Clergy Abuse—Separating Factual Data from Emotional Hysteria: Please do not think, for a millisecond, that I am speaking defensively about the current crises in our church around clerical abuse & Episcopal cover-ups—for there is absolutely no defending horrific crimes against the young & vulnerable nor their being kept shrouded in secrecy by leaders wanting to protect the church. Such crimes demand our abhorrence & denunciation, as well as our insistence that our church can, must, & will do better—no ‘ifs,’ ‘ands,’ or ‘buts.’
I’m sharing here some information from a secular viewpoint that is pertinent to our situation at hand. It’s from an article that appeared recently in the magazine, Psychology Today, & is authored by a professor affiliated with Santa Clara & Stanford Universities in California named Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP. It was posted on August 23, 2018 & its full title is: “Separating Facts About Clergy Abuse from Fiction: Quality research data & industry best practices will solve clerical abuse.” I invite your reading the entire article found online.
Dr. Plante makes 4 important points that he asks be kept in mind:
1) No empirical data exists that suggests that Catholic clerics sexually abuse minors at a level higher than clerics from other religious traditions or from other groups of men who have ready access to & power over children, like teachers & coaches. (4% of priests are abusers.)
2 ) Clerical celibacy doesn’t cause pedophilia & sexual crimes against minors. The vast majority of sex offenders are regular men, often married or partnered (with 80% or more victimizing their own family members with the most likely candidate being a step-father or older brother abusing a child/teen in the home)—not homosexual at all, but ‘situational generalists’ who abuse whoever they had access to & control over, boys or girls.
3) Homosexual clerics aren’t the cause of pedophilia in the Church. Sex offending behavior is not predicated by sexual orientation but by other known risk factors such as a history of child abuse, impulse control problems, alcohol problems, head injuries, & an inability to manage & maintain satisfying adult & peer relationships.
4) The Church has used best practices to deal with this issue since 2002; & those child protection policies are clearly working. The incidents of clerical abuse in recent years are down to a trickle. Many of the newer abuse cases since 2002 were perpetrated by visiting international priests who have not gone through the extensive training/screening that American clerics now go through.
Keeping children safe from abuse should be everyone’s top priority. The good news is that real progress is being made to ensure that children are safe, but vigilance is always needed & good data & reason needs to take precedent over emotion & hysteria if we truly want to keep children & families safe from abuse in the church as well as in all institutions where adults & children interact.
May God continue to bless our efforts at preventing all abuse!