Fact-Fudging From The Vatican

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi didn’t exactly lie, but he did pad his statistics in an attempt to blame homosexuals for the abuse of minors. Naturally the new media, in this case LifeSiteNews, is curiously incurious. A “secularist group” is putting on the pressure, though:

The statement comes in the wake of accusations at the UN Human Rights Council, which published a written statement by a secularist group, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), alleging that the Vatican was responsible for the proliferation of sexual abuse cases involving Catholic priests. The IHEU accused the Church of a failure to honor obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Roy Brown from the IHEU:

The Holy See has been heavily implicated for decades in covering up cases of child abuse carried our by its clergy and religious orders, in obstructing justice, and in failing to deal appropriately with abusers.

Yet for too long it has been given a free ride by the international community because of its presumed moral leadership. Our report is the first to bring the issue to the attention of the Council. We shall be referring to our report in the plenary of the Human Rights Council next week.

It’s a tough pill to have non-religious groups hounding the Church on an important ethics issue. Archbishop Tomasi doesn’t seem to get it. The problem is not the abuse perpetrated by individuals themselves. As the LSN article notes, other churches and organizations have problem members. The Catholic problem, as revealed in 2002, was the complicity of bishops in the sinful behavior. Institutional mismanagement … on a tragic scale. Archbishop Tomasi’s response: other groups are just as bad as we are, and besides: it’s all about gays anyway.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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10 Responses to Fact-Fudging From The Vatican

  1. Pingback: Vatican Sets Record Straight on Sexual Abuse - Page 3 - Christian Forums

  2. Liam says:

    And it’s about the fact that the Catholic episcopacy acts in practice as the possessor of ultimate power, and the problem that they refuse to recognize is that responsibility is congruent with power.

  3. IHEU says:

    On 22 September, speaking in the plenary of the UN Human Rights Council, the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), representing more that 100 humanist, secular and free-thought organisations in over 40 countries, criticised the Holy See over its role in covering up the scale of child abuse by its priests and religious orders, and for failing to honour its obligations under international law. The statement was based on a longer written statement submitted to the Council in August and published by the UN on 8 September (http://www.iheu.org/un-publishes-iheu-statement-child-abuse-and-holy-see).

    The IHEU statement addressed specifically the role of the Holy See – which claims responsibility for the Catholic Church worldwide – in attempting to cover up the extent of child abuse perpetrated by its priests and religious orders. In exercising their right of reply to this criticism the representative of the Holy See ignored the main criticism contained in our statement.

    The reply made on behalf of the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Thomasi argued that the Catholic Church was not unique in having clergy who sexually abused children and young people, but it made no mention of the physical and mental abuse meted out for generations to children under the care of its religious orders. No doubt there are abusers in all walks of life, but our point was not the abuse itself but the cover up in which some of the highest officials of the Church were implicated.

    The Holy See is a sovereign state and its senior clergy, safely ensconced in the Vatican out of reach of civil law, are answerable to no earthly power other than themselves – and to the few international treaties to which they are party. One such is the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and, as shown in the IHEU report, the Holy See is in massive breach of its obligations under that convention.

    Commenting on the Holy See’s response, IHEU Main Representative in Geneva, Roy Brown, said: “By failing to address this issue while seeking to point the finger of blame elsewhere, the Holy See’ has scored a spectacular own goal. One senior UN official described their reply as ‘a disgrace’. We agree.”

  4. Thom says:

    Thank you for this. “Sensible” people make all the difference when the Church seems, at times, unbearable.

  5. Jennifer F says:

    Can you please substantiate your claim that these statistics were “padded”? How so? What is the evidence?

  6. Todd says:

    The LSN article I linked:

    “‘Of all priests involved in the abuses, 80 to 90 per cent belong to this sexual orientation minority which is sexually engaged with adolescent boys between the ages of 11 and 17,’ said Tomasi. His statement is backed up by a report commissioned by the US bishops that found that in the overwhelming majority of cases the clergy involved were homosexuals, with 81 percent of victims being adolescent males.”

    The Jay Study’s 81% figure is for all males. I wouldn’t take age 11 as the onset of adolescence, at least not across the board. But even if I did, the percentage would be 77. Factor out girls, and the percentage of “adolescent” boys 11 and older as first-time victims is in the low-60’s. Would it surprise the archbishop to know that more ten-year-olds were first-time victims than seventeen-year-olds? Or that age twelve was the peak?

    A case might be made that half of the abuse cases, maybe a little more, could be characterized as ephebophilia. I might counter that boy victims outnumbering girls was more a product of opportunity than sexual orientation.

    I think the archbishop should be ashamed, as should the LSN web site.

  7. Jennifer F says:

    I’m afraid I’m finding this hard to follow. The claim, in quotes, is that 81% of the victims were adolescent males. Adolescence isn’t an age, it is a condition (onset of puberty and sexual maturation–mostly hormonal changes involved). Presumably the study is referring to the condition, which, as a matter of fact, is does hit most boys between ages 10-12 (sometimes earlier, sometimes later). This isn’t news, just read some Greek philosophy about the best age to have sex with boys (just before their beards start to come in).

    So, I don’t understand your claim that the percentage is 77% instead of 81%, if, as you say, the “age” of adolescence isn’t factored in. Are you claiming that the bishops just lied about the number? They say 81% of the victims are male. Where are you getting the other number? A different study And why should we “factor out girls”? If we are talking about the percentage of victims that are MALE (the bishops claim this is 81%), then there are no girls to factor out. Presumably, the female victims fall somewhere in the other 19% (along with pre-adolescent boys).

