Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Pompom Media's Papal Piñata

Pope Benedict XVI
I leave early this week for Wyoming, where I will be leading a Holy Week retreat at the Wyoming Catholic College. So, in the interest of time, I am putting what I regard as the proper perspective on the media's predictable attack on Benedict XVI into one long blogpost.

To say that I trust Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI more than I do the New York Times is a massive understatement. I have not kept up with the flurry of articles pouring out of the predictably hostile media about the Vatican and the sexual (mostly homosexual, let's not forget) abuse scandals. The pope who took decisive action early in his pontificate to prevent such abuse in the future by declaring that those suffering from persistent same-sex attraction were not to be considered candidates for the priesthood is hardly someone we might suspect of being an accessory to the abuses he has fought for decades to eliminate.

Be that as it may, below are a few things that should be placed on the record. Here, for example, is what Damian Thompson has to say about the topic in the London Telegraph:
There is still no good evidence that Pope Benedict XVI is seriously implicated in the atrocious child abuse scandals that are – rightly – blackening the reputation of the institutions of the Catholic Church. But still the attempts to join the dots continue. To put it bluntly, there is an increasingly frantic media campaign against the Pope in which headlines are being written first and then facts shaved to fit them.
It is also clear that many prominent liberal Catholics are turning a blind eye to this media vendetta because they don’t like Pope Benedict. They are happy for him to take the rap for diocesan cover-ups initiated, in some cases, by liberal prelates. Those relates are grateful for the opportunity to pass the buck to the one man who, though his record on this matter is certainly not beyond criticism, has done more than any other to rectify the Church’s lax procedures – Joseph Ratzinger.
And, writing as well for the London Telegraph, here is what Andrew Brown as to say:
I read the coverage of the Pope every day in the newspapers and listen to the BBC news and as a Catholic and a journalist I feel like crying out pathetically: “This is not fair!” And it isn’t fair, or reasonable. Intelligent journalists who are normally capable of mental subtlety and of coping with complexities have abandoned their critical faculties. There is an atmosphere of unreason.
I cannot help feeling that a lot of it is down to sheer, blind hatred. It amounts to the demonisation of a whole institution and its leader. We have come to a stage where nothing good whatever, no good faith can be assumed of anybody involved in the Church – however senior, however greatly respected, loved, admired, including the Pope.
Finally, here is Fr. Raymond de Souza setting the record straight in a letter to the New York Times:
The New York Times on March 25 accused Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, of intervening to prevent a priest, Father Lawrence Murphy, from facing penalties for cases of sexual abuse of minors.

The story is false. It is unsupported by its own documentation. Indeed, it gives every indication of being part of a coordinated campaign against Pope Benedict, rather than responsible journalism.

Before addressing the false substance of the story, the following circumstances are worthy of note:

 • The New York Times story had two sources. First, lawyers who currently have a civil suit pending against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. One of the lawyers, Jeffrey Anderson, also has cases in the United States Supreme Court pending against the Holy See. He has a direct financial interest in the matter being reported.

 • The second source was Archbishop Rembert Weakland, retired archbishop of Milwaukee. He is the most discredited and disgraced bishop in the United States, widely known for mishandling sexual-abuse cases during his tenure, and guilty of using $450,000 of archdiocesan funds to pay hush money to a former homosexual lover who was blackmailing him. Archbishop Weakland had responsibility for the Father Murphy case between 1977 and 1998, when Father Murphy died. He has long been embittered that his maladministration of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee earned him the disfavor of Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, long before it was revealed that he had used parishioners’ money to pay off his clandestine lover.  He is prima facie not a reliable source.

 • Laurie Goodstein, the author of the New York Times story, has a recent history with Archbishop Weakland.  Last year, upon the release of the disgraced archbishop’s autobiography, she wrote an unusually sympathetic story that buried all the most serious allegations against him (New York Times, May 14, 2009).

 • A demonstration took place in Rome on Friday, coinciding with the publication of the New York Times story. One might ask how American activists would happen to be in Rome distributing the very documents referred to that day in the New York Times. The appearance here is one of a coordinated campaign, rather than disinterested reporting.

