Sunday, March 14, 2010

"It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck..."

I always read Chiesa, this week there is a very interesting interview with Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna the "promoter of justice" of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he overseas priest abuse cases.

By the Church's law if the "bishop has the obligation to investigate both the soundness and the subject of the accusation. If the outcome of this initial investigation is consistent, he no longer has any power to act in the matter and must refer the case to our Congregation where it is dealt with by the disciplinary office."

A few days ago I was asking for statistics of priest abuse minors, some of you supplied interesting information in the comments. Mgr Scicluna presents these statistics in the interview:
Overall in the last nine years (2001-2010) we have considered accusations concerning around three thousand cases of diocesan and religious priests, which refer to crimes committed over the last fifty years.
60% of the cases chiefly involved sexual attraction towards adolescents of the same sex,
30% involved heterosexual relations
the remaining 10% cases of paedophilia in the true sense of the term; that is, based on sexual attraction towards prepubescent children.
The cases of priests accused of paedophilia in the true sense have been about three hundred in nine years.

In 2003-2004, the US represented around 80% of total cases.
In 2009 the US "share" had dropped to around 25% of the 223 cases reported from all over the world. 2007-2009 the annual average of cases reported to the Congregation from around the world has been two hundred and fifty.
Many countries report only one or two cases.
It must, in fact, be borne in mind that the overall number of diocesan and religious priests in the world is 400,000.
But of course read the original text!!!


Mike said...

There has been considerable discussion (although ‘discussion’ might be a somewhat elevated word for some of the contributions – see below) of clerical child abuse in various places on the Internet. One part of this discussion has related to the extent of such abuse among Catholic clerics compared to other sections of the population. A comment about this has been that abuse by Catholic clerics often gets singled out as if it was almost the only type of abuse being committed. It was therefore interesting to discover the following section on Wikipedia in its entry on Paedophilia:

See also
• Child sexual abuse
• Child pornography
• Jehovah's Witnesses and child sex abuse
• Roman Catholic sex abuse cases
• Scouting sex abuse cases
• Pederasty
As you can see, “Roman Catholic sex abuse cases" is the only religious one apart from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Anybody who wants to read some of the more ‘learned’ (ie. vitriolic) contributions to the discussion can read the comments on Andrew Brown’s article: Catholic child abuse in proportion:

Norah said...

Don't forget Southern Baptist sexual abuse cases, Amish sexual and physical abuse cases and Orthodox Jewish sexual abuse cases - the New York Times was all over that one - NOT.

Richard said...

Father, I posted a few statistics on Fr Z's blog. Here they are:

In 1993 the Home Office estimated that "110,000 people have been convicted of sexual offences against children in England and Wales”. Our population then was about 51 million, so that’s about 0.2% of the general population.

That was nearly 17 years ago. In 2009, 21,618 cases of sexual offences against under-16s were reported to the police in England & Wales. OK the two figures aren't comparable (convicted persons vs alleged offences), but it suggests that the 110,000 figure, and hence the 0.2%, would be a lot higher today.

The Guardian article referenced under one of your posts said that 0.4% of Catholic priests in England & Wales had been accused (not convicted) of sexual abuse of children.

Therefore it looks like the overall figures are pretty similar for priests as for the rest of the population.

It is disappointing that priests don't live up to the higher standards that we expect of them, but not surprising that they are sinners like the rest of us.

Richard said...

But if the overall level of sexual abuse of chlidren is much the same amongst priests as the rest of society, the type of abuse is different.

Here are the general UK statistics for child rape:

Girls 13-16: 50%
Girls under 13: 35%
Boys 13-16: 5%
Boys under 13: 10%

In contrast the article you quote says that the figures for priests are:

pubescent boys: 60%
pubescent girls: 30%
pre-pubescent: 10%

I seem to remember that the Irish figures were even more extreme, with 80 or 90% of victims being pubescent boys.

So overall the level of abuse is similar to wider society, but on a more detailed level it wasn't.

To me that suggests that there was something wrong with the seminaries, that they were letting in (and not weeding out) a particular type of unsuitable person in disproportionately high numbers.

