The media with an incorrect story? A crisis of pedophilia in the Catholic Church? We were misled by the media again. But in this instance, the Catholic Church seems to get most of the blame, the media gets the attention for a ‘crisis’ they allegedly uncovered, and a scandal is born.
USCCB – The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of …minors by Catholic priests in the US, is the study released by by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. This recent report (2011) reiterates Phillip Jenkins/Penn State/”Pedophiles and Priests’”, reported 9 years ago.
What the media reported was vastly different. Corrections are as follows:
1) “Catholic priests were almost always the sexual deviant” was incorrect. Clergy, in general, are no more likely to be involved with sexual misconduct than any other citizen. Because of accurate records kept by the Catholic Church, few have any idea if a Catholic cleric has a higher or lower rate for teachers/abusers, residential counselors, social workers, or scout masters. From Jenkins we hear: “Literally every denomination and faith tradition has its share of abuse cases, and some of the worst involve non-Catholics”. Every mainline Protestant denomination has had scandals aplenty, as had Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Buddhists, HareKrishnah’s—and the list goes on.”
2) “Being celibate leads more to sexual indiscretions” is commonly quoted, and quite incorrect. Catholic priests have no monopoly on sexual misconduct with minors. Even though news media typically see sexual abuse as crises of celibacy, priests actually have a lower rate of offense that their non-celibate counterparts. As stated in Our Sunday Visitor (2/25/96) “…the problem is bigger among Protestant clergy.” In other words, clerical sexual misconduct is by no means just a Catholic problem. [Catholic Matters: PEDOPHILE PRIESTS ?]
3) The “AP” reported on 8/09 that sex abuse claims by Protestant clergy reported by Church Mutual, GuideOne, and Brotherhood Mutual amounted to almost 260 reports each year. The annual average of complaints by Catholic clergy revealed an average of 228 “credible accusations”. Bottom line, there’s no denominational boundaries with sexual abuse. As Jenkins writes, “The story of clerical abuse is bad enough without turning it into an unjustifiable of religious bigotry against the Catholic Church.”
4) A “pedophilia” crisis (sexual attraction of adult towards those below puberty) was incorrect. The correct terminology was “ephebophilia” (homosexual attracted to very young men). Homosexuality has always been the actual problem. About 40 priests, or about 1.8% of the whole, were likely guilty of some misconduct with minors. Any offending perpetrators were simply members of the Catholic Church—not representative of the Faith.
In Priests, Abuse, and the Meltdown of a Culture – George Weigel …comments on the John Jay report mentioned above. This College reveals most sexual abuse takes place within families. They conclude the sexual abuse of the young is a widespread and horrific societal problem, not principally a Catholic priest problem.
Between 1950 and 2002, the John Jay study revealed about five young people in 100,000 may have been abused by a priest, but the average in the US general population was 134 per 100,000. A sexual problem exists alright, but it’s not at its worst with any church.
In the John Jay study, the Catholic bishops (and society as a whole) had no idea the magnitude of the abuse problem. Bishops thought these perpetrators could be cured and returned to active ministry. But with stringent checks routinely done by the Catholic Church (background checks, specific numbers of chaperones/students, windows in all doors, etc…), it’s said to be the safest environment for young people today.
It seems the Catholic Church is much safer than public schools, and especially the family in general. Will the mainstream media change their tune about who the major perpetrator of child sexual abuse is? Not likely. The Catholic Church is a favorite target.
No doubt the heinous nature of some Catholic priests has been totally unacceptable. But even more sexual abuse from other religions, the public school system, and familial abuses is rarely discussed. But the Catholic Church still gets pelted from “rock-throwers”. The Church also knows worse atrocities have always been accused.
The problem is not one of corrupt doctrine, but of abusers not being true to their duty, promises, or faith. It sounds as if the mainstream media is doing the same thing.
Kevin Roeten can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.