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Now we have real evidence – sexual abuse is not a ‘Catholic problem’

But we still have a fight ahead: the media are out to get us

By on Monday, 9 August 2010

Last week, I suggested that having comprehensively and repeatedly apologised for the small number of priests who have in some way sexually abused children and young people, it was time we moved on to the offensive against those who (often with an undeclared anti-Catholic agenda) continually assert that the Church is in some way particularly prone to this disgusting crime. I referred to a Newsweek article which said that “priests seem to abuse children at the same rate as everyone else”.

The fact is, however, that not only is the Catholic Church NOT an endemically paedophile organisation, the evidence is now emerging that, in fact, even Newsweek is exaggerating: it’s not that “priests… abuse children at the same rate as everyone else”: actually, according to Dr Thomas Plante of Stanford University and Santa Clara University, “available research suggests that approximately two to five per cent of priests have had a sexual experience with a minor” which “is lower than the general adult male population” – in which the percentage of those who have interfered with minors “is best estimated to be closer to eight per cent”. In other words, children who have anything to do with priests are between 1.6 and four times LESS likely to be abused by them than by anyone else.

“When,” asks the blog La Salette Journey, giving these and other details, “will the media acknowledge that the sexual abuse of children is not a ‘Catholic problem’?” The fact is, suggests the writer, Paul Anthony Melanson, that “the media are not so much concerned with the welfare of children as they are with unfairly portraying the abuse of children as a ‘crisis in the Church’ ”.  For example, the state school system in the US has a considerably higher rate of sexual abuse than the Catholic Church: according to a report prepared for the US Department of Education entitled Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature, “9.6 per cent of all students in grades 8 to 11 report… educator sexual misconduct that was unwanted.”  This report has been virtually ignored by the media.

But the penny is just beginning to drop. An article by Jim Dwyer in the New York Times reported (April 27) that the New York State legislature is now addressing the fact that child abuse is not only a problem for the Church, but for the whole of society. “Should it be possible,” asks Dwyer  “… to sue the city of New York for sexual abuse by public school teachers that happened decades ago? How about doctors or hospital attendants? Police officers? Welfare workers? Playground attendants? … To date, New York City has been publicly silent…. but sees the possibility of enormous expenses.”

Well, join the club, New York City. As Dwyer’s article points out: “Since 2004, Catholic dioceses nationwide have paid $1.4bn to settle claims of abuse, many from acts from the 1970s or earlier… Yet [he continues] there is little evidence to show there is more sexual abuse among Catholic priests than among clergy from other denominations, or, for that matter, among people from other walks of life.”

That’s the bottom line. This is a problem we share with everyone, though actually we are less guilty of it than society as a whole and are doing a lot better in acknowledging such child abuse as does exist. We need to get that, and the evidence for it, firmly into our heads. We have a battle ahead: we all need to be prepared for it.

  • Sister Maureen

    Who said it was a “Catholic problem?” The problem for the Roman Catholic Church has been and continues to be the horrific history of the cover-up of the sexual abuse of children, young adults and vulnerable individuals including indiginous and missionary sisters in almost every country in the world. It has been going on for centuries and has been addressed as such by church authorities as early as the fourth century. The article above is little more than an excuse. A kind of “Everybody's doing it so why pick on us,” mindset. HOLDING CLERGY AND CHURCH LEADERS ACCOUNTABLE BEFORE THE LAW Professor Marci Hamilton and Sister Maureen Paul Turlish on NPR's Radio Times on WHYY in Philadelphia, April 12, 2010… Sister Maureen Paul Turlish Victims' Advocate New Castle, Delaware, USA

  • Julie

    Sister Maureen,
    So …. What have the other churches, agencies, etc., done regarding sex abuse in their own ranks?? Gee, since we haven't been hearing about it, I am guessing that they “covered it up.” I wish you would do something constructive with your time, helping the poor, perhaps, instead of being on the Internet 24/7 and bashing the church in comment boxes.

  • Killianln

    First off – sister Maureen is helping the poor. She is advocating and helping the adult survivors who's soul has been ripped from them by clerical sexual abuse.
    Second – the numbers in this article are a little off. The church's self reporting numbers indicate that the abuse rate amoung priests is 5.1%. However, in those few dioceses (~10) where there was an independent investigation was performed, there was a consistent abuse rate of 9.5 to 10%. Hmmmm maybe the bishops who refused to acknowledge that this problem even existed 15 years ago are still hiding something.

  • Bob

    This is simply another article apologizing for the dysfunctional Catholic Church. The difference between the Catholic Church's handling of sex abuse and that of other organizations is that the Church covered up while other organizations reported their abusers to authorities. The Catholic Church is far worse in its approach toward sexual abuse because, 1) its structures condone and promote sexual abuse, and 2) its arrogance and bombast ensure that sexual abuse will never end.

  • W Oddie

    Simply untrue. There has never been any acceptance, for instance, from the teaching profession that there is any particular problem among teachers: but it's quite clear that there is. Does that make the teaching profession profession dysfunctional? Probaby not. Does the fact that over 75%, and probably more, of all child abuse takes place within the family mean that the family as an institution is dysfunctional? No, it doesn't. What's quite clear from this post from “Bob” is that he doesn't address the evidence I have presented. It's no use saying that the Church's “structures condone and promote sexual abuse”, when the evidence, as I have shown, is that THE OPPOSITE IS THE CASE. All the mindless “Bob” has shown is that he hates the Catholic Church. So, what else is new?

  • W Oddie

    Sources, please. You present these figures without any evidence they're true. I have presented my academically verified sources. You haven't credibly challenged them. So the same is true of you as is true of the mindless “Bob”. You hate Catholics (or at least the authorities of the Church) and you'll just say anything discredit them. You probably hate the Pope. So, put up or shut up.

  • W Oddie

    Response to sister Maureen( below). But the church has accepted all this again and again and again. We know about the cover up. It was wrong. But we're not doing that any more. What about everyone else in modern secular society who's been covering up? I have the feeling you're one of these (probably radical feminist) religious we've all got so deeply tired of lately, who will do anything to discredit a Church which won't ordain them to the priesthood. You don't like my piece (the EVIDENCE in which you haven't denied because you can't) because if we all come to accept it and to,= fight back against the lying media who carry on saying that we are worse than anyone else, then that's the end of you and those who think like you inside the Church. Well, bring it on. We have had enough of you, Sister Maureen; the end of your bogus credibility is thank God very close. Why not join the Episcopal Church? They'd just love you. But of course, nobody would ever again report your views in the media.

  • W Oddie

    But the church has accepted all this again and again and again. We know about the cover up. It was wrong. But we're not doing that any more. What about everyone else in modern secular society who's been covering up? I have the feeling you're one of these (probably radical feminist) religious we've all got so deeply tired of lately, who will do anything to discredit a Church which won't ordain them to the priesthood. You don't like my piece (the EVIDENCE in which you haven't denied because you can't) because if we all come to accept it and to,= fight back against the lying media who carry on saying that we are worse than anyone else, then that's the end of you and those who think like you inside the Church. Well, bring it on. We have had enough of you, Sister Maureen; the end of your bogus credibility is thank God very close. Why not join the Episcopal Church? They'd just love you. But of course, nobody would ever again report your views in the media.

  • Pamitch

    What a disgrace you are sir….”after having apologised it is time we moved on” what about the prosecutions of these child rapists that your church has hidden for years….your whole article is breathtaking in it's hypocrisy and denial….you should consider your position as a writer and a member of the catholic church

  • W Oddie

    What, SPECIFICALLY, do you deny in what I have written? All I see from your comment is that you hate the Catholic Church. You call me a hypocrite. LET'S HAVE YOUR EVIDENCE THAT I HAVE BEEN SAYING ANYTHING UNTRUE.

  • ChristineHickey

    This IS a Catholic problem. There IS a crisis in the Catholic church. And yes, is also a problem in other institutions. I've never heard anyone say it the only place where abuse exists. I am always amazed at Catholics who spend so much energy pointing out that sexual abuse happens elsewhere. As Catholics, I wonder why all your outrage is not directed toward the problem in YOUR church first? It's not as if it's all solved, and all impacted are healed and feeling confident in their church leadership. There is a long way to go.
    Many clergy members who abused and covered up have yet to be held accountable. The church's hierarchy makes it obvious that they still don't get it, by the statements given and much of their behavior. The often used phrases “we're not the only ones,” “they're picking on us,” “it's Catholic-bashing,” “it's the media's fault,” are simply ways to deflect attention away from the mess in your organization and a way to blame the messenger.

    Yes, it happens elsewhere. But I have never seen another organization which has systematically protected the abusers, therefore allowing more children to be abused. When teachers abuse, and they absolutely do, we do not see Superintendents quietly moving those teachers to a new school, with good recommendations, as happened in the church. We do not see parents rallying around the teacher and calling the abused children liars. We do not see those who covered up getting promotions. We do not see parents making excuses for the school leadership.

    Why is it “hating” the church to talk about the crimes in the church? Why is it “hating” the church to demand accountability? It is hatred of sexual abuse, contempt for hypocrisy, and anger at the lack of accountability, which is being expressed. It seems to me that those who love their church would be putting their primary focus on problems at “home” rather than wildly thrashing about to point the finger at others. For example, Sister Maureen shows tremendous courage in continuing to speak the truth regarding the problem in her church. She shows courage which most priests, bishops, the author and many Catholics lack.

    This is not history as some suggest. New cases of abuse by priests are being regularly reported, abuse which happened up until the very recent past. Look at the Abuse Tracker on You will see several stories from the past few days which report on charges of abuse up until 2009.

    And Killianln is correct, in thoses diocese which have done proper reporting, the number of abusing priests is closer to 10%.

    Apparently is it easier for the author to just call people “Catholic haters” and other names rather than respectfully answer their posts. That attitude leaves me not having an interest in anything else he may say, as he's coming from a place of defensiveness, immaturity and closed-mindedness.

  • Nattie

    Wow..just wow. First the source for correct figures of the number of priests abusing children is considered to be roughly 9-10%of Priests. The source for this is the Philadephia Grand Jury report and the NH Grand jury report. These were exhaustive investigations by third parties who had full access to church files through subpoena. The figures cited by “John Jay” College are self reporting from Bishops and several Diocese refused to report.. Also there will soon be a report from LA Grand Jury and I will bet a million dollars the percentage of priests molesting children is similar to other Grand Jury reports. Also I don't understand why people defending the church cannot get their heads around one thing. The Church knew they had serial Pedophile Priests and covered it up, intimidated witnesses and allowed these priests to moved to unsuspecting parishes to prey upon other children!-PLEASE-name ONE other Church or organization that did this. PLEASE-I have looked and not found another case-even in the ancient times (70's and 80's)-When other religions discover pedophiles in their clergy the got rid of them and reported them to Police. The only exception might be Mormon Fundamentalists. I support raids on their compound also due to child abuse-Am I now “anti Mormon”-no just anti child abuse.

  • Nattie

    One other thing I would like to point out. If the City of New York, or any other organization had any report of an employee molesting children and continued to allow that employee access to children-They are clearly negligent and absolutely should be sued for millions of dollars.

  • Sister Maureen

    # 1: The 2002 John Jay report is flawed by the very fact that it depended on the date supplied by the very institutional Roman Catholic Church that covered up for sexual predators in the first place thereby putting untold numbers of innocent individuals in harm's way. Are the bishops to be trusted as to the veracity of the data? Given such history I think not. # 2:Regarding Shakeshaft's U.S Department of Education report entitled “Educator Sexual Misconduct: A Synthesis of Existing Literature” this report has been disavowed by the same U.S. Department of Education that commissioned it because of her questionable research criteria. I suggest that one look at the documents archived BISHOP ACCOUNTABILITY – – and RICHARD SIPE'S BLOG – – and VOICE OF THE FAITHFUL – Sister Maureen

  • Anne d' Auray Tracy

    Thousands of priest molesters world wide is not a small number. The number of victims reaches into the 100,00's. That's not insignificant. It is horrible. Get rid of the bishops who aided and abetted the criminals. One has to ask the question of predators and bishops, “Do they believe in God?”

