Abuse: Is it OK if everybody else is doing it?

An Irish prelate has lashed out at “the media” for making so much fuss about clerical abuse, when so much more abuse occurs elsewhere.

A senior bishop has attacked the media for singling out the Catholic Church for covering-up paedophile priests when 95pc of child abuse occurs in families and community life.

Christopher Jones, the Bishop of Elphin and head of the bishops’ committee on the family, said in Maynooth last night that he strongly objected to the way the church was being isolated. “Of course we have made mistakes,” Dr Jones added.

“But why this huge isolation of the church and this huge focus on cover-up in the church when it has been going on for centuries?

“It is only now for the first time ever that victims have been given their voice.” Dr Jones said that it was known that “95pc of abuse out there is in families, communities and other institutions.

He is right, of course.  There is far more abuse outside the church than in it.  But that completely misses the point.  We do not point to “families” as at fault, because they do not represent a cohesive group, subject to the same  corporate rules and controls as the church.

But let’s take Bishop Jones’ figures at face value, and consider their implication.  If 95% of abuse takes place outside the chruch, then presumably 5 % is “within” . That implies that 5% of abusers are priests ( or other church staff).  Wikipedia gives the number of secular clergy in Ireland as about 3000, with a further 700 in religious orders.  Call it 4000 for round numbers, or even 5000 in case of undercount. The total population of the country is about five million: one person in a thousand is a priest.  So, 0.1% of the population are responsible for 5%  of the of the abuse.  That equates to a propensity to abuse which is 50 times greater than the general population (or 25 times more if we assume all abusers to be male). That is the point – not the total number of cases, but the incidence, especially in an institution that claims to be a moral guardian, guiding us in right living.

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