7 percent of Australian Catholic priests accused of abuse

Feb 6, 2017

By Kristen Gelineau

SYDNEY (AP) — Seven percent of priests in Australia’s Catholic Church were accused of sexually abusing children over the past several decades, a lawyer said Monday as officials investigating institutional abuse across Australia revealed for the first time the extent of the crisis.

The statistics were released during the opening address of a hearing of Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The royal commission — which is Australia’s highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2013 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to the sexual abuse of children over decades.

The commission has previously heard harrowing testimony from scores of people who suffered abuse at the hands of clergy. But the full scale of the problem was never clear until Monday, when the commission released the statistics it has gathered.

Commissioners surveyed Catholic Church authorities and found that between 1980 and 2015, 4,444 people reported they had been abused at more than 1,000 Catholic institutions across Australia, said Gail Furness, the lead lawyer assisting the commission. The average age of the victims was 10.5 for girls and 11.5 for boys.

Overall, 7 percent of priests in Australia between 1950 and 2010 were accused of sexually abusing children, Furness said.

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36 comments on “7 percent of Australian Catholic priests accused of abuse

  • @OP – When clicking on the AP source page, I get an error notice “Page not found”!

    Here is a BBC link to a similar article.


    The royal commission also detailed the number of abuse claims against 10 religious orders in the six decades after 1950.

    The data showed four orders had allegations of abuse against more than 20% of their members.

    Percentage of church figures behind alleged abuse, 1950-2010

    Religious institution …………… Percentage
    St John of God Brothers …………………40.4
    Christian Brothers ………………………..22.0
    Salesians of Don Bosco ………………….21.9
    Marist Brothers …………….…………….20.4
    De La Salle Brothers ……….….…………13.8
    Patrician Brothers ………..………………12.4
    Society of Jesus …………… ………………4.8
    Missionaries of the Sacred Heart ……..…..3.3
    Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart…. .0.6
    Sisters of Mercy (Brisbane) ……………..…..0.3
    Source: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

    The royal commission, set up in 2013, is investigating allegations of sexual and physical abuse across dozens of institutions in Australia, including schools, sports clubs and religious organisations.

    Ms Furness said on Monday that 60% of all survivors of abuse were from faith-based organisations. Of those, nearly two-thirds concerned the Catholic Church.

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  • Several senior Australian Catholics will testify over the next few
    weeks. The commission’s final report is due by the end of this year.

    What will be the result of that if priests are find guilty? Will they go to prison? No? Well… same old story, I presume.

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  • I am going to take a risk and say something that may be misconstrued. Obviously, the molestation of these young boys is thoroughly detestable. It must be punished, and is despicable and totally sick.

    But, these poor Catholic priests are being forced to suppress a basic and powerful human instinct. They are forced to be celibate. They are victims too. I wouldn’t just blame the priests; I blame religion, the repressive, irrational, unscientific, and outdated puritanism of religion in general, but Catholicism in particular.

    Martin Luther (a fascinating and bizarre figure) deserves to be praised for his independent spirit and the courage of his conviction: he tried to be celibate and couldn’t endure it; he concluded that “unsatisfied sexual desire is a condition that poisons the whole person to such an extent that it would be better to be dead.”

    I’d like to recommend a book. Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History. Erik Erikson (1958)

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  • 5
    Cairsley says:

    Alan4discussion #1

    The inclusion of physical with sexual abuse is interesting in that it brings forth the observation that, whereas the male religious tended to be sexually abusive of their charges, female religious tended to be physically abusive of them — an observation I for one would readily confirm from my own experience as a child taught by nuns back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Under the Marist Fathers at high school, corporal punishment was regular but well regulated and no worse than in state schools of the time. What sticks in my mind was the vehemence and intensity of the way in which the nuns who taught me applied themselves to abusing their pupils in order (apparently) to drum into them the faith and right living. Frustrated maternal instincts at work? Or maybe a good fuck was all any of those nuns ever needed.

    I would have been interested to see the diocesan clergy included in that list of figures. I knew one diocesan priest who was, much to my surprise, charged with child molestation and sent to prison. My hunch is that most diocesan priests, who live without the restraints of the regular life (i.e. under the rule of a religious order or congregation), are able to find some form of discreet sexual liaison while they remain in the ministry and usually eventually apply to be laicized. Still, as I mentioned, some cases of child abuse by diocesan priests did and do occur.

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  • 6
    Cairsley says:

    Dan #4
    But, these poor Catholic priests are being forced to suppress a basic and powerful human instinct. They are forced to be celibate. They are victims too.

    Dan, I commend your compassionate stance here. It is true that priests and vowed religious live under a vow that forbids them sexual relations. Their victimhood, however, consists in having been indoctrinated from infancy to believe in the religion that motivates them to commit themselves to celibacy in the priesthood or the religious life. They are adults, fully responsible for their own decisions and actions, when they choose quite freely to become a priest or monk or nun or what have you; so it is not accurate to say that they “are being forced to suppress a basic and powerful human instinct.” They knew before they entered on that vocation that it entailed celibacy and they underwent many years of formation in that life before they were required to make a final commitment to it.

    Despite all that, it seems that the “basic and powerful human instinct” you mentioned is not dealt with properly in the formation they undergo, and it is relatively easy for a seminarian or novice to go through the training without really facing up to the requirements of that instinct. No doubt there are many reasons for that, varying from case to case; but I would say on the basis of my own experience, that the basic problem here is the dogmatically skewed attitude towards sex and sexuality that renders discussion of one’s own difficulties with sex so awkward that many prefer to keep these to themselves, perhaps confessing certain material lapses “insofar as they are guilty”, and otherwise suppress their sexual drive. Although many of them go on to serve their communities with commendable generosity and selflessness and some do become quite saintly in later years, others find themselves trapped in the worldview in which they have been raised and educated and trained but also unable to prevent terrible intrusions of an instinct which, by suppressing it, they are no longer able to own or control. It is quite tragic when such people, who entered upon their vocations with such good and lofty motives, end up being found guilty of such revolting crimes as the sexual abuse of minors. This sort of thing is surely the grossest manifestation of cognitive dissonance possible.

