I remember the last scare we had from the Catholic Church sex scandal a few years back, and I remember this study coming out (pdf) back in 2004. I also remember the mainstream media ignoring it, and instead hyping the supposed danger that the Catholic Church presented to children.
Counterculture Conservative links to this article that speculates that like the scandal outbreaks a few years ago, the renewed interest in the Catholic sex abuse scandal has more to do with discrediting the church than it does protecting children:
After effectively disappearing from the radar, Shakeshaft’s study is now being revisited by commentators seeking to restore a sense of proportion to the mainstream coverage of the Church scandal. According to the 2004 study “the most accurate data available at this time” indicates that “nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”
“Educator sexual misconduct is woefully under-studied,” writes the researcher. “We have scant data on incidence and even less on descriptions of predators and targets. There are many questions that call for answers.“ In an article published on Monday, renowned Catholic commentator George Weigel referred to the Shakeshaft study, and observed that “The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague” in which Catholic priests constitute only a small minority of perpetrators.
While Weigel observes that the findings of Shakeshaft’s study do nothing to mitigate the harm caused by priestly abuse, or excuse the “clericalism” and “fideism” that led bishops to ignore the problem, “The narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down,” he writes.
Weigel observes that priestly sex abuse is “a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared,” and that in recent years the Church has gone to great lengths to punish and remove priestly predators and to protect children. The result of these measures is that “six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members.”
Despite these facts, however, “the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young.” Outside of the Church, Shakeshaft is not alone in highlighting the largely unaddressed, and unpublicized problem of child sex abuse in schools. Sherryll Kraizer, executive director of the Denver-based Safe Child Program, told the Colorado Gazette in 2008 that school employees commonly ignore laws meant to prevent the sexual abuse of children.
The statistics indicate that a child is 100 times more likely to be sexually abused by a public school teacher than by a Catholic Priest. Now there are some things that should be considered in this comparison. Many more children are in the public school system than are Catholics. School teachers have more exposure and opportunity to abuse than priests do. But one thing that the media will not mention, which is unfortunate, is that even the dramatically more likely sexual abuse in public schools is a very, very rare event. And that’s important to remember, because when put into perspective in terms of likelihood of incidence, the abuse in the Catholic Church is even less of an endemic problem than the media want to pretend.
But Heretic, you say, the problem is the Church knew about this and covered it up! And so do the public schools. So why is the Catholic Church the bad guy? Counterculture Conservative seems to know:
The answer is they will never focus any attention on the vastly greater incidences of pedophilia (and coverup) in the public schools because they consider the public school system a Liberal project in direct competition with Catholic schools. Just like Abu-Graib was headlines for 60 days straight, remember that? So will the Catholic Church be. It’s the new Abu Graib. Why? Because that’s how the Lib Media rolls! They aim to damage, not inform.