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Child Abuse Now and Then.

Letter published in National Catholic Reporter (USA), 21 May 2004

A large number of sex allegations have been made against priests and nuns, dating back decades. Does this mean that things were terrible when the church was powerful and that there is a vast improvement today?

In my country, Ireland, there were about six murders a year in the 1950s. Today the figure is closer to 60 a year. Every other type of violent crime has increased in the same way, not to mention addiction and venereal disease. AIDS and drug abuse hardly existed then.

Are we supposed to believe that child abuse is the only exception to this sorry story?

Look at it another way. It's usually accepted that criminal behavior starts early in life and that a child's early experiences are vital in determining his future. So what type of early experiences are our children having today as compared to 50 years ago?

I have put this question to some of my "liberal" friends and I have got very strange answers.

I was told--more than once--that many murders were never reported in the 1950s! So maybe that explains the lack of statistics about deaths from AIDS and heroin back then. Maybe the Catholic church was concealing them, as well?

I was also told that decades ago alcoholism was the same as drug abuse today. That is partly true, but does it mean that the number of alcoholics is going down as the number of drug addicts increases? Rubbish. All doctors agree that both problems are getting worse.

Moreover, the children of addicted  parents are more likely to be abused--either because the parents are out of control or because they cannot protect their children.

So how is it possible to believe that children are better off today than they were in a society where the church was powerful?

We are now living in a "liberal," secular society in which anything goes. Why do our liberals persist in blaming the church for the evils all around them?


Dublin, Ireland