    In short, then, I agree that most to blame in such cases is the religion itself, and especially Catholicism.

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  • Hi Dan,

    Thanks for that comment, I think this is something that really needs to be looked at. Now that the commission seems to be getting some numbers out into the public and seeing as they are looking into the Anglican Church as well as other churches and institutions like the Boy Scouts. We should be able to tease out some of these details. So if there is a significant difference between Catholic and Anglican churches which are structurally fairly similar to each other this should be telling.


    also an excellent point that stood out for me too looking at Alan’s figures the difference between St John of God Brothers …………………40.4% and Sisters of Mercy (Brisbane) ……………..…..0.3% could not be more stark. So I’m wondering whether sexual dimorphism is coming into this? Does testosterone increase chances of being a pedophile? Or does it simply make you less likely to consider the effects on others. Which is why I would like to see a little more time and money spend on studying people who rape children.

    On a general note I wonder when the nice and smiley Pope Francis will cop some more heat for protecting numerous priests evading justice in their countries (such as Cardinal Pell). Image how we would respond if a any other country in Europe routinely accepted and protected child rapists how we would react? Yet because of sky daddy we give them a free pass. The world should refuse to deal with Vatican City until they give up their pedophiles.

    Anyone interested in a bit more about the Australian situation leading up to this should have a look at ‘The
    Prince’ By David Marr on Cardinal Pell


    And while you are at it have a peek at Tim Minchim’s wonderful song devoted to the man.


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  • 8
    Cairsley says:

    Reckless Monkey #7

    If only experts could gain access to all the data available, the questions you raise and many along the same lines could be studied to useful effect. But we all know why that access remains elusive.

    Many thanks for the video of Tim Minchin’s witty and hard-hitting song to Cardinal George Pell. After a very tiresome day it cheered me up and made me laugh. But it hits home very well; I just hope the reverend cardinal gets to view it some time.

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  • I am in doubt considering “human instinct” that are mentioned in

    Cairsley #6, and Dan #4

    I mean, I have read many, many times that humans do not have instincts any more (we have overrid them with our free will, that is with ability to choose behavior), but just reflexes, that is why I am always in doubt when I hear “human instincts”. I am not sure that raping of children by priests and nuns have to do with “sexual instincts” (some other priest and nuns do not rape children)… I think it has something to do with a discharge of accumulated energy so to speak. It reminds me of soldiers in war. They rape children and women like there is no tomorrow and it has nothing to do with “sexual instincts”. In my opinion it has to do with controled behavior. They are allowed to act in specific “comunication channels”, they are trained to do so with excercises that accumulate fears, frustrations in them (strict orders without the possibility of responding because of hierarchy). There is no way one can talk back to an officer (including “church officer” and god himself) who has a higher rank…they can only obey. Through time they accumulate those frustrations in themselves. Energy by its laws must be transfered into another form, must preform work (in physics energy is the property that must be transferred to an object in order to perform work). After the army hierarchy has done its best to charge soldiers with to much energy in the process they call “drill”, they are released into batlefield to get rid of that excess energy by shooting etc. After that release they return to a state of balance (of energy) and again into “drill” for more charging. Sometimes there is no fight on the ground, enemy has gone somwhere else and soldiers are full of energy, or after the battle some soldiers still have excess energy… then this large rapes happens. It is not because of some “sexual instinct” but because of release of energy. Than they catch persons that can not defend themselves like children and women and they release energy through act of rape. I think rapes has more to do with physics than with instincts.

    Similar is in religious hierarchy. To clergy is also prohibited to “talk back” to a god or higher rank. But priests have little bit of choice perhaps. They can choose not to take children (soldiers perhaps can’t differentiate because those are enemy children… enemy in any sense). Somehow, I do not think that those rapes in church has to do with “instincts”. Yes, I know they are deprived of sexual acts but they knew that sex is off limits when they were enrolled themselves. Strict hierarchy inevitably result in building of frustrations. Some clergy do not rape… perhaps they are obediant enough and they do not have frustrations locked in them in form of accumulation of energy. Anyway, because that I have heard so many times how humans do not have instincts any more but reflexes, and that the laws of physics are invariable, I am not sure in this “sexual instinct” thing.

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  • 10
    Cairsley says:

    Modesti #9

    The instinct to which Dan referred, and which reference I quoted, is something that most people become aware of from puberty on. The term ‘instinct’ used here comes from a subdivision made in ancient psychology into intellect, emotion and instinct. These three terms are still useful at a common-sense level, but psychoneurologists are making interesting progress on what really happens in an organism when what is commonly called an instinct is active. These three terms (intellect, emotion, instinct) pose the same danger to our thinking and discourse as does that other commonly used, ancient term ‘essence’, in that they were originally thought to refer to real subdivision and definition of powers or faculties in the soul (organism). As we have since discovered, there is only the neural system and in particular the brain operating in a variety of ways which were perceived by ancient philosophers as principally of three kinds: intellectual, emotional and instinctual. In everyday language these terms remain useful for talking about our experiences. There are various appetites that have been classified as instincts, one of which is the sexual appetite (also known as the sex-drive, libido, Eros, Cupid and so on). How we feel about the sex-drive we experience is emotional, and how we understand it and think about it is intellectual, but the drive or appetite itself, which happens in us automatically, is instinctual. To say that we have no such instinct, when it is an everyday experience in most people’s lives, is a bit odd, though I appreciate your questioning what an instinct actually is. On that I would suggest we need to heed the psychoneurologists.