Of course the percentage is still low; over 99% of priests do not sexually abuse children. But the abuse we did get isn't just a reflection of the wider society.

Richard said...

One other point.

Don't just compare us to other churches - compare us to the State.

Remember all the scandals there have been in State children's homes - at one point 500 children's homes across England were being investigated.

Remember the cover-ups the State has been involved in, including smearing victims as mentally ustable when they spoke out, sacking whistle-blowers and criticising the Press for reporting problems.

Remember that those cover-ups went to the highest level. Remember that Tony Blair appointed Margaret Hodge as Children's Minister, despite knowing that she had previously, as leader of Islington Council, tried to cover up evidence of abuse in the Council's children's homes.

Imagine the outcry if the Pope had appointed someone with that sort of history to a child protection role.

Hodge said that "whenever an allegation was brought to her attention, the council investigated it and in some cases called in the police." In some cases? So in other cases they didn't - which is just what the Church is being criticised for.

alcalde said...

Mike and Norah, only part of the outrage about this subject has been about the actual percentages (and "but they do it too" as a response is hardly going to be reassuring to anyone). The other component of the outrage has been the *cover-up* of the abuse and the transfer of known abusive priests to other parishes where they continued to prey on children. Just last week I learned that a priest I knew from childhood, Fr. Bruno Ugliano, was removed from ministry for inappropriate behavior with children in 2009. What was shocking to me was not that it had happened, but that it has just happened. He had been transferred from my parish at a time when there was already widespread talk about his behavior when I was a young teenager more than 20 years ago! In fact, the first response I got when I mentioned this news to others who'd attended the parish at that time was "Didn't they do that already?"
The saying regarding America's president Richard Nixon who resigned from office is "It wasn't the crime, it was the coverup" that did him in. What is unique about the Catholic church cases was the systematic coverup that occured at high levels that allowed this to go on for so long. There's also the revelations that in Ireland the police allowed clergy to talk, alone, with child accusers before being interviewed by police and other legal abuses that also aided coverup. This is unique to the Catholic sex crimes and the percentages game doesn't change this.

shane said...

Richard, do take into account that priests were usually much more likely to be around boys alone than girls. Up until the early 90s, serving at the altar was restricted to boys. Priests also taught exclusively in boys' schools.

gemoftheocean said...

shane, I do think Richard's point is still valid. Let's be blunt, in many seminaries they are NOT weeding out campy gays with loose morals. [See the book "Goodbye Good Men" for reference. I am NOT saying that every homosexual male is by default someone who'd be a pedophile. The author had said that he did know of homosexuals who had every intention of keeping to chastity. I'm speaking of the ones who were blantant, and not very "keen" on chastity and regarded it as a joke. People who skate through seminary with those attitudes with a wink and a nod from a gay-not-celibate-priest clique in the seminaries aren't exactly going to be strong on keeping the pecker in the pocket. There have been seminaries finally shut down because of it. I have NEVER seen a study which says gays are more likely to go after youngsters than straight. If anyone has seen such a study, I'd like to see a citation.]

Although you can argue that girls weren't altar servers in great numbers everywhere before the official indult was granted, they did in fact exist in many places a lot earlier. Frankly, with all the people around before and after mass coming in and out, for anyone who's been any length of time around the sacristy, a priest would have to be a complete and utter idiot to try and boff anyone in the sacristy. It certainly ISN'T a terribly private place. So I really highly doubt that "Little Johnny" was likely shoved in a closet and done over. I bet if you just isolated the statistics to the 90s and on, you'd still find the boys were abused more. Simply because of the "let's ordain the flammers anyway" attitude some of the seminaries had throughout the 70s and 80s when vocations were really scarce.

What angers me, IS the coverup business and the lame way the bishops in ALL countries have been handling this. You can't tell me in some countries it was "only one or two." Maybe "one or two REPORTED", but I highly doubt that this varies much from country to country. The statistics people cite here, i.e. roughly .4% of priests accused, works out to be slightly less than 1 priest in 200. [And we can't necessarily assume that every priest is guilty, some people want to just grab money from the church, and/or ruin someone's reputation. There have been instances of grownups accusing, then retracting.] I'm angered that the 199 other priests get tarred and feathered along with the rest.