It’s possible that bad sources could still provide the truth. But compromised sources scream out for greater scrutiny. Instead of greater scrutiny of the original story, however, news editors the world over simply parroted the New York Times piece. Which leads us the more fundamental problem: The story is not true, according to its own documentation.

The New York Times made available on its own website the supporting documentation for the story. In those documents, Cardinal Ratzinger himself does not take any of the decisions that allegedly frustrated the trial. Letters are addressed to him; responses come from his deputy. Even leaving that aside, though, the gravamen of the charge — that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office impeded some investigation — is proven utterly false.

The documents show that the canonical trial or penal process against Father Murphy was never stopped by anyone. In fact, it was only abandoned days before Father Murphy died. Cardinal Ratzinger never took a decision in the case, according to the documents. His deputy, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, suggested, given that Father Murphy was in failing health and a canonical trial is a complicated matter, that more expeditious means be used to remove him from all ministry.

To repeat: The charge that Cardinal Ratzinger did anything wrong is unsupported by the documentation on which the story was based. He does not appear in the record as taking any decision. His office, in the person of his deputy, Archbishop Bertone, agreed that there should be full canonical trial. When it became apparent that Father Murphy was in failing health, Archbishop Bertone suggested more expeditious means of removing him from any ministry.

Furthermore, under canon law at the time, the principal responsibility for sexual-abuse cases lay with the local bishop. Archbishop Weakland had from 1977 onwards the responsibility of administering penalties to Father Murphy. He did nothing until 1996. It was at that point that Cardinal Ratzinger’s office became involved, and it subsequently did nothing to impede the local process.

The New York Times flatly got the story wrong, according to its own evidence. Readers may want to speculate on why.

Here is the relevant timeline, drawn from the documents the New York Times posted on its own website.

5 May 1974
Abuse by Father Lawrence Murphy is alleged by a former student at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee. In fact, accusations against Father Murphy go back more than a decade.

12 September 1974
Father Murphy is granted an official “temporary sick leave” from St. John’s School for the Deaf. He leaves Milwaukee and moves to northern Wisconsin, in the Diocese of Superior, where he lives in a family home with his mother. He has no official assignment from this point until his death in 1998. He does not return to live in Milwaukee. No canonical penalties are pursued against him.

9 July 1980
Officials in the Diocese of Superior write to officials in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee about what ministry Father Murphy might undertake in Superior. Archbishop Rembert Weakland, archbishop of Milwaukee since 1977, has been consulted and says it would be unwise to have Father Murphy return to ministry with the deaf community. There is no indication that Archbishop Weakland foresees any other measures to be taken in the case.

17 July 1996
More than 20 years after the original abuse allegations, Archbishop Weakland writes to Cardinal Ratzinger, claiming that he has only just discovered that Father Murphy’s sexual abuse involved the sacrament of confession — a still more serious canonical crime. The allegations about the abuse of the sacrament of confession were in the original 1974 allegations. Weakland has been archbishop of Milwaukee by this point for 19 years.

It should be noted that for sexual-abuse charges, Archbishop Weakland could have proceeded against Father Murphy at any time. The matter of solicitation in the sacrament of confession required notifying Rome, but that too could have been done as early as the 1970s.

10 September 1996
Father Murphy is notified that a canonical trial will proceed against him. Until 2001, the local bishop had authority to proceed in such trials. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is now beginning the trial. It is noteworthy that at this point, no reply has been received from Rome indicating that Archbishop Weakland knew he had that authority to proceed.

24 March 1997
Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, Cardinal Ratzinger’s deputy at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, advises a canonical trial against Father Murphy.

14 May 1997
Archbishop Weakland writes to Archbishop Bertone to say that the penal process against Father Murphy has been launched, and notes that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has advised him to proceed even though the statute of limitations has expired. In fact, there is no statute of limitations for solicitation in the sacrament of confession.

Throughout the rest of 1997 the preparatory phases of penal process or canonical trial is underway. On 5 January 1998 the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee says that an expedited trial should be concluded within a few months.

12 January 1998
Father Murphy, now less than eight months away from his death, appeals to Cardinal Ratzinger that, given his frail health, he be allowed to live out his days in peace.

