In recent years, news medias have redefined the heinous crime of clergy sexual abuse as the “Catholic problem”. Reports of clergy abuse are often paired with images of cathedrals and black-clad men wearing white clerical collars. In conversational usage, the words “Vatican” and “diocese” no longer represent institutions of charity, education, and spiritual nourishment. Instead, people identify these Catholic establishments as defenders of priest pedophilia.
So what are the facts? Is clergy abuse just a “Catholic problem”?
Over the last four decades, approximately 1.5% of the estimated 60,000 Catholic clergy members have been accuses of child sexual abuse. Source: The Washington Post
According to Dr. Thomas Plante, a psychologist at Santa Clara University, “80 to 90% of all priests who in fact abuse minors have sexually engaged with adolescent boys, not prepubescent children. Thus, the teenager is more at risk than the young altar boy or girls of any age.”
According, to the Dallas Morning News, two-thirds of the nation’s bishops have allowed priests accused of clergy abuse to continue working.
Four in ten nuns report having been sexually abused during “religious life”.
Tom Economus, former president of The Linkup, a national survivors’ advocacy group, claimed that most victims of sexual abuse were male members of the Roman Catholic Church.
The United Church of Christ reported that 48% of its female employees have been sexually harassed by a male clergy member. Research conducted by the United Methodist Church (1990) concluded that 38.6% of its ministers had sexual conduct with a church member. The Southern Baptist Denomination claims that 14.1% of its clergy has sexually abused church members.
The Presbyterian Church declared that 10-23% percent of its clergy has expressed “inappropriate sexual behavior or contact” with other clergy members and employees.
According to “Pedophiles and Priests”, an academic study by Penn State professor Philip Jenkins, between 2 and 3% of protestant ministers are pedophiles. In the same study, he concluded that between .2 and 1.7% of Catholic clergy members are pedophiles.
Other Clergy and Mental Health Professionals
Rabbi Joel Meyers, the executive vice president of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly, reported that 30% of rabbis who changed positions in the year 2000 did so involuntarily as a result of a sexual abuse scandal.
Between 3 and 12% of psychologists have engaged in some sort of sexual contact with a client.
Whose Problem Is It?
A quick examination of the statistical data listed above should reveal that clergy abuse is not just a Catholic problem. It is a universal problem. The only way that this heinous debacle is ever going to be resolved is if we continue to reinforce transparent communication and awareness regarding every form clergy abuse, not just pedophilia in the Roman Catholic Church. Furthermore, subscribers to all faiths need to encourage an open dialogue about sexual abuse, even if that dialogue involves a well-respected clergy member. Silence will not resolve this issue. In a sense, clergy abuse is a “silence” problem.