Sunday, July 13, 2014

What's the Number of Pedophile Cardinals, Bishops, And Priests?

The BBC attributes the following quote to Pope Francis:
"Among the 2% who are paedophiles are priests, bishops and cardinals. Others, more numerous, know but keep quiet. They punish without giving the reason," Pope Francis was quoted as saying."
So how many actual clergy does that come out to?

From a Georgetown website I was able to get a chart of numbers for the United States over five year intervals from 1965 to 2014.

Click to enlarge

The chart lists total priests (not bishops or cardinals) in 2014 as 38,275.  Two percent of that equals just about 765 paedophile priests in the US. 

That, of course, assumes that the 2% figure is uniform from country to country, which I doubt is an accurate assumption. 

Today's Catholics reported in 2011,
"The Vatican said the number of bishops in the world increased to 5,065 from 5,002; the number of priests went from 405,178 to 410,593, increasing everywhere except Europe."

That gives us a total of 415,595 bishops and priests (in 2011).  Again, we can't assume that the 2% figure is the same for priests and bishops, but the number of bishops is so low, comparatively, that it shouldn't matter.  A ballpark figure would be 8,300.  

Before hitting the 'publish' button I reviewed the original article to see if it answered some of my questions - like whether this was a statistical or actual number.  This post is a good example of why people should read before they blog.  The original article answers the questions I was asking. 
"In the interview, Pope Francis was quoted as saying that the 2% estimate came from advisers. It would represent around 8,000 priests out of a global number of about 414,000.
While the incidence of paedophilia as a psychiatric disorder in the general population is not accurately known, some estimates have put it at less than five percent."
On the positive side, I did get pretty close to the Pope's estimated figure.

So, What Comes Next?

Administratively, the Vatican has quite a challenge on its hands to identify clergy who are pedophiles and then take action.  For those who have been accused, identification is easy - though not certain.  For those who have not been accused, it will be much harder. 

Prevention through education of everyone in the clergy on how to identify signs and what actions MUST be taken would seem essential.  This should include ways for clergy to get counseling and safely and honorably out of the church for those who find themselves tempted, but haven't yet acted on their temptations.  Education of parents and children on appropriate and inappropriate behaviors would also go a long way. 

Obviously, the church needs to put children's safety above the rights of clergy.  By that I mean, it would seem a greater harm to have a child molested than to have an innocent priest removed from a position where he might molest a child.

Once someone has been identified (accused), removal from any contact with children seems to be step one.  Investigation and determination of appropriate action seems to be step two. 

If the numbers are accurate, it will be a real challenge to replace that many priests.

My guess is that women are less likely to be pedophiles than men.  Could the loss of 2% of the Catholic clergy be the tipping point that allows women to become priests?  I don't know nearly enough about Catholic doctrine and policy to hazard a guess.


  1. Here's something else to consider.

    Could the perpetrators in the church have more victims than average?

    Because they have positions of respect and power?

    Perhaps many of them continued to commit crimes since their earlier crimes have gone unpunished?

    Perhaps some of the enablers in positions of power in the church are not clueless and unobservant, are not just enablers but instead are knowing participants in the crimes?

    Some might even suggest that the Pope could find one of these "know but keep quiet" Cardinals retired in comfort in Rome by way of Boston.

    1. "more victims than average"
      Good point. That certainly was true in some isolated villages in Alaska. Boarding schools are another big problem area.
      Thanks for adding this into the mix.

  2. 2:23 continued

    Ten for every one. Ten who knew for every offender in the Catholic Church committing sex crimes.

    Let's hear the Pope discuss how many in the church knew for every perpetrator. Because those that knew have a share in this, each in their own way. I think the number must be at least ten in the know for every sex offender priest or bishop. This number matters at least as much as the Pope's 2%.

    Ten who know what wasn't done, and what resulted from this inaction. Most of the ten also know exactly why the right thing wasn't done, and who decreed that the right thing shouldn't be done. The Catholic Church has its ways of letting people know what the real lines of authority are.

    This dancing around the issue "Others, more numerous, know but keep quiet. They punish without giving the reason," doesn't say what the real issue is. The real issue is allowing sex offenders to commit more sex crimes and to continue to find new victims, often from within the church itself.

    Not reporting sex offenders and the crimes they commit, is itself often a crime. Organized behavior in the effort to commit a crime, i.e., covering up and not reporting sexual assaults when not reporting is itself a crime? That is what a criminal conspiracy is. Then there is the general moral failure of knowing what the right thing is, but consciously choosing to not to do it. This is what is on the table now with the and their enablers in the church.

    I think the average is at least ten who knew. Within the hierarchy, roughly half above the level of the sex offender, and half equal to or below the level of the offender. E.g., in the case of a priest offender equal to or below would mean fellow priests, administrative employees of the church, and lay persons (including relatives and friends of the victims.)

    The number will probably be much larger for the more prolific long-term sex offenders. I think the same number ten is still a valid estimate, but there may be a mostly different ten who knew for each different location where the serial perpetrators were assigned when they offended.

    "Others, more numerous, know but keep quiet. They punish without giving the reason." This is what corrodes the church from within far more than the actual number of perpetrators needing to be excised.

    The rot of the continued presence of all those who knew but kept quiet. The pope could look at a former Cardinal from Boston now comfortably retired after completing his career at the Vatican. Looking won't do much at this point, probably a parade of perpwalking Bishops and Cardinals charged with criminal conspiracy wouldn't even do much to change the church from within.

    Every person in the hierarchy is on one side or the other of this issue. The church may face the uncomfortable fact that Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop John Nienstedt, and Bishop Robert Finn are not atypical. Then again, the church may continue to act like it has in the past. They already know how to do that.

  3. Replies
    1. No doubt about it Jacob, but you're comment leaves sooo much unsaid . . .

    2. Steve, a longer reply was submitted, but it disappeared as I went through the upload process. It started short but grew as my counter-analysis grew.

      I see a crazed mob in that which others hear a righteous chorus. I wrote from concerns wrought by decades of being on the 'wong side' of culture and the majority.

  4., a Web site that publishes public information about accused priests and their cases, notes that some U.S. dioceses don’t submit regular reports to bishops on such cases. The group alleges that in dioceses where greater information was made available, either by choice or because of litigation, “the percentage of accused priests is approaching 10 percent.”

  5. "So, What Comes Next?"

    Walk back, denial, word games.

    A Vatican spokesperson said the interview wasn’t an interview “in the normal use of the word” and that the quote came from the journalist’s “own memory” of the conversation and that “it is not an exact transcription of a recording.”

    Vatican Furiously Walks Back Pope’s Understatement of Sexual Abuse Problem By Patricia Miller July 17, 2014


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.