6 April 1998
Archbishop Bertone, noting the frail health of Father Murphy and that there have been no new charges in almost 25 years, recommends using pastoral measures to ensure Father Murphy has no ministry, but without the full burden of a penal process. It is only a suggestion, as the local bishop retains control.

13 May 1998
The Bishop of Superior, where the process has been transferred to and where Father Murphy has lived since 1974, rejects the suggestion for pastoral measures. Formal pre-trial proceedings begin on 15 May 1998, continuing the process already begun with the notification that had been issued in September 1996.

30 May 1998
Archbishop Weakland, who is in Rome, meets with officials at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, including Archbishop Bertone but not including Cardinal Ratzinger, to discuss the case. The penal process is ongoing. No decision taken to stop it, but given the difficulties of a trial after 25 years, other options are explored that would more quickly remove Father Murphy from ministry.

19 August 1998
Archbishop Weakland writes that he has halted the canonical trial and penal process against Father Murphy and has immediately begun the process to remove him from ministry — a quicker option.

21 August 1998
Father Murphy dies. His family defies the orders of Archbishop Weakland for a discreet funeral
HT: Creative Minority Report


John said...

As the health care vote loomed, the number of negative stories about the Catholic Church increased and their placement placement seemed to me to be part of a deliberate attempt to marginalize the Church’s influence. Just so, the continued barage of stories, generally filled with half-truths, seems designed to continue the assault and further try to delegitimize the church’s standing generally on matters of cultural and moral significance.

Today's NYT carries a column by Maureen Dowd which ferociously attacks the Church and Pope Benedict but which is riddled with half-truths, misstatements and flat out falsehoods. Nevertheless, a quick scan of the first 25 of some 400 "comments" reveals unanimous support for Dowd's "great" column.

All of this is in keeping with Saul Alinsky's "tactics" for attacking the established order, the most pertinent of which are as follows:
4. "Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity."
5. "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage."
8. "Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose."
10. "The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this unceasing pressure that results in the reactions from the opposition that are essential for the success of the campaign."
13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. In conflict tactics there are certain rules that [should be regarded] as universalities. One is that the opposition must be singled out as the target and 'frozen.'

Clearly, the left sees the Catholic Church as an "enemy" which must be marginalized or, even better, silenced. Thus, we should expect the current attacks to continue and to intensify. All Christians must meet this attack not on its own terms but with measured, persistent and truth- filled rebuttals. Above all, our response must be consistent with the tenets of our Christian faith. This will not be easy but it is crucial in order that the faith we defend not be betrayed by our defense.

Above all, we must not minimize the despicable conduct of the priests who have betrayed their ministry and victimized, apparently, thousands along the way. This has brought shame upon the worldwide church and has demoralized the hundreds of thousands of good and faithful priests worldwide. We also must acknowledge that the manner in which the abuse was handled was, in large part, woefully inadequate, to say the least.

That the Church, filled as it is with fallen human beings, is imperfect should surprise no one. As any serious Catholic knows, all of us are sinful, from Pope Benedict on down, and all of us must struggle to live out our call to holiness every single day. However, to conclude that the Church is, therefore, unfit to speak out against all manner of immoral, unjust or unscrupulous conduct is just plain stupid. If that were the case, neither the Church nor-since we are all sinners-anyone else for that matter would be able to speak out against any conduct, no matter how atrocious it might be.

As we approach the sacred Triduum, let us pray for the wisdom, fortitude and holiness to continue to proclaim Christ's Truth, in our words and especially in our conduct, in the face of the ever intensifying No that is all around us.

Doughlas Remy said...

Gil, you may remember our earlier discussion about this matter in the “Parental Choice...” thread of March 13. There, I alluded to Ratzinger’s threats of excommunication of any bishop found “guilty” of reporting rape and torture to civil authorities. (This was in 2001, when John Paul II was pope.) I am not going to recap all the cover-up charges against Benedict here, but I will say that certain facts seem to be pretty well established and the prognosis for Benedict’s papacy is not at all good. I’m sure that, of all the charges we’ve heard, some will be shown to be baseless. The residue, however, will taint this pope and his legacy forever—and justifiably, in my view.

