Monday, June 16, 2014

Clergy Sex Abuse Doesn't Disprove Catholicism - 4 Points

Often when engaging potential Catholics (aka non-Catholics) online the clergy sex abuse crisis is brought up as a hammer with which to bludgeon the Church and all faithful Catholics, a "guilt by association" argument. The idea underlying this argument is if Catholics (especially priests and bishops) do bad things, Catholicism must be false, or at least dismissible. Sometimes, the Crusades or the Inquisition are used as the "bad things" done by Catholics, but most often it is the sex abuse crisis that is used. Whether or not using the pain and suffering of sexual abuse victims to win an argument online is commendable, I'll leave to the reader to decide. How are Catholics to respond to these types of attacks? Here is how I usually do.

1. The Abuse Crisis was Terribly Evil.
Any percentage of priests taking sexual advantage of minors is outrageous and evil, but it tells us nothing about whether Catholicism is true. We all have free will. Any man (yes even priests, even bishops, even the Holy Father himself!) can freely choose misuse that gift and do evil instead of good. That is simply the human condition. It is deplorable when men, especially those in holy orders, commit gravely evil acts. Catholics, of course, should be the first in both condemning evil actions and in forgiving repentant sinners (which, of course, does not entail "letting them off the hook.") Priests that abuse minors and bishops who are negligent in investigating credible complaints should be (and are) held accountable. Period. No one is arguing that.

2. Let's Get Our Facts Straight.
It is often claimed that the sex abuse crisis was about pedophilia, "priest raping little kids." Of course, this wasn't the case at all. In fact, the vast majority of sexual abuse cases by priests were with older teenage boys. Evil, yes (and those priests deserve to be punished to the fullest possible extent of the law), "raping children," not exactly. Some suggest the sex crisis had more to do with homosexuality in the clergy than with pedophilia. As those attacking the Church frequently support homosexual sex as morally licit, the argument is re-framed, making it about "raping children" instead.

3. Uneven Media Coverage Has Lead to Distortions
Protestant churches, YMCAs, families, athletic programs, the Boy Scouts, and public schools all have higher rates of abuse than the Church had during the scandal (which ended 20 years ago). None of these institutions have, however, been dragged through the mud by the media in the same way the Church has. When is the last time you heard someone smear the current Penn State football program because of the sins of some of its coaches under Joe Paterno? Yet this is exactly what happens with the Church!

4.  The Church Today
As I mentioned above, the sex abuse crisis in the Church ended two decades ago. In the aftermath of the Sexual Revolution some men were ordained priests who should have been screened out by the seminaries, which were coping with the aftermath of Vatican 2. Some bishops, heeding the advice of therapists, handled these cases horribly. People suffered because of these failings, which was awful. That was then. Today, the Catholic Church has stepped up to the challenge of ending sexual abuse and now has more security in place than any other institution. More even than institutions that have higher abuse rates. Is there blame to go around for what happened? Certainly. Has the Church been unfairly singled out. Again, certainly. Has the Church done the most to make sure nothing like this ever happens again? Certainly. Has that been as widely reported as the abuse cases? Absolutely not.

In the end, though, whether or not Catholics (even priests, bishops, or popes) do bad things or handle situations incorrectly has no bearing on whether or not Catholicism is true. No Catholic would ever claim that Catholics (including popes) are sinless. Indeed, we claim the exact opposite. We are sinners in need of a Savior, the man Christ Jesus.

UPDATE: As some have called the accuracy of the statistics cited and the veracity of myself personally into question, I've decided to provide a link to the John Jay Report Executive Summary for anyone who is interested (SEE HERE). For those who don't want to wade through the whole document, the Catholic League has a nice summary (SEE HERE).


  1. You're absolutely, blatantly lying, which is more proof the Catholic church isn't God's church.

    If you read the church's own voluntary report, the John Jay report of 2004, 47.2% were under 13, so they weren't teenagers, so you're just lying.

    The Catholic church proved it isn't God's church because they uniformly, consistently decided to brutally defy Jesus in Matt 18:6 by protecting, hiding and assisting known child rapists. Then they brutally defied Jesus in Matt 18:10-14 by not finding and helping every victim. And they used the power of their god to get away with it.

    However, God needs people to prove that the Catholic church isn't God's church, so He needs people like you to spread lies about the church. You are not forgiven.

    1. 1) I have read the report. The largest group of victims (75% according to the John Jay study), were between 11-17 yrs of age. They were also mostly male. Terrible? Yes. Immoral? Certainly. Should offenders be harshly punished? Yes, again. "Raping children?" Not exactly. This was primarily about sex between male teens and homosexual priests, not about pedophilia.

      2) Your argument (that a small minority of Catholics did something horrible, therefore Catholicism is false) is incredibly weak. The same argument could be made against Christianity! "Christianity proved it isn't God's religion because Christians etc, etc, etc". You'll first have to show were Jesus promised His Church would be full of flawless men incapable of sin before you leap to the conclusion that the Catholic Church isn't the True Church.

      3) As far as your tone let me just quote Our Lord "beati qui persecutionem patiuntur propter iustitiam quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum"

      May God bless you, neilalllen76.

  2. I have found it unhelpful to focus much attention on the ages of victims, and focus more on the looming sexual abuse crisis EVERYWHERE in our country (schools, homes, etc.). While I normally write from the Catholic perspective, I tried to step outside of that and write an objective and researched article on the abuse crisis.

    Neil Allen, don't you think that the Church should be "judged" based on what it actually teaches, instead of what some rogue sinners in the Church have done? The Church teaches explicitly against such abuse. It also teaches forgiveness, just like Jesus did. To condemn the whole Church because of the sins of men, and then condemn the Church because of an attempt to re-habilitate those men, you would logically have to condemn Christ for choosing Paul to be an Apostle, or for asking Peter to shepherd His flock on earth.

    1. ^For that matter, Neil Allen, you also have to condemn parenthood, the public school system, rehabilitation programs, and protestant congregations.