If straight men were carousing around with girls in their dormitories before, they'd have been tossed. Do the same for gays hanging out in "gay bars" who also mock celibacy, etc.

And the bishops need to "man up" themselves and stop covering up for these people. It only makes it a LOT worse and makes the job of good decent priests (MOST OF THEM, in other words) --- a LOT harder.

gemoftheocean said...

Oh, and Shane, in the US priests did NOT teach exclusively in boy's schools.

In my co-ed school during my time in the early [and turbulent!]70s we had": One male priest principal who resigned to get married to someone in his parish. Another priest, who left to marry a nun who also taught at the school. There were two other priests, then on the faculty who were later accused of sexual misconduct. Years later, one of them (very popular) had been accused by one then grown woman (whom I also knew a bit). I didn't find that accusation credible in the least.
a) basically most of the girls DID have a slight crush on him, due to the fact that he was so handsome and
b) let's just say that nicely that this woman had a troubled mental past. She'd also accused another priest in the diocese, this 2nd priest she'd accused was by now dead, and had had a stellar record and no other accusations against him in any sort of transgression. Having known the three of them I think it likely she was just in it for the money. Because when all hell was breaking loose OTHER people would have jumped on the band wagon saying "oh, yeah, he did me too, pay ME some money for an allegation 30 years old." That didn't happen. Abusers tend to abuse more than one person, for another thing.

The accusation, against the second priest, who'd been at my school, was one, unfortunately, I believe to be likely true. Unfortunate, because he was an excellent teacher. I'd had him for French in my sophomore year, and was also a library aide that year. I'd observed him at closer range than anyone that year, as he'd only had the one class of Advanced French II and worked as the libarian every other class period. He was only there one year. He was dismissed at the end of the year for hitting a student across the back with a wooden chair who'd called him a "faggot". [Father insisted on silence, so people could study, and a group of senior boys had been riding him all year, not that that excused what he did.] I was there and witnessed the event, and I was the one who immediately ran to the school office to report it. Years later I'd wondered what happened to that priest. After googling his name, Found out he'd been transferred to another school...and his order eventually for exact reasons undisclosed kept him corralled, with other miscreants, for transgressions with a minor which occurred at the school he'd been transferred to after he left ours. They confined him to the Dominican provincial house for his order. Not allowed out without "guard." He's around 80 now, but apparently has had continuing issues with his superiors for going to Thailand without permission, supposedly to see a Buddhist friend become a Buddhist monk. Where he got the money to go is anyone's guess.

Frankly, if I'd been accused of sexual impropriety with a minor, the LAST place I'd want to go is Thailand, not even if I knew the second coming was to take place there shortly. Why throw gasoline on a fire?

There were many decent nuns and priests and brothers on our faculty then.

Mind, you can't blame everything on the post-Vatican II seminary. One fellow I know went to a prominent all boys school in New Jersey in the 1960s. A priest (who'd been ordained in the early 50s) eventually became principal for a few decades - he was, in this last decade, well into his 70s arrested in Canada, soliciting sex from a mid-teenaged prostitute.

Richard said...

Good point, although I'm pretty sure I remember altar girls from the early 1980s. Can anyone remember when they started?

Re the cover-up, see my comments above about the equally bad (worse?) cover-up by the British government. That doesn't make what certain Bishops did right, but it does make me wonder why the Church gets all the bad publicity.

johnf said...


I am having some problems understanding the numbers put out in the Chiesa article

over the years 2001-2010, 3000 accusations were handled by Mgr Scicluna's office. 60% of these towards adolescents and 10% towards prepubescent children.

He then says that 80% of these 3000 originated from the US and later on in the article mentions that there are about 400,000 priests and religious world wide.

The 80% of 3000 (i.e 2400) should be set against the number of priests and religious in the USA to make any valid point. According to the USCCB there were 41489 priests and religious order priests in 2007. In the past, presumably there were more priests and religious order as the number of vocations has been falling in the western world. So the population of priests/religious was probably more than 41489 over the past 50 years

If these 2400 of crimes present the total number that have occurred over 50 years in the USA in a priest population of at least 41,489 then the annual crime rate would be at most 2400/(50*41489) which is approximately 0.1% per annum. If a proper analysis was made with the true records of the number of priests / religious, this rate would probably be even smaller.