  • W Oddie

    1). Bishopaccountability is not a reliable independent source. 2) John Jay college is an independentnon-Catholic organisation organisation whose report is based on evidence from a number of different sources. Nobody says there is not a great deal to be sorry for. But this is a problem for the whole of society not just us. Neither you nor anyone else has been able to question Dr Thomas Plante's evidence. I'm anti-child abuse too. That's why all the children who weren't abused by priests (the overwhelming majority, well over 99% shouldn't be forgotten. They have rights too

  • Reiszce

    The Largest sin and crime of the Roman Catholic Church is that the heirarchy of the church knew of the crimes being committed and covered it all up. While doing so they often physically, verably and spiritually abused those who reported the abuse committed upon them.

  • Christinemariehickey

    Bishop Accountability is absolutely reliable! Where do you get the notion they are not? Many credible, respected researchers, educators, journalists, and those working with the issue of sexual abuse consider BA to be highly accurate, factual, thorough and informative. Much of their website is dedicated to publishing actual church and legal documents in their original form. There database of accused priests is based on factual evidence, not interpretation. Again, you're blaming the messenger because you don't like the message.

  • Christinemariehickey

    You imply that victims of sexual abuse by those other than priests are “forgotten.” They are not forgotten. There are many organizations, public and private, which focus on sexual abuse in general. There are many support groups, therapy groups, advocacy groups, educational groups, legal agencies, etc., which deal with sexual abuse in general. Sexual abuse/rape issues are often discussed by lawmakers. We frequently see stories about victims of non-clergy sexual abuse in the news. Your idea that the only victims who receive attention are those abused by priests is simply incorrect. The clergy issue is prominent in the news recently because new evidence is being brought forward now, new victims are speaking out, church leaders are commenting, all over the world. Your idea that non-clergy victims are forgotten and don't have rights is simply inaccurate.

  • Syte

    So true, Mr. Oddie!
    The media has misrepresented the Catholic Church so thoroughly, that we do have an uphill battle ahead of us to correct all the false urban myths about Catholicism.
    Thanks for your courage.
    My blog also corroborates all you have written, for those who want more evidence that you are right —… .
    God bless!

  • Ben Thair

    The only ones who said things like ,”It started in the 60's., It is anticatholic bias., It is anti-catholic bias in the media., I hate the media.” were catholic priests and apologists. It started about 60 seconds after Adam noticed he needed a fig leaf. The only ones who ever insenuated it was the catholic church only were catholics trying to hide. No it was no small number in the church and it is no small number now. The difference is, The Church is the authority on faith and morals. When a priest takes what he wants (ravishes) the flock and the bishop fails justice and seeks to silence those crying for justice, souls get murdered. “Do the bishops believe in God?”

  • Antonin

    You can't seriously be extrapolating numbers from a grand jury report in a single American city to a global church of one billion souls, can you? What do you make of the situation in the UK, since you have entered into a UK publication- what do you think the numbers look like here? And even cherry picking your worst case scenario to argue from, you arrive at numbers that, while regrettable, do not give evidence of endemic abuse but only equal the statistical average.

  • FrHeythrop

    “We have a battle ahead: we all need to be prepared for it”…..We might have some chance of winning this battle if Benedict called on Cardinal Law, Mahoney and others to resign.

  • JohnB

    ” … a random survey of over 7,000 active Catholics in the U.S. and Canada found a closer ratio, that 1.7 percent of the females and 3.3 percent of the males had been sexually abused in childhood by a priest …” (Katherine van Wormer, MSSW, Ph.D.) Psychology Today – Priest abuse male compared female victimization impact published May 20, 2010.

    (Who was it that made that 'minimizing guess' about 99% while attempting to sound knowledgeable about data and statistics? Probably sounded good at the time as a defense for the church but falls flat and short when faced with the reality of the above data derived from research and the USCB's own figures.)

    For a look at the scope of the problem check

    This is looking at some of the figures only to determine the numbers at risk of suicide, how many abused are estimated in a location – for example if the rate of abuse is similar in The United Kingdom then it would be expected that just over 1 million present day Catholics in the United Kingdom would identify themselves as having been sexually abused as a child by a Catholic priest. More importantly is the fact that the church now has to battle to show that it is more or less as abusive as the rest of society as if this in some way exonerates the church and its followers from permitting these abuses to go on for so long.

    This article is only a variation on the Nuremberg excuse – 'I was only doing my job' to one of everyone else is doing it so we are not so bad after all! Now that is hypocrisy.

    In all of this and the mock horror and outrage expressed at the facts and the truth there is the one thing that catholic repeatedly state that they do and that is that they look after the abuse and the oppressed and yet they have not grasped the fact that it has been both the cover up and their failure to restore the victims of these abuses that continues to drive the anger of the world against Catholicism.

    The bottom line is yes you do share the blame and you should carry the guilt of being a part of society who steadfastly refuses to address the needs of the survivors and you will continue to bear the blame and the guilt for continuing to endanger children on into the future while this problem exists and remains unresolved for so many.

    You certainly do have a battle ahead as you endeavor to obfuscate, digress, minimize, share blame and guilt in your current role of defending the indefensible.

    Just as at Nuremberg, Catholics who defend these indefensible crimes will continue to be shown to have participated in the greatest crime spree against the very core of society through its children that humanity has experienced.

  • Paul Anthony Melanson

    Thank you for this piece Dr. Oddie. In these times of scandal, it is critical for Catholics to remember, even if the mainstream media would have us forget, that the Church remains spotless even when Her members sin. There is absolutely no doubt that the human history of the Church, like all of human history, has its dark pages. But if anyone cares to take an objective look at this history, one must quickly acknowledge that the doctrine of the Church has always implicitly condemned abuses introduced by Her members.

    In the words of Dr. Dietrich Von Hildebrand, “There were sinners in the Church yesterday and there are sinners in the Church today. But the Church Herself, in her divine teaching, emerges gloriously unspotted in a history stained by human weaknesses, errors, imperfections, and sins.” Which is why the great Cardinal Journet reminded us that, “All contradictions are eliminated as soon as we understand that the members of the Church do indeed sin, but they do so by their betraying the Church. The Church is thus not without sinners, but She is without sin. The Church as person is responsible for penance. She is not responsible for sins….The members of the Church themselves – laity, clerics, priests, Bishops, and Popes – who disobey the Church are responsible for their sins, but the Church as person is not responsible…It is forgotten that the Church as person is the Bride of Christ, 'Whom He has purchased with His own blood.'” (Acts 20:28).

