Dave Pierre replies to Sean O Connaill’s critique
As the author of the book, I appreciate honest criticism of my work. But Sean’s criticism is inaccurate in many counts.
1. I was *extremely* thorough in examining the numbers from the Archdiocese of Boston, and you are misleading people with your criticism.
On page 26, I clearly wrote, “Not computed for this [32 percent] figure are the number of dead priests who never had their cases fully investigated (55) and the number of accused priests whose investigations were still in progress (22) at the time of the list being released.”
As I clearly state in my book, my 32 percent figure is arrived from the total number cases that were studied and in which CONCLUSIONS WERE REACHED (“guilty” or “not guilty,” essentially). In other words, I used data from cases in which WE KNOW the outcome.
Priests who were DEAD at the time of their accusations did not have their cases adjudicated. How does a dead person defend himself?
In the issue of Boston, we cannot examine data from cases in which a conclusion has not been made. That is simply poor research, and I do not do that. WE MUST WORK FROM DATA THAT IS RELIABLE.
2. The number of names on the Boston list was 159, not 250. The archdiocese says most of the remaining number are priests who are DEAD and whose cases have not been publicized.
Again, WE MUST WORK FROM DATA THAT IS RELIABLE, and I was VERY clear about the data I was using from the Archdiocese of Boston.
3. Sean wrote, “If the Boston archdiocese has published data for the total of abuse allegations made, and the total of allegations subsequently deemed to be false, why did Mr Pierre not use those figures?”
As far as I know, the archdiocese HAS NOT PUBLISHED such data. If I am wrong, please let me know. I thought about using such data, but I have never seen it. I can’t use data I don’t have.
There are TWO ways to approach the issue of false accusations: 1) Looking the number of actual allegations or 2) looking at the number of priests that are accused.
My book is called “CATHOLIC PRIESTS FALSELY ACCUSED,” so I chose MOSTLY to address the issue of the latter. In addition, this data is more reliable and accessible. As far as determining the number of false allegations, the evidence we have is largely anecdotal, and I MAKE THIS VERY CLEAR in my book (such as the “one-half” claim that was made in Los Angeles).
If Sean can distinguish between “% of falsely accused priests” and “% of false accusations,” so can other readers.
4. “Unsubstantiated” or “false”?
As someone who has studied this issue as much as anyone in the country, I can attest to the fact that many dioceses, including Boston, apply the word “unsubstantiated” for cases that are unequivocally false.
Let’s go back to Boston again. On the “unsubstantiated” list is a man named Fr. Ron Bourgault. His sole accuser RECANTED his claim, saying his accusation of the priest (about something from DECADES earlier) was one of “mistaken identity.” (The innocent priest was out of ministry for eight months, by the way, and his name was all over the news as an accused pedophile. Great, eh?) Yet there he is on Boston’s “UNSUBSTANTIATED” list.
“Unsubstantiated” almost always means “false” in the case of accused Catholic priests. It does NOT mean “unable to substantiate” or “the matter is unclear,” as Sean claims. As I illustrate in my book (but Sean fails to acknowledge), diocesan review boards here in the United States examine abuse accusations with GREAT DILIGENCE. The people on these boards, as I show, are people like child psychologists, child welfare workers, nurses, and even abuse victims. Ask anyone who has witnessed the process, and they will tell you that the burden of proof often falls on the accused PRIEST, not the accuser.
Believe me – If a review board declares that a case is “unsubstantiated,” it is bogus. Review boards do NOT want to return an accused cleric to ministry unless they are almost ENTIRELY CERTAIN that the claim is false.
As my book demonstrates, there are men who have been out of ministry for MANY YEARS on charges that any clear-thinking person would see that are bogus. The process does not work well for falsely accused priests.
5. “Most children are not lying when they say that they were abused.”
I have two responses to this:
a) In the cases of accused Catholic priests, we are NOT talking about CHILDREN making accusations. We are talking about GROWN ADULTS making allegations about something that they claimed happened DECADES AGO. As I show in my book, modern-day accusations against Catholic priests by children are very, very rare.
b) Welfare advocates like to harp that abuse allegations are rare, but the most recent data I’ve seen does not support this. The United States puts out a report every year called “Child Maltreatment.” In the 2010 report, it says, “Of the nearly 2 million reports that were screened in and received a CPS [Child Protective Services or other agency] response, 90.3 percent received an investigation response and 9.7 percent received an alternative response. Of the 1,793,724 reports that received an investigation, 436,321 were substantiated; 24,976 were found to be indicated; and 1,262,118 were found to be unsubstantiated” (page viii – http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/pubs/cm10/cm10.pdf).
Granted, this includes ALL forms of abuse, but WELL OVER HALF (70.4%!) of all claims are found to be “unsubstantiated.” (In this case, I will let you and others make up their minds what “unsubstantiated” means.)
6. As for Fr. Rossetti, his credibility is seriously questionable. He has been in charge of the infamous St. Luke Institute in Maryland, which used to allow accused abusers back into ministry. Critics of the Church have railed against guys like Rossetti at St. Luke’s for their past mishandlings of dangerous abusers. But now these same people want to cling to Rossetti’s “95%” claim for which he has NO SUPPORTING DATA at all.
Rossetti also claims, “There is little benefit, and much to be lost, for a person to come forward and to allege that he or she was sexually molested by a priest.”
Rossetti does not know what he’s talking about. Many fraudsters and accusers are very aware of the strict anonymity in accusing a Catholic priest, and they exploit this. Criminals have known about this for a long time.
I quote an attorney on page 79: “I have some contacts in the prison system, having been an attorney for some time, and it has been made known to me that [accusing a Catholic priest of abuse] is a CURRENT AND POPULAR SCAM.” And he said this IN 2001!
I also quote an attorney on page 96: “In cases of being falsely accused, the PRIEST’S REPUTATION IS EFFECTIVELY DESTROYED while the accuser, on the other hand, ENJOYS ANONYMITY AND SUFFERS NO LOSS OF REPUTATION OR NEGATIVE MATERIAL CONSEQUENCES.”
To fail to acknowledge that the steady stream in the news of multi-million dollar settlements would not bring out fraudsters and criminals is to be naive or dishonest. Rossetti is simply wrong.
Again, I appreciate honest criticism, and I am willing to admit errors, but NOTHING Sean has written has disproved anything. To include LONG-DEAD PRIESTS to arrive at abuse percentages is NOT good research. My research is solid, and my book has been very carefully researched.
I have sent my book to several individuals at the Archdiocese of Boston, and a number have written back to me thanking me for the book and the work I have done.
Thank you for the opportunity of this reply.
Best, Dave Pierre author, ‘Catholic Priests Falsely Accused’