    You present a rather militaristic view of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy, which I will try to comment on later, for I have run out of time just now. Regards for now.

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  • No, Dan. No! Are you saying because priests aren’t allowed to have sex with legal age people, they turn in to child molesters? Well guess what, they are not allowed to do that either. There is no law preventing a priest from going out and having sex with a legal age person, and there are priests that do that. Shock! The fact is that the very nature of the priesthood invites these child molesters and I don’t see why people don’t understand that.

    You could keep me away from women my whole life and I would never, never even think to abuse a child. Would you?

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  • You raise a valid question, JoeT. I don’t know. I think some of them may turn into child molesters precisely because coition with women is strictly prohibited. And the prohibition is internalized. And I did say in my comment that these priests should be punished.

    Perhaps molesting the boys is, in their twisted, tormented minds, not really “sex.” Maybe they rationalize and call it Platonic love or God knows what. But I suspect that there is an element of self-deception; it’s a way of satisfying an instinctual urge and at the same time remaining “pure.” Terrible.

    I still feel some modicum of compassion for some of these deluded wretches, the ones that are truly afraid of damnation.

    Personal recollection: at one point, in my early twenties, I became fascinated with asceticism. I wanted to cultivate my aesthetic sensibility and my “spirituality”; so I tried to be celibate, sexually continent. I kept failing and starting over again. My record was 22 days. Each time I “fell” it was accompanied by a sense of real dread. I really thought that I was losing something, and that the loss might be irretrievable. It’s like you’re building something, and then you destroy it. So I have, perhaps, some small idea of the dread that some of these priests must experience on a much larger scale.

    Joyce goes into this in his book Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Now why is it that Joyce was able to get past all that nonsense, all that guilt, and others can’t?

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  • @JoeT and @Dan #12 #13

    You raise complex questions, why do so many clergy abuse children. We can speculate on why, at least we’re no longer required to speculate on “if” or “whether”. The case seems clearly proven, they DO (or did) abuse children.

    For the “whys”, there seem multiple contributors, and little point arguing which is dominant. An admonition against sex, indoctrinated from an early age. Virgin Mary — why did she have to be a virgin? Well, to make it a miracle she gave birth, but also, because sex is dirty and wrong and a sin. Celibate clergy, not allowed to marry, which denies the “normal” route for a good catholic lad to resolve the conflict between teaching and nature. That would select against most lads, leaving only those who are for whatever reason willing to buy into the celibate priesthood club. I’d suggest that increases the proportion of sexual orientations other than conventional (normal?) hetrosexuality. So there would be more gays and more pedophiles among the intake than in the rest of society. That alone does not mean that these men are necessarily going to act on their desires, they will have bought into the conflict between sin and “the flesh”, and many (most?) would struggle through their priestly lives trying to live up to the celibate ideal of chastity.

    Then there’s the insider, secret society nature of the priesthood, and the granting of power over children. Add to that the self-perpetuating nature of this, passed from generation to generation: how many children, abused by a priest, would grow up to join the priesthood themselves, and so perpetuate the cycle of abuse? Maybe hardly any, but enough, it seems, to continue the sordid cycle.

    And the protection from above, the closing of ranks, the shuffling from parish to parish, the lack of any real deterrent.

    I know of at least one former altar boy, and catholic boarding school pupil, who went on to become a priest and become an abuser and become a convicted sex offender. I wondered, mainly, which priest got to him, when he was that altar boy.

    In brief, complex question with no single strand answer. But certainly an environment where such evils can grow, remove the environment (drain the swamp?) and the occurrences should be expected to decline.

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  • @ JoeT,

    You are of course right that they can and many do not sustain their celibacy. However many especially in the era of Cardinal Pell, were at seminary during their early sexual development. So the opportunity may not be there to mix with women for example. They may be teaching at a Catholic Boys school then off rectory (or whatever the Catholics call it). Many of the younger ones would be quite managed. So to some extent it may be about opportunity, who is around that they can manipulate into secrecy? Little boys and girls whom they have both access and authority over. Hitting on one of the female or male adult church goers would be possibly more likely in the short term lead to discovery, an adult would be more likely to be believed.

    Possibly also some may be just pedophiles and may have been attracted to celibacy because of the fear of their instincts (if indeed it turns out that pedophiles have no choice in whom they are attracted – note not with whom that act out their attractions). Perhaps they naively believe oh I’m having these evil feelings I’ll join the church and sit in a monastery only to find themselves taking care of the church boys choir or something.

    My hope is the stats will be able to tell us something about if celibacy vows have a correlation or not. Time will tell.

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  • Another angle that just occurred to me.
    Would it be fair to compare the clergy to something akin to a prison populace/occurrence of prison rape?
    Could it be a lack of opportunity that drives these people?
    By that i mean, most people who engage in the act of prison rape are’nt actually homosexual, but might a combination of the lack of opportunity, and a need to show some form of dominance, play a roll in fueling this sort of activity?

    (Not just homosexual activity, but child rape, and physical/psychological abuse as well?)

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  • 17
    Cairsley says:

    Hello again, Modesti. Your suggestion that the hierarchies in the Catholic Church operate in the same way as the hierarchy in the army operates is not borne out in fact. The Catholic Church is a thoroughly hierarchical institution, but it is first and foremost a community based on a set of beliefs and values, in which its members are thereby guided on how to live righteously in this world and attain salvation in the next. Already the difference between the Catholic Church (and this is true of any Christian denomination) and the army is striking — they exist and operate for very different purposes. In the church the hierarchy exists as part of the authority structure for certifying the true doctrine whereby a Christian is to live. In the army the hierarchy exists to make operational decisions and order subordinates specifically to expedite them.