    Again, thank you sir. And God love you.

    Paul Anthony Melanson

  • Julie

    Sister Maureen is not helping the victims. She is working to help those who are working to enrich themselves and their colleagues, eg., Marci Hamilton, through legal avenues, by shaking down the Catholic Church.

  • Julie

    To refute Nattie's claims, visit

  • LL

    The problem is how the church covered up the abuse…

  • Julie

    To refute Christine's claim that this is a Catholic problem, visit

  • Julie

    I agree with you wholeheartedly W Oddee. Sister Maureen needs to become an Episcopalian. But she is so aggressively pursuing publicity and money. She would not be able to do that if she left the church. Her agenda is so transparent it is very difficult to take her seriously.

  • Julie

    Notice that Sister Maureen takes up a lot of space in her comments promoting herself. A nun who follows the Lord in His Church does not receive much notice. But one who loudly bashes the church gets lots of publicity and pats on the back. That is what she is going after. It is very hard to take her seriously. She pays no notice to the context of all of this or real ways of dealing with the problem. Just what she can use to promote herself. She could care less about children who are preyed on by molesters.

  • Catholic Woman

    Think about the following statements:
    There is a smaller percentage of pediatricians who have abused children than the general population.
    There is a smaller percentage of murderers among pediatricans and priests than the general populations.
    There is a smaller percentage of thieves and burglars among policemen than in the general population.
    Get it?

    The fact is: there should be a far smaller (not equal) percentage of priests abusing children than in the general population: because they profess to be the arbiters of holiness and morality, because they bamboozle children and laity into trusting them because of their aura of holiness and then abuse it, AND because they do not live out in the normal world of families and opportunities – and so have to seek out their victims with even greater stealth and malevolence.

    Shame on you for this article!
    Jesus must weep.

  • svbunderson

    Supporting raids on polygamous compounds would not make you “anti-Mormon” because Polygamysts are NOT Mormon. The word Mormon is ONLY accurately applied to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormon Church. The term “Mormon Fundamentalist” is very misleading and is not an accurate term because “mormon fundamentalists” are not really Mormon at all. How can one be a fundamentalist Mormon if they are not Mormon to begin with? If they really believed in the fundamentals of Mormonism then they would be members of the Mormon church, not make up there own. I am not Catholic. If I were to tomorrow organize a new church and call it the “Fundamentalist Roman Catholic Church” and my members referred to themselves as “Fundamentalist Catholics” and then everyone else started refering to us as Catholic, or even fundamentalist Catholic, most REAL Catholics would probably object.

  • christine

    My point, which I think was obvious, is that it is a problem in the Catholic church, as well as in other places! I never said it was ONLY a Catholic problem, Julie.

  • christine

    Beautifully articulated, JohnB. Thank you for your passion and clarity.

  • JohnB

    When will you get off the personal attacks and face the reality. Sr Turlish in case you cannot read and comprehend is attacking the pedophilia, the crimes and the cover up. You foolish person are the one who is reacting and defending without reading and comprehending – that is the blind reasoning so many have spoken about. You would rather babble about the space she takes in her writing and perhaps you could find a spelling mistake in the post, you can speculate on the money and on her motives and you attempt to attack her work in supporting children and the abused and you do all this without any form of verification or substance and have the audacity to claim that your rationale and logical are superior. What unbounded arrogance and unabridged ignorance.

    The reason why so many were abused and why so many remain harmed and damaged and untreated can be found in your response.

    Try giving your response to Jesus so we can all have a good laugh as he and the rest of us laughs you out of heaven. Try giving that response to a psychiatrist even better. Let us all hope that Julie does not have to do work for the diocese involving counting, logic or rational thinking.

  • Nattie

    Thank you for that link. If anything proves my point it is the link you provided. In all of the cases of clergy abuse by Baptist ministers one thing is clear…They were charged with a CRIME! and all resigned or were removed from ministry. If they had been Catholic Priests the parents would have reported it to the church instead of the Police-something I cannot understand . As a mother I will tell you, my first stop would be the Police. Then the Church would pretend to investigate and quietly move the pedo priest to another Diocese, Country or Parish without any warning to the laity regarding the Priest`s past crimes.. That is the difference-it couldn't be clearer.I do believe that things have changed in the US now due to zero tolerance. However I do not believe anything would have changed if the “evil media” had not reported this disgusting situation. The Boston Globe is clearly on the side of the angels. I read this article because a dear friend of mine was molested by a Catholic Priest. He is truly a damaged human being and it breaks my heart to consider what kind of life, and what kind of person he would have been if this had not happend to him.And yes, he could have been molested by anyone else and he would have been the same damaged individual, however the Priest who got to him was known for years to be a sexual predator.
    This is not a case of “some mistakes were made” It is a case of systemic negligence and cruelty. Please, give me any organization that has covered up for child molesters-not churches that have discovered child molesters who subsequently have been reported to the the police, charged with a crime and removed from the organization immediately.

  • Nattie

    I apologize. To the LDS extreme credit they have disassociated themselves from the FLDS. However the FLDS still refers to themselves as the fundamentalist church of Latter Day Saints. I should say I am not anti FLDS when I support raids on their compounds when there is proof of child rape. My point is, sadly, the FLDS is very similar to the US Catholic Church prior to Dallas Convention in which the organization itself covered up child sexual abuse to the point of perpetuating the practice by not reporting abusers and allowing them unlimited access to children. The organization itself is the criminal here-and not just a “few priests”

  • ChristaBrown

    Baptists have every bit as big of a problem as Catholics with clergy sex abuse and cover-ups. That was established by 20 years worth of insurance data on civil suits that the Associated Press correlated and disclosed in 2007. The very fact that you see so much less media coverage of Baptist clergy abuse cases only goes to show that Baptists are actually far BETTER at cover-ups than the Catholics.

    And why do you think so many of those criminal cases involving Baptist pastors are cases involving multiple victims? And why do we so often see the prosecutors talking about still more victims whose cases are too old for prosecution? Because Baptist leaders allowed the predatory clergy to church-hop and no one stopped them.

    For Baptists, if a preacher isn't literally sitting in prison, he can stand in a pulpit. If the criminal justice system doesn't stop him, then no one else will. There doesn't even exist any denominational system for “defrocking” their clergy or even for keeping records on credibly-accused clergy. Of course, it's a lot easier to keep things covered up if you don't keep any records to start with. No records – no trace – no trouble. That's the Baptist way.

