Friday, August 19, 2011

Feeding Delusions

Disputing Revisionist History from an Anonymous Commenter

Recently, Fr. Tim Moyle, at Where the Rubber Hits the Road, provided a link to an article about Archbishop Chaput, which spoke of his rallying the troops against a piece of legislation that would have opened the civil statute of limitations on sexual abuse in the state of Colorado.  This piece of legislation had no impact whatsoever on criminal culpability of those who abused the young in their charge.  The only logical targets of such a piece of legislation, which was successfully launched in 4 other states have proven to be the local dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church.

An anonymous reader took umbrage at Mr. (Archbishop for those of us who respect the office)Chaput's audacity, and provided vitriolic commentary to same.  The commenter indicated that the purpose of the proposed defeated legislation was to "penalize an institution that is guilty of wrongdoing in both the past and in the present."  If the Catholic Church had been the major contributor to the sexual abuse of young in the past 50 years, this might in fact have been reasonable.  However, statistically that is not the case now, and has never been the case in America or Canada, nor of course anywhere else in the world.

So, I took up the cause, wasting valuable brain cycles in what is probably a fruitless exercise, including yesterdays article here. It seems that Anonymous has his or her mind made up, and facts are irrelevant. Anonymous seems to have been educated by newspaper reports alone, and has no context for this umbrage taking, turning it into a virulent form of anti-Catholic bigotry.

So, how about some context. For that we can turn to the John Jay College study of sexual abuse by priests in America.   This exhaustive study was commissioned as an independent study by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and in its first phase was an analysis of what had happened between 1960, the first time when reasonable data was available, and 2004. The Executive summary is available here.

That study found that there had been 10,667 individuals who had made claims of some form of abuse by 4,392 priests, approximately 4% of all priests active during those years.  Nobody is pretending that this is a total complete list of all instances of abuse.

The incidents reported, based on the dates when the alleged abuse occurred peaked in about 1980 at 775 incidents, and 490 priests accused of abuse.  Between 1992 and 2004, the number of incidents was always below 100, and has dropped to about 30 by 2004.  The number of priests accused has dropped from about 90 in 1995 to less than 30 in 2004.

How does that compare to the totality of sexual abuse.  In Canada, the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics used a General Social Survey conducted in 2004 and 2007 to find the prevalence of sexual abuse in Canadian society, and reported on it accordingly.  It can be inferred that with a population approximately 1/10th that of the US, that US incidents of abuse would likely exceed the Canadian numbers by a factor of 10.

That study, which also examined police reporting of abuse, found that in 2004 about 80,000 incidents in Canada were reported to police.  But quoting from this statistical report, the following is noted: "According to the 2004 GSS, there were about 512,000 incidents of sexual assault, representing a rate of 1,977 incidents per 100,000 population aged 15 and older.

In Canada police reported incidents of sexual abuse peaked at about 137,000 in 1991-1993, and have since declined to about 75,000 by 2007.

Assuming that the number of incidents in the US would be about 10 times that in Canada, then in 2004, there would have been about 5,120,000 incidents of sexual abuse in the country, and maybe 800,000 of them were reported.  Priests accounted for about 30 of approximately 80,000, or .00375% of the reported incidents or about .0006% of all incidents.

Extrapolating again, in 1991 when abuse reporting peaked at 137,000 incidents reported to police in Canada, or about 1,370,000 in the US, 130 priests were involved in about 175 allegations of sexual abuse.  As incidents are under reported by a factor of about 7 to 1, there were more likely about 9,600,000 incidents in total in the US, so priests were involved in  .00018% of the total number of incidents, and .0013% of those reported to police.

So, following the logic of our commenter, the "RCC did not just have bad apples in its barrel, but it also had leaders who enabled the rape and sexual abuse of children."  If the RCC did that, I wonder how, and what about the rest of society?  So, why does only the RCC come under scrutiny?

However, there is more to the vitriol found in the phrase "leaders who enabled the rape and sexual abuse of children" that tells the tale of bigotry in this commenter's own agenda.

