The sickening sex abuse scandal going on in the Catholic Church is causing much distress and confusion. While anger and outrage are appropriate reactions, now is not the time for misrepresentation or misdirection. That will neither help the victims nor stop the abusers. It’s a disease requiring a scalpel, not a hacksaw. To help focus the discussion, here are five important points to keep in mind. The points are brief with support indicated in text links.
1. The Catholic Church is Not Faithfully Represented by Unfaithful Members.
Faithful Catholics are grieved and angered when sinful individuals within the Church violate its teachings. The Church, however, should not be judged by its unfaithful members (whether they wear a collar or not). It is unreasonable to attack an entity based on those who do not follow its precepts. Further, the guilty, though they are far too many, constitute a very small percentage of the Church’s clergy (less than 1%) – and the clergy themselves represent a very small percentage of the Church (about 3%).
2. The Catholic Priesthood is Not the Problem.
Abuse occurs in all areas of life, and the Catholic priesthood is not worse than the general population – in fact it fares far better than most institutions (see #4 below). As to the celibacy requirement in the Latin rite, the same statistics reveal that a far greater number of abuses are committed by married men and non-catholic ministers than celibate Catholic priests. Finally, neither pedophilia,ephebophilia, nor homosexuality are caused by celibacy, and even their rare correlation is explainable with celibacy as the result.
3. The Catholic Church Teaches that Gay Men Should Not Become Priests.
Unlike many Protestant churches, the Catholic Church has spoken against admitting gay men into the priesthood. One document says: “The Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’” – and Pope Francis agrees.
4. The Catholic Church Implemented Successful Abuse Safeguards Years Ago.
Since 2002, Catholic parishes and institutions have developed Safe Environment protocols which require education, background checks, fingerprinting, and recognition and report training for all church ministers and employees who work with children. These are so well-formulated that they are now being emulated even by non-Catholic institutions. According to a report based off of insurance records and other information, the Church has a better abuse record than Protestant churches, Public Schools, Scouts, and even families.
5. The Primary Scandal Today is Over the Cover-Up of Past Abuse.
Most reported abuses occurred between the 1960’s and early 1980’s (not coincidentally overlapping the so-called “Sexual Revolution“). Unfortunately, the hierarchy of the Church took the prevailing view that abusers should be relocated / rehabilitated rather than reprimanded. The current scandal is primarily over these past cover-ups, not a preponderance of abuse.
While no amount of abuse should be tolerated, it is unrealistic to expect that it can be thoroughly eliminated from any sizable human organization. Although abuse in the Catholic Church has the spotlight right now, it is a universal human problem. It is fair to say, though, that the Catholic Church should be expected to be more virtuous than the rest of the world – and this actually seems to be the case. So whatever conclusions one reaches about the Church’s moral standing in the world, consistency demands that it be applied at least equally to these and other spheres of human life. (But when was the last time you saw a political cartoon or news satire attacking schools or scouts?)
For more details and relevant reports see The Media Report.