Catholics and Baptists met in two separate gatherings on June 11 to discuss large-scale sexual abuse in both of their churches. The Catholic meetings were held in Baltimore and the Baptists met in Birmingham, Alabama.
Reports of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy have been reported for decades and stretch back much further. The Catholic bishops in America have been under pressure to confront the ongoing sex-abuse that has disillusioned many Catholic churchgoers.
President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said at the opening of the four-day meeting that the Catholic bishops “face the task of rooting the evil of sexual abuse from the church.”
Francesco Cesareo, an academic who chairs a national sex-abuse review board, which was set up by the bishops, told the gathering that it is crucial to involve people from outside of the church in the overall process if the church is to regain public trust.
Creation of an independent third party group to review allegations of abuse will be proposed. Cesareo said that all allegations of abuse by clergy should first be reported civil authorities and then to the review board.
A national convention of Southern Baptists will be dominated by discussion of another large-scale sex-abuse crisis.
As with the Catholic church, pressure has increased on the Baptist church in recent months to deal with the issue of abuse.
Ashley Easter, who is an advocate for victim abuse said that many more cases of sexual abuse by the church may remain unreported. “You know I think it’s hard to tell how many people have been abused in Southern Baptist churches. Houston Chronicle did a report talking about hundreds of them. But abuse is one the most under reported crimes. And so I think there’s many more that we’ve yet to hear about and that we’re only going to continue to hear more of those stories.”
Pressure on the church increased following the news reports stating that hundreds of Southern Baptist clergy and staff have been accused of sexual misconduct over the past 20 years, including dozens who continued with their church duties following allegations.
Abuse prevention measures are expected to be introduced at the Baptist convention as well as a proposal that will make it easier to expel churches that mishandle sexual abuse cases.
A March Pew poll determined that a quarter of Catholics have decreased their attendance at Mass and reduced donations because of the abuse crisis, and only 36 percent said U.S. bishops had done a good or excellent job in responding.
According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, an authoritative source of Catholic-related data, 45 percent of U.S. Catholics attended Mass at least once a month in 2018, down from 57 percent in 1990.