Sexual Abuse, the Church, and Public School

Francis X. Maier presents a provocative article on giving some additional perspective on the scandal (and it is a scandal) of sexual abuse by clergy as compared to that occurring in our public schools. Why is it we’re fixated on the scandal of clerical abuse, but blind to the far more prevalent occurrence of the same abuse in public schools? How is it that such a small percentage of perpetrators in the public school environment ever face prosecution, or even lose their teaching credentials? Are we so driven by greed that we’ve chosen to target the deep pockets of the Catholic Church? Pockets that are deep only because the faithful give faithfully? Are we being deliberately mislead by a media intent on destroying the Christian faith, and in love with secular public education as a tool easily manipulated in that aim to destroy faith and the institutions of religion?

He quotes Professor Charol Shakeshaft, who reported in 2006 “Of the approximately 45 million students attending public and private K-12 schools, more than 3 million will have been the target of physical sexual exploitation by an employee of the school by eleventh grade… These 3 million [victims] include only students who have been the target of sexual abuse that includes touching. This number does not include adults who show students pornography, who expose themselves, or who direct other forms of visual and verbal sexual abuse at children. I’m only talking about sexual abuse actions that include forced touch. If those [other abusive] actions are added, the number of students nationwide is 4.5 million.”

Maier points out that even if you were to assume the data is off by half, the scope of public school sexual abuse involves many hundreds of thousands of students and eclipses anything in the Catholic clergy.

The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus also has some comments relevant and interest. They are primarily in his columns for First Things, and are collected for easy reference at He points out that the number of abuse cases reported in the public school systems in one year 1998) is ten times greater than those reported in the church or by clergy from 1950 to 2003.

It’s worth a read, and some serious consideration. By no means is sexual abuse ever acceptable, nor are we excused from guilt by virtue of being in bad company, but is there an agenda other than justice for the abused driving the selective prosecution of the real and alleged perpetrators of abuse?

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