    With regard to sexual abuse of children by priests and religious, the only role the hierarchical superiors of such offenders has been that of concealing the offences and removing the offenders to other posts. A priest in a school or parish fit in with the rest of the organization and allocation of duties, touching base with his superior from time to time, and generally working like any other responsible adult. No-one is ordering him to do this or that. He is committed to a life of celibacy by his own choice, and he is constrained by the expectation of the faith-community in which he generally lives and works to observe the terms of that commitment. There is no pressure from hierarchical superiors on priests or religious to do anything out of the ordinary. A curate’s day may include saying one or two masses, hearing confessions, giving a talk to the local Catholic Women’s League, and coaching the parish school’s year-eight rugby team — all very humdrum. The superior would start to apply pressure if the curate were failing to do his share of such jobs. All this has nothing to do with celibacy and how the priest copes with natural sexual desires. Unless the priest makes good personal connections with fellow priests and laypeople, he will become lonely and isolated, and that is certainly one of the factors contributing to failures in observing chastity and celibacy and in some cases to sexual abuse of children.

    Sadly, the hierarchy exists to promote and safeguard an abstraction called the Church rather than the people who make up the Church (note the contradiction of the aforementioned communitarian nature of the Church), and this has been shown in all too many cases of child abuse by priests and religious, where bishops have acted to prevent scandal and outrage against the Church by hushing up complaints, moving offenders away, concealing evidence, and, if necessary, buying the silence of injured families. From a historical standpoint I think we see here a continuation of the mediaeval divide between the nobles and the commoners, the former represented here by the bishops and the latter represented by everyone else. This last point is, I concede, true of both the military and the ecclesiastic hierarchies, even though military officers and bishops seldom any longer come from aristocratic families.

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  • JoeT #13

    Well I was just thinking aloud. I like to do that. Sometimes I surprise myself; other times I disappoint myself. Reckless makes a good point: “Possibly also some may be just pedophiles and may have been attracted to celibacy because of the fear of their instincts.”

    Wish I had said that.

    I really don’t know that much about this issue.

    (What’d you think of that Luther quote? (#4) )

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  • @Dan

    I really don’t know that much about this issue.

    I think this is nub of the problem, I feel exactly the same way. You could read popular news articles for days about pedophiles but struggle to find much in the way of good information about the issue. There seems to be so little science or research on the problem. We had a show in Australia a few years ago called The Beast, they tackled difficult/controversial subjects with some sneering lefty political bias (it was a comedy/political/social justice show) which as a lefty myself made it a bit cringe worthy. Anyway not my cup of tea but they were brave and they had a show where they interviewed people who claimed have been born attracted to children. The one I remember expressed how he had to avoid situations and contexts where he would be temped and how difficult is was as he clearly couldn’t tell anyone about his issues other than his psychiatrist. He claimed to have never acted on his feelings but essentially had to live a solitary life as a result. So we get back to this area of nature vs nurture. How much can our sexuality be determined by genes (or environmental effects on those genes) compared to how much can be distorted by environmental factors like being part of a Catholic clergy.

    Urn makes a good point in relation to prison homosexual behavior, I have read some stuff on this which indicates that most of the prisoners who indulge in buggery in prison do not consider themselves homosexual.

    Clearly this is an area that needs more study. It seems to me this investigation will be able to put some numbers on some aspects and possibly get to how much the differences between religions effects the level of risk of acting in this way. Society obviously needs to protect the innocent from pedophiles but we’d be able to do this far more effectively if we put a tiny percentage of thought into studying sexuality in all its forms. Pedophiles in prison should be the most studied group considering how much we fear and hate them. I struggle with those same feelings as a parent but I try to separate the hatred of the violation of the assault on the child (who cannot consent) with the desire which for all I know they have no option but to feel. We must try to understand this issue if we are ever going to protect out children.

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  • Further thoughts on the self-perpetuating nature of priestly abuse of children. Reducing it all to numbers, how many children can one priest abuse, over his lifetime? What proportion of these children will go on to become child-abusing priests themselves? If the first number is large enough, even though we can expect the second to be small, there lies the foundations of a self-perpetuating chain of abuse.

    Imagine for a moment that pedophilia is nature more than nurture: at some point the abuser-priest encounters a latent pedophile child, and thus instructs him in the career choice to allow him to exercise his “nature” when he grows up.

    Imagine now that pedophilia is more nurture than nature: the abuser-priest nurtures the child victim towards imitating what he’s done, grooming him in a way that has a life-long effect.

    Now imagine it’s some mixture of the above, which it surely must be. It doesn’t take all that high a percentage of “hits” for a priest who has abused dozens or hundreds of children over his lifetime to have spawned one or more successors, along with leaving a devastating trail of damaged lives, collateral damage in the transmission of this particular meme.

    At the root of it all, of course, is the conflict between human sexual nature and the sexual repression imposed by the church. If it didn’t happen, we’d be left wondering how ever not. The Law of Unintended Consequences writ large.

    To “protect our children” we need to tackle the environment. Remove the fuel, otherwise we’re just fighting one fire at a time.

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  • Cairsley #17:

    In the church the hierarchy exists as part of the authority structure
    for certifying the true doctrine whereby a Christian is to live. In
    the army the hierarchy exists to make operational decisions and order
    subordinates specifically to expedite them.

    No. The key thought is authority. In my point of view all hierarchical systems have in common that it deprives the individual of responsibility for their actions and that they take away free will of individual in that system. In both systems obedience is the most important. Results of church hierarchy on a member is not very different of any other hierarchical system. Army system is also a set of beliefs and values as much as church system. Church one is no better than army. They both take away humanism, freedom and responsibility from an individual… that is why is so easy to do all sorts of horrors to others. Hierarchy deprives them from responsibility.

    “they exist and operate for very different purposes”

    I don’t think that is important. Every hierachy has they own purpose, but a result on members of that hierarchy is the same. A various psychological disturbances and abnormalities. There is nothing normal in hierarchical systems…they are not natural.