  • ChristaBrown

    “When teachers abuse, and they absolutely do, we do not see Superintendents quietly moving those teachers to a new school, with good recommendations, as happened in the church.”

    Actually, this happens so often in the education industry that they even have a term for it … it's called “passing the trash.”

  • W Oddie

    I haven't ever tried to excuse any priest who abuses a child. Ever. This is an abominable crime and an absolute betrayal of trust. All I am saying is–and this is important–the almost unanimous media message that priests do it MORE THAN EVERYONE ELSE is a lie. Of course our priests should do it less than others (it should never happen at all) and the fact is that according to Dr Thomas Plante, who has surveyed the available evidence (and who I haven't seen refuted or even questioned in any of the posts I have received), THEY DO DO IT LESS. Of course a priest should never do it at all. But I am sick and tired of hearing the overwhelming majority of good priests slandered and sneered at and mistrusted because of lies in the media. I think that's a disgrace. And shame on you for aiding and abetting it.

  • W Oddie

    I agree. But that's a problem which has now, belatedly, been faced and dealt with–by the Church. It's for others now to catch up.

  • W Oddie

    I did NOT say that being as bad as the rest of society was acceptable, and I am not defending the indefensible. (See my response to “Catholic woman”) I am not “defending the abusers”. That's exactly the kind of cheap sneering lie that anti-Catholics like you go in for. And hypocrite yourself.

  • Warren

    We christians should be held to a higher standard. We claim to be followers of Jesus. The media has helped the Church purify Herself (- thank you very much! Now get on with the real work). Every Catholic should expect to be held to the highest standard. Too many deny Him by the way they live their lives and reject the teaching of His Church. If the dissenting cafeteria Catholics-in-name-only want to call themselves Catholic, then let them go to confession and strive to live humbly the life Christ calls us to. Otherwise, they should leave the rest of us alone and stop calling themselves Catholics.

    Just as the Church has made great strides in purging the despicable elements from within, people of goodwill must ask themselves – has society ignored the larger issue? Secular society has been so preoccupied with scandals in the Church, largely due to the efforts of a fanatically biased (bigoted) mainstream media, that the widespread problem of abuse by teachers, doctors, etc., has largely been ignored. In effect, the media and a bigoted citizenry have given cover to the pedophiles by riveting everyone's attention on the Catholic Church.

    Furthermore, not many talk about the responsibility of the psychiatric professions. For too long the Church relied on psychiatrists and psychologists to identify and/or treat abusers. Psychiatry through the 1970s and 1980s promoted the idea that pedophiles were reformable. Sadly, very sadly, experience has taught us (in the Church, at least) that such thinking has proven to be very, very bad advice. Furthermore, the social sciences still ignore the evidence that also confirms that most cases involving priests have been male on male, i.e., of a homosexual kind. Might the gay lobby have been deflecting attention away from itself by coercing the media to avoid reference to the homosexual aspect?

    If the media were really concerned about children and justice, they should have trained their eyes on the psychiatrists and counselors who let so many abusers slip off their couches. The media should have been training its eyes on teachers, doctors, coaches, nurses, babysitters… long before now.

    The Church has done more than any organization, secular or religious, to provide a safe haven for all. Witness the intensification by the Vatican of rules for handling abuse cases. And – take note of the evidence in the public record about Joseph Ratzinger's actions whilst still a cardinal to bring offenders to justice. He continues his work now as Pope. Remember the words of the abuse survivor in Malta? We have a saint of a pope!

    The Church is cleaning up Her act. The truth is – the Church is freeing Herself from the blight that seriously infects all of society. When will the rest of society stop dodging the truth and acknowledge and help, for example, the countless children abused by teachers?

  • W Oddie

    That's all I am saying, too. And yet I am accused of defending child abuse.

  • W Oddie

    You say that the U.S.Department of Education “disavowed” Charol Shakeshaft's massive survey: how can that be the case, when it was they who PUBLISHED IT in the first place!! Are you saying they changed their mind later? If so, what's your evidence for that? And why are you so anxious to deny that child abuse takes place anywhere but the Catholic Church (that's the only conclusion one can come to from your clumsy attempt to discredit Shakeshaft's conclusion that it is rife in the teaching profession)?.

  • Marietrem

    Anti-Catholics are so motivated on this topic because they are beginning to realize that the club they have been using to bash the Church is slipping out of their hands. The scientific data do not support their bigoted conclusions. On the contrary, it clearly reveals that children are far safer in the Catholic Church than they are outside of it. The Catholic League's report cites so much hard scientific data that the matter is now closed, at least for thinking people who are not motivated by an anti-Catholic bias:

    Sexual Abuse in Social Context: Clergy and Other Professionals

    Special Report by Special Report by Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights


    The purpose of this special report is to put the recent scandal in the Catholic Church in perspective. It does not seek to exculpate anyone who had anything to do with priestly sexual misconduct, but it does seek to challenge those who continue to treat this issue in isolation. Indeed, to discuss the incidence of sexual abuse committed by Roman Catholic priests without reference to the level of offense found among the clergy of other religions, or to that of other professionals, is grossly unfair.

    Specifically, this report was prepared to guide the discussion that will inevitably follow two major studies that will be issued on February 27. One of them, a national study on the extent of sexual abuse of minors by priests since 1950, will be released by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The other is a study of the causes and consequences of the abuse crisis; it will be released by the National Review Board that was established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Both studies were done at the request of the U.S. bishops.

    It is the belief of the Catholic League that no meaningful conversation can take place on this issue without having some baseline data regarding the incidence of abuse that occurs outside the Catholic Church. That was the sole intent of this special report, and if it contributes to that end, then it will have been a success.

    William A. Donohue, Ph.D.

    The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems was developed by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Human Services in partnership with the States to collect annual statistics on child maltreatment from State child protective services agencies. For the year 2001, it was found that approximately 903,000 children were victims of child maltreatment, 10 percent of whom (or 90,000) were sexually abused. It also found that 59 percent of the perpetrators of child abuse or neglect were women and 41 percent were men.[i]

    In 2001, clinical child psychologist Wade F. Horn reported on the work of researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. The researchers found that nearly 20 percent of low-income women, recruited through family planning, obstetrical or gynecological clinics, had experienced child sexual abuse.

