisors,” he said. “So one reason there’s attention on predator priests is because they tend to get by with their crimes and molest more kids. Because bishops ignore and conceal their crimes.”
According to The New York Times, the standard lowest rate available for groups and non-profits for a one-page ad is $52,030.
Read Donohue’s full letter here.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com