    A priest in a school or parish fit in with the rest of the
    organization… and generally working like any other responsible

    In my opinion that is big contradiction. To be a member of an organization (hierarchy) says that already one is not an free individual and an adult. Free and adult persons do not need organizations to tell them what to do,… they do not answer to no father figure, authority, or surogat parent. An adult is not a child, and any member of an organization set bring himself/herself in that position. They obey and listen as litle children their “father and mother”. It is estimated that there is only 5% of adult people in the world. Hierarchical organizations do not have adults in them. Yes, immature people fit perfectly in those organisations. There are clear features who is a “parent” and who is a “child” in those systems (different uniforms with ranks).

    All this has nothing to do with celibacy and how the priest copes with
    natural sexual desires.

    I don’t know how celibacy was introduced in church (probably by impotent mens), but I think that hierarchy and obediant structure has something to do with how priests cope with the rule that they have to be asexual. They obviously do not cope very well.

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  • Dan #18 Well I was just thinking aloud. I like to do that. Sometimes I
    surprise myself; other times I disappoint myself. Reckless makes a
    good point: “Possibly also some may be just pedophiles and may have
    been attracted to celibacy because of the fear of their instincts.”

    I like to think aloud too even if I am wrong, and I am glad that people do that. And I can only learn something from others who do the same. Yes, one can not wonder if pedofiles are attracted to church. However, something doesn’t sound right to me in that thought hahaha. I don’t know what. Perhaps only religious people who are attracted by children think that church is a good choice. I don’t know. But perhaps there are the ones that see oportunity to be with object of their desire protected by church structure (and lack of responsibilities). I remember I read few years ago an interesting fact about primal tribes of Amazon rainforest and other tribes, about their sexual behaviours (not sure where…from that Daniel Everett or Marlo Morgan or someone else). All is open. Children have sexual intercourse with adults, they play with their genitals and vice versa, all is very tender and with maximum respect and sensitivity… and it is a perfectly natural behaviour. The “civilized” world would called it monstrous, or would be astonished.

    That is why I think sexual behavior is a learned behaviour. Man can love man, women can love women, but an adult can love child. So if an adult have an “urge” towards children I am not sure I can’t condemn that urge. However, in church (where there is not that kind of natural order as tribes have them) how can I not condemn when children are not able to consent and be equal. Nowhere in “our” world there is that consent, so if an adult act to satisfy their preferences towards child, it is criminal act. But in “their” world… in the world of tribes (which don’t have this prohibitions of “civilized” world), this is normal and natural behaviour. Somehow I always thought that research of primitive tribes can reveal so much of humans and our natural behavior before “civilization” came and installed all this “laws”.

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  • Reckless Monkey #19 So we get back to this area of nature vs nurture.
    How much can our sexuality be determined by genes (or environmental
    effects on those genes) compared to how much can be distorted by
    environmental factors like being part of a Catholic clergy.

    Exactly. I think that our sexuality is learned, though. We feel it as a inseparable part of us, our identity because we learnd it as toddlers, so to speak, from our parents and loved ones. Somehow, like children learn gender social roles.

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  • Firstly I reckon JoeT’s rebuttal of Dan was on the money. The victims warrant our sympathy and certainly not the perpetrators.

    Secondly, the reported incidence of 7% understates the problem rather badly. That figure relates only to those priests who were detected by the Royal Commission. We know many more have been accused, including Cardinal Pell himself, but lack of evidence and/or robust legal defense financed by the Church disallows such cases from inclusion here. A more realistic estimate would range from 10-15% of priests being perpetrators.
    Catholic clergy have been raping children since 60CE, ref: Didache.

    Didache was a manual for church officials which commanded “though shalt not seduce young boys” and by the 17 century the official cover-up had begun. This is hardly new behavior. Child rape has been a characteristic of Catholicism for nearly 2000 years.


    Thomas Doyle has worked with survivors of priest sex abuse for decades.


    There has been sex abuse by clerics in the church since the very beginning. The evidence is found primarily in official church documents and in other nonofficial but authentic sources such as the Book of Gomorrah of St. Peter Damien, written in the 11th century. There were periods in history, especially in the late middle ages and early renaissance, when clergy sex abuse was publicly acknowledged by church authorities, especially popes. Church leaders began wrapping it in thick blankets of secrecy from the 18th century onward…

    Nurture v Nature
    One of the world’s foremost experts in this field was the late Freda Briggs, who was Professor of Child Development at the University of South Australia. She established the first research centre into sexual abuse and worked in the field since 1970. Briggs referred to paedophilia as a contagious disease. She studied incarcerated paedophiles throughout Australia, with germane results, writing:
    “At one (sex offender) centre there were so many incarcerated priests that it was referred to as The Seminary.”
    She found that most perpetrators had been abused while children themselves, usually by their Catholic parents, hence the “contagious disease” appellation. The rest had been raped by police, teachers, care givers etc, frequently Catholics. For information, Catholics nominally constitute about 25% of the Aussie population.

    The major finding relating to child sex offenders was that all except two had been sexually abused by an average of 14 different persons in childhood. Fifty percent of the offenders were first abused by a female.
    Many of the male victims interviewed (198) told us about abuse by priests and monks. More than half of those abused between the ages of 11 and 15 were abused by religious figures.

    On instincts, as discussed above – Although sexual orientation is formed early, juveniles (of any species) don’t constitute a natural target of such urges. Bonobos and some primitive tribes may well incorporate juveniles in sexual practices, but these are quite exceptional. More ordinarily sexual arousal is associated with mature partners, whether the same or of opposite sex, who have developed their appearance, or their breasts, or fancy feathers, to clearly indicate sexual maturity. Paedophilia is not an orientation; it’s a perversion which we can begin to understand.

