There is a tendency to normalize crime in our own group, church or community by saying that the rate of crime in our own group is no worse than in other groups. It is a view I have heard expressed recently in the Catholic Church.
Cardinal Ratzinger used this argument at a conference in Spain in 2002..”..the percentage of these (sexual) offences among priests is not higher than in other categories and perhaps it is even lower…less than 1%of priests are guilty of acts of this type. The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information or to the statistical objectivity of the facts”
My reading of the facts that I have seen is that he was wrong as are others who seek to normalize crimes against children to say nothing about the betrayal of trust.
Professor Patrick Parkinson of the Faculty Law at the University of Sydney has just released a sobering Paper “Suffer the Teenage Children. Child Sexual Abuse in Church Communities”. Twice he reviewed the Catholic Churches protocol “Towards Healing”. He was a key adviser to the Catholic Church on sexual abuse issues. He is a remarkably well informed commentator. He has seen the problems close at hand and over several years.
As he says in his Paper he terminated his work with the Catholic Church over the failure of the Salesians in Australia to address sexual abuse issues. He then called for a Royal Commission.
In his Paper he acknowledges the patchy data on sexual abuse but the information pointed in one direction. The Catholic Church has a special problem which is outside the “normal”.
He noted that that at “a particular (Catholic) seminary in Melbourne 4.75 % of priests ordained between 1940 and 1966 sexually abused children” . Drawing on US data he concluded that “the rate of conviction ( of these priests ) is much higher than in the general population”.
In comparing the Catholic Church with other churches in Australia he concluded,”When all explanations have been offered the rate of conviction of Catholic personnel does seem to be strikingly out of proportion with the size of this faith community compared with other faith communities”.
In a later blog I will examine the issues that Parkinson suggests could explain the much higher rates of abuse in the Catholic Church. Go to ssrn.com/abstract=2216264 for the Parkinson paper
The Catholic Church often distresses me, but I love it.
John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.
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