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Pedophile priests: one in 45 July 15, 2007

Posted by dorigo in news, politics.
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113 out of 5000. That is 2.26 +- 0.21 %: the fraction of priests who served in the Los Angeles area between 1940 and 2003 and were accused or convicted of pedophile acts.

The figures I quote above come from a startling article I read today on the web site of La Repubblica. There, I learn that the LA church has decided yesterday to settle the matter without going to trial, by agreeing to pay a hefty 660 million dollars (that’s right, 660 thousand grands) to 508 victims. And this is not even a first timer: just last December a similar agreement was reached to prevent the limelights of mediatic attention on a very embarassing trial. In that case, a mere 60 million dollars were used to silence 40 more victims of abuse.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles appears quite willing to settle these cases without the hassle of a Jury assessing the truthfulness of the accusations, and thus sparing cardinal Mahony the embarassment of a testimony. This will probably allow religious followers the escape of blaming the accusators for making things up, for vile monetary reasons, rather than having them forced to reckon with the truth of a verdict.

If 2.26% of them got caught, how many more got away with it ? We will never know. Let me guess. 5% ? 6% ? Or 10% ? I am sure Los Angeles is not the best place for a priest to indulge in illegal acts against children, but still, the power of plagiarism of a charismatic figure per antonomasia, plus the shame and young age of the victims, and the faith of their relatives, must make it very hard for these abuses to emerge even in environments such as the United States, which are a country otherwise very protective for children (granted, of that LA is not the prime example).

Being a priest is the best thing that can happen to a pedophile, it seems: not only does your job allow you to be in close contact with children in an environment where you are trusted and where you are perfectly entitled to spending time with any of them alone. Not only does your position give you the means. Your bosses will also do their utmost to cover your sins up if they at all can. And, if worse comes to worst, all that can happen to you is to be moved, and forced to start your plagiarism from scratch. Of the 113 accused priests, 43 are dead, and 54 have changed occupation, but 16 are still serving the catholic church.

To make an example of the mechanism, let me quote from the detailed article on the Los Angeles Times: 

In 1986, Baker told Mahony that he had abused two or three boys several years before. Instead of calling police, Mahony sent the priest to New Mexico for treatment and over the years transferred him to nine different parishes, where he allegedly molested 23 boys and girls.

A question remains to be asked. Should we think at Los Angeles as a weird place ? Well, for sure LA is not Heaven, but it seems quite reasonable (and is indeed suggested in a BBC documentary on the phenomenon) to believe that the cancer of pedophile priests who abuse of children while they teach them religion is more or less evenly distributed throughout the dioceses of the whole catholic world – a belief fortified by the practice of the Vatican, that hushes the scandals up, and moves priests accused of these crimes to far away places, where nobody knows them, and where – maybe I am a bit cynical here – they are free to start fresh.

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Comments

1. jeff - July 16, 2007

Poisson statistics… hmmm. Any idea of systematics?
Anyway I do wonder if the catholic church is an attractor for pedophiles. But then the high numbers in LA dioceses strike me as odd. Indeed if the catholic church were an attractor then why the LA clustering?

Does anyone know the percentage of pedophiles in the general male adult population? What about particular groups of males, both those that have high contacts with children and groups that don’t. Say school teachers, music teachers, athletic teachers on the one hand, one the other cops, firemen, airline pilots, physicists,… Does the pedophile percentage of these other groups also peak in the LA area? If they cluster too then maybe california free life style attracted pedofiles as it did other groups with unconventional sexual behavior. If there isn’t such a geographic clustering in other groups, then what is the origin of pedophile clustering in the LA catholic church? Is there a “tradition” of pedophiles in the LA church? Did enough of them make a career in the church that they could and did tollerate newcomers at a rate not seen in other dioceses in the country?

2. dorigo - July 16, 2007

Hi Jeff, actually binomial but basically the same thing. Yes, systematics… A few of those 113 might be innocent, but I guess it looks improbable. Many more were not caught… 2.1-0.3+5.0% ?

By asking for a suitable control sample (i.e. adult males working in contact with kids) you are implying you believe there is a possible correlation between these two things. I do think you are right, but it is a point to keep in mind.

About LA: there, I think you are on the wrong track. In LA, as in Boston or other parishes, there was a “coming out” when a few blatant cases were discovered. The clustering, that is, is only an artifact of the detection process. I do think it is a much more evenly spread phenomenon, which only surfaces here and there. Remember, it is really hard for a child to denounce acts of that kind, in such environments.

Cheers,
T.

3. jeff - July 16, 2007

…artifact of the detection process. To me “outing” sounds kind of artificial. Lawyers, books, TV shows, ….Fortnately I’ve never been traumatized by some pedophile so I guess I’ll freeze my instinctive antipathy to people that tell their stories decades later.
I am curious to read about this a few years from now.

4. dorigo - July 16, 2007

I need to make sure everybody understands I have nothing against catholic priests, who for the largest part are honest, respectable, good human beings.
I also want to express my personal feeling that I do not believe pedophiles are monsters, or sub-human people. I even disagree to calling them “sick”. They have a perverted sexuality, of a kind that is unfortunately horribly dangerous to our children. There are tons of other men and women who have other less dangerous perversions, which do not require to break laws or cause harm to minors to be compulsorily satisfied.

Jeff, let’s face it. Men forced to completely abstain from having a sexual life -any sexual life- are prone to develop perverted pulsions, and the presence of minors around them simply means trouble.