    Desmond Morris‘ classic book on human behaviour, The Naked Ape, reports that homosexual behaviour is often “seen in situations where the ideal sexual object (a member of the opposite sex) is unavailable. This applies in many groups of animals.”
    Morris goes on to state: “Similar situations occur with high frequency in our own species and the response is much the same. If either males or females cannot for some reason obtain sexual access to their opposite members, they will find sexual outlets in other ways.” (Emphasis added.)

    Psychiatrist and ex-priest A. W. Richard Sipe likewise relates: “Doctor Lewis Hill, former medical director of Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland, used to tell his resident psychiatrists, ‘Man is a loving animal, and he is going to love whatever he is near.’ The sexual histories of farm boys frequently recorded passing involvements with animals…This is usually a situational phenomenon dependent on sexual development, social isolation, loneliness, and positive loving feelings for a friend” (p123)

    Dr. Jay Feierman supports a link between sexual repression and paedophilia. As a psychiatrist who has met with hundreds of paedophilic priests at a Catholic treatment centre in New Mexico, Feierman is in a position to recognize the connection.

    Dr. David Finkelhor, a recognized expert on the study of sexual abuse of children, has shown that repressive sexual attitudes linked to many religions may predispose some persons toward sexual activities with children.

    Dr. John Money pioneered treatments for deviate sexuality at Johns Hopkins Medical School. He says people raised in conditions where sex is viewed as evil, and where sexual curiosity is a punishable offense, are likely to end up with warped sexual identities. Those surroundings are often produced by conservative religions.

    Sex therapist Joan A. Nelson states in her 2006 book Sex Education Beyond the Fig Leaves: “Since the tragic priestly sex scandals, we can no longer pretend we don’t know about the long-lasting trauma and betrayals of trust that can happen when repressed, or overly disciplined sexuality breaks forth.”

    Pedophilia: Biosocial Dimensions [Paperback] by psychiatrist Jay R. Feierman.
    Feierman corroborates my assertion that no nonhuman primate has ever been observed to prefer juveniles.

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  • 25
    Cairsley says:

    Modesti #21
    The key thought is authority. In my point of view all hierarchical systems have in common that it deprives the individual of responsibility for their actions and that they take away free will of individual in that system. In both systems obedience is the most important.

    Yes, all hierarchical systems function with authority, but my main point has been to show how different the use of authority is in the ecclesiastic hierarchy from how it is used in the military hierarchy. Very seldom is a curate or religious brother or nun given a direct order to be obeyed promptly and without question, whereas such orders are given and acted on daily in the military. A curate or a teaching brother has his professional work to do, and, having been appointed to his post by the bishop or the provincial, applies himself to his work just like any responsible adult. I say this on the basis of having lived and worked a number of years as a religious in teaching and parish work. In the Catholic Church, hierarchical authority is exercised chiefly in deciding questions of faith and discipline so that the rules for living the faith are clear to all the faithful. Even in monasteries of strict observance, authority is not exercised by ordering people around, but by making clear the rules to be followed. If someone breaks a rule, he or she is called to account, and the superior will discuss any difficulty the offender may have and see how he or she can be helped to overcome the difficulty. From the outside, the Catholic Church or any of its religious orders may look like highly regimented, hierarchical organizations in which authority is exercised in military fashion, but that is simply not the case.

    To be a member of an organization (hierarchy) says that already one is not an free individual and an adult.

    Most adults are in fact under authority in some kind of hierarchy or power-structure, and that fact does not prevent them from being adults or from being free individuals. Obedience, after all, need not be coerced but freely given. Indeed, to be a member of an organization is usually something one chooses freely. In the case of membership of a church, where one is born and raised in it, there is the question of whether and at what point one has made the choice for oneself to belong to the church — a question that can only be determined case by case.

    The authority exercised in an ecclesiastic context limits the individual’s thinking of certain subjects and requires his or her acceptance of certain tenets and observance of certain practices (e.g. attending mass on Sunday and not eating meat of Friday). To that extent the individual’s freedom may be limited, unless he or she voluntarily belongs to the church and finds in these tenets and practices a fulfilling expression of his or her own sense of self. (We are fortunate no longer to live at a time when apostasy incurs torture and death.) That authority does not have much to do with how an individual develops as a person and goes about his or her work, and it is in these respects that military authority differs very much from ecclesiastic.

    There is nothing normal in hierarchical systems…they are not natural.

    I suspect your eagerness to make a point has resulted in this false statement. All social animals, humans included, live in hierarchies. Great as the Enlightenment was, we must take care to weed out the bad ideas that came with it. One of these was Rousseau’s idea that humans were in their original state solitary individuals who gradually formed societies together for mutual benefits but at a cost to their individual freedom. We have since learnt that humans and their pre-human ancestors were social animals living in familial and tribal groups. The completely free individual is either a myth or an abstraction. In any society there has to be a power-structure, a hierarchy, at least a boss and one or two allies or assistants and those who submit to the boss (alpha male, chieftain, etc.). The church and the army are not the only institutions that have hierarchies, nor do all hierarchies exercise authority in the same manner or for the same purpose.

    It is estimated that there is only 5% of adult people in the world. Hierarchical organizations do not have adults in them.

    This, then, hardly seems right, though it would be interesting to learn how that estimate was arrived at. And to say that hierarchical organizations do not have adults in them is surely overstatement resulting from following the logic of ideas rather than looking at real situations. It would be a mistake to think that ‘adult’ is some absolute category that can be used as a strict logical term, when in fact it is a common-sense word for someone who has reached an age where he or she is physically mature enough to procreate and psychologically mature enough to take responsibility for his or her own decisions and actions. None of us ever reaches a point where we stop maturing or learning to be a better, more adult, more responsible person. And inasmuch as we all live in societies and therefore in some form of hierarchy, this statement of yours denies that any of us have attained enough maturity to qualify as adults. It makes more sense to regard your statement as false.

