The outlook is grim in regard to the rate of child sexual abuse by the Catholic Church within NZ, based on statistics and analysis of their Canon Law and Catechism. But, do the people of God (laity) really want to know?
You could say I have been involved in this sad subject for most of my life, having been sexually abused by a catholic priest as an 8 year old. Unbeknownst to me, due to my own misery, so to were my 2 younger brothers! Together, we have since discovered there were many more victims of the same paedophile priest. One of my brothers and I gave testimony privately to the Royal Commission and I also spoke publicly last year at the contextual hearing.
I have seen statements on social media claiming the church was “being demonized”, “there were only a few rotten apples”, “there were evil people everywhere”, “other churches were just as bad and not only the catholic church was guilty”. Sadly, these comments reflect a lack of understanding by those that spout them. The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that being in the care of the Catholic Church was by far the most dangerous place for a an Australian child to be with 58.1% of survivors being abused in a faith based setting and 61.4% of the being in the care of the Catholic Church. We’ll wait to see what the New Zealand Royal Commission into Abuse in Care uncovers.
Let’s look at a few stats. According to Michael Seto, a Forensic Psychologist from Ottawa and a world authority on paedophilia, his studies found the rate of Paedophilia in the normal population runs at about 1%. The Australian Royal Commission produced statistics as part of their investigation. Before I tell you what those figures are, it’s important that you bear in mind the dataset and response rate because you’ll see that it’s likely that the stats “under report” the true rates. Around 70 catholic organisations were surveyed on the subject if abuse rates for the years between 1980 and 2015. Only about 22 bothered to complete the survey, just why this return was so small, we can only surmise. Did the non-returners have something to hide, or was there nothing to report? If the latter was the case, you’d think they’d get their report in quick smart. That’s a 33% return rate.
From this survey, the data showed the rate of paedophilia among catholic clergy ranged from, around
- 7% for Diocesan priests
- 14% for other order priests,
- 22% for marist and christian brothers
- and as high as 40% for the St John of God order.
This is a conservative estimate which might level out at about 15% across the board. Does that sound like much to you? Would you send your children to a Catholic school knowing that 15 of the one hundred staff were sexually attracted to children and would act on that attraction?
Then consider the others that were complicit, the priests that heard their confessions and forgave them, the priest or Bishop that handled their complaints and did nothing, the Bishop or head of order that moved many of them on to re-offend time and time again, or the religious that observed the abuse happening, did nothing and still does nothing. For arguments sake, let’s say, another 20-30% were enabling the environment. Suddenly the number complicity starts reaching towards 50%
There is no reason to doubt the numbers are any different in NZ compared to Australia as the church did play swap the paedophile between the two countries. Our Royal Commission is looking at abuse between 1950 to 1999 as a minimum and there is every chance then that the percentages may well be higher. There are many of us from that era, still alive and looking for some sort of justice.
One of the churches own, Father Tom Doyle, who revealed that Canon Law captures the existence of an explicit policy of cover ups, says his research has revealed that only about one third of victims ever complain, the rest stay silent, their trust education and lives often ruined such that they struggle to survive.
There it is again, that one third statistic.
Then there is the Catholic Catechism which qualifies who gets access to the truth. It says “The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the Gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us, in concrete situations, to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.” What would Jesus say about that?
What it says in effect, is that the truth is not an absolute. A lawyer acting for a victim has no right to the truth as they are not an insider, the truth can be denied, fudged or buried under the catholic catechism. The Bishops handling complaints, supposedly acting as a pathway to healing for victims, are actually acting to protect the perpetrators, and justify this by recourse to their own catechism?
Canon law 678, S2 states “In the exercise of an apostolate towards persons outside the institute, religious are also subject to their own superiors and must remain faithful to the discipline of the institute. If the need arises bishops themselves are not to fail to insist on this obligation.” This puts the responsibility for cover ups squarely on the Bishops.
You may have noticed that when a member of the clergy dies (whether convicted, suspected, or a cover up merchant) you’ll find Bishops generally travel to the funerals and even give grand eulogies about the deceased, carefully avoiding any mention of any indiscretions.
My theory is, that all the clergy, especially the convicted ones are forcefully informed, shut your mouth, do what you’re told and you’ll be looked after. If the hierarchy didn’t do that and left the paedophiles out on a limb, they might decide to come clean, and tell the real truth about who did what, and who knew about it.
Getting back to that one third percentage again. I predict, given that you’d expect all clergy to be well indoctrinated in both Canon law, the Catechism and the strict responsibilities they had to the good name of the church, it would be very likely that only third of them are NOT guilty of the crimes of Paedophilia or its cover up.
Mary McKillop, excommunicated in the 1870s for the grievous sin of dobbing in priests who were engaging in sexual abuse. Later vindicated and reinstated, what would she say if she knew retired paedophiles and enablers are living in the lap of luxury in the house named in her honour. Seems like nothing much has changed since your day Mary. Perhaps it’s time for you to rise from the dead and sort all the deviants out again.