Part of The Revealer’s series on the John Jay report, The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.
by Elizabeth Castelli
Last week, two things did not happen. The Rapture did not take place on May 21, 2011, despite the fervent prognostications of a retired engineer-turned-Christian broadcaster and biblical numerologist. Meanwhile, the sex abuse scandal that has mired the Catholic Church in litigation and shame for nearly three decades was not resolved nor even really explained, despite the earnest efforts of the number-crunching social scientists at the John Jay College for Criminal Justice, City University of New York. The coincidence of these two non-happenings was more than a matter of the calendar.
For one thing, both efforts emerged out of a belief that interpreting numbers produces a useable narrative that has an explanatory power. Under the logic of this belief, the truth is but a matter of simple ciphering—whether Rapture predictions predicated on a series of simple arithmetic calculations or the purported causes of the abuse scandal in the Catholic church carefully measured, calculated, and charted with a soul-numbing statistical precision. For another, both non-events strove to package up unruly temporality with certainty and finality. In the case of Judgment Day-proclaiming Harold Camping and his Family Radio broadcasts, the focus was on the future, while the John Jay College researchers proclaimed the sexual abuse of minors by priests “a historical problem,” a thing of the past. Continue Reading →