Let's look at the appropriate words for sexual abuse, particularly in this context. "Rape" is "a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent".

But, is that what happened or what was even reported?  Most reports focused on the term pedophilia to describe what priests did in the way of sexual abuse.  Pedophilia is defined as a psychiatric disorder in adults or late adolescents (persons age 16 or older) typically characterized by a primary or exclusive sexual interest in prepubescent children (generally age 13 years or younger.  However, that too is a misnomer.  Hebephilia is the interest in those children in the early years of puberty, and per the John Jay Study accounted for about 51% of all reported incidents.  Only about 22% of incidents involved actual pedophilia.  Further, another 27% of the incidents were in fact Ephebophilia, which is the interest in post pubescent young people ages 15-17.  Calling things what they are does not in any way justify the horrors brought to the lives of victims of priests sexual deviance, but a spade is still a spade, and calling it by a term that has a meaner ring to it does not make it be that term.

Most sexual incidents involving priests were as follows from the John Jay report: "The most frequent acts allegedly committed were: touching over the victim’s clothing (52.6%), touching under the victim's clothes (44.9%), cleric performing oral sex (26%), victim disrobed (25.7%), and penile penetration or attempted penile penetration (22.4%)."

Not a lot of rape going on there.

But, our commenter had a further comment yesterday that deserves to be responded to.  He/She said:

MBrandon - I fail to see how posting anonymously impedes your ability to respond to what I am saying. I will remind you that you chose to respond to my anonymous post and not the other way around.

Wrongfully accused people are an unfortunate reality regardless of the crime for which they are accused. I fail to see the relevance of your point.

You still have not answered how an educated and privileged man of great power, and with many resources at his disposal (e.g. Mr. Bernard Law) was incapable of understanding that the recidivism rate for pedophiles was very high, and that there was no effective psychological treatment for a child rapist at the time he recylced those rapists through his parishes. If Mr. Law did not know, he should have known. Mr. Law should have acted accordingly.

While we may all be sinners, I will wager that neither of is a child rapist. I will also wager that neither of us has knowingly enabled a child rapist. That makes us very different from the priests who raped these children, and the hierarchy that enabled them. That you see this "unity among sinners" as some great validation of your church is a matter for your own personal conscience.

There is no excuse for child rape or the enabling of child rape. None. The same laws that apply to the RCC apply to all. No special persecution involved. If there are more convictions against the preists of the RCC, it is probably due to the fact that no other organization has had so many child rapists in its ranks. You are free at any time to show statistical evidence to the contrary.

For Mr. Chaput to twist the truth in order to limit the depletion of the temporal wealth of his church is just one more example of the church putting its own interests above those of the victims. To do so in the name of "innocent Catholics" is shameful.

That you endorse the actions/inactions of Mr. Chaput and Mr. Law is truly sad. The only good news is that Catholics like you are a dwindling minority.

Our commenter stated that recidivism is known to be high and Cardinal Law, then of Boston where one of the parts of the scandal erupted should have know that.  Well, studies in New Zealand and in the state of Vermont disagree with our detractor.  They found that recidivism in those who went for treatment was approximately 5%, and only 30% in those who did not once they were caught.  Of course, these statistics were not actually known to Cardinal Law, the local bishop I referenced in my last post, or other bishops and administrators.

As the commenter said: " If there are more convictions against the priests of the RCC, it is probably due to the fact that no other organization has had so many child rapists in its ranks. You are free at any time to show statistical evidence to the contrary."

Amazing conclusion that can only be reached from reading some main stream media and ignoring the rest of the world to come to the desired conclusion.  Above is my statistical evidence to the contrary, which took me all of about 2 hours to find.  Our commenter has not produced one piece of evidence, even anecdotally to support wild and frivolous claims.

Does the truth matter?  Only the truth will set us free, free of our own prejudices, and of the lies that the devil would plant for us to believe to separate us from each other in the body of Christ.

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