A Researcher Puts Scandals in Context
EDITOR NOTE: Excellent commentary and bullet-points from Fr. Dwight Longenecker today on his blog Standing On My Head, followed by Penn State professor, Phillip Jenkins, and his fine article on the scandal and nature of sexual abuse within society:As more pedophile priest scandals blow up across Europe we should be ashamed of the offenders and those who sheltered them and oppressed the victims. The guilty should be weeded out, removed from office and handed over to the civil authorities where they are guilty of crimes. Systems to avoid abuse must be established and rigorously maintained, and victims should be justly compensated for their suffering.However, Penn State professor Philip Jenkins (who is not a Catholic) has written the most objective book on the subject, and he summarizes his arguments in this excellent article.
In light of his work, we should remember some basic facts and principles:
- Priestly celibacy is not the issue – married men are more likely to abuse children than unmarried
- Most child abuse takes place within the home.
- All religious groups have pedophile scandals, and the Catholics (while the largest religious group) are at the bottom of the list statistically.
- Child abuse is prevalent in all areas of society: schools, youth organizations, sports, etc.
- Statistically, of all the professions, Christian clergy are least likely to offend. Doctors, Farmers and Teachers are the professions most likely to abuse children–not clergy.
- Among clergy offenders Catholic priests are least likely to offend.
- Catholic cases of pedophilia make more headlines because of anti Catholic prejudice and because the Catholic Church is bigger and more lucractive to sue.
- Pedophilia and Euphebophilia are different problems. The former is sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. The latter is attraction to teenagers. Most cases branded ‘pedophila’ are actually ‘euphebophila.’
- Most of the cases of euphebophilia are homosexual in nature, however the politically correct do not want this problem to be associated with homosexuality.
- The number of Catholic priests guilty of pedophilia is very small.
- What we now call ‘cover up’ was often done in a different cultural context, when the problem was not fully understood and when all establishment organizations hushed scandals. They did so for what seemed good reasons at the time: protection of the victims and their families, opportunity for rehabilitation of the offender, the avoidance of scandal to others. It is unfair to judge events thirty years ago by today’s standards.
- When lawsuits are looming people smell money. We must be wary of false accusations.
- The accused must be entitled to a fair hearing. The church should insist on hard proof of the abuse, and for the sake of justice, ensure that the innocent are not prosecuted.
- When guilt is established the offender must be punished, not sheltered.
- Distinctions must be made between types of abuse. Some offenses are worse than others. Verbal abuse or corporal punishment during a time when that was acceptable, while lamentable, is not the same as sexual abuse or extreme physical abuse.
- Sexual abuse of an adult, or a sexually experienced older teenager is wrong, and damaging, and should be punished, but it is not the same as the sexual abuse of a younger, innocent child.
- Number of offenses must be considered. One lapse is not of the same seriousness as repeated, persistent and premeditated offenses.
I am in no way wishing to be soft of pedophiles and those who covered for them, however justice and truth demand an objective analysis of the facts.
A Researcher Puts Scandals in Context
PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania, MARCH 11, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Philip Jenkins, a Penn State University professor of history and religious studies, is author of “Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis” (Oxford University Press, 1996). He wrote this article for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, which published it March 3 under the headline “The Myth of the Pedophile Priest.”
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By Philip Jenkins
Every day, the news media have a new horror story to report, under some sensational headline: Newsweek, typically, is devoting its current front cover to “Sex, Shame and the Catholic Church: 80 Priests Accused of Child Abuse in Boston.” Though the sex abuse cases have deep roots, the most recent scandals were detonated by the affair of Boston priest John J. Geoghan.
Though his superiors had known for years of Geoghan´s pedophile activities, he kept being transferred from parish to parish, regardless of the safety of the children in his care. The stigma of the Geoghan affair could last for decades, and some Catholics are declaring in their outrage that they can never trust their church again.
No one can deny that Boston church authorities committed dreadful errors, but at the same time, the story is not quite the simple tale of good and evil that it sometime appears. Hard though it may be to believe right now, the “pedophile priest” scandal is nothing like as sinister as it has been painted — or at least, it should not be used to launch blanket accusations against the Catholic Church as a whole.
We have often heard the phrase “pedophile priest” in recent weeks. Such individuals can exist: Father Geoghan was one, as was the notorious Father James Porter a decade or so back. But as a description of a social problem, the term is wildly misleading. Crucially, Catholic priests and other clergy have nothing like a monopoly on sexual misconduct with minors.
My research of cases over the past 20 years indicates no evidence whatever that Catholic or other celibate clergy are any more likely to be involved in misconduct or abuse than clergy of any other denomination — or indeed, than nonclergy. However determined news media may be to see this affair as a crisis of celibacy, the charge is just unsupported.
Literally every denomination and faith tradition has its share of abuse cases, and some of the worst involve non-Catholics. Every mainline Protestant denomination has had scandals aplenty, as have Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah´s Witnesses, Jews, Buddhists, Hare Krishnas — and the list goes on. One Canadian Anglican (Episcopal) diocese is currently on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of massive lawsuits caused by decades of systematic abuse, yet the Anglican church does not demand celibacy of its clergy.
However much this statement contradicts conventional wisdom, the “pedophile priest” is not a Catholic specialty. Yet when did we ever hear about “pedophile pastors”?
Just to find some solid numbers, how many Catholic clergy are involved in misconduct? We actually have some good information on this issue, since in the early 1990s, the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago undertook a bold and thorough self-study. The survey examined every priest who had served in the archdiocese over the previous 40 years, some 2,200 individuals, and reopened every internal complaint ever made against these men. The standard of evidence applied was not legal proof that would stand up in a court of law, but just the consensus that a particular charge was probably justified.
By this low standard, the survey found that about 40 priests, about 1.8 percent of the whole, were probably guilty of misconduct with minors at some point in their careers. Put another way, no evidence existed against about 98 percent of parish clergy, the overwhelming majority of the group.
Since other organizations dealing with children have not undertaken such comprehensive studies, we have no idea whether the Catholic figure is better or worse than the rate for schoolteachers, residential home counselors, social workers or scout masters.
The Chicago study also found that of the 2,200 priests, just one was a pedophile. Now, many people are confused about the distinction between a pedophile and a person guilty of sex with a minor. The difference is very significant. The phrase “pedophile priests” conjures up images of the worst violation of innocence, callous molesters like Father Porter who assault children 7 years old. “Pedophilia” is a psychiatric term meaning sexual interest in children below the age of puberty.
But the vast majority of clergy misconduct cases are nothing like this. The vast majority of instances involve priests who have been sexually active with a person below the age of sexual consent, often 16 or 17 years old, or even older. An act of this sort is wrong on multiple counts: It is probably criminal, and by common consent it is immoral and sinful; yet it does not have the utterly ruthless, exploitative character of child molestation. In almost all cases too, with the older teen-agers, there is an element of consent.
Also, the definition of “childhood” varies enormously between different societies. If an act of this sort occurred in most European countries, it would probably be legal, since the age of consent for boys is usually around 15. To take a specific example, when newspapers review recent cases of “pedophile priests,” they commonly cite a case that occurred in California´s Orange County, when a priest was charged with having consensual sex with a 17-year-old boy. Whatever the moral quality of such an act, most of us would not apply the term “child abuse” or “pedophilia.” For this reason alone, we need to be cautious when we read about scores of priests being “accused of child abuse.”
Get the rest of the story at the source: ZENIT
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