The Catholic Church and the Sexual Abuse Issue
1 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of the Catholic Church’s Stance on Controversial Issues
Catholic priests have been under fire for widespread and much publicized cases of sexual abuse of children. The unconscionable actions of a very small minority of deviant clergy and a few bishops who merely transferred known sex offenders continue to make headlines.
Celibate clergy aren’t more likely or prone to sexual misconduct (homosexual or heterosexual) than any other group, despite the rhetoric that ensued soon after the blitz of pedophilia cases came to light in the United States. But the actual numbers demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of sexual abuse by adults toward children occurs within a family — either parents or other family members. Married men who are related to the minors in some way commit most of the sexual abuse.
Even one case is one too many, of course, because abusing children is one of the most heinous evils any adult can commit. But note that this horrible behavior isn’t limited or even primarily found in the celibate male clergy. It’s an evil that afflicts a few pastors of all denominations, as well as parents, family members, teachers, coaches and many other walks of life.
A fact that sometimes gets lost in the furor is that the overwhelming majority of celibate priests aren’t pedophiles and have never abused any boy, girl, man, or woman.
All ethnic, religious, and racial groups have had a few deviants and perverts in their ranks. But indiscriminately associating the Catholic priesthood and its discipline of celibacy with pedophilia doesn’t make sense. Yes, sadly, some priests and bishops did abuse children, and more disturbing is that some bishops merely moved these criminals from place to place instead of stopping them once and for all. Nonetheless, no credible or logical argument or data supports the notion that celibacy encouraged or promoted sexual misconduct among the clergy.