But 0.1% p.a. still seems to be quite a small number to me - though of course we would like it to be zero.

But it ought to be compared with the crime rate in secular institutions to get the proper perspective.

He also says that over the past 2 years the average number of new cases world wide has been 250 per annum and says that the phenomenon is much reduced. But 3000 cases reported over 9 years is approximately 330 per annum. Yes 250 p.a. is less than 330 p.a. but not that much less.

The main point I wish to make is that Msgr Scicluno has some very useful statistics which need to be presented in a way that others can analyse and get a true perspective. "Hand-waving statistics" is not helpful and raises questions whether people are hiding something.

gemoftheocean said...

Richard, I was 18 when I 1st served Mass the summer before my sophomore year in college -- which puts that in mid 1975. It wasn't common then, but I'd say around mid 80s would be a good guess, for them to become widespread. [Minor orders had officially been done away with in '72, and the little boys who served Sunday Masses certainly weren't offical "instituted acolytes" anyway. Especially given that women were serving as lectors and what was the "point" of not allowing it, was the thinking.]

I'm sure that the "when" varies place to place.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I don't know if the original (Italian) interview is clearer.

Mike said...

jgm said...
Mike and Norah, only part of the outrage about this subject has been about the actual percentages (and "but they do it too" as a response is hardly going to be reassuring to anyone).
I think jgm you are making the same mistake as many of the people who criticised Andrew Brown for writing the article he did in the Guardian. Andrew Brown went out to answer one question: how does Catholic clerical abuse compare with child abuse among other groups. He then got slated because he was accused of defending the Catholic Church, belittling Catholic clerical abuse, etc, etc. His critics simply put words into Andrew Brown’s mouth which weren’t there. Similarly, you seem to think that my comment was in some sense a defence of Catholic clerical abuse on the basis that “but they do it too.” Anybody who bothers to read what I actually wrote will see that I wrote no such thing. My purpose was simply to provide additional evidence to those people who have complained that some sections of the media have reported child abuse in the Catholic Church disproportionately to child abuse among other groups. That is not a defence of the abuse; it is a criticism of those sections of the media. If a newspaper had lots of stories about misuse of expenses only about Conservative MPs people would be justified in criticisisng them for that, without having to be accused of defending the misuse by the Conservative MPs.

shane said...

Gemoftheocean, I can readily testify to the veracity of your contention that "in many seminaries they are NOT weeding out campy gays with loose morals". I'd suggest that seminaries are a natural attraction for homosexuals, not just because of celibacy (though that clearly is a factor), but also because almost nobody these days wants to become a priest. And why would they? In the novus ordo (especially in its customary execution) the role of 'the presider' is so dramatically restricted that a lot of young men will not sacrifice a career and marriage to take up a vocation that endows them with few privileges not already open to the laity. The few who do are disproportionately more likely to be labouring under an ulterior motive.

Regretfully, I'm not acquainted with the stats in England, but I never cease to amazed at the obtuse nonchalance the Irish hierarchy exhibits to the vocations crisis here in Ireland. Fr Brendan Hoban, parish priest at St Muredach’s Cathedral, in Ballina, Co Mayo wrote an article in the Furrow a few months ago predicting that priests will have 'effectively disappeared' in Ireland in two to three decades. Speaking of his own diocese of Killala, he said: “in 20 years’ time there will be around eight priests instead of the present 34, with probably two or three under 60 years of age’’. It has also emerged that the number of priests in the archdiocese of Tuam will fall 30% over the next four years. One diocese, that of Ossary, has not had a vocation to the priesthood in 16 years. Far from showing any determination to tackling this looming catastrophe head on, the Irish bishops seem to be more concerned with writing obscure pastorals on climate change - wasting both our time and, more importantly, our money.

Until the vocation crisis is tackled, and the reasons for its existence identified, the priesthood will continue to pinken.