A true apology from the Pope would acknowledge that Catholic Priests are 100 times more likely to be a child sex offender
A new report, the Adriaenssens Commission, has come out on the scale of child rape by Catholic Priests within Belgium. The results are horrific, with reports of children as young as two being abused, three quarters of parents being afraid of the consequences of reporting the Priest to the authorities, sexual abuse in every congregation in Belgium and evidence that even now cultural barriers are preventing many cases from coming to light.
Of course, you wouldn't know this from the statements made by the Pope. One of the most offensive and infuriating parts of the Catholic Church child rape saga is the complete inability of the Catholic Church to admit that the Church has causative responsibility for the abuse. Instead they acknowledge that abuse is bad, but in the same breathe blame homosexuality and "a few bad apples". The Church must know that the first excuse is a blatant scapegoating attack and the second excuse is the entire reason that the child rape saga has continued since time immemorial.
Blaming homosexuality for child rape by priests
The ease of blaming child rape on homosexuality comes from the erronous assumption that those who rape male children must be sexually interested in adult males as well. This is demonstratively wrong in both directions - homosexual men have no particular predisposition to sexual attraction to prepubescent boys, and the men who rape male children are less likely to be homosexual than the population average. In 1963 Freund used a controlled study to measure the sexual arousal in heterosexual and homosexual men, and showed that while heterosexual men have a increased level of arousal when shown images of prepubescent girls, homosexual men have no increase in arousal level when shown images of prepubescent boys. Groth and Birnhaum explain a similar result a decade later:
"There were no peer-oriented homosexual males in our sample who regressed to children. Homosexuality and homosexual pedophilia are not synonymous. In fact, it may be that these two orientations are mutually exclusive, the reason being that the homosexual male is sexually attracted to masculine qualities whereas the heterosexual male is sexually attracted to feminine characteristics, and the sexually immature child's qualities are more feminine than masculine ... In any case, in over 12 years of clinical experience working with child molesters, we have yet to see any example of a regression from an adult homosexual orientation. The child offender who is also attracted to and engaged in adult sexual relationships is heterosexual. It appears, therefore, that the adult heterosexual male constitutes a greater sexual risk to underage children than does the adult homosexual male."
So who are the child rapists? Around a third are people who are more attracted to asexual children than adults with mature sexual features, while the other two thirds are people who are more attracted to adults, but exploit children as a sexual power trip. In one unbiased analysis of the perpetrators of child sex abuse, less than 1% of molesters were homosexual - well below the population average. Far from being a risk factor for child sex offense, homosexuality is actually a protective factor. The Catholic Church needs to admit that child rape is not committed by well adjusted homosexual men, but rather a combination of perverted heterosexual men and a distinct class of men with a sexual desire specifically for pre-sexual children.
"Just a few bad apples"
After blaming homosexuality for the crimes committed by its own members, Church apologists tend to trot out the old canard that you can't judge the Church on the actions of a few bad apples "like you would get in any profession". Okay, let's assess that claim. In America there are around 500,000 sex offenders, and of those around half of all cases involved children under the age of 18. Crunch the numbers and around 0.08% of Americans are paedophilic sex offenders.
So if we were to assume that Catholic Priests are no better than the average person (a claim which, by the way, negates the entire premise of the profession), we would expect to find around 0.08% would be child rapists. Of course, since the Church has been systematically covering up cases of child rape, we can't know for sure what the percentage is. We can, however, take the Catholic Churches own figures, using a report commissioned by the Church and authorised for publication by the Catholic Church. The report only includes Catholic Priests serving in the US between 1950 and 2002, only includes reports made to the Catholic Church (not reports made directly to police), and only includes those reports which were entered into official Church documents (and we know that many reports were never officially recorded).
The headline figure was that 4% of Catholic Priests had allegations of sexual abuse reported against them. However, the figure is actually much worse than the headline, since it is artifically decreased by Priests entering or leaving the order around the cut-off dates (eg, a Priest ordained in 2001 counts in the total number of Priests, but they only have a fraction of their career to count in the total number of sex offenses). If you take Priests who served their full career during the reporting period, ie those ordained in 1970 so that the entire 30 years of normal service is included within the reporting period, 10% of Catholic priests had allegations of child sexual abuse reported against them.
Of course an allegation does not mean that a crime was actually committed. The Church reported only a tiny fraction of allegations to police - even priests with ten or more allegations were transferred to a new ministry 96% of the time, and only reported to police 4% of the time. So once again, we have to rely on the Church's own investigation. As reported by official Church documents, 82% of cases were noted at the time of the report to be "credible". 72% of cases were investigated, and of those 80% were found (by the Church) to be "substantiated" and only 1.5% of cases were found to be "false". When these percentages are layered upon the 10% accusation rate, the Church's own official reports (which can be considered a bare minimum) demonstrate that 8.2-9.9% of Catholic Priests were child sex offenders.
I don't know what it is about Catholic doctrine that leads to child sex abuse, whether it is enforced celibacy, the doctrine of special status, the theology of guilt and forgiveness or simply an extension of Voltaire's observation "those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities". There are three points, however, which cannot be argued:
1) It is not "a few bad apples". Around 9% of Catholic Priests that fell fully within the reporting period had substantiated sexual abuse investigations made against them.
2) Child sex abuse by Catholic Priests is not "like you would get in any profession". By the Church's own records, Catholic Priests are more than 100-fold more likely to be a child sex offender than an average member of the public.
3) There was a cover-up. When 96% of Priests with more than 10 allegations of child sexual abuse against them are transferred rather than reported to the police, there is no other way to describe it but a systematic cover-up.
A sincere apology
I am disgusted by these half-apologies start by minimising the scope of the problem and finish by blaming atheism or homosexuality for the crimes. To me a real apology needs to:
1) Admit that child rape is a wide-spread crime being perpetrated within the Catholic Church by a substantial proportion of Priests, reaching across continents and as far back as records exists.
2) Admit that this child rape has nothing to do with homosexuality or secularism or any such, and is instead a problem disproportionately within [the dogma of, edit re:Mike] Catholicism.
3) Admit that the Church knew for a long time that this was a problem but chose to cover it up, and that Church doctrine is still preventing cases being reported directly to the secular authorities.
4) Admit that the Church has spent, and still spends, far more time devoted to petty concerns such as preventing contraception than it has to preventing child rape by its own members.
5) Fix the damn problem. Sell a few pieces of art and pay restitution to the victims. Make it official Church policy to report every incident to the police. Investigate Priests with the zeal shown during the Spanish Inquisition. Shut up about other people's "sins" until the Church is clean. Change those aspects of doctrine or theology that drive child rape. Show some humility.
With the Church failing to meet any of these requirements for a sincere apology, it is not surprising that the number of practicing Catholics in Belgium has dropped from 46% to 14% in the last thirty years. Quite a few people are even formally undergoing debaptism (conviently available online) to reduce the subsidy that the Belgian government gives the Catholic Church for every baptism.