The New York Times has done a study it says is an attempt to determine the scope of the Scandal. Specifically, it looked at the past 50 years and went through every accusation of abuse of a minor by an ordained priest that it could find. The aim, I guess, was to prove to people that the media isn’t creating a hysteria, making the problem appear worse than it is. Here is what the newspaper found:
- The study found that 1.8 percent of priests ordained since 1950, or 1,205 priests, have been accused of sexually abusing minors, including nearly 3.3 percent of priests ordained in two particular years, 1970 and 1975. Since ordination data was unavailable for 12 percent of all accused priests in the database, they were not included in the calculation. But if all of these priests were ordained after 1950 and used in the calculation, the figure could be as high as 2 percent.
There are some holes in the data, and not inconsiderable ones either. If a diocese refused to release information about cases, they had to be excluded. If a priest was trained overseas, left the Church, or died, he also wasn’t included in the stats—that could a be a large number of priests. And the number also doesn’t take into account the resolution of accusations. How many were false accusations that were eventually tossed out because they were demonstrably false?
But say the number is somewhat accurate. That 1.8 percent isn’t small, but it isn’t overwhelming either. It’s interesting that the two years of ordination with the largest numbers of perverts were 1970 and 1975. Is that a sign of a cultural decline in the late 60s and early 70s or does it mean that cases involving priests from the 80s and 90s haven’t had the same amount of time to percolate in the victims’ psyches and explode into the open? It also leads me to ask what the incidence of child sex abuse is in the general population of adult men? What can I compare this number to? Is it higher or lower?
A companion article analyzes the results. Among the conclusions made:
- “This has been going on for decades, probably centuries,” said Richard K. O’Connor, a former Dominican priest who says he was one of 10 boys sexually assaulted by three priests in a South Bronx parish in 1940, when he was 10. “It’s just that all of a sudden, they got caught.”
That’s an assumption, not a conclusion based on facts. And while it is likely there has always been child sex abuse, how prevalent was it? Has it always been 1.8 percent? Was it higher or lower? Odds are that it hasn’t been a steady pattern in Church history. As usual, the Times oversimplifies in its examination of causes:
- The scandal has set off an intense debate within the church over what caused it and what can resolve it. Many Catholic conservatives blame the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and the social upheaval of the 1960’s for removing priestly inhibitions on sexuality and dissent. Liberals tend to find the root causes in what they call the church’s repressive approach to sex, including priestly celibacy, and its deeply ingrained culture of secrecy. The Times database provides evidence to support the arguments of both sides.
Few conservative Catholics blame Vatican II. What they blame is the misrepresentation of the reforms of Vatican II to suit the purposes and goals of those who wanted to co-opt the council. And the only “evidence” offered supports the liberal arguments—no surprise there.
The article also says that the actual percentages may be higher than 1.8 percent.
- In dioceses that have divulged what they say are complete lists of abusive priests—under court orders or voluntarily—the percentages are far higher. In Baltimore, an estimated 6.2 percent of priests ordained in the last half-century have been implicated in the abuse of minors. In Manchester, N.H., the percentage is 7.7, and in Boston it is 5.3.
It may be evidence that the problem is more widespread across the board, or it may mean that those dioceses where the most egregious cases occurred and courts ordered full disclosure were atypically more likely to have problems. In other words, it may be a self-selecting group. Or perhaps, an environment was created that was more hospitable to the type of man likely to commit such abuse.
Here a couple of facts that the Times declines to analyze:
Eighty percent of the priests were accused of molesting boys. The percentage is nearly the opposite for laypeople accused of abuse; their victims are mostly girls.
While the majority of the priests were accused of molesting teenagers only, 43 percent were accused of molesting children 12 and younger. Experts in sexual disorders say the likeliest repeat offenders are those who abuse prepubescent children and boys.
In other words, as conservatives have been saying all along—the major problem is one of adult men who have a sexual attraction to young men and boys. I wonder what percentage would be found to have molested teens only if you only looked at the 80 percent who abused boys? Would it be more than the 57 percent of the whole group? I think we’d find more than two-thirds of the abusers were interested in post-pubescent young men, or to put it bluntly, homosexual.
It’s interesting that the article backhandedly makes the case that it was dissent from Humanae Vitae that was part of the cause.
- Amid surging use of the birth control pill, many priests say it fell on them to promulgate a teaching they could not agree with. And many said the controversy removed their inhibitions about criticizing or even disregarding church teachings on sexuality. “People were beginning to decide that the church couldn’t make the rules anymore,” Mr. Dinter said.
In other words, they’re saying that dissent from Church teaching freed people up to give into their basest sinful desires.
Some of the conclusions are just stupid.
- Dr. Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea, executive director of the Trauma Treatment Center of the Manhattan Institute for Psychoanalysis and a sexual abuse expert who addressed the Catholic bishops at their Dallas meeting last year, said of priests: “They were thrown into the company of young men who were having adolescences very different than they had ? dating, masturbating, having buddies. The priest saw himself as an age mate of the youth, and better yet, as a leader of the pack. At some point, all those genuine human needs for closeness, including touch, just burst.”
“Oh look, those boys are masturbating. I want to get in on that.” Doesn’t common sense just scream that this is patently ridiculous? Perhaps, this might happen to someone who is mentally ill or emotionally unstable, but not in a healthy adult.
- Human sexuality was added to seminary curriculums soon after 1992, when Pope John Paul II called for the church to pay attention to the “human formation” of priests, said Sister Schuth. Studies show that more seminarians and priests now identify themselves as homosexual than in previous generations, and with the openness has come more candid discussion in seminaries of celibacy and chastity, she said. The decline in priest cases in the 1990’s parallels a 40 percent decline in the sexual abuse of children generally, Dr. Finkelhor said. There are many reasons, he said: more offenders are incarcerated for longer periods; children are more closely supervised; and there is more awareness about identifying and reporting sexual abuse.
Or perhaps homosexuals who wanted to hide their proclivities abused young men in their care in the past, but now that so many homosexual priests are out in the open about what they doing—and there is so little discplining of those who are—they just go out and get adult boyfriends and don’t bother abusing kids anymore.