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  • @Modesti

    I don’t know how celibacy was introduced in church (probably by impotent mens),

    My understanding is it was a move to keep inheritance in the church. If you have married priests what wealth they acquire would go to the family.

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  • Reckless Monkey #26:

    My understanding is it was a move to keep inheritance in the church.
    If you have married priests what wealth they acquire would go to the

    Must say I wouldn’t be surprised. 🙂 Church is the biggest capitalist and one of the firsts. Their organisation has nothing to do with goodness towards human being, but it has a lot to do with taking of goods (and goodness) from them. 🙂

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  • Reckless Monkey #26
    Feb 11, 2017 at 1:19 am

    My understanding is it was a move to keep inheritance in the church. If you have married priests what wealth they acquire would go to the family.

    They are also into young priests ingratiating themselves with frustrated old widows who have inherited money from rich husbands, – widows who then leave the money in wills to the church to help ease their passage into an imaginary afterlife!

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  • @Alan$Discussion

    They are also into young priests ingratiating themselves with frustrated old widows who have inherited money from rich husbands, – widows who then leave the money in wills to the church to help ease their passage into an imaginary afterlife!

    A proud tradition that the like of Cardinal Pell (now the Popes top financial adviser) continues with his abuse of power to stop the church bleeding financially over child abuse. Unfortunately instead of ding something Pell just doubles down like the cold hearted bureaucrat that he is. He’s now exporting his financial wizardry won at the expensive of victims of child abuse from priests he was responsible for to the rest of the Catholic world. Much of this was under Benedict, it astonishes me though that Francis is given such a free pass considering he is continuing exactly the same rubbish. When will Catholics own up to core values of social justice they trump and just bloodly leave the church?

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  • Reckless Monkey #29
    Feb 11, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    A proud tradition that the like of Cardinal Pell (now the Popes top financial adviser) continues with his abuse of power to stop the church bleeding financially over child abuse.

    We should bear in mind, that in the traditions of “faith-thinking” – virtue and integrity proclaimed in public, bears no relationship to the actual skull-duggery religious hierarchies have been getting up to for decades and centuries!


    In the early days, the Vatican made little effort to keep track of finances, which meant the institution was rife with extravagant spending and embezzlement.

    After teetering on the edge of bankruptcy several times, the Vatican appointed Bernardino Nogara as its new financial advisor in 1929, who straightened out the church’s finances and grew a $92 million investment from Benito Mussolini into almost $1 billion.

    .1. Making money directly off the murder of Jews during the Holocaust

    .2. Trying to buy fake securities from a Mafia-linked counterfeit ring

    .3. Using $5 million to cover up monks who were squandering donations

    .4. Smugging gold into Poland to overthrow the communist regime

    .5. Laundering money for the Mafia and other Italian elite

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  • Here is a report of testimony from a victim of the “Christian Brothers”
    (The number 2 organisation on the paedophile chart @ #1)

    A former child migrant, sent from Wales to an Australian orphanage, has told a child abuse inquiry how it was a “feast of kids” for paedophiles working there.

    Giving evidence, the anonymous 72-year-old said Brother Lawrence Murphy took him in to his bedroom twice, forcing him to perform sex acts.

    If I had told anyone, I would have been belted or got the strap, he said.

    Castledare orphanage near Perth, run by the Christian Brothers order, was like “a legal paedophile ring”, he said.

    The witness told the inquiry: “If someone did it in the public eye, he’d go to court, he’d get sentenced and he’d serve time.

    “If he’d got a habit on, if you’re a Christian Brother then it seemed to be a free-for-all.

    “We knew what would happen if you told somebody, especially in authority, they would say ‘this doesn’t happen here.'”

    He went on to claim that Brother Murphy was later “transferred from place to place” to effectively hide him.

    He said his time at the orphanage still haunted him and was “probably something I will never forget”.

    He had bottled it up for nearly 30 years and had only chosen to speak out when he found out about the inquiry, he added.

    Life for the orphans involved hard physical labour including pulling down trees, clearing land, digging out a swimming pool and building a handball court by chipping bricks.

    “You had to chip X amount of bricks before you can knock off, before you had something to eat,” he told the inquiry, which is looking into abuse in England and Wales.

    The boys wore only a grey shirt and shorts, no matter what the weather, he said.

    There were no underpants and shoes were only worn when somebody important visited, otherwise feet were bare, he added.

    Brothers would be fully clothed with shoes and gloves while the boys shivered in the cold, he said.

    The first phase of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is looking at the way organisations have protected children outside the UK.

    Between 7,000 and 10,000 children were moved from the UK to Australia after World War Two.

    They were recruited by religious institutions from both the Anglican and Catholic churches, or charities, including Barnardo’s and the Fairbridge Society, with the aim of giving them a better life.

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  • I see the leopard has still not changed his spots – despite a quick soak in hair dye!


    Pope Francis has triggered anger in Chile after accusing victims of a paedophile priest of slander.

    Francis said there was “no proof” for their claims that abuse by Father Fernando Karadima had been covered up by another man, Bishop Juan Barros.

    “There is not one single piece of proof against him (Bishop Barros). It is all slander. Is that clear?” the Pope said.

    One Karadima victim said the Pope’s earlier plea for forgiveness over clerical sex abuse was “empty”.

    The Pope made his comments on Thursday before celebrating Mass outside the city of Iquique in northern Chile.

    “The day someone brings me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will talk,” the Pope told journalists.

    Ah! The confidence in “a lack of evidence” – by those who have destroyed, hidden the proof, or buried it in diplomatic immunity! !

    Juan Carlos Cruz was one of the bishop’s accusers who was quick to condemn the Pope’s stance.

    “As if I could have taken a selfie or photo while Karadima abused me and others with Juan Barros standing next to him watching everything,” he tweeted.

