If you can’t guess by my blog title then I’ll go ahead and fill you in on a little secret… I’m not Catholic. I’m not a member of the original denomination, and even though I have a lot of respect for my papal brothers, my home is with those good ole Baptists. Having said that, feel like I have to come out and defend my brothers and sisters in black (seriously I envy the outfits) because these guys have been taking a real beating for almost a decade now and it is getting kind of ridiculous. If you haven’t guessed what I’m talking about yet, it’s the whole pedophile priest debacle that the church is still getting attacked over.
Now I’m already getting a feeling that this one might get me some negative publicity. Let me clarify this before I say anything else: I am NOT trying to excuse, condone, or deny any sexually abusive acts performed by clergy men, especially when they are done to children. What I am doing is providing some facts regarding these allegations that many in the media conveniently leave out.
For starters we have the rumor that the Catholic Church is somehow full of secret pedophiles. This is completely and utterly not the case:
“We don’t see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this (pedophilia) or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else, 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.”
-Ernie Allen (president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.)
The facts are that 0.07% of all Catholic priests have been found to have been involved in child molestation. Compare that to the 4.2% of all public school teachers in America that have molested children and you can draw your own conclusions. For me, on a purely statistical level I’d say your kids are a lot safer going to Mass than they are to public school.
If you have your doubts about this then I’d suggest reading The John Jay Report. This was a very thorough investigation done to investigate the priesthood with full church consent. It can be read in its entirety HERE or (if you are short on time or too lazy to read the entire thing) you can read the Wikipedia summary of the results found HERE.
The results were clear that pedophilia and sexual abuse had occurred, but it was nowhere near the alarming regularity that the media would have you believe. In fact it was actually pretty low considering the size and scope of the Catholic church. Had you been around to see these news stories as they were breaking, (or if you have visited any atheist sites lately) you know that that’s not the way it was presented. People love a monster, and the Catholic church got to play the part of the monster in this one.
You have to remember that the media wants to sell you stories, they are willing to blow things way out of proportion in order to get you to tune in and shocking stories get more attention. Remember swine flu, bird flu, the fiscal cliff, Y2K, 2012, or any major news story in the last fifteen or so years that never went anywhere. Heck that Anna Nicole Smith baby story almost got more air time than the September 11th terrorist attacks. The “news” media in America is a joke. If they have a story that’s sensational the facts cans screw themselves. They want ratings, and the more frightened or disturbed you are the more you will stay glued to your T.V. The truth behind the matter is that when one just looks at the cold hard facts, they do not lead one to conclude that there is really any connection between the priesthood and a surplus of pedophilia.
So why then did the Pedophile Priest thing take off like it did? Well that’s really a three-part issue:
- Priests are expected to be “holy” and pure, so any sexual scandal in the priesthood will get more media attention than your average layman. It’s the same reason why there seem to be so many political sex scandals in the world. Sex scandals happen all the time, but it’s when the person is in a figure of authority (especially a moral authority) that it is seen as a real news story.
- Catholics do not “self-discipline” in a way that is pleasing to most of the secular/non-catholic population. Most priests that are found to have been involved in sexual-abuse cases are relocated, but not dismissed. A lot of this has to do with Catholic beliefs in rehabilitation, forgiveness, and mercy (which I share). This is consistent with the teachings of Christ on forgiveness and mercy, but it also can lead to repeat offenses which does not help the church’s image at all. This has led many to think that Catholics are trying to “cover up” these cases. It’s a hot button issue, but the Catholic church is really not the secret pedophile club that so many make it out to be. This didn’t stop people from changing “rehabilitation” and “mercy” into “cover up” and “scandal.”
- A lot of people really don’t like Catholics. I wish it was more complicated than that, but for some reason Catholics get a LOT of hate from almost everyone. Most of my non-catholic friends if asked what they think about Catholics would probably list several negative things before they got around to a positive one. Seriously, give this a try. Ask someone you know (who’s not a Catholic) what they think about Catholics and see how long it takes for a compliment to come up.
At the end of the day, no organization that deals with child abuse considers the Catholic church a “hot bed of abuse”, and while the church is still learning and adapting better ways to deal with these situations, it can’t be said that issues aren’t being dealt with in a very progressive way.
The Christ I follow was not one who sought punishment for sinners. He wasn’t bent on vengeance and he didn’t want to see the wicked strung up and made an example of. Instead Christ advocated rehabilitation, forgiveness, mercy, and love. I don’t recall pedophiles making a list of exceptions to this rule, and I’m pretty sure that Christ offers forgiveness and second chances to them too. The knee jerk reaction for human beings is to want to see any pedophile (especially those who act in a church setting) be locked away or executed for their crimes, but is that what Christ advocated? I think not. No large organization is without its share of screw ups, scandals, and disasters, but I give the Catholics props for dealing with this in a way that I find to be consistent with the teachings of Christ.