The UConn Husky cries / PsiCop graphic, based on UConn logo by NikeSome correspondents complain that I focus too much on child abuse allegations in the Roman Catholic Church and ignore it when it happens elsewhere. This is, of course, a flat-out lie. I’ve blogged about accusations of child abuse among clergy in the Orthodox churches, Protestant churches, Orthodox Jews, and the Mennonites … among others (such as anti-gay activists). What happens is that the Catholic Church’s defenders read just one of my (admittedly many) posts on Catholic clergy abusing kids and assume — based on that one entry — that I’ve never, ever ever taken note of anything else. They don’t bother to do any research … which is easy enough, given this blog has a Search feature … to find out whether or not it’s the case. They just leap to that conclusion, due to their sanctimonious rage over some insolent agnostic heathen blogger daring to talk about the Catholic Church’s scandal.

The latest example of a child-abuse scandal, though, that I must comment on and cannot ignore, comes not from the Catholic Church. It doesn’t even come from any other religious institution. It comes, instead, from my alma mater: the University of Connecticut. The Hartford Courant reports on the investigation both into a music professor who may have abused kids while volunteering at a camp, and into how much UConn officials knew about what he’d been up to, and when (WebCite cached article):

The University of Connecticut will pay an outside law firm to investigate its own employees’ handling of allegations the school received as early as 2006 that a music professor engaged in sexual misconduct.

The school said it is cooperating in multiple law enforcement investigations into allegations against Robert Miller, 66, a former head of the music department who has worked at UConn since 1982. Miller was placed on administrative leave June 21 and barred from campus. He could not be reached for comment Monday. He is being paid his $135,741 salary and has not been charged with any crime.

However, investigations by UConn and state police are continuing – and now UConn’s Board of Trustees has asked state Attorney General George Jepsen to solicit proposals to retain an outside law firm to investigate whether UConn officials handled the allegations properly. The firm also would represent and advise UConn in an internal probe into whether it complied with federal Title IX procedures concerning sexual abuse allegations.…

Some of the alleged misconduct by Miller, according to court documents and Jepsen’s office, involved claims of improper physical contact with boys at a summer camp.

A spokesman for The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp in Ashford confirmed that Miller was a volunteer at the camp from 1989 to 1992 when the improper contact was alleged to have taken place.

“These events date back more than 20 years. At that time, the camp immediately removed Mr. Miller from his position,” Ryan Thompson, the organization’s senior development officer, said in an emailed statement. “When the current investigation began several months ago, it was unclear whether the matter was reported to the appropriate authorities at that time. Therefore, the camp immediately made a report to the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and has continued to cooperate fully with authorities.”

The focus of the investigation is on Miller’s activities at the camp, however, the possibility he might have been involved with UConn students has been broached:

Authorities also are investigating a statement that a student made to a UConn faculty member soon after news of Miller’s suspension last month “that the student was not surprised to hear” of the investigation “because the faculty member was known to have visited freshman dorms, provided drugs to students and had sex with students.”

The latter statement appears in Jepsen’s 40-page request for law firms’ proposals to do the investigation. It also says that the faculty member who reported the student’s comment “also indicated that the faculty member now being investigated was known to have a history of having sex with boys.”

This whole situation is just intolerable. It’s possible that university personnel might have known about Miller as long ago as 2006. If so, it will have been 7 years that UConn might knowingly have had a child predator in its faculty.

As for the R.C. Church … I’m sure a lot of their apologists are jumping for joy, pointing to this case, and screaming, “See? It happens at public universities, too! It’s not just a Catholic problem! Stop picking on our Church!” I hate to break it to them, but this case hardly makes any such point. That other organizations’ personnel abuse children, does not and can never make it acceptable for R.C. personnel to do so. That some folks at UConn might have known about Miller but kept quiet, does not and can never make it acceptable for R.C. hierarchs to cover up for and protect abusive clergy. That kind of reasoning is called “two wrongs make a right” thinking, and it’s fallacious.

What it means is that abusing kids and obstructing justice are not acceptable at any time, and can never be tolerated, no matter where it happens. It means it can conceivably happen almost anywhere, and one must always be ready to deal with it. It means Catholic hierarchs need to stop ignoring it, stop looking away, and stop making excuses. It means that the organization that views itself as the sole remaining arbiter of morality on the planet, cannot afford to use other groups’ misdeeds as justification for its own.

And lastly, it means numbers are not on the Church’s side. Miller may turn out to be the only UConn employee who’s ever accused of child abuse that was known to university staff. The same cannot be said for the archdiocese of Hartford, which is on at least its third case in only the last couple years … and it has many other cases before then.

Photo credit: PsiCop modified UConn logo by Nike.

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  • We're not 'jumping for joy'. We were already fully aware that the problem is proportionately much worse in other institutions especially in public schools in the US but they are protected from large financial claims so there are few claims and little publicity. The problem in the Catholic Church has been overwhelmingly a homosexual problem involving priests and males under the legal age of consent in the relevant state. 85% of the cases are of this type. The Church has been targeted by homosexual men who should never have been ordained and who often sought the priesthood as a means to pursue young males. The Church has acted naively in believing that these men could and would desist and attempted to 'limit the damage' by hiding the truth. For the latter deserves the odium it attracted.

    • Re: "We're not 'jumping for joy'."

      OK … if you say so. Whatever.

      Re: "We were already fully aware that the problem is proportionately much worse in other institutions especially in public schools in the US but they are protected from large financial claims so there are few claims and little publicity."

      Actually there are lots of news stories about teachers having impermissible dealings with students all the time. You really need to keep your eyes open more. As for being "protected" from lawsuit, that's not true. Municipalities and school districts most certainly can be sued.

      Re: "The problem in the Catholic Church has been overwhelmingly a homosexual problem involving priests and males under the legal age of consent in the relevant state. 85% of the cases are of this type."

      You say this as though it's proof the problem isn't serious, or a criminal matter. This statement also implies that "statutory rape" (i.e. even willing sex with minors below the age of consent) isn't rape. I disagree. And the law is on my side. The cold hard fact is that adult priests clearly engaged in behaviors that they damned well knew were illegal. To say anything else is to excuse it.

      In any event, we're not talking about sex with older minors who may have been willing (despite not being able to consent). In a lot of places the abuse happened to children much younger than that. Your excuse doesn't wash, in those cases.

      Re: "The Church has been targeted by homosexual men who should never have been ordained and who often sought the priesthood as a means to pursue young males."

      I agree with you that the Church may well have found itself a "magnet" for young men looking for predatory opportunities. But if you read the reports … many of which include internal memos written by clergy and hierarchs … you'll see that this problem was known quite well, many years ago. But since the 60s or so the Church has been starved for vocations and couldn't afford to turn away too many would-be priests. What does this tell you about the character and ethics of the men who were running it?

      I submit that the Church's tendency to protect the abusers is just another reason why the predators found it so attractive. Not only did being a priest give them access to victims, the fact that the hierarchy would protect them, made it all the better.

      Re: "The Church has acted naively in believing that these men could and would desist and attempted to 'limit the damage' by hiding the truth."

      The hierarchs were hardly just "naive." They knew damned well what they were facing. But rather than deal with it, they chose to cover it up and excuse it.

      Moreover, none of this explains other kinds of abuse and exploitation, like the phenomenon of "Magdelene laundries," in which "wayward" young women were turned into virtual slaves. The nuns who ran these facilities were fully aware of what they were doing. The hierarchs who approved their operation, knew what they were doing. And it wasn't just about homosexuals looking for opportunities to have sex with youngsters. It was about enslaving people … just because they could and for no other reason.