You twice characterized the media’s responses to the crisis as “predictable.” But how predictable are your own? Did you utter a single word of sympathy for the hundreds of child victims? Did you propose anything in the way of meaningful reform? All I saw was more of the same, i.e., weed out the pedophiles. There was no glimmer of recognition that the problems might be systemic and structural, that there might be a connection between the church’s teachings on homosexuality and its celibacy requirements for priests. How can anyone any longer ignore this nexus of effects? But you closed ranks with the Catholic hierarchy and blamed the homosexual priests. Of course they are to blame, but so are those who enabled them and shuffled them around, including Ratzinger himself.

I would like to know if the Church’s confidentiality policy is still in place, or if clerics are now required to report abuses to the civil authorities.

Is there any move, in the higher reaches of the church hierarchy, to end the celibacy requirement for the priesthood? Is there any move to destigmatize homosexuality and promote same-sex marriage? If anyone is still mystified about why I would connect these issues, here’s what I wrote in the March 13 post about this:

Imagine a world in which young gay Catholic men do not face stigmatization from their own church and are encouraged to marry and form stable, loving unions. Imagine a world in which priests may marry and raise families. Such a world seems very remote from our present one, where Catholic youths face ostracism if they identify as gay and yet cannot in good conscience marry women to allay suspicions. The priesthood, which has traditionally attracted a disproportionate number of gay men, only attracts more under these circumstances, and many of them are in denial about their sexuality and about their commitment to the celibate life. Indeed, many of them, I suspect, are drawn to the priesthood precisely because it offers them cover while introducing them into what they may view as an association of their own kind. It all seems like the perfect recipe for the kinds of problems the Church is now facing. More careful "screening" of applicants is a band-aid over a deep wound. Structural reform is needed.

A lot more needs to be said about this, and I am happy to see that you have finally broken your silence about it. I look forward to a stimulating discussion in the days ahead.

Gordon said...


I applaud the opening of more positive dialogue about this. But I must bring up one point, one I don’t want to be contentious: There already exists a church that considers itself Catholic, openly affirms homosexuality, has married clergy, both straight and gay unions, and ignores Pope Benedict. It’s called the Episcopal Church. If that’s the answer, why is the incidence of sexual misconduct and abuse the same or higher (depending on the years you compare) in the Episcopal Church as it is in the Catholic Church?

Robert Mooney said...

"the sexual (mostly homosexual, let's not forget) abuse scandals."

Let's not forget?! As far as I know, every scientific study of pedophilia has concluded that it has nothing to do with a homosexual orientation. Pedophiles are not interested in adult sexual interested in adult sexual relations. Homosexuals are not over-represented in the pedophile or hebephile population.

Some studies use the term homosexual molestation and heterosexual molestation. The terms homosexual and heterosexual refer to the match or mismatch in gender of the molester/molestee, not the sexual orientation of the molester. The Cameron Group, publisher of several studies that claim to show a strong correlation between homosexual orientation and pedo- and hebe-philia, misuses those terms - e.g., assumes homosexual molestation is molestation done by a homosexual.

Scientific studies do not do that.

To answer Gordon's question it is that pedophiles enter the priesthood of the Episcopal Church just like they do the Roman Catholic Church.

Unknown said...

You have an unrivaled and seemingly tireless capacity for bemoaning the ills of the world both real and imaginary while simultaneously living in apparent self denial and obfuscation about the failure of your own church to renounce and repair its own evil. Not one word about the emotional and psychological carnage done over the years to the victims, just one large panegyric about the Pope and a complete dismissal of the reasons he's in the firing line. So far the Vatican sex abuse scandal reaches into Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, the U.K., the U.S. Latin America and half a dozen other countries. A total of 10,667 people have made allegations of sexual abuse, over 6,700 of them have been substantiated. More are flooding forth. How is it in your interest to be dismissive about any criticism of the church, or deflect it by the insinuation that it's old news, and therefore already dealt with?

As long as Catholicism is about submerging one's identity beneath the authority of the Pope, there will be no real accounting. Living by your conscience is only possible in the comforting womb of the magisterium, because it doesn't really make any demands on your conscience, just on your common sense. You can just rubber stamp whatever the authority says, which, if you're wedded to it long enough, begins to feel like your own choice. This is precisely why your church is falling apart over the priestly scandal of child sexual abuse.

