I begin with a quotation, which I found on the feisty and useful new website Protect the Pope, from the online Humanist journal, Spiked. Kevin Rooney, although believing that “There is…. much about the Catholic Church’s teachings to rage against” nevertheless concludes that “the current animosity to all things Catholic manifests itself in ways that are far from healthy. So while many of the exponents of this popular new breed of anti-Catholicism would certainly consider themselves liberal, their treatment of the church is anything but.”
We need, in Lord Patten’s words (also to be found on Protect the Pope), to stand our ground: and the first thing we now have to do is to move on to less defensive territory over the question of child abuse. Of course we needed to express our anguish and our collective penitence. But we’ve done that now. And if that’s all we do, we simply feed the absolutely false idea that Catholic priests are more guilty of this dreadful crime than anyone else: we have almost begun to believe it ourselves. We behave as though we are an endemically paedophile organisation. AND IT ISN’T TRUE.
Here is the big killer fact. Get it by heart. I quote the standfirst of an article in Newsweek magazine (go to it when you have finished this: become familiar with the facts it contains): “The priesthood is being cast as the refuge of pederasts. In fact, priests seem to abuse children at the same rate as everyone else”:
No formal comparative study has ever broken down child sexual abuse by denomination…. But … experts who study child abuse say they see little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue. “We don’t see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Mr Allen suggests a simple reason we hear so much more about abuse in the Catholic Church than in other religions: its sheer size. There are over 1.2 billion of us. So if the same, or even a much smaller, percentage of priests offend, then naturally we will numerically have a far larger number of cases for the papers to report. And, of course, this isn’t even a religious problem. Over 75 per cent of abuse cases (mostly unreported) take place in the family. But nobody concludes that this undeniable fact discredits the family as an institution. So why do we lie down as we do under the widespread calumnies spread by people like Dawkins (who says that the Church is a “child-raping institution”) and Hitchens?
It’s time now, first to get this question straight in our minds; and then to fight back. September’s getting close now: watch this space.