SocraticGadfly: Popes, priests, ministers, sexual abuse and incest

February 11, 2013

Popes, priests, ministers, sexual abuse and incest

Benedict XVI, aka Ratzi the Nazi, has announced he is resigning the papacy effective the end of this month.

Although he said it was due to age, which is a legitimate statement as he approaches 85, nonetheless, as I blogged and the vast majority of media notes, the Catholic priestly sex abuse scandal, and his failure to deal with it well, in either a legal or moral way, is surely part of the reason for his resignation.

That said, while in no way downplaying the severity of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, or the severity of the cover-up by archbishops, cardinals and two (at least?) popes, is it fair to stigmatize Catholic priests too much over this?

I say no.

In general, priests and ministers, taking all Christian denominations together, do NOT have a higher rate of being sexually abusive than the general adult population. However, they are in positions of trust, as are another stigmatized group, Scoutmasters, and a non-stigmatized group, school teachers.

That's not even counting incestuous sexual abuse, which makes up a clear plurality, at least, of sexual abuse in the US but is still largely taboo to discuss.

And, all of the above show that "stranger danger" is a myth that, if anything, is damaging itself when it comes from helicopter moms, especially, making them paranoid.

Of course, numbers are very hard to come by. Sexual abuse in general is underreported, and incest even more so.

That said, per Wikipedia, with multiple links off its page, even if we go with the lower end of estimates, at 30 percent, incest may make up a plurality of sexual abuse. I think the high end estimate of 70 percent may be too high, but, if it's over 40 percent, I'm sure it's a plurality.

And, between parents, other family, and a variety of known adult friends of the family, the "known" percentage of sexual abusers is estimated at 80-90 percent.

Other "known" non-family sexual abusers, besides clergy or Scoutmasters, will include teachers, neighbors, baby-sitters, friends from church and more.

Near the bottom of this webpage is more information on refuting the stranger danger myths.

So, again, while not exonerating Catholic priests, or Protestant ministers, or Scoutmasters, I urge humanists in general, whether secular ones or not, and atheists in particular, especially Gnus, to see Benedict's retirement as a teaching moment about the truths of sexual abuse.

Gnu Atheists probably don't want to admit this. Hell, probably most of them won't admit this, period, about the facts of clergy child sexual abusers.

Even a lot of non-Gnu Atheists may be reluctant to let go of an easy story line.

Sorry, but facts are facts.

For the non-religious, if you have religious neighbors, their kids are in more danger from a family member than from their church's religious leader.

No comments: