Ten Common Myths about the Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults by Clerics

Myth #1 – Catholic priests are no more likely to be pedophiles than other groups of men.

Roman Catholic bishops, priests, and deacons are vowed to a life of perfect and perpetual continence. (canon 276 CIC83) This is the lens with which we should view the following facts from the John Jay Center for Criminal Justice Study commissioned by the Bishops.

Since 1950, 4,392 priests and ten bishops have resigned or been removed for credible accusations of sexual abuse against minors and vulnerable adults. Twenty-two percent of the allegations self-reported by the bishops were for children under the age of ten and 6% of the victims were under the age of seven (John Jay pg.9). I know of no other religious denomination, organization, or group in the world who is reporting these percentages or gross numbers of crimes as agents of their organization.

Myth #2 – The celibate state of priests does not lead to pedophilia.

Three different theologians and scholars employed by the Church in the twentieth century – as well as the Churchs own psychiatrists and psychologists who were ignored by the Hierarchy – disagree. I would go further and say that celibacy itself violates the natural law, betrays revealed faith and reason, and leads to numerous sexual paraphilia, including pedophilia, ephebophilia and bestiality. Beginning with Reverend Thomas Verner Moore in 1936, the Church has been attempting to understand the crime of stuprum (sex between an adult and a child) and other psychological infirmities of the clergy in the discipline of psychology.

Moore first studied the insanity rates among Catholic clergy and found them higher than the general population. Further, Moore also studied and published on detection measures of pre-psychotics who apply for admission to the priesthood or religious communities. In November 1971, Conrad W. Baars, M.D. of the Mayo Clinic presented a paper to the Synod of Bishops meeting in Rome titled,The Role of the Church in the Causation, Treatment, and Prevention of the Crisis in the Priesthood.

The results were that only 10%-15% of priests attain adult maturation and 20%-25% have serious psychiatric difficulties.

Also during 1971, the Holy See made the Servants of the Paraclete an order of Pontifical rite. The third church therapist who was ignored is Reverend Michael Petersen of the Saint Luke Institute. Petersen along with Thomas Doyle, O.P. and Raymond Mouton, Esq. submitted a report to the Bishop for the 1985 Collegeville, MN. meeting that the scandal was going to explode if the Hierarchy did not attend to the victims.

Myth #3 – Married clergy would make pedophilia and other forms of sexual misconduct go away.

The track record of the hierarchy enforcing the discipline of clergy in sexual matters is riddled with holes. The bishops first met at Elvira in 309 AD and published in Power and Sexuality, to discuss and legislate against the sexual perversions of the clergy.

The pope was also given a detailed report by Saint Peter Damian in 1051 AD, The Book of Gomorrah, detailing the graphic evidence of the sexual activities of the clergy.

In the end, marriage will not change the current situation because the Hierarchy has not been able to enforce the legislation and delicts already on the books.

Myth #4 – Clerical celibacy started in the early church.

Celibacy was idealized in the early church but never officially enforced. Beginning in 1123 AD at the Council of Worms, Pope Calixtus II promulgated a canon that impeded married persons from being ordained but more importantly, the marriages contracted by clerics were declared invalid and had no effect.

Pope Calixtus then ordered all married priests to abandon their wives. The record indicates the medieval period did institutionalize celibacy. The First Lateran Council proclaimed that a male in Holy Orders attained an indelible mark and celibacy was an essential element of that priestly character.

Myth #5 – Female clergy would help solve the problem.

The fact is that we will never really know because the current teaching of the Church is that any layman and all women are not capable of holding the priestly or episcopal office.

Myth #6 – Homosexuality is connected to pedophilia.

Sexual abuse is a civil and canonical crime. The sexual orientation of the perpetrator is not relevant to prosecuting the crime.

We are all sinners but we are not all criminals.

Myth #7 – The Catholic hierarchy has made significant strides to address pedophilia.

No. The bishops have done nothing out of fear it will hurt their image and the image of the. The Hierarchy has never enforced penalties on the crimes of stuprum, sexual abuse of minors, sodomy, solicitation in the confessional, bestiality, and all the other crimes by clerics noted in canon 2359.2 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. The Hierarchy has had the evidence of the sexual abuse of minors, the knowledge of recidivism, and the complete power over the clergy … and they have done nothing.

The cover-up of the sexual abuse of minors is necessary in the Hierarchy’s worldview to maintain the image of the church as the perfect society.

Myth #8 – The Church’s teaching on family sexual morality is not the real problem.

