Credible accusations have fallen to an average of one new case per year in the US
Sexual abuse perpetrated by Roman Catholic priests has been headline news for years. But even with so much press attention, there are many commonly accepted myths about this issue. Remarkably, evidence-based research doesn’t always receive attention, while sensationalized stories that create a particular—but sometimes false—narrative do. This ultimately misinforms and harms the public—not to mention efforts to keep kids safe in and outside of the Church.
On the year anniversary of the recent uptick in media attention due to the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report (as well as the now-former Cardinal McCarrick abuse allegations), let’s review the top 10 myths about clerical abuse in the Catholic Church.
Myth 1: Sexual abuse is more common among Catholic priests than other groups of men.
About 4 percent of Catholic clerics had credible or substantiated accusations of child sexual abuse of minors (both prepubescent children and postpubescent teens) during the last half of the 20th century (John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 2004, 2011). Research data, although from limited small scale studies, finds the prevalence of clerical abuse among non-Catholic religious communities consistent with the Catholics. If you review insurance claims against Church communities for sexual victimization perpetrated by their clerics, you’ll find that there is no difference between Catholic and non-Catholic groups (Zech, 2011).