Last night I spent a lovely evening on the lounge with my flatmate, Beryl, who is a world traveling pensioner so she’s seen some shit.
In the last ten years alone she has hiked down into volcanos, caught public transport in Beijing and taken a motorcycle tour of the Favelas in Brazil not long after having hip replacement surgery (to name just a few adventures). She also knits. She can only knit squares – she hasn’t worked out how to put them together to make human shapes – but it doesn’t matter because she’s found a charity that needs knitted squares. I have no idea why, blankets for hamsters perhaps, but it really is a wonderful example of serendipity in action.
A Four Corners episode aired about paedophilia in the Catholic Church and we discussed my evolving theory on why the Catholic Church seems to have such a problem with kiddy fiddlers. I have no idea if it’s true, but possible? Maybe. I think maybe. Let me break it down.
The Church requires priests to be celibate, so your average seminary must see a significant number of dropouts by men who decide that they want to have romantic lives and children and all the things that people generally want.
Let’s say, for example, that the average number of male paedophiles in the general population is 1 in 100, or 1%. The 1% that are paedophiles aren’t likely to have the same desire for wives and families so the percentage that dropout for these reasons would mostly be non-paedophiles. If 30% drop out because of the desire to live a non-celibate life then this leaves 70% of the original enrolees, of which 1 in 70 will now be paedophiles, or 1.4%.
This has gottten pretty math-y. Let’s take a break. Here’s a picture of my dog in a Santa outfit:
Awwwwwww. Isn’t he cute? He hates wearing it and hates me for doing it to him, but I guess that’s how parenting works, right?
Okay, back to it.
So the celibacy requirement could automatically increase the percentage of paedophile priests-in-training that become priests. What if there was a related, but separate, filtering process prior entering as well?
If you’re not attracted to adults and are instead attracted to children you may well see priesthood as a logical path: no requirement to feign interest in adult relationships, a position of authority to exploit, access to children, etc. This would perhaps place a higher proportion of paedophiles in the seminary in the first place.
As purely an example again, if 1% of the general population were paedophiles and the filtering pre-enrolment meant that 3% of the enrolees were paedophiles, and 30% of the non-paedophiles drop out, then you’re left with paedophiles representing 4.3% of the priest population.
It might seem small, but there are 17,651 Catholic parishes in the United States, each with their own priest. If the purely hypothetical statistics above were real this would leave 758 paedophile priests operating in 758 different locations at a single time. But, let us not forget, the church likes to move paedophile priests when they’re busted, so take those 758 priests and then move them every couple of years to different parishes over the course of a 40 or 50 year career and it wouldn’t matter that 95.7% are perfectly respectable folk – that 4.3% could cause a lot of damage.
Keep in mind, the actual percentage of men in the general population that are paedophiles is hard to ascertain but generally thought to be somewhere below 5%. Above we were working with 1%.
Regarding seminary attrition rates, there’s no official figure that I can find, but a priest in the Philippines places his dropout rate at 90%, while a researcher, surveying Catholic college students in 1985, determined that the primary deterrent for entering the priesthood was, by far, the celibacy requirement.
It’s an acknowledged fact within the church that, especially now in our highly sexualized society, requiring celibacy is causing priest shortfalls all over the world. The requirement is such a turnoff that surveys of priests show that between 50% and 75% of all priests would like to see it changed – although they may have some personal bias here, if you know what I’m saying.
I’m saying that they’d like to get their knob in.
Just so we’re clear.
They’ve got a knob and it’s ready to party.
Summed up, my theory is that the celibacy requirement could place filters at the early stages of the priest lifecycle, causing an increased percentage of paedophiles being ordained versus the general population – and we haven’t even considered working priests. If the same filtering happens post-ordination, with priests leaving to begin relationships and families in their 30’s and 40’s, would the percentage of paedophile priests in the 50 to 70 year age group be higher than that in the 25 to 35 year age group?
One a side note, I’ve always wondered if an additional factor could be the concept of confession and repentance. In the Catholic Church you can, to paraphrase to the point of ridiculousness, do whatever the fuck you like and still get into heaven. It’s not as simple as that – your remorse must be genuine and your repentance sincere – but the idea that you can gravely damage another human being and then repent is an indoctrinated invitation to do it again…
Paedophile: Hey, God, I did it again. I’m sorry.
God: Do you feel remorse?
God: Okay, you can still go to heaven.
Paedophile: Yayyyyyy.. Hey, one more question.
Paedophile: Can I bring this 6 year old?
Paedophile: Dammit. What if do and then repent?
God: Well, if you repent…