The recently exposed scandals involving sexual exploitation of minors by Catholic priests have exploded in the American press as though it were new information.
Long ago, 'way back in 1986, Freethought Today began reporting incidents of priests and other clergymen charged with child sexual abuse in its "Fruits of Religion" column. Since 1987 onward, Freethought Today has published a regular feature, "Black Collar Crimes," documenting criminal and civil reports of sexual abuse by clergy in North America.
The numerous incidents were disturbingly similar, yet reported as though each was a "freak," isolated occurrence. That prompted Freethought Today editor Annie Laurie Gaylor (my daughter, for the unacquainted) to write the first book on the subject. Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children was published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation in early 1988.
In her introduction to the account of this far-flung religious scandal, Annie Laurie wrote: "This is a book that had to be written . . . It started writing itself when, through the pages of our monthly newspaper Freethought Today, we started chronicling the alarming and startling number of criminal cases involving ministers and priests who are molesting children. . . . priests, ministers or other 'men of God' flagrantly abusing large numbers of children or young adolescents under the very noses of devout, unsuspecting parents, during church events and on church property, while churches cover up or rationalize abuse, and church members not uncommonly side with the abusers by blaming the victims."
Although replete with case histories from the 1980s, the book is not dated. Nor is it just a crime blotter. Betrayal of Trust provides a clear, thorough discussion and analysis of why the clergy is a high-risk profession for child abuse, how churches and congregations engage in denial, minimalization and cover-up, and how such abuse can be detected and prevented. It will enlighten those who still may confuse homosexuality with pedophilia.
"The case of Father Baltazar, protected by the Catholic Church even after sexually abusing a boy helplessly attached to a dialysis machine, and another in double leg traction, epitomizes the ruthlessness of child molesters, the heartlessness of the hierarchy, and the vulnerability of their victims," the book concludes.
"All child victims, while not usually literally immobile, are similarly at the mercy of the adults in charge of their lives. The egomaniacal and rapacious drives of a molester who blots out all sense of right and wrong, brutally disregarding the pain he is causing children, have often found a parallel in churches bent on protecting themselves at the expense of thousands of victims. That disregard is a malignancy in the church."
Betrayal of Trust: Clergy Abuse of Children is long since out of print, but can be found online on this website. For reader convenience, the Foundation continues to provide bound photocopies of this 91-page book for $12.00 postpaid (FFRF, PO Box 750, Madison WI 53701).
Anne Nicol Gaylor is president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.