The Jay Report

 

I think it was Mark Twain who said "There are lies, damned lies, and then, there are statistics."  But even with this caution in mind, I'd like to comment on, and venture a few conclusions based on my reading ofthe John Jay School of Criminal Justice report to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on the sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy.

          First, some of the statistics. Out of some hundred and four thousand clerics who have served the church between the years 1950 and 2002, some four thousand (4392 to be exact) or roughly 4% have been either guilty of committing sexual abuse of one form or another, or have had credible claims of such abuse made against them. Second; while the rates per diocese have ranged from 6% to 2%, the rate among priest members of religious orders has been only slightly over 2%.  Third; about 80% of these cases or accusations involved misconduct with minor males, 18% with minor females, and 2% involved both.

          Next, I want to point out that here we seem to have a curious gaps in the reporting of these statistics, for even though forty-one permanent deacons are included among the 4392 reported abusers, it is not clear whether or not the baseline figure of one-hundred and four thousand clerics (first described as "priests") includes the some fourteen thousand permanent deacons in the United States (in 2002, exactly 13,764 according to the U.S. Official Catholic Directory) ordained since 1970. According to the Vatican's "Directory on the Ministry and life of Deacons" married men are to be preferred for this post, I presume that that among the 51 accused clerics who are married, most in fact were among these permanent deacons.

          But even aside from these uncertainties and unless I'm completely off in my calculations, these statistics would seem to lead to the following conclusions.

          First: either most of the dioceses and the religious orders are failing to give an honest accounting of sexual abuse cases involving permanent deacons or else it is hard to escape the conclusion that religiously dedicated married men (as are most permanent deacons) are much, much less (at least ten to twelve times less -- .29% as against 4.0%) apt to engage in this kind of deviant behavior than are priests, very few of whom (other than converted ministers from other denominations or else Eastern Rite priests ordained outside the USA) are married.

          Second, priests who deliberately vow celibacy (as do religious order priests, usually some years before being ordained) and living in common with other vowed men (as do most religious order priests) seem to be only half as susceptible the risk of such misbehavior.

          Third: it is also hard to escape the conclusion (since the overall estimate in the general population of the number of female minors molested is about double that of male minors) that either the priesthood is attracting an unduly large percentage of homosexually oriented men, or else, the requirement of celibacy for admission to the priesthood is a major cause or occasion of heterosexual priests acting out homosexually.

          It should be added, however, that the report points out that the number of these incidences and accusations seems to have dropped sharply since around 1990 -- ever since the rate of imprisonment for this type of behavior has risen. So it seems that many among the clergy, as well as society at large, have gotten the message that such behavior will not be tolerated. But the question remains, will the Roman Catholic Church be willing to examine what seems to be the deeper institutional issues raised by such statistics?  

 

R W Kropf    Mar 28, 2004                                                                       File:Jayreport.mss