    Horn summarized the researchers’ findings on poor women as follows: “Family friends and acquaintances compose the largest group of perpetrators (28 percent), followed by such relatives as uncles and cousins (18 percent), stepfathers (12 percent), male siblings (10 percent), biological fathers (10 percent), boyfriends of the child’s mother (9 percent), grandfathers and stepgrandfathers (7 percent), and strangers (4 percent).” Horn was struck by the fact that 10 percent were biological fathers and only 4 percent were strangers. “Which means,” he said, “86 percent of the perpetrators were known to the family, but were someone other than the child’s father.”[ii]

    According to Dr. Garth A. Rattray, about the same incidence of abuse occurs among all the socio-economic classes. For example, he reports that “about 85 percent of the offenders [of child sexual abuse] are family members, babysitters, neighbors, family friends or relatives. About one in six child molesters are other children.” Unlike the first study cited, Rattray reports that most of the offenders are male.[iii]

    It is obvious that children are much more likely to be sexually abused by family members and friends than by anyone else. This suggests that if preventative measures are to work, they must begin in the home, and not someplace else.

    According to a survey by the Washington Post, over the last four decades, less than 1.5 percent of the estimated 60,000 or more men who have served in the Catholic clergy have been accused of child sexual abuse.[iv] According to a survey by the New York Times, 1.8 percent of all priests ordained from 1950 to 2001 have been accused of child sexual abuse.[v] Thomas Kane, author of Priests are People Too, estimates that between 1 and 1.5 percent of priests have had charges made against them.[vi] Of contemporary priests, the Associated Press found that approximately two-thirds of 1 percent of priests have charges pending against them.[vii]

    Almost all the priests who abuse children are homosexuals. Dr. Thomas Plante, a psychologist at Santa Clara University, found that “80 to 90% of all priests who in fact abuse minors have sexually engaged with adolescent boys, not prepubescent children. Thus, the teenager is more at risk than the young altar boy or girls of any age.”[viii]

    The situation in Boston, the epicenter of the scandal, is even worse. According to the Boston Globe, “Of the clergy sex abuse cases referred to prosecutors in Eastern Massachusetts, more than 90 percent involve male victims. And the most prominent Boston lawyers for alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse have said that about 95 percent of their clients are male.”[ix]

    In a database analysis of reports on more than 1,200 alleged victims of priests identified by USA Today, 85 percent were males.[x] In another study by USA Today, it was determined that of the 234 priests who have been accused of sexual abuse of a minor while serving in the nation’s 10 largest dioceses and archdioceses, 91 percent of their victims were males.[xi]

    Much has been made of a survey done by the Dallas Morning News which claims that two-thirds of the nation’s bishops have allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to continue working. But the problem with the survey is its definition of abuse—it includes everything from “ignoring warnings about suspicious behavior” to “criminal convictions.”[xii] Thus, the survey is of limited utility.

    The data on the Protestant clergy tend to focus on sexual abuse in general, not on sexual abuse of children. Thus, strict comparisons cannot always be made. But there are some comparative data available on the subject of child sexual molestation, and what has been reported is quite revealing.

    In a 1984 survey, 38.6 percent of ministers reported sexual contact with a church member, and 76 percent knew of another minister who had had sexual intercourse with a parishioner.[xiii] In the same year, a Fuller Seminary survey of 1,200 ministers found that 20 percent of theologically “conservative” pastors admitted to some sexual contact outside of marriage with a church member. The figure jumped to over 40 percent for “moderates”; 50 percent of “liberal” pastors confessed to similar behavior.[xiv]

    In 1990, in a study by the Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith and Ethics in Chicago, it was learned that 10 percent of ministers said they had had an affair with a parishioner and about 25 percent admitted some sexual contact with a parishioner.[xv] Two years later, a survey by Leadership magazine found that 37 percent of ministers confessed to having been involved in “inappropriate sexual behavior” with a parishioner.[xvi]

    In a 1993 survey by the Journal of Pastoral Care, 14 percent of Southern Baptist ministers said they had engaged in “inappropriate sexual behavior,” and 70 percent said they knew a minister who had had such contact with a parishioner.[xvii] Joe E. Trull is co-author of the 1993 book, Ministerial Ethics, and he found that “from 30 to 35 percent of ministers of all denominations admit to having sexual relationships—from inappropriate touching to sexual intercourse—outside of marriage.”[xviii]

    According to a 2000 report to the Baptist General Convention in Texas, “The incidence of sexual abuse by clergy has reached ‘horrific proportions.’” It noted that in studies done in the 1980s, 12 percent of ministers had “engaged in sexual intercourse with members” and nearly 40 percent had “acknowledged sexually inappropriate behavior.” The report concluded that “The disturbing aspect of all research is that the rate of incidence for clergy exceeds the client-professional rate for physicians and psychologists.”[xix] Regarding pornography and sexual addiction, a national survey disclosed that about 20 percent of all ministers are involved in the behavior.[xx]

    In the spring of 2002, when the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church was receiving unprecedented attention, the Christian Science Monitor reported on the results of national surveys by Christian Ministry Resources. The conclusion: “Despite headlines focusing on the priest pedophile problem in the Roman Catholic Church, most American churches being hit with child sexual-abuse allegations are Protestant, and most of the alleged abusers are not clergy or staff, but church volunteers.”[xxi]

    Finally, in the authoritative work by Penn State professor Philip Jenkins, Pedophiles and Priests, it was determined that between .2 and 1.7 percent of priests are pedophiles. The figure among the Protestant clergy ranges between 2 and 3 percent.[xxii]

    Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer is a professor of law and ethics at Loyola Marymount University. It is his belief that sexual abuse among rabbis approximates that found among the Protestant clergy. According to one study, 73 percent of women rabbis report instances of sexual harassment. “Sadly,” Rabbi Schaefer concludes, “our community’s reactions up to this point have been often based on keeping things quiet in an attempt to do ‘damage control.’ Fear of lawsuits and bad publicity have dictated an atmosphere of hushed voices and outrage against those who dare to break ranks by speaking out.”[xxiii]

    Rabbi Joel Meyers, executive vice president of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly, reports that 30 percent of rabbis who changed positions in 2000 did so involuntarily, and that sexual abuse was a factor in many instances.[xxiv] The Awareness Center devotes an entire website to “Clergy Abuse: Rabbis, Cantors & Other Trusted Officials.” It is a detailed and frank look at the problem of sexual abuse by rabbis.[xxv]

    The problem of sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witnesses is evident among church elders but most of the abuse comes from congregation members. “The victims who have stepped forward are mostly girls and young women,” writes Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times, “and many accusations involve incest.” There is a victims support group available, “silentlambs,” that has collected more than 5,000 Witnesses contending that the church mishandled child sexual abuse.[xxvi]

    According to one study, .2 percent of athletic coaches nationwide have a criminal record of some sort of sexual offense. This translates to about 6,000 coaches in the U.S. who have been tried and found guilty of sexual offense against children.[xxvii] It is not known how many more offenders have escaped the reach of law enforcement.

