I had intended not to write again on the subject of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy and others, but I have just seen some figures that put the matter in perspective.

According to the Children's Bureau of the United States Department of Human Services*, of 903,000 children assessed as victims of maltreatment of various sorts, about 90,000 (10 per cent) were sexually abused. The bureau found that the perpetrators of the abuse were:
    family friends and acquaintances (28 per cent)
    stepfathers and boyfriends of the child's mother (21 per cent)
    uncles and cousins (18 per cent)
    brothers (10 per cent)
    biological fathers (10 per cent)
    grandfathers and stepfathers (7 per cent)
    strangers (4 per cent)
The figures for Catholic priests are not specified. Presumably they are included, along with PE teachers, scoutmasters and what have you, among the uncategorised 2 per cent required to bring the total to 100 per cent, or among strangers. They could of course be among family friends, uncles, cousins and brothers. The point is that on the evidence of this data priests in no way qualify as a major category of abuser. Almost all those who do are part of the wider family circle. (True, these statistics are American, not Australian. Yet it seems unlikely given the similarity of our societies that there would be any great difference here.)

I'm sure there are people who'll say the US Children's Bureau is a Vatican front and that the figures have been cooked up. If they want to believe that, well, there's nothing can be done. It's like climate-change enthusiasts who would continue to maintain the world was still heating if the Equator froze over. But if the figures are accurate, why does the media not stop singling out Catholic priests as the world's worst abusers?

It won't, of course. Most of the self-described "quality" media - particularly, in Australia, the ABC and Fairfax - is in the hands of secularists and for secularists sexual abuse is, if one may use the expression, a godsend as a stick to beat the Catholic Church. Secularists may or may not care about abuse per se, notwithstanding the elaborate displays of solidarity with its "victims", but they do care about destroying the moral authority of a Church which, like Britain standing alone against the Nazis in 1940, is the one formidable opponent of abortion, gay marriage and the other products of sexual sybaritism so dear to the secularist heart. To accept the evidence and stop bashing the Church would be to throw away a demonstrably effective weapon.

* Statistics from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems of the US Children's Bureau of the United States Department of Human Services, quoted in Quadrant, January-February 2013.


I note that many commentators have made a connection between sexual abuse by clergy and the "corruption" of the Vatican's internal government, the Roman Curia. Voices are raised suggesting that as a matter of urgency the new Pope should "reform" the Curia. But even if he succeeds, which he won't, it will make no difference. The Curia is predominantly Italian and is run on the well-known principles of Italian public administration, i.e. loyalty to oneself and one's associates. Reforming it would be like reforming the Mafia - window-dressing.

Besides, even if the Curia should somehow be transformed into a model of transparent purity, how is it imagined that this would impinge on the issue of sacerdotal paedophilia - or more correctly in most cases, ephebophilia? The Curia is the last thing on the mind of some tragic celibate in Pittsburgh or Tipperary or Adelaide as he eyes off a comely thurifer. Clerical sexual transgression, if it does not arise from desires so deeply entrenched in fallen human nature as to be irreformable, can be dealt with only at the level of seminary selection, if then. Or by honesty and sacrifice on the part of those who are tempted.

19 March 2013

1 comment:

  1. Family/friends, uncles/cousins, perhaps brothers, could include men who are priests, who would be categorised as a profession rather than a relationship as e.g teachers. So the number of priests might be larger than the posited 2%. But e.g. how many of the above family/friends, uncles, etc.... might professionally be journalists? Interesting to know. But surely journalists would protest rightly that such a categorisation shoud not be used to blight a whole group. But it would be interesting to know.....