Bishop Accountability

How Serious Is the Problem of Sexual Abuse by Clergy?
Greeley's 1993 Article and the Debate Surrounding It

On March 20, 1993, the Jesuit weekly America published an important article by Fr. Andrew Greeley on the sexual abuse crisis. Frank Fitzpatrick had gone public about the Porter abuses on May 6 of the previous year, and after months of appalling revelations, Seán O'Malley, the new bishop of Fall River MA, had settled the Porter cases on December 3, 1992. Jason Berry's Lead Us Not into Temptation had been published in October 1992, and the debate about the crisis continued into the new year.

Greeley's article was notable for its blunt estimate that 100,000 people had been abused by priests—his numbers are still cited—and for his espousal of the victims' cause: "I admit that I am on the side of the survivors." Greeley is fascinating and necessary reading, as we all prepare to evaluate the bishops' report on the causes and scope of the crisis.

We present Greeley's article, together with the exchange that he and Rev. Philip J. Murnion had about the statistics of the crisis—still an open and confusing issue, almost eleven years later. We also provide some of the context for their debate. This feature begins a project to extend our Timeline back from January 2002 into the earlier history of this ongoing crisis. Please email us with suggestions for adding articles from the 1980s and 1990s.

* Andrew M. Greeley, How Serious Is the Problem of Sexual Abuse by Clergy? (3/20/93)
* Rev. Philip J. Murnion, Regarding A. Greeley's Data on Sexual Abuse by Priests (4/17/93)
* Andrew M. Greeley and Pev. Philip J. Murnion, A Greeley Response and Fr. Murnion Replies (5/15/1993)

* Peter Steinfels, Inquiry in Chicago Breaks Silence on Sex Abuse by Catholic Priests (2/24/92)
* Andrew M. Greeley, Priestly Silence on Pedophilia (3/13/92)
* Canice Connors, O.F.M. Conv., Priests and Pedophilia: A Silence That Needs Breaking? (5/9/92)
* Commonweal Editorial, Priests & Sex (11/20/92)

* Gene G. Abel and Nora Harlow, Child Molestation Prevention Study (4/02) [includes a summary of the study to which Greeley refers]
* Boston Globe, Reporting on James R. Porter (5/8/92-7/14/02)

The materials on are offered solely for educational purposes. Should any reader wish to quote or reproduce for sale any documents to which other persons or institutions hold the rights, the original publisher should be contacted and permission requested. If any original publisher objects to our maintaining a cache of their documents for safekeeping, we will gladly take down our cache of those documents and offer links to the original publisher's posted versions instead.


Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.