    Between 3 and 12 percent of psychologists have had sexual contact with their clients. While today virtually every state considers sexual contact with a client as worthy of revoking a psychologist’s license, as recently as 1987 only 31 percent of state licensing boards considered sexual relations between a psychologist and his or her patient grounds for license revocation.[xxviii] What makes this statistic so interesting is that many bishops in the 1980s took the advice of psychologists in handling molesting priests.

    The American Medical Association found in 1986 that one in four girls, and one in eight boys, are sexually abused in or out of school before the age of 18. Two years later, a study included in The Handbook on Sexual Abuse of Children, reported that one in four girls, and one in six boys, is sexually abused by age 18.[xxix] It was reported in 1991 that 17.7 percent of males who graduated from high school, and 82.2 percent of females, reported sexual harassment by faculty or staff during their years in school. Fully 13.5 percent said they had sexual intercourse with their teacher.[xxx]

    In New York City alone, at least one child is sexually abused by a school employee every day. One study concluded that more than 60 percent of employees accused of sexual abuse in the New York City schools were transferred to desk jobs at district offices located inside the schools. Most of these teachers are tenured and 40 percent of those transferred are repeat offenders. They call it “passing the garbage” in the schools. One reason why this exists is due to efforts by the United Federation of Teachers to protect teachers at the expense of children.[xxxi] Another is the fact that teachers accused of sexual misconduct cannot be fired under New York State law.[xxxii]

    One of the nation’s foremost authorities on the subject of the sexual abuse of minors in public schools is Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft. In 1994, Shakeshaft and Audrey Cohan did a study of 225 cases of educator sexual abuse in New York City. Their findings are astounding.

    All of the accused admitted sexual abuse of a student, but none of the abusers was reported to the authorities, and only 1 percent lost their license to teach. Only 35 percent suffered negative consequences of any kind, and 39 percent chose to leave their school district, most with positive recommendations. Some were even given an early retirement package.[xxxiii]

    Moving molesting teachers from school district to school district is a common phenomenon. And in only 1 percent of the cases do superintendents notify the new school district.[xxxiv] According to Diana Jean Schemo, the term “passing the trash” is the preferred jargon among educators.[xxxv]

    Shakeshaft has also determined that 15 percent of all students have experienced some kind of sexual misconduct by a teacher between kindergarten and 12th grade; the behaviors range from touching to forced penetration.[xxxvi] She and Cohan also found that up to 5 percent of teachers sexually abuse children.[xxxvii] Shakeshaft will soon be ready to release the findings of a vast study undertaken for the Planning and Evaluation Service Office of the Undersecretary, U.S. Department of Education, titled, “Educator Sexual Misconduct with Students: A Synthesis of Existing Literature on Prevalence in Connection with the Design of a National Analysis.”[xxxviii]

    The issue of child sexual molestation is deserving of serious scholarship. Too often, assumptions have been made that this problem is worse in the Catholic clergy than in other sectors of society. This report does not support this conclusion. Indeed, it shows that family members are the most likely to sexually molest a child. It also shows that the incidence of the sexual abuse of a minor is slightly higher among the Protestant clergy than among the Catholic clergy, and that it is significantly higher among public school teachers than among ministers and priests.

    In a survey for the Wall Street Journal-NBC News, it was found that 64 percent of the public thought that Catholic priests frequently abused children.[xxxix] This is outrageously unfair, but it is not surprising given the media fixation on this issue. While it would be unfair to blame the media for the scandal in the Catholic Church, the constant drumbeat of negative reporting surely accounts for these remarkably skewed results.[xl]

    Without comparative data, little can be learned. Numbers are not without meaning, but they don’t count for much unless a baseline has been established. Moreover, sexual misconduct is difficult to measure given its mostly private nature. While crime statistics are helpful, we know from social science research that most crimes go unreported. This is especially true of sexual abuse crimes. At the end of the day, estimates culled from survey research are the best we can do.

    By putting the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in perspective, it is hoped that this report will make for a more fair and educated public response.


    [i] “Child Maltreatment 2001: Summary of Key Findings,” National Adoption Information Clearinghouse,, April 2003.

    [ii] Wade F. Horn, “Common-sense article about abuse,” Washington Times, February 6, 2001, p. E1.

    [iii] Dr. Garth A. Rattray, “Child Month and Paedophilia,” The Gleaner, May 14, 2002.

    [iv]Alan Cooperman, “Hundreds of Priests Removed Since ‘60s; Survey Shows Scope Wider Than Disclosed,” Washington Post, June 9, 2002, p. A1.

    [v]Laurie Goodstein, “Decades of Damage; Trail of Pain in Church Crisis Leads to Nearly Every Diocese,” New York Times, January 12, 2003, Section 1, p. 1.

    [vi] Interviewed by Bill O’Reilly, Transcript of “The O’Reilly Factor,” May 3, 2002.

    [vii] Bob von Sternberg, “Insurance Falls Short in Church Abuse Cases; Catholic Dioceses are Forced to Find other Sources to Pay Settlements,” Star Tribune, July 27, 2002, p. 1A.

    [viii] Thomas Plante, “A Perspective on Clergy Sexual Abuse,”

    [ix] Thomas Farragher and Matt Carroll, “Church Board Dismissed Accusations by Females,”, February 2, 2003.

    [x] Janet Kornblum, “85% of Church Abuse Victims are Male, Research Finds,” USA Today, July 24, 2002, pp. 6-7D.

