Heard the news about priests abusing kids? Here’s what experts (their word) say about “the Catholic sex-abuse stories emerging”:
Many point to peculiarities of the Catholic Church (its celibacy rules for priests, its insular hierarchy, its exclusion of women) to infer that there’s something particularly pernicious about Catholic clerics that predisposes them to these horrific acts…
Yet experts say there’s simply no data to support the claim at all. No formal comparative study has ever broken down child sexual abuse by denomination, and only the Catholic Church has released detailed data about its own. But based on the surveys and studies conducted by different denominations over the past 30 years, experts who study child abuse say they see little reason to conclude that sexual abuse is mostly a Catholic issue. “We don’t see the Catholic Church as a hotbed of this or a place that has a bigger problem than anyone else,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.…
Since the mid-1980s, insurance companies have offered sexual misconduct coverage as a rider on liability insurance, and their own studies indicate that Catholic churches are not higher risk than other congregations.
Wait. Not those experts. We want the French ones! We want nothing less than the Commission indépendante sur les abus sexuels dans l’Eglise.
They have released a two thousand and five hundred-page report which nobody has yet read, but which is being summarized in the usual propaganda outlets.
Some are reporting the report says 200,000 mostly boys were abused by French clergy since 1950, and some are saying 216 thousand mostly boys were abused. The record, discovered by myself in a vigorous two-minute scroll through Twitter, is 330 thousand mostly boys.
Let’s first think about the mostly boys. Reuters quotes Jean-Marc Sauve, “head of the commission that compiled the report.” He said “Most of the victims were boys, he said, many of them aged between 10 and 13.” So it’s mostly boys.
This doesn’t make the abuser priest pedophiles, though, a word reserved for diddling the very young. It just makes them garden variety perverts. That it was mostly boys is the consequence of ordaining so many men “oriented” towards males. I believe the Germans call this preference for ordaining men who enjoy sodomy the Synodal Path.
Anyway, nobody disputes there were, and are, pervert priests. The proportional number is less than or the same as the general public, as the insurance companies tell us, but it should be zero, as the Lord commands.
Even though the numbers are equivalent, or even in the priests’ favor, we’re still waiting for the big commissions and reports on pervert teachers, pervert politicians, and pervert doctors. Since those might be late arriving, let’s look at the number of claimed victims in the French report.
It should, but won’t, go without saying there’s a wide margin between 200 and 330 thousand. Both are suspicious whole numbers, our first clue something is odd. They couldn’t count actual victims, maybe? Instead they estimated? Let’s see. I’m working from their English-translation summary (32 pages; as of Tuesday night I couldn’t download the full French report; the website kept timing out).
…the Commission arrived at an estimate of the number of child victims to have suffered sexual assault at the hands of priests, deacons, monks or nuns to be 216 000 over the period from 1950 to 2020, based on the general population survey of 28 010 persons aged 18 and over and representative of the French population in accordance with the quota method. [p. 9]
Ah. A survey and not a count of actual victims. We don’t know what quotas were used. Also, this was “An anonymous online questionnaire”. Big trouble.
There was in that anonymity no verification of those who claimed to be a victim. Was everybody genuine victim? Were some boasting of victimhood, the highest possible status one can have in the West? Were some people hoping to disparage a hate institution? Were all respondents scrupulously honest? Hold those questions in mind for a moment. We’ll come back to them.
First, what about that 330 thousand?
By broadening the analysis to include persons connected to the Church (staff of Catholic schools, laypersons providing catechism or chaplaincy services, organizers of scouts or other Catholic youth movements) the estimated number of child victims rises to 330 000 for the whole of the period. This study shows that more than a third of sexual assaults within the Catholic Church were committed, not by clergy or monks, but by lay people. [p. 9]
So not priests. All those headlines with the higher totals—and I know you’ll be shocked—got it wrong. These were just ordinary perverts who happened to have a job connected with the Church. Those who had jobs connected elsewhere weren’t measured. And there is no indication that it was because of having a job connected with the Church that led these perverts into being perverted. These extra hundred-some thousand should not count at all. Except as propaganda, for which they work well.
The report then moves to this startling admission:
…sexual violence on an equally massive scale occurred across French society: 14.5 % of women and 6.4% of men, i.e. approximately 5 500 00 people suffered sexual assault in their childhood. Acts of sexual violence committed by clerics, monks or nuns represents just under 4% of this total.
Even with these worst case estimates, and assuming no uncertainty in them, priests only account for a tiny percent of all “violence.” Indeed, “3.7% of persons aged 18 or over in mainland France suffered sexual abuse as children by a member of the family, 2% by a family friend and 1.8% by a friend or acquaintance”.
Which makes 7.5%. Meaning families, and those “linked to” families, are almost twice as dangerous as priests. Stay away from families?
Now let’s think about the 216 thousand, which is presented without uncertainty—in the summary. In the full report, I don’t know. It is at least irresponsible not to give some indication of the uncertainty given that this is a survey with an unknown (to us) quota sampling scheme. And an unknown (to us) indication of how quotas were filled.
They say in their search for victim testimonials, which were on the small side and which were used to that quota system mentioned, “That far fewer victims are individually counted in the appeal for testimonials or in archival investigations does not in any way negate these estimates.” Yes it does. But they say it doesn’t because of the chance some abuse went unreported. Some surely did, but it is still telling fewer people than they hoped for came forward.
How about the number of pervert priests?: “Research, conducted with great rigor and thoroughness …leads to an estimation of between 2900 and 3200 aggressors.” By “aggressors” they mean perverts.
If that’s right, it makes 68 to 75 victims per pervert. Brother, that’s a lot. Not impossible, but it has to be something like that, or more, for most perverts. They say priests might be under-counted, but they say victims were too, which still makes the per-priest victim average about the same.
They claim this 3000 or so perverts is only “a ratio of 2.5% and 2.8% of clergy and monks” of all of them from 1950. That percent number of perverts doesn’t sound high when it’s considered in the first (insurance) link above, “a conservative estimate is one in 10” men become abusers. If that number is right (seems high to me) the priests are doing better than the general population, pervert wise.
Point is, the percent should be 0% for priests, and 0% for family members, too. It should 0% everywhere. It isn’t. It’s higher. And it doesn’t seem especially high for priests as a class.
Much of the rest of the report is given over the lamentations of the way the Church handled abuse claims, how awful Church teaching on sexuality is, and recommendations what to do in the future. My idea of stringing up the known perverts is not mentioned in any bullet point. Not in English: maybe in French?
Once I can get a copy of the full report, I’ll see if any of this post needs updating.
Meanwhile, apropos to all this is a communication I received from Anon, who asked me to put this in:
The flaws in this piece of research are so glaring and so obvious to anyone with even an undergraduate training in statistics, that the only reasonable conclusion is that the authors set out to defame the Church. French law allows the prosecution of people who publish defamatory statements directed at groups and organizations.
Under Art. 32 of the Law on Freedom of the Press, defamation directed against a class of people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation or handicap is punishable by one year in prison and/or a fine of €45,000; in the case of insult, the punishment is six months in prison and a fine of €22,500.
Church groups should hire relevant experts and press charges against those who published this material.
Update See my comments on the full report in the comments. E.g. explanations of this:
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