People in Glass Houses
A recent headline in the National Catholic Reporter (NCR) declared, “Baptist agency comes clean about ex-missionary’s trail of sexual abuse.” The lede states, “The Association of Baptist World Evangelism has released a 280 page report revealing how its leaders filed to stop a leading missionary surgeon from sexually abusing 22 women and children.” The surgeon, Donn Ketcham, was accused of giving women unnecessary breast and pelvic exams. He also was accused of having sex with “several” patients after giving them an anesthetic. The Baptist organization hired an independent group, GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), to investigate the charges. The leader of GRACE, Boz Tchividjian, said, "ABWE deliberately chose to sacrifice the lives of untold numbers of child victims in order to protect its own reputation and the reputation of a dangerous sexual offender…. The current ABWE leadership has betrayed and failed these abuse survivors in so many ways during the past five years."
The article makes no explicit comparison with the Catholic Church’s sex abuse problem. But the National Catholic Reporter generally does not cover Protestant news, and the comparison is implied. The article suggests that “everyone does it,” a tactic commonly employed by political hacks. But this comparison is fundamentally wrong. First of all, even if all 22 counts against Mr. Ketcham are confirmed, comparing a single offender to a worldwide epidemic of sex abuse is hardly appropriate. Also, the charges against Ketcham generally involved groping adult women, while abuse in the Catholic Church often involved the rape of children. Furthermore, the Baptists called in an independent agency to investigate the charges, while the Church went to great lengths to exclude such investigations, especially by the authorities. More importantly, bishops and other members of the Church hierarchy systematically tried to suppress the problem, and often shuffled pederasts from one parish to another, thus aggravating the problem. There is nothing remotely comparable in the Baptist organization.
As Jesus said, “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matthew 7:3-5).
This is not an isolated case. For example, a recent headline in the National Catholic Reporter declares, “Bishops' conference releases 2015 abuse audit report.” The lede states, “The U.S. bishops' conference released this morning its 13th Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” The article goes on at length to describe what appears to be a routine report. It devotes a good deal of space to “signs of progress the church is making to protecting children and bring healing to victims of abuse.”
Reuters and the Religious News Service (RNS) also covered the report. Reuters’ headline declared, “Audit of U.S. Catholic church shows sharp spike in sex abuse reports.” You would have to be an extraordinarily careful reader to discover this from the National Catholic Reporter’s coverage. The Reuters/RNS lede said, “An annual audit of reports of sexual abuse by members of the U.S. Roman Catholic clergy released on Friday showed sharp increases in the number of new claims and in the value of settlements to victims,” and went on to provide the numbers – e.g., 838 credible new charges of abuse in the past year.
Reuters/RNS also provided insightful explanations of the increases, noting that the Minneapolis/St. Paul archdiocese filed for bankruptcy, and that bankruptcy filings “have typically led to spikes in reports by abuse survivors afraid they are seeing their last opportunities to seek redress.” Since only a very small percentage of all parishes have declared bankruptcy, this suggests that there are enormous numbers of unreported cases of abuse. Readers of the National Catholic Reporter would learn none of this. Instead, they were led to believe that the Church had made great progress, and there is little to worry about.
The National Catholic Reporter touts its independent status. At one point, this was definitely true. Back in the 1980’s when Jason Berry broke the news about priestly sex abuse in Louisiana, he did it with the support of the National Catholic Reporter (NCR). NCR almost went bankrupt due to this independence. A few phone calls from the Catholic hierarchy and some of NCR’s large Catholic advertisers withdrew their ads, while others threatened to. NCR managed to survive, but at present its independence is largely nominal. In effect, it is part of the huge Catholic propaganda machine,