Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Sorrows of Priests and Sexual Misconduct

Christians use the priests scandal of sexual misconduct to reinforce their own misunderstandings of Catholicism.

As a new Catholic, I am a convenient target for anti-catholic animus. Because they do not have the facts, just the myths that are repeated generation after generation, people are hardly to blame for hating what they believe Catholics do and teach. It seems the media insidiously, delightfully loves to distort Christianity every chance it gets. And we live in a Protestant country, so it is very understandably difficult to know the truth of Catholicism.

Catholics have a very different worldview of the Bible and to really understand Catholicism takes the long suffering and tenaciousness of learning a new language. I stuck to it for six years... I hardly expect others have the time or desire to do that, so I just have to keep living my faith and hope that someday people will take the time to understand why someone would become Catholic. Anyway.... the point of this post...

These are the terrible facts of the misconduct of Catholic priests. It is important to know them in order for both mercy and justice to be administered in the courts of public opinion. Here they are:

The John Jay Report (google it for reference) did an exhaustive study of accusations of sexual misconduct against priests and deacons and gave the following report in 2004. The research included ALL accusations that were possible for study (some accusers and/or priests were dead--so these were not included in the study) from 1950 to 2002 in the United States. There were 6, 700 accusations that were available for research against 4, 392 priests. The accusations covered sexual misconducts ranging in deviance from showing inappropriate sexual materials such as pictures or stories to a single incident of touching over clothing to the most serious and egregious accusation of rape. This number represents 4% of the 109,694 priests serving in the United States during those years.

The number of alleged incidences dramatically increased during the 1960's peaked in the 1970's and in the last twenty years has almost ceased, returning to their pre-1950's level. Of these allegations, those accusations that seemed to have merit have materialized in 384 priests being prosecuted, 252 have been found guilty and 100 sent to jail. So only 6% of those accused were found guilty, and of those  2% were given prison terms.

Though this is abundantly horrific, having as a Protestant known many people who were sexually molested by their religious leaders, there are several things we can rejoice in.

#1 The accusations were many years ago and the Church has been purged, in large measure, of this demonic activity.

#2 Many of the priests who did this grave evil are now in jail.

#3 The great number of allegations have proven to be based in fiction.

There is more to note. In the study, it was reported that the figure of sexual misconduct for priests was either at the same level or lower than other social and religious groups studied. Sexual misconduct in teachers was found to be a higher percentage than that of Catholic priests. The exact same rate of sexual abuse towards children was found in married men. The rates for sexual abuse in Catholic clergy was the same as in Protestant ministers and Jewish leaders.

The study also brought out several myths that we would like to dispel.

Myth 1: Catholic priests are more likely to be pedophiles than other groups of men. 

In fact, pedophilia--the sexual abuse of those under the age of 14 is extremely rare affecting only 0.3 of priests. Actually the vast majority of accusations came from victims came during the time they were teenagers.

Myth #2 Priestly celibacy is part of the context that leads to sexual abuse of minors.

There is no statistical relationship between celibacy and sexual misconduct.  A percentage of the Catholic clergy that were in the study group were married deacons. Married men who commit these grave acts are statistically the same as celibate priests. The profiles of abusers never, ever have included normal sexual adults who turn into abusers because of environment or sexual repression.  There has never been a documented case of a healthy heterosexual man that developed an erotic attraction to children. They always, without exception, have deviant sexual tendencies from childhood. Therefore it is a misnomer to conclude that a married clergy would reduce sexual misconduct.

Myth #3 Homosexuality is not connected to sexual deviancy.

Homosexuals are three times as likely to be sexually attracted to children and teenagers than heterosexual men.

Reports concluded that a sexual perpetrator is much more likely to be found in one's home, at a childcare center or at school than by a Catholic priest. In a recent national study by NSHS, when victims of sexual misconduct was investigated, there were no--zero- cases involving priests. Categories of perpetrators were: teachers, neighbors, doctors, grandparents, friends, co-workers, gardeners, repairmen or non-family residents of the home, not one priest was accused.

These statistics are culled from the following:

The John Jay Report
Crisis Magazine
Jenkins, Pedophiles and Priests
Psychology Today
National Opinion Research Center
The Hartford Currant
Addiction and Compulsive Behaviors [Boston; 1998] Fred Berlin, Patrick J. Carnes and Dale O'leary