Thursday, March 25, 2010

Priests Behaving Badly, Ephebophilia, and Statistics

It bothers me when I don't know the meaning of a word, or know that something has a name, but what the name is. It bothers me a lot.

That happened while I was writing another post today. ("Saints, the Catholic Church, and Pedophile Priests" (March 25, 2010)) What particularly bothered me was being pretty sure that I'd run across the term for adults who have a disordered sexual interest in adolescents.1 Fairly recently.

"Fairly recently" covers a lot of territory for me. Depending on the context, it can be anything from the last few seconds; or days; or months; or decades. Then there's paleontology - but I'm getting off-topic.

Turns out, I'd read about ephebophilia earlier this month:
"Papal Pots Shots"
The Black Biretta (March 13, 2010)

"Reuters reported that attempts to link Pope Benedict XVI with an alleged cover-up of a pedophile priest in 1980 while the Pontiff was an Archbishop in Bavaria have been disproved and discredited.

"The Vatican's disciplinary office had dealt with 3,000 cases of sexual misconduct since 2001, covering crimes committed over the last 50 years. However only about 300 of these involved 'pedophilia in the true sense of the term,' meaning abuse base on attraction to prepubescent children. About 60 percent of the cases concerned adolescents and the rest involved heterosexual relations.

"Ephebophilia is the attraction of adults toward pubescents and adolescents (generally 15-19)...."
I feel a lot better now: and I've got a new word in my vocabulary: ephebophilia. One which I'd like to think I won't have reason to use very often.

Statistics: Putting Numbers in Perspective.

One case of sexual abuse by a priest is too many. On the other hand, I think it's useful, now and again, to put numbers in perspective.

Take that "3,000 cases of sexual misconduct". That's an awfully big number.

Again, one case is too many. But that's 3,000 cases out of - how many priests?

At last count, the Holy See was responsible for around 407,000 priests. (CathNews (August 19, 2009))

In July, 2009, the world population was an estimated 6,790,062,216. Roman Catholics accounted for 16.99% of that number, which means there were around 1,153,631,570 of us then. (CIA "World Factbook," last updated March 4, 2010)) That makes about 1 priest for every 2884 Catholics: It's a manageable ratio. And yet another topic.

Getting back to those 407,000 or so Catholic priests. Since 2001, the Vatican has been handing 3,000 cases of sexual misconduct involving them. With some of the cases going back about a half-century.

It's a problem. One case would be a problem.

What I don't know is how many of those 3,000 cases were simply reports of misconduct, and how many had been verified.

I know, from news and other sources, that more than one priest is involved: so the cases aren't all the work of one moderately active miscreant (3000 cases spanning a half-century works out to an average of about 60 per year). But I don't know how many priests were involved. My guess is that each misbehaving priest got more than one complaint: but that's a guess.

Related post:More at:And see:
A tip of the hat to ZephyrK9, on Twitter, to the heads-up on holysmoke.

1 The key term here is disordered. Show me a man between the ages of 21 and 125 who doesn't feel a physical response to well-formed woman of, say, 18, and I'll show you a man who needs help. But I'm no expert.


Brigid said...

There's an extra capital in this sentence fragment: "Again, One case is"

Also, there's a huge space between the end of the post and the list of related posts.

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Right you are! Thanks: and, fixed.

Bernie said...

I am a devoted Roman Catholic who as a child thought no priest or nun could or would ever do anything bad to a child. We trusted them and thought they had a direct line to God. However many priest abused children and this is just wrong....doesn't matter about the is still wrong. We cannot justify it or make it easier to swallow no matter what we do, not should we. We have get God's church back on track. We must accept responsability for the weakness of the church, make amends and do all we can to ensure this never happens again. This may be impossible but God wants us to try I am sure.
Thank you for this post, just being Roman Catholic has caused us all to be painted with the same brush in some way and the shame and guilt of these trangressions must be dealt with......:-) Hugs

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


Thank you for taking the time to comment.

I hope I did not give the impression that I believed the problem of priests mistreating their flock was minor because there weren't all that many. One would be too many.

I do think it's important to recognize, though, that the vast majority of Catholic priests are not sexual predators.

I also think what Catholic laypeople can - and should - recognize that what a few of those in authority over them did over the last fifty years were the acts of individuals following their own, disordered, wills.

I also think that Catholic laypeople can - and should - take responsibility for what they can do: learn what it is to be Catholic. From resources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, resources provided by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops and the Holy See / Vatican.

Then, as we learn: teach our children. More to the point, live our faith. Our kids - mine, anyway - don't expect us to be perfect. They do, reasonably, expect us to know what we believe, and act on those beliefs.

Enough preaching.

I'm a convert to Catholicism myself, but came from a background which allowed me to make a distinction between an individual and the position or rank held by the individual.

The dean of a college, for example, might be a nitwit. But that person is still the dean: and needs to be treated like one.

When it comes to a priest whose authority derives from our Lord: well, I've known priests who I respected as individuals, and those who I didn't. But I've tried - hard, sometimes - to remember that they represent Jesus.

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