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’

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  1. Sean O'Conaill says:

    Thanks to Dave Pierre for telling us that he has sent his book to several individuals at the Archdiocese of Boston, and that a number have written back to him in appreciation. This is indeed reassuring. I wonder if this means that his figure of 32% false allegations in Boston has actually been verified by the diocese?

    One reason I am still seriously puzzled is that a major part of his case for that 32% figure in his book seems to rest on the conclusion that the 25 priests he counts in the ‘unsubstantiated’ category in Boston (I count 26 today) are *all* falsely accused. This is puzzling because the archdiocese tells us what ‘unsubstantiated’ means in an open letter re the issue of abuse in 2002. This, from the ‘Cardinal’s Commission for the Protection of Children of the Archdiocese of Boston’, reads as follows (Page 15):

    “Section 6: Response to False or Unsubstantiated Allegations : From time to time, an investigation of allegations will determine that the accusations are false and in some other cases there will be no credible evidence to prove or disprove allegations. Both false claims and unsubstantiated allegations have a profound impact on the accused and can leave the faith community uncertain and fearful.”

    I deduce from this that an unsubstantiated allegation in Boston archdiocese is one in which there ‘will be no credible evidence to prove or disprove’ the allegation. This is logically compatible with the definition of ‘unsubstantiated’ given on the archdiocese’s child protection pages right now: “unsubstantiated – A claim which, after review, is not supported by sufficient evidence to establish the probability that the accused cleric has committed an offense of sexual abuse of a child”.

    I am puzzled for another reason also. If the category ‘unsubstantiated’ is fully occupied by *falsely* accused priests in Boston, how does the Boston archdiocese categorise priests against whom there is an allegation for which there is ‘no credible evidence to prove or disprove’? Clearly such an allegation cannot be categorised as either ‘substantiated’ or ‘false’, so what happens with such allegations in Boston? Were there no such cases in Boston, or did the diocese simply not list them? (It seems unlikely on the face of it that there were none, because in the findings of the comprehensive John Jay investigation reported in 2004, ‘unsubstantiated’ allegations outnumbered allegations ‘found to be false’ in a ratio of 12 to 1.)

    Did Dave Pierre ask the Boston archdiocese this question also? If not, as he is closer to the action, could he do so and report back to us? If the archdiocese verifies his conclusions that 32% percent of investigated priests were indeed falsely accused, and that this somehow translates exactly into a 32% percent figure for *false accusations* (as he asserts in his book), there couldn’t be even the smallest reason for misgiving about that.

    As it is of the greatest importance to give the best possible advice on the likelihood of a false allegation to those who receive such allegations (from adults as well as children) I am sure he will understand why I am being so fastidious about all of this. As he will know, the advice that his book gives on this is in serious contradiction to the latest advice given by US bishops, so it is best to put his conclusions to the severest possible test.

  2. What really baffles me, having read Dave Pierre’s response to Sean O’Conaill’s critique,is how someone like Mgr.Stephen Rossetti whose “crediblity is seriously questionable” — (I am quoting Dave Pierre )– could be given a speaking slot at last month’s symposium on clerical sex abuse in Rome which was Vatican-backed and held at the Pontifical Gregorian University. One would have expected that Mgr. Rossetti’s background and credentials would have checked before he received an invitation to participate at such a prestigious forum. I hope Mgr. Rossetti is aware of this discourse and gets a chance to defend his reputation

  3. Sean O'Conaill says:

    I have managed to contact Mgr. Rossetti to convey to him the references made above. He responds:
    “Thanks – it’s not so bad being criticized for telling the truth …”

  4. Sean – Anyone can say they are “telling the truth.”

    But what EVIDENCE does Rossetti have to back up what he’s saying? (I find it curious that you did not ask him this.)

    Never was it Rossetti’s job at St. Luke’s to investigate abuse claims (e.g., speak with accusers, look for witnesses etc.). Working at St. Luke’s (a treatment center), Rossetti often would have been hundreds (or thousands) of miles away from where events were alleged to have occurred!

    I have no problem people challenging me about the Archdiocese of Boston because I have DATA and NUMBERS to support myself.

    Yet you whole-heartedly accept Rossetti’s ‘95%’ claim when he has absolutely NOTHING to support it! What’s up with that?

    It sure looks like a double standard!

    Dave Pierre
    author, ‘Catholic Priests Falsely Accused’

  5. The Catholic priest falsely accused. An evil deed.

    What happens to him afterwards ?

    When he has lost his reputation – been a victim of someone’s lies and betrayal ?

    What levels of support are available to him from the Church community if any ?

    As a victimised member of the Body of Christ I am curious to know how the Body responds to that.

    Thank you.


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