    Sorry to be so dense, but I really am not understanding what you are saying here at all.

    Finally, you say “I might counter that boy victims outnumbering girls was more a product of opportunity than sexual orientation.”

    Yes, you could. But such a counter would be highly speculative and likely false. For as everyone knows (though no one likes to discuss it) those with a homosexual orientation are statistically (and historically, culturally) far more likely to go in for young boys (at the peak of adolescence, however that is culturally perceived or defined). And it is related to current homosexual culture’s obsession with youth (hairlessness, thinness, etc.), which strives to emulate that period of life as much as possible. This is a point on which po-mo Foucault types and conservative sociologists both agree, and that’s a sign that it’s probably true.

  8. Todd says:

    Jennifer, these are the facts, at least the Jay Study uncovered them:

    81% of victims were males of all ages: infants to 17.

    The archbishop drew the line at age 11. In doing so, he lopped off 23% of all victims. One-fifth to one-sixth of the remaining victims, age 11 to 17 were girls, bringing the overall percentage of adolescent males, by his definition, to between 60 and 65%.

    The archbishop and LSN misread the Jay Study to fit their own interpretation. When you market yourself as a news organ and you don’t check facts, one of two things may be happening: ignorance or fact-fudging.

    As for the indulgence to have sex with young boys, I don’t think that’s a marker for homosexuality. Most gay men would agree with me.

    And as for my speculation on opportunity as a potential factor in the victim population, consider the years of the survey, 1950 to 2003, consider the numbers of priests who in ministry have more opportunity to be alone with boys: traditional altar servers, visits to a rectory, and other forms of companionship. You rarely hear of 16-year-old girls getting invited to paint rectories or having dinner with priests. That would have been something of a red flag even in the old days.

    The attempt to pin most abuse on gay men avoids the more likely root cause of sex abuse–be it from a gay or straight priest. Power. Addiction to power, and the use of sex as a controlling mechanism to dominate victims and shame them. Having sex with children and teens isn’t about sexual orientation. I’m not sure that priests seducing women is largely about heterosexuality.

    That admission, however, would likely tear a hole in the notion that conservatives and traditionalists have the market cornered on morality. And it would call into question the actions and attitudes of bishops.

    And if the whole abuse scenario is so dominated by gay men, how do you explain that so many bishops were convinced to look the other way? I may be critical of bishops in many ways, but I still believe almost all of them are otherwise good and holy men who want to do the right thing. Or is it really more likely that most bishops are closeted lovers of teen boys? Is it? I think it’s far more likely that bishops were caught up in the addictive system indulged by the abusers. Like parents of many victims, bishops were groomed. Bishops were part of the addiction process.

  9. Jennifer F says:


    That breakdown was far more helpful. Thank you. I can see now the point you were making about fudging the numbers.

    I did not claim that “the indulgence to have sex with young boys” was anything like an essential marker for homosexuality. In fact, I have no real claim to know what such an essential marker might be (I find claims of “orientation” rather dark myself) What I said was, historically and in contemporary life, we know as a matter of record that one persistent form that that homosexual “orientation” takes is towards younger boys, and this is no mere indulgence.

    You seem to think that it’s all about power. Maybe, I have no idea, and I’m a little uneasy with your sense of certainty about it. No doubt it is true in some cases. But I do disagree that the fact that priests still went overwhelmingly for boys was just a contingent fact about the set up of the Church, and that it could just as easily been young women. But since it would take a book length narrative to convince anyone of this, and I’m not really in a position to go there, I’ll just drop it.

    Another point of clarification: I never intimated (nor does the LSN article, I think) that “the whole abuse scenario is so dominated by gay men.” The LSN article just points out that a larger number of cases were cases of some form of homosexuality–in fact, a familiar form to those of us well acquainted with the cultural history of this form of life. The whole abuse scenario implicates the whole Church, and the LSN article doesn’t even attempt to open that far bigger and nebulous can of worms.

    One final thought: you claims about addiction to power are problematic on two fronts. (1) they contradict your earlier claim that most bishops are good and holy men, as an addiction to power would mostly make that impossible (see Aristotle, Plato, Augustine, Aquinas, JP II), or any sane moralist for that matter); and (2) it is deeply uncharitable.

    Anyway, thanks for pointing out the problems with the LSN article. That is very good to know.

  10. Todd says:

    Jennifer, thanks for the discussion. My apologies for coming on too strong. I also need to point out that LSN rather associated the 81% figure with the rchbishop’s remarks. He himself cited the percentage of abusers, not the percentage of victims. These are two different things.

    Let me also be clear that addiction to sex with children likely favors no sexual orientation. Some would define a man preferring sex with a boy as homosexual. Many people would beg to differ and suggest it is a pathology and not a sexual orientation at all.

    As for addiction, and its boundary with sin, I can’t say I have a definitive answer for every case. Bishops covering up for clergy look to me a lot like co-dependent behavior–just like spouses covering up for an alcoholic or drug addict. I don’t think most bishops are gay, nor do I think their behavior has been intentionally criminal–for the most part. The reason I tend to believe child sex abuse is more addiction than solely a moral fault is the great similarity between bishops, generally good guys, and “helpful” spouses, also well-meaning.

    All that said, I think the institutional church does have a serious problem with power. I try not to single out bishops in particular, only the behaviors I see and read about. If I criticize, for one example, Cardinal Mahony for the offhand way he dismissed the Catholic Worker movement in LA for criticizing his cathedral, I don’t believe it’s a lack of charity.

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