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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Priestly celibacy and sex abuse

In the news today, a new report on sexual abuse in the Catholic church finds, among other things, that "the church’s requirement that priests be celibate was a major risk factor for abuse". This is a big deal because the Pope has refused to make celibacy optional in the priesthood despite previous evidence that a celibate clergy makes sex abuse more likely. Why? I think the answer is two-fold: 1) it is financially cheaper to keep priests single rather than pay them a wage on which they could support a family, 2) it is easier to control the lives of priests if you deny them any other intimate loyalties beyond the church.

Here's a bit of The New York Times article on the study ...

Australian Catholic Church Falls Short on Safeguards for Children, Study Finds

A study that examines child sexual abuse worldwide in the Roman Catholic Church has found that the Australian church has done less to safeguard children in its care than its counterparts in similar countries have.

The report, released on Wednesday by the Center for Global Research at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, also found that the church’s requirement that priests be celibate was a major risk factor for abuse. And it said that the possibility of abuse in Catholic residential institutions, like orphanages, should be getting more attention, especially in developing countries.

Experts said the report could put pressure on Pope Francis, and particularly the church in Australia, to do more to prevent abuse. The Australian church was rocked in June when Cardinal George Pell, an Australian who is one of the pope’s top advisers, became the highest-ranking Roman Catholic prelate to be formally charged with sexual offenses.

Desmond Cahill, the report’s lead author, said its findings pointed to an urgent need to rethink the priesthood in the 21st century. A professor of intercultural studies at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, he said the church should reconsider the celibacy requirement for priests.

“The Catholic Church is in a state of crisis, and pressure has to be put on the Holy See to take the necessary steps to change,” Professor Cahill said .......

And here's a bit of an article I saw today by Marci A. Hamilton at the Justia/Verdict legal analysis blog ...

Who Pays for Sex Abuse?

Drawing on data from the extraordinary archive of Catholic sex abuse at, the San Diego Tribune recently published the top 10 sexual abuse settlements by the Catholic Church in the United States. The numbers are large in the aggregate: the church paid $1.553 billion total, with $960.94 million paid to 2,458 survivors. On average, each victim received $391,000 after attorneys’ fees.

These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg as many of the victims did not receive full compensatory damages, because the dioceses pooled claims through bankruptcies or other means and avoid individual trials, thereby lowering per-victim recoveries. The cost to the church is actually higher than $1.5 billion, because it has also had to pay for its lawyers (especially for the bishops who take a scorched earth approach against the victims). They also have covered some therapy. Accordingly, Church costs have been estimated at $4 billion. The victims’ expense has not yet been aggregated by social scientists, but it is certainly well beyond $4 billion given that approximately 20-25% of children are sexually abused and the array of negative effects include addiction, alcoholism, depression, PTSD, and eating disorders, among many others ....

[T]he Church and its insurers have paid only a percentage of the actual cost of abuse of its victims nationwide. As a result of the bishops’ lobbying, it has kept the lid on statutes of limitations (SOL) in many states, including states with large Catholic populations like New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The bishops have routinely refused to pay if the victim was beyond the SOL, or to offer drastically discounted numbers to a victim beyond the SOL. That means that society and families are picking up the slack, and that the burden of sex abuse continues to be borne by the public in this arena and many others ....

Meanwhile, the sex abuse trial of one of Pope Francis' top advisors, Cardinal George Pell, is to on October 6th in Australia ... George Pell faces Melbourne Magistrates' Court on historical sexual offence charges


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