    [xi] “The Accusers and the Accused,” USA Today, November 11, 2002, p. 7D.

    [xii] Brooks Egerton and Reese Dunklin, “Two-thirds of Bishops Let Accused Priests Work,” Dallas Morning News, June 12, 2002, p. 1A.

    [xiii] Dale Neal, “Methodist Clergy Instructed in Sexual Ethics at Conference,” Asheville Citizen-Times, May 14, 2002, p. 1B.

    [xiv] Cal Thomas, “Their Sins only Start with Abuse,” Baltimore Sun, June 19, 2002, p. 9A.

    [xv] James L. Franklin, “Sexual Misconduct Seen as a Serious Problem in Religion,” Boston Globe, October 23, 1991, p. 24.

    [xvi] “Pastors Are People, Too!”, Focus on the Family, May 1996, p. 7.

    [xvii] Teresa Watanabe, “Sex Abuse by Clerics—A Crisis of Many Faiths,” Los Angeles Times, March 25, 2002, p. A1.

    [xviii] Cal Thomas, “Their Sins only Start with Abuse,” Baltimore Sun, June 19, 2002, p. 9A.

    [xix] Terry Mattingly, “Baptists’ Traditions Make it Hard to Oust Sex-Abusing Clergy,” Knoxville News-Sentinel, June 22, 2002, p. C2.

    [xx] “Assemblies of God Tackles Problem of Porn Addiction Among Ministers,” Charisma, January 2001, p. 24.

    [xxi] Mark Clayton, “Sex Abuse Spans Spectrum of Churches,” Christian Science Monitor, April 5, 2002, p. 1.

    [xxii] Philip Jenkins, Pedophiles and Priests (New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 50 and 81.

    [xxiii] Rabbi Arthur Gross Schaefer, “Rabbi Sexual Misconduct: Crying Out for a Communal Response,”, November 24, 2003.

    [xxiv] Roger Lovette, “Religious Leaders Must Learn to Handle Conflict Constructively,” Birmingham News, April 28, 2002.

    [xxv] See

    [xxvi] Laurie Goodstein, “Ousted Members Say Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Policy on Abuse Hides Offenses,” New York Times, August 11, 2002, Section 1, p. 26.

    [xxvii] Michael Dobie, “Violation of Trust; When Young Athletes Are Sex-Abuse Victims, Their Coaches Are Often the Culprits,” Newsday, June 9, 2002, p. C25.

    [xxviii] “Sexual Misconduct (ROLES): New Research Therapy Doesn’t Deter Sexual Misconduct by Psychologists,” Sex Weekly, September 15, 1997, pp. 27-28.

    [xxix] Michael Dobie, “Violation of Trust,” Newsday, June 9, 2002, p. C25.

    [xxx] Daniel Wishnietsky, “Reported and Unreported Teacher-Student Sexual Harassment,”

    Journal of Ed Research, Vol. 3, 1991, pp. 164-69.

    [xxxi] Douglas Montero, “Secret Shame of Our Schools: Sexual Abuse of Students Runs Rampant,” New York Post, July 30, 2001, p. 1.

    [xxxii] “Schools Chancellor: Four Teachers Barred from Classroom,” Associated Press, June 12, 2003.

    [xxxiii] Charol Shakeshaft and Audrey Cohan, In loco parentis: Sexual abuse of students in schools, (What administrators should know). Report to the U.S. Department of Education, Field Initiated Grants

    [xxxiv] Ibid.

    [xxxv]Diana Jean Schemo, “Silently Shifting Teachers in Sex Abuse Cases,” New York Times, June 18, 2002, p. A19.

    [xxxvi] Elizabeth Cohen, “Sex Abuse of Students Common; Research Suggests 15% of All Children Harassed,” Press & Sun-Bulletin, February 10, 2002, p. 1A.

    [xxxvii] Berta Delgado and Sarah Talalay, “Sex Cases Increase in Schools; Many Acts of Teacher Misconduct Not Being Reported,” Sun-Sentinel, June 4, 1995, p. 1A.

    [xxxviii] The study is in draft form and is not yet available for quotation.

    [xxxix] The dates of the study were April 5-7, 2002. It was reported in Roper Center at University of Connecticut Public Opinion Online, Accession Number 0402247. Hart and Teeter Research Companies did the survey.

    [xl] The Catholic League took pains to credit the media with fair coverage of the scandal. See the “Executive Summary” of the Catholic League’s 2002 Report on Anti-Catholicism. It is available online at

  • W Oddie

    OK, Sister Maureen: what are you going to say to discredit THAT?

  • Ben Thair

    Will you present an indepth article on the work of Father Fortunato Di Noto and his organization, “Meter”. As I understand it, Meter has been tracking internet child pornography and human trafficking for twenty years.
    They work with Interpol and have traced this problem to high levels of almost every gov. including Vatican city/state. They probably have something to do with the arrests and prosecutions in the pentagon. Some of these will no doubt just be quietly disappeared.

  • catholic woman

    1.Please don't play with words. You are trying to excuse priests who abuse children.

    2. The “unanimous” media message is NOT “priests do it more…” – that is what you are saying it is so that you can mount your own spurious arguments.
    First – there is NO unanimity – although it would suit you to think it is.
    Second the majority outrage is that the sexual abuse of children by priests happned, was covered up and the church and people like you are still blowing it off as not that big of a deal.

    3. What would Jesus say? A, B or C?
    A.The greater sin is to aid and abet the media in its criticism of the church?
    B. The greater sin is the obfuscation and lack of repentance of the church hierarchy and their lay minions in this grave and sorrowful crime.
    C. The greatest sin is distorting the real message of Jesus over centuries with pomp (ornate vestments, rings to kiss, bells and incense- and more recently prada red shoes) and circumstance and brain-washing with made-up dogma and doctrine – and pictures of Hell for the more gullible- so that priests (at least 50% breaking their 'vow' of celibacy as is only natural and therefore God-ordained) and some of those preying on innocent women and children – and fellow-seminarians and priests. Equally sinful – arrogantly declaring “infallibility” and some exclusive access to the real intentions of God – never stated by Jesus – only by those claiming to be “disciples” with much to gain from such a belief.?

    Jesus weeps for you!