Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Pedophiliac Priests

Recently I’ve been exchanging comments with some of the regulars on Catholic Sensibility, which looks to be run by a fellow named “Todd”. Todd strikes me as disgruntled with the Catholic Church with respect to the sexual abuse scandals that have been plaguing the news for some years now. On two of his recent posts (“Deal's not done” and “Abortion-Communion confluence”) he makes reference to pedophile priests and indicates that priests and/or bishops are inept and financially incompetent. Let’s focus on the pedophilia accusations.

It disturbs me that someone who is ostensibly a faithful Catholic is so willing to accept the popular opinion that all Catholic priests are suspects for pedophilia, or even that a large portion of priests are pedophiles. I can understand this attitude coming from avowed leftists and anti-Catholics, but someone who professes Catholicism should be willing to research the issue with various sources before condemning, or appearing to condemn, all our priests with such a horrible crime.

In the article referenced through the title of this post, Anne A. Simpkinson explores the myth that Catholic priests hold a near-monopoly on sexual abuse. Her research of studies on sexual misconduct reveals that clergy of all faiths have their share in crimes of sexual misconduct. The Hartford Institute for Religion Research did a study on sexual misconduct in the clergy of various faiths and found that not only are Catholic priests not the only guilty parties in this area, but that the vast majority of sexual misconduct involves heterosexual relations between adults.
But what about those 122 cases (23% of all the congregations these ministers had served) where some sort of sexual indiscretion caused a rupture between pastor and congregation? The vast majority involved affairs between consenting – but not married – adults. In most cases one or both of the offending parties was married to someone else.
This article by the Catholic League sheds even more light on the situation. What should be noted is that coaches, teachers, and psychologists also have significant rates not only of sexual misconduct, but also of covering up these incidents. Catholics are not alone in committing these misdeeds. This is a well documented report that cites several non-Catholic sources.

The conclusions of these articles indicate that priests who sexually abuse minors are in a very small minority, and of that small minority, a very small minority are actual “pedophiles”. This quote from “Soul Betrayal (Simpkinson) explains.
Additionally, only about one-third of priests who sexually abuse youngsters are pedophiles (that is, they molest a prepubescent child). The rest sexually abuse adolescents, generally boys. The precise clinical term for their behavior is ephebophilia.
Because of institutions’ natural desire to protect their own, hard numbers are difficult to come by. This is true for religious (including non-Catholic) and secular organizations. There is enough evidence available to indicate that the presence of pedophilia is not nearly as widespread within the Catholic Church as popularly believed, however, and that Catholic religious, by proportion, do not constitute the majority of perpetrators of these crimes.

Catholics should be more willing not only to better understand the disastrous effects of sexual abuse of children, but also to take a harder look at any accusations leveled against our clergy. The benefits of this are twofold. The first is that we are less quick to blindly believe accusations against our leaders. The second is that we will be more certain to oust those who are in fact guilty of these crimes.


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