Cheers,
T.

5. Fred - July 17, 2007

Tommaso,
I would throw all of the religions in this bonfire but that would be too easy. Given the catholic church’s track record throughout the centuries, we can only imagine that this is the tip of the iceberg. Based on what I have read and studied, the heads of the religion have always publicly refused to come to terms with their actions against society in general. Catholism, as dictated by the popes and cardinals, has never deviated from it’s dogmatic assertions and impositions. They believe they are the way to eternal salvation as dictated by God and they reason that ‘God is the truth’. Here in Los Angeles, the church’s influence is far-reaching and culturally imbedded with extreme complexities. Currently it is the major driving force behind the millions of people from Latin America who have made California their newfound home in the past 30 years seeking to become legalized citizens of the United States. Cardinal Mahony has a mandate from Rome to deliver the goods and he certainly has not disappointed the Vatican. The kind of money he is dishing out to placate the local authorities and keep face in the Latino community is in essense: ‘chump change’. The ones who have been sexually abused are simply classified accounts. Plainly put, they have been banging everything they can get their hands on for many, many years. The 113 out of 5000 figure quoted at the top is completely distorted. Hear no evil, see no evil. I cannot tell you the exact amount of cash that is collected at Saint Monica’s here in Santa Monica but it grosses more per year than many enterprises in this country. This is only one of many parishes within Mahony’s realm. Having said all this, I was an altar boy in Northern Italy for 3 years as a youth and found only great kindness and reward from my experiences with the Italian priests and the nuns. Of course, this was in the 1960’s and the small town of Pordenone was a virtual sanctuary for the peasants, farmers and workers. Plain luck for me. Profoundly just and poor people still recovering from the devastation of World War II 20 years later. By parental obligation, I attended mass every Sunday until I was 18, almost exclusively on U.S. Air Force bases. I was again protected in this restrictive environment where there absolutely was no tolerance for perversity. But throughout this whole time, I gradually absorbed and learned what the catholic church was predominantly about mostly from reading and listening, therefore, I can probably count the number of times subsequently since that I have gone to church. The idea is to count your blessings and get the hell out of there before they hatch. Religion will always be the weapon we invented with great passion and expectations. As for pedofiles, there is absolutely no excuse for their behavior. They are simply creatures of prey with violent intentions.

6. myhatma gander - July 17, 2007

“Jeff, let’s face it. Men forced to completely abstain from having a sexual life -any sexual life- are prone to develop perverted pulsions, and the presence of minors around them simply means trouble. ”

I strongly disagree. For a long time after my wife died I abstained from sex — fear of AIDS, which happens to be rampant locally. I certainly never felt any homosexual or paedophilic impulses.

The truth is just the reverse — perverts certainly are more likely to be found in the priesthood [and in jails] because their psychological problems lead them into such environments. It’s not jails that make queers what they are, it’s queers who make jail what it is. Same goes for the priesthood.

7. dorigo - July 17, 2007

Hi Fred,

so I gather the LA church will not go broke in order to pay the bill. They really are a powerful organization. What a far cry from San Francesco.

Myhatma, your comment is so politically incorrect that despite my propension for that style I have seriously considered taking it offline. Anyway, having been married and then abstaining from sex is quite different from taking votes early in life. And anyway, you do not make a statistics. Finally, your homophobic comments make it clear that you have a distorted view of the whole matter, so no further point is needed.

Cheers,
T.

8. alpinekat - July 17, 2007

I had no idea that it was so common. I mean, usually I don’t consider 2.6% that common, but for actions so obviously hypocritical and damaging among those who should be trying to emulate Christ most closely, it’s really high.

I also didn’t realize that the Catholic Church was so active in protecting priests with records of abuse. Thanks for bringing this to light.

9. jeff - July 18, 2007

Tommaso. I agree with Myhatma IF he is saying, as I gather reading him three times, that pedophiles make bad priests and not that priesthood make pedophiles.

10. DaVinci - July 26, 2007

I too was abused by a priest when I was a boy of 13 years. I remember my grandmother faithfully putting $20.00 into her custom made envelopes to give at mass every sunday morning. The thought that all those millions of dollars are paid out to abuse victims feels like a punch to the stomach. I only wish for my grandmother’s sake that the myths are true, at least for her, that she should be rewarded for her pittance that was so hard to give, but given with such faith.

11. Fourth World Eye » Blog Archive » State Impunity - August 14, 2007

[…]  The Catholic Church has also engaged in impunity when priests guilty of sexual violence against youthful parishioners have been simply hidden away or moved to another parish when their acts are uncovered. Though acts of priest pedophiles are covered up or vast amounts of parishioner funds are doled out to avoid jury trials. […]

12. theraggedwagon - April 10, 2009

Very good article.

113 out of 5000 is a horrible statistic when you keep in mind that each of the 113 priests would have many many victims – such is the nature of paedophilia. Here in 1reland one priest had over 90 victims to his name: Fr. Brendan Smyth. Another member of the clergy [a Religious Order this time] had over 100 victims – boys who were detained, mainly due to poverty, in Ireland’s Industrial Schools. His name was Br. Maurice Tobin who left the religious order [Irish Christian Brothers] and married and fathered children – and from accounts he was a loving father and a good husband yet had horribly abused children. Homosexuality and paedophila are NOT connected though it is a smear being put about by … the Roman Catholic Church.


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