According to Catholic writer and Benedictine nun Joan Chittister, "….Blind obedience" once theologized as the ultimate step to holiness, is itself blind. It blinds a person to the insights and foresight and moral perspective of anyone other than an authority figure. Blind obedience is itself an abuse of human morality. It is a misuse of the human soul in the name of religious commitment. It is a sin against individual conscience. It makes moral children of the adults from whom moral agency is required. It makes a vow, which is meant to require religious figures to listen always to the law of God, beholden first to the laws of very human organizations in the person of very human authorities. It is a law that isn't even working in the military and can never substitute for personal morality."

As for your parenthetical reference to homosexuality, as though that somehow recuses the Vatican of responsibility, you might want to consider this insight from a fellow Catholic who also happens to be a homosexual:

"The Catholic hierarchy tends to see child rape as a sin rather than a crime. Hence the emphasis on forgiveness, therapy, repentance - rather than removal, prosecution and investigation. Obviously, there's one reason for this: they were defending the reputation of the church by hiding its darkest secrets, and they were using the authority of religion to do so. But I suspect it's also true that this is how they genuinely thought of child rape or abuse.

"How could that be, one asks? Well: imagine you are a young gay Catholic teen coming into his sexuality and utterly convinced that it's vile and evil. What do you do? I can tell you from my own experience. You bury it. But of course, you can't bury it. So you objectify sex; and masturbate. You cannot have sexual or even emotional contact with a teenage girl, because it is simply impossible, and you certainly cannot have sex with another teenage boy or you will burn in hell for ever ... so you have sex with images in your own head. Your sex life becomes completely solitary. It can be empowered by pornography or simply teenage imagination. Some shard of beauty, some aspect of sensuality, some vision of desire will keep you sexually energized for days.

Unknown said...

"Now suppose your powers of suppression and attachment to religious authority are also strong - perhaps stronger because you feel so adrift you need something solid to cling onto in your psyche. And you know you cannot marry a woman. But you want to have status and cover as a single man. If this is the 1950s and 1960s, it's into the Church you go. You think it will cure you. In fact, it only makes you sicker because your denial is buttressed by their collective denial. And the whole thing becomes one big and deepening spiral of lies and corruption.

"Many of these tormented men have arrested sexual and emotional development. They have never had a sexual or intimate relationship with any other human being. Sex for them is an abstraction, a sin, not an interaction with an equal. And their sexuality has been frozen at the first real moment of internal terror: their early teens. So they tend to be attracted still to those who are in their own stage of development: teenage boys. And in their new positions, they are given total access to these kids who revere them for their power.

"So they use these children to express themselves sexually. They barely see these children as young and vulnerable human beings, incapable of true consent. Because they have never had a real sexual relationship, have never had to deal with the core issue of human equality and dignity in sex, they don't see the children as victims. Like the tortured gay man, Michael Jackson, they see them as friends. They are even gifted at interacting with them in non-sexual ways. One theme you find in many of these stories is that until these screwed up priests' abuse and molestation is revealed, they often have a great reputation as pastors. As emotionally developed as your average fourteen year old wanting to be loved, they sublimate a lot of their lives into clerical service. But they also act out sexually all the time.

"And they know that many around them have the same patterns, and so a truly sick subculture perpetuates this. In the end, it is all about themselves and their pathologies, how to express them and how to hide them. As social sexual tolerance advances, and as fewer straight men are prepared to give up sex for life to become priests, the proportion of screwed up pastors increases. In this self-protective environment, these priests do not even see the children as fellow humans. They remain like those solitary abstract images in their heads. So they cannot fully grasp the enormity of the crime they are committing and see it merely as another part of the vortex of their sexual sin.
So they cover up for one another; they fear that if one of them falls, they will all fall; even those who are not totally screwed up about sex are eager to prevent the church's secret from being exposed. But the more they cover up, the bigger the calamity when it all emerges. And when it's clear that at the center of this kind of pathological secrecy and shame is the current Pope, then it is clear that the entire institution is corrupt from the top down.

"These men are too objectively disordered to run a church. They bask in self-denial, while they wage a culture war against gay men who have actually dealt with their sexuality, who have owned it, and celebrated it and even found ways to channel it into adult relationships and even civil marriage.