    “These people are absolutely crazy, and @Pontifex (the Pope’s Twitter handle) is talking about reparation to the victims.
    Nothing has changed, and his plea for forgiveness is empty.”

    Another Barros accuser, James Hamilton, told a news conference the response revealed an “unknown face” of the pontiff.

    “What the Pope has done today is offensive and painful, and not only against us, but against everyone seeking to end the abuses,” he said.

    Earlier in his Chile trip, Francis had met victims of sexual abuse by priests in the country. He cried with them and said he felt “pain and shame” over the scandal.

    The US-based NGO Bishop Accountability says almost 80 members of Catholic clergy have been accused of child sex abuse in Chile since 2000.

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  • @#32 – The US-based NGO Bishop Accountability says almost 80 members of Catholic clergy have been accused of child sex abuse in Chile since 2000.

    . . . . but apparently the bishop in charge of them was not responsible – according to the pope! – Who offered a belated about-face and token apology, while heading back to Rome!


    Pope Francis has apologised for remarks he made last week in Chile defending a bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse.

    He said he realised his words hurt many, but repeated his belief that Chilean Bishop Juan Barros was innocent.

    He was speaking to journalists on board a plane flying back to Rome.

    On Thursday, the Pope said that victims who had accused Bishop Barros were committing slander.

    The Pope was openly criticised by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, who said he left victims of sexual abuse committed by priests feeling abandoned.

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  • I hadn’t heard about this Alan4Disscussion so ta for that.

    This doesn’t surprise me, Pope Francis actually struck me from the start as playing the PC game with all his talk of “It’s not for me to judge” – homosexuals (God will do that being the subtext). As far as dealing with pedophile priests there are any number under his watch that hid in Vatican City which apparently doesn’t extradite pedophiles to face justice. So this is clearly just more of the same.

    Here in Australia some areas had an enormous amount of pedophile priests some parishes had some huge percentage of their priests accused of these crimes some I can’t find the figures now but some parishes had over 30% of their priests with complaints of child abuse against them. Others only had a tiny percentage. So the 7% is not evenly spread. Pell of course managed to successfully argue somehow that priests where somehow not the responsibility of the church and was refusing to pay any sort of realistic compensation. Our current Pope Francis elevated him to now rather high up in the Vatican although I suppose much depends on how his trial goes.

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  • @#32 – Francis said there was “no proof” for their claims that abuse by Father Fernando Karadima had been covered up by another man, Bishop Juan Barros.

    “There is not one single piece of proof against him (Bishop Barros). It is all slander. Is that clear?” the Pope said.

    Strangely – through faith-blinkers some of those with eyes cannot see what is in front of their noses – or hear the voices of witnesses!


    A victim of a paedophile priest in Chile has revealed he wrote to the Pope in 2015 about an alleged cover-up after Francis denied getting evidence.

    Juan Carlos Cruz, a victim of cleric Fernando Karadima in the 1980s, accused fellow priest Juan Barros of witnessing the abuse and doing nothing.

    The Pope caused outrage after a visit to Chile last month by defending Bishop Barros, who was made a bishop in 2015.

    The Vatican refused to comment on the letter when approached by BBC News.

    Pope Francis has said in the past that dealing with abuse is vital for the Church’s credibility and perpetrators must face “sanctions”.

    Mr Cruz sent the text of his letter (written in Spanish) to BBC News, showing it was addressed personally to Pope Francis and dated 3 March 2015.

    That was more than two weeks before the bishop’s ordination in the south Chilean city of Osorno, an event dramatically disrupted by hundreds of protesters accusing Bishop Barros of covering up Karadima’s sex attacks on young boys.

    The bishop has denied ever knowing about “the serious abuses” committed by Karadima, who was never prosecuted in Chile because so much time had passed but was convicted and sentenced by the Vatican to a lifetime of “penance and prayer”.

    “Holy Father, I decided to write this letter to you because I’m tired of fighting, crying and suffering,” Mr Cruz writes.

    “Our story is well known and there’s no point reminding you of it, except to tell you of the horror of having experienced this abuse and how I wanted to kill myself.”

    In his letter, he also attaches the full text of a previous letter written a month earlier to the Vatican’s top diplomat in Chile, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo.

    In that letter, Mr Cruz accuses Bishop Barros of “doing all the dirty work of Fernando Karadima”, and describes the abuse he suffered and which Bishop Barros allegedly witnessed.

    The remarks that the Pope had made in January that caused such offence were: “The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, then I will speak. There is not a single piece of proof against him. Everything is slander. Is this clear?”

    The Pope later apologised for hurting victims’ feelings “without meaning to” but continued to insist there was “no evidence” against the bishop.

    “In Barros’s case, it was studied,” he said. “It was restudied. And there is no evidence… I don’t have evidence to convict.”

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  • @#32 – Francis said there was “no proof” for their claims that abuse by Father Fernando Karadima
    had been covered up by another man, Bishop Juan Barros.

    “There is not one single piece of proof against him (Bishop Barros).
    It is all slander. Is that clear?” the Pope said.

    Oh dear!
    Faith-thinking does not work and the evidence has caught them out covering up again!

    About face!!!!


    Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of three Chilean bishops, including the controversial Juan Barros, in the wake of a child sexual abuse scandal.

    Bishop Barros was accused of covering up sexual abuse committed by a priest in the 1980s and 1990s.

    Pope Francis has said that he made “grave mistakes” by originally defending Bishop Barros.

    All of Chile’s 34 Roman Catholic bishops had offered their resignations.

    The decision by the Pope to accept the resignation of three of the 34 was announced in a statement issued by the Vatican on Monday.

    Apart from Bishop Barros of Osorno, Archbishop Cristián Caro Cordero of Puerto Montt and Bishop Gonzalo Duarte García de Cortázar of Valparaíso will now be replaced.

    It was not clear if the move meant that the remaining 31 resignations would not be accepted.

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