BillDo has a post in which he plays down the Catholic priesthood’s image problem:
Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the findings of the 2011 Annual Report on priestly sexual abuse that was released by the bishops’ conference; the survey was done by a Georgetown institute:
The headlines should read, “Abuse Problem Near Zero Among Priests,” but that is not what is being reported.
According to the 2011 Official Catholic Directory, there are 40,271 priests in the U.S. The report says there were 23 credible accusations of the sexual abuse of a minor made against priests for incidences last year. Of that number, 9 were deemed credible by law enforcement. Which means that 99.98% of priests nationwide had no such accusation made against them last year. Nowhere is this being reported.
If that’s his standard of purity, then I’m sure Bill would have no problem drinking a glass of 99.98% water and only 0.02% urine, right?
The thing is that very few men in general are child abusers. The question (or one question) is, does the Catholic clergy contain more child abusers than the population at large?
I wasn’t able to quickly find child-abuse statistics for the United States, but I did find the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting statistics for violent crime in 2010, which shows an aggregate of 27.8 forcible rapes per 100,000 victims. The FBI defines “forcible rape” as:
The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Rapes by force and attempts or assaults to rape, regardless of the age of the victim, are included. Statutory offenses (no force used—victim under age of consent) are excluded.
So the numbers are not directly comparable: the report Donohue is quoting concerns itself only with sexual abuse of minors, while the FBI’s number covers all rape. The FBI’s 2010 number excludes sexual abuse of males, while BillDo emphasizes that in the report he’s quoting, “almost all the offenses involve homosexuality“. And BillDo calculates the rate per offender while the FBI counts the rate per victim, which means that BillDo’s number tends to undercount priests who abused multiple victims, compared to what the FBI counts.
Having said that, BillDo’s figure of 9 credible accusations and 40,271 priests works out to 22.3 per 100,000, compared to the FBI’s 27.8 per 100,000. So the number of pedophile priests seems to be in the same ballpark as the number of rapists in the US as a whole. That seems pretty bad, especially for a group that presents itself as the guardians of morality.
BillDo also ignores, as usual, that the Catholic church’s problem is not so much one of having rapists in its ranks — any large organization is bound to have some — but of covering up its members’ crimes. The abuse itself can be blamed on individual priests, sure. But the coverup is a problem for the organization.