"It's hard to imagine a deeper crisis for the Catholic hierarchy than this. If the church is to survive - and it will because it is the vessel of eternal truth - it will have to go through a wrenching transformation.

"If the Pope had any true sense of personal responsibility for enabling the abuse and rape of children, he would resign immediately. And if the Pope cannot take that personal responsibility for something so vile, something that wounded so many, something that violated core, basic levels of human trust, then what is he doing as a moral leader of any kind? His moral authority is finished." - Andrew Sullivan

Gordon said...

Hey You,

(I know that’s not your name, but I don’t remember what it is)

“To answer Gordon's question it is that pedophiles enter the priesthood of the Episcopal Church just like they do the Roman Catholic Church.”

That doesn’t exactly address my question. I was responding to Doughlas’ suggestion that ending celibacy and embracing homosexuality might somehow solve the crisis of sexual abuse. My point was to ask why doing exactly that had no positive effect on the Episcopal Church.

If it’s just a question of preventing pedophiles from entering the priesthood, rules about celibacy (gay or straight) are irrelevant. But that leads to something you brought up:

“Homosexuals are not over-represented in the pedophile or hebephile population.”

Indeed. But pedophilia involves pre-pubescent children, and the vast majority (the numbers I saw were 75-85%) of those victims in the Catholic scandal (as well as parallel but somehow less sensational scandals in public schools, other churches, Boy Scouts, etc.) were pubescent or post-pubescent. That’s a very different situation, and the Press has been irresponsible to call this a crisis of “pedophile priests.” In their rush to get the Catholic Church they’ve also tarred those with same-sex attraction.

Gordon said...


Thanks for the great analysis. I just went back and read part of Dowd and all of Frank Rich. We are the enemy now. I agree with you, time for prayer "in the face of the ever intensifying No."

Doughlas Remy said...

Gordon, I am interested in knowing more about comparative figures for child sexual abuse in the Catholic church and the Episcopal church. Was your information from a particular source that you could share? Thx.

Gordon said...


Philip Jenkins is an Historian at Penn State and Distinguished Fellow at Baylor whose original field was Criminal Justice (PhD. Cambridge). One of his specialties has been the history and pattern of moral (usually sexual) scandals, especially across religious institutions. My copy of his “Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis” (Oxford, 2001) is sitting in a box in L.A. with most of my books while I finish up the care of my mother in Florida (in fact, I just buried her), but I can site, for example, a newspaper article Jenkins wrote in 2002 (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 3), summarizing his academic research for a lay audience:
“My research of cases over the past 20 years indicates no evidence whatever that Catholic or other celibate clergy are any more likely to be involved in misconduct or abuse than clergy of any other denomination -- or indeed, than nonclergy. However determined news media may be to see this affair as a crisis of celibacy, the charge is just unsupported.

Literally every denomination and faith tradition has its share of abuse cases, and some of the worst involve non-Catholics. Every mainline Protestant denomination has had scandals aplenty, as have Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jews, Buddhists, Hare Krishnas -- and the list goes on. One Canadian Anglican (Episcopal) diocese is currently on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of massive lawsuits caused by decades of systematic abuse, yet the Anglican church does not demand celibacy of its clergy.”

Jenkins, an Episcopalian, has on other occasions teased out the particular comparison between the Catholic and Episcopal numbers specifically in response to the suggestion that celibacy was the driving force behind the problem, but these were just comments embedded in longer interviews and I don’t have time to track them down today. In any case, if there’s any scholar more qualified to make this judgment from the available data, I’m not aware of him.

I should add that, as a former Episcopalian (I consider it part of my agnostic period), my personal experience suggests the abuse numbers for that church are actually dramatically higher than the Catholic Church. But since the Episcopal Church has been contracting dramatically in membership for the past 30 years, and they’ve literally been selling off church property as fast as they can, ready cash has been available for discreet settlements. When an inner-city parochial school is closed to pay for the Catholic scandal, everyone notices; not so when an empty Episcopal parish is sold to make room for a strip mall.

BTW, George Weigel just today published an article called "Scoundrel Time(s)" at the On The Square Blog over at first things. He's been an outspoken critic of the church hierarchy's handling of the crisis, but I'll warn you ahead of time that he sees Benedict the same way I do.