Sunday, April 11, 2010

Celibacy Doesn't Seem to be the Problem

Right now Americans seem to feel that Catholic priests are more likely to abuse children than other people, but this does not seem to be the case. Newsweek has an interesting story:
No formal comparative study has ever broken down child sexual abuse by denomination, and only the Catholic Church has released detailed data about its own. But based on the surveys and studies conducted by different denominations over the past 30 years, experts who study child abuse say they see little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue. "We don't see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else," said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "I can tell you without hesitation that we have seen cases in many religious settings, from traveling evangelists to mainstream ministers to rabbis and others."

Since the mid-1980s, insurance companies have offered sexual misconduct coverage as a rider on liability insurance, and their own studies indicate that Catholic churches are not higher risk than other congregations. Insurance companies that cover all denominations, such as Guide One Center for Risk Management, which has more than 40,000 church clients, does not charge Catholic churches higher premiums. "We don't see vast difference in the incidence rate between one denomination and another," says Sarah Buckley, assistant vice president of corporate communications. "It's pretty even across the denominations."
The article goes on to bandy statistics about the percentage of American adults who abuse children, with numbers that range from 4% to 20%, which strike me as made up. But it is important to note that celibate priests are not, so far as we know, more likely to abuse children than married clergy. The Catholics' problem is the secrecy imposed by the church hierarchy, and their habit of transferring offenders quietly from one parish to the next so they can continue their crimes for decades.

No comments: