Skip to comments.One-Half of One Percent: Putting the Catholic Church Scandal into Perspective
Posted on 06/03/2002 7:17:42 AM PDT by Stand Watch Listen
Whole forests of trees have been sacrificed since February and countless gigabytes of cyberspace have been consumed with writing about the scandal of the Catholic Church.
Some would have the gullible public believe that every Catholic parish in the nation is a miniature Peyton Place. Perhaps these copywriters are genuinely ignorant of the facts, in which case I should accuse them merely of laziness instead of hypocrisy. Because it so happens there is some real data around, and it undermines the case against the Catholic Church.
Granted, reliable data about shameful and illegal behavior is by its nature hard to come by. And for even one homosexual priest to take advantage of one young man is despicable, to be sure. But the data that is available makes one thing clear: Catholic priests are not the only clergy who occasionally fall into sexual misbehavior. This is not just a Catholic problem.
Prior to this spring, there were stories scattered throughout the news media about scandals in various denominations and sects: Episcopalians, Jews, Buddhists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hare Krishnas, LDS, Pentecostals. Since February, those stories have disappeared, and the headlines seem to feature the word "Catholic".
Anne Simpkinson of Beliefnet.net has reported valiantly on the problems in other denominations. A 1990 study on sexual harassment in the United Methodist Church found that 42 percent of respondents reported unwanted sexual behavior by a colleague or pastor; 17 percent of laywomen said that their own pastor had harassed them. How to understand these data? Methodists do tend to be liberal (abortion rights are highly respected by the UMC). In that denomination, it might be construed as sexual harassment if a pastor does nothing more than call a pretty young woman - or a female fellow-pastor -- "darlin'".
A 1993 pastoral care journal reported that 6.1 percent of Southern Baptist pastors admitted to having sexual contact with a person either currently or formerly affiliated with their church - but 70 percent said they knew pastors who had had sexual contact with a congregant. Maybe the pastors interviewed all knew the same 6% of pastors?
On the other hand, there is one denomination that keeps a great deal of reliable data about the conduct, sexual and otherwise, of its ministers. Only one denomination is centrally organized and keeps extensive, detailed records: the Catholic Church alone collects information about all its clergy.
What does that data show?
There has been only one actual study that looked for reliable data about sexual aberrations in the Catholic Church. It was a study done in 1992 by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin in Chicago. Chicago is a huge diocese, a liberal diocese. The survey examined every single priest - 2,252 in number - who had served in the diocese for the past 40 years. It reopened and reviewed every single complaint against every priest.
The standard of evidence was low. An accusation was counted in this study if a consensus existed that a particular charge was justified. A much higher standard would have been if it would hold up in a court of law.
If you think the recent headlines reflect reality, you're probably expecting to hear that something like 400 priests had charges against them.
The fact is by this very low standard, about 40 priests were deemed to be probably guilty of sexual misconduct with minors at some point in the 40 years studied. Out of 90,080 priest-years studied, credible evidence existed against 1.8% of priests.
Or, in the words of Philip Jenkins, a non-Catholic professor of history and religious studies at secular Penn State University: There is no evidence that the rate of sexual abuse and misconduct among Catholic clergy is any higher than the rate among clergy of non-Catholic Christian denominations, or among clergy of non-Christian religions, or among non-clergy professions involved with children, such as teachers and scoutmasters.
To put this matter into better perspective: Right now there is a universe of about 150,000 priests in the United States. If the Chicago data is reliable, we might expect 2% of those priests to have misbehaved. Thus far, about 1,000 priests have been indicted in the court of public opinion. So where are the other 3,000?
In other words, the data suggest that about one-half of one percent of Catholic clergy have had sexual misbehavior incidents in their past.
That puts the full-throated attack on the Catholic Church in a different light, doesn't it?
Connie Marshner is Director of the Center for Governance at the Free Congress Foundation.
Free Congress Foundation
The scandal is the re-assignment of known abusers by those in authority over them.
This casts a pall over innocent priests as well.
Like their wives?
Let's see, two priests at my Church alone have resigned over sexual misconduct with minors. Another priest in a Parish not for from my church. This line about .5% isn't going to work.
The Catholic Church in America has been totally infiltrated by Socialists and Third World revolutionaries. Doom on them and the American Catholic Church.
a continuation of postings trying to water down the hideousness of these crimes against God and man
I lived in a rectory for the Summer of 1998 with some fine priests associated with the Prelature of Opus Dei. The closest I have come to scandal has been the fact that my parent's current diocese (Palm Beach!) has seen its past two Bishops leave due to "youthful indiscretions" with other men.
Why is it that Gays seem to be attracted to our faith? Not only in the priesthood, but in many lay organizations as well.
I'd like to see the data backing up that accusation.
The last figure I saw was 300 for the entire country.
It was bad enough that they did such a poor job of teaching scripture and the principles of the Church Fathers...
This kind of hyperbole doesn't help the Catholic Church. Nobody I've spoken to around here (Boston area) is blaming anyone but Cardinal Law for the fact that three really bad actors were constantly reassigned to different parishes, to abuse again. People know that the huge majority of priests and practicing Catholics are decent, religious people who want to do right by their faith.
It has to stop. The faith and trust of practicing Catholics have been abused by the powers that be. It isn't an issue of it being a small percentage, it's an issue of what was done about it.
Some have theorized that the religious symbolism of Catholicism attracts gays, although I would think if that were the case they'd be more interested in the Orthodox.
Gays can hide in an unmarried priesthood. There have ALWAYS been gays in the priesthood, though there seem to be more now.
Freeper One_Particular_Harbor has told me that the reason they have not been as present in the Orthodox has been that the Greek Church has a zero tolerance policy towards homosexual sodomy within its ranks.
But wait, there's more...
Great article in the last issue of National Review about it being more of a Homosexual problem than anything else (no suprise here).
More to the point was the assertion that homosexuals could do to the institution of marriage what they have done to the institution of the Catholic Church.
Gay marriage, anyone?
Because the Church gives it a "wink and a nod".
Agreed. But I have read/heard (Sean Hannity Show), reports about the exact same thing occurring in the NYC SCHOOL SYSTEM!
If we're going to arm pilots in the cockpits, I think we ought to start arming the choirboys in the santuary.