The sexual morality of the clergy as evidenced in the thousands of sexual abuse cases across the world (look at Ireland) leads one to question the moral maturity of the clergy. If the clergy are emotionally immature it follows that they too are morally immature in regards to the sexual abuse of a child or vulnerable adult.

There has been a long-standing cry by the laity for the Hierarchy to concentrate less on the morality of the bedroom and more on the boardroom.

The evidence of the stuprum cases is cause for the Hierarchy to concentrate first on the morality in the rectory and less on the family home.

Myth #9 – Catholic journalists have ignored the pedophile problem.

Roman Catholic journalists, like priests, are in a difficult spot. They are paid and owe obedience to the Hierarchy who are deathly afraid of negative press and scandal. I believe if a Roman Catholic journalist was to fully plumb the depths of the scandal, they would be warned and then relieved of duty. The Roman Catholic journalist who studies and searches below the surface is like the nail that sticks out: they are hammered down.

Myth #10 – Requiring celibacy limits the number of men as candidates for the priesthood, resulting in a high number of sexually unbalanced priests.

This is the age old question, nature or nurture? The question we should be asking (noting that the Hierarchy has never successfully enforced the rule of celibacy) is: Does the Hierarchy – by omitting their duty to enforce the laws of the Church – attract a group of sexually unbalanced priests and religious thereby endangering all children at Roman Catholic Institutions?


Filed under Background Information, Clergy Sex Abuse

4 responses to “Ten Common Myths about the Sexual Abuse of Minors and Vulnerable Adults by Clerics

  1. ritadavid

    I heard your interview (from a few years ago) with Ira Glass on This American Life today. It was very well done! My husband and I are a Johnnie and a Bennie and we left the Catholic Church and became Episcopalians. We are delighted and impressed to hear about the good work you are doing and you have our prayerful support!

  2. potnatheron

    Heard the recent comments. We ran into a Native American man, probably an Apache, who was lost in the big city, trying to find a hospital way across town. After talking to him for about 15 minutes, he produced some papers he carried, from the Arizona Catholic Diocese. This man, about 30 now, had been brutally molested as a young altar boy, until about age 12, in his local church (McNary), or inside the Reservation. The church had made him sign something to shut him up and acted like they were doing him a big favor by providing some counseling and money. He was still destroyed by the experience. He gave us his number but it didn’t work. So frustrating– we wanted to help. The “beloved bishop” who concealed the state’s child molestations ended his own life in shame, after killing a pedestrian, hiding his own battered car, and holing up at his sister’s home. He is certainly in a very nasty ring of Hell. Other women I know fell victim to priests in Bullhead City, AZ, another small town. As a child, I thought the priests were holy men. The Church has painted itself in a corner, with this relatively recent doctrine of Papal infallibility. Anyone in a such a position should be very careful with his or her charges. I don’t understand what makes someone molest children or the powerless. An equal sin is to hide the perpetrators to continue this myth of priest-as-direct-line-to- God. The Old Boy’s hierarchical structure has to change. Religion has to speak our language. Most of this world is not agrarian. What is our Great Chain of Being today? In democracies, we don’t see our political leaders as demi gods. Nor should we continue this crazy God the Father God the Son and the male Holy Ghost. Just doesn’t do it for me anymore. Too limiting.

  3. pittigemaki

    Dear Mr. Patrick Wall
    After reading several articles of you on your website i totally agree with the things you say. So I started to
    Login on amazon.com to buy your book. I read several pages of the book and still agree with everything
    Then I saw the table of contents chapter 12 : Healing steps : forgiving the hierarchy and then an unexpected
    Truth came up : this man confronted with the evidence of a totally corrupted organization will help them
    To survive and to regain the confidence of the laymen. Now, in 2010, after numerous books that proofs that
    The church is a dramatical joke, poisoned the brains of humanity for more than 17 centuries, now that people
    Start to aware of this there are still honest men trying to save these joke. It’s unbelievable. Ratzinger is getting
    A bump laugh when he heard about you and your fellow authors. Do you still believes the world NEEDS this
    Sick organization of celibatarian old men thinking they are infinite elevated above marriage people. Don’t you
    Understand that Rome has only one goal : controlling every mind on earth. Normal people call this power horny.
    I don’t know how you call this. The new archbishop of Los Angeles is Opus “Dei” (read Diaboli) don’t you
    Understand. They have killed the second Vatican council and the liberation theology, the base of their belief
    Is womenhate and womenfear. I give you A good idea : trie to read the books of Karlheinz Deschner you gonna be
    healed of your disease. I hope once the day comes that people ask “religion” what’s that ?

  4. Pingback: Voice from the Desert » Blog Archive » From Ireland: “Causes” of clerical child abuse in US revealed by new report

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