What is it about the Catholic Priesthood that attracts so many pedophiles?

Per the news lately the tsunami of young male victimsof child abusing Catholic Priests just seems to keep rippling outward in country after country, decade after decade. I thought the stuff in the US was an anomaly and the Caholic Priests in other countries were made of sterner stuff, but this molestation chronicle never seems to end.

What is it about the Catholic Priesthood that seems to attract pedophiles like flies to honey?

You really don’t know? Congratulations, you’re not a pedophile.
Err, at least not a very clever one.

First of all, most of the molesting priests haven’t been pedophiles, they’ve been ephebophiles, which is to say that they’ve been teenagers who are going through adolescence, not preadolescent children. And a professor at Penn State, Phillip Jenkins, has argued, in, among other things, his “Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis”, that there really isn’t a higher rate of sexual abuse and molestation among Catholic priests than among clergymen generally. That’s to say that there are more cases of sexual molestation by Catholic priests than clergymen of other denominations, but that’s because there are more Catholic priests than there are clergymen of other denominations. If you look at percentages, there isn’t a difference. Also, since there is a clerical hierarchy, he says, there’s a higher rate among Catholic priests of molesters being reported and found out. His argument is that the idea of “pedophile priests” is a social construction, brought about by dislike for Catholic clerical celibacy and the patriarchal hierarchy in Catholicism.

So, when a Baptist minister, a Episcopalian priest or a Jewish rabbi molest children, that doesn’t fit the already constructed model, so the incident is overlooked.

Availability. These guys have taken oaths of celibacy, so no wives or girlfriends to speak of. But they’re around altar boys all the time. If there were altar girls we’d likely see a fair amount of them molested as well. That’s what I’ve gathered.

Hard to say: it’s either the altar boys or the communion wafers.

Pedophiles go where the kids are. Priests have access to kids via their ministry. Ergo, pedophiles will become priests for the purpose of getting access to the kids. I understand, but can’t cite a source, that there is about the same percentage of teachers who are pedophiles as priests. Same reasoning applies.

For a long time, if you got caught, you weren’t punished. I’m sure word spread among the community that this is the place to be.

You’re suggesting that pedophiles specifically become priests with the intention of gaining access to children? I don’t find that in and of itself a strange notion, but don’t most people start on the road to priesthood as they leave high school? And don’t most of them attend university to acquire theological degrees? It just seems like a lot of work. :stuck_out_tongue:

I always thought it was more something that they developed into- as in, they weren’t necessarily pedophiles going into their profession, but that years of celibacy and close contact with little boys alone in churches sortof… I don’t know, created an environment in which they would consider it? :stuck_out_tongue: Haven’t the vast majority of the priests who’ve been caught molesting children been old men?

I think you have a very odd idea of the priesthood and what it entails. Priests don’t become pedophiles. Pedophiles become priests. I’d say there are two kinds. Those that are trying to hide from their pedophilia and give in and those that join for the ability to exercise their pedophilia.

I’ve never bought the idea that celibacy causes pedophilia and I’ve seen no evidence of it. If a priest wishes to break his vows there are easier and safer ways to do it. If he is not an evil bastard can go find a consenting adult who might be willing to sleep with him for free or for pay. If he is an evil bastard he comes in contact with plenty of vulnerable adult women he can manipulate. None of the previous is something the Church approves of, but I’m willing to bet most men would take the first and most bastards would take the second before they’d look at kids.

Yeah, good points. I don’t know where I heard that it was about availability but it seems to have stuck with me. The alternative makes more sense, thinking about it.

…and of course, FACTS like the ones Captain Amazing shows are ignored.

I didn’t really disagree that the rates of molestation weren’t higher among Catholics than they were among Jews or Protestants (or even among teachers, as another poster pointed out). Yes, that contradicts my earlier suggestion that it involved celibacy, but that’s part of why my mind’s been changed.

My main issue was whether it was pedophiles joining the priesthoods or priests becoming pedophiles, which was addressed by a different poster.

There’s a long-standing tradition of Catholic families steering their unmarriageable/sexually suspect children towards religious vocations; it’s only in the last 50 years or so that gay and lesbian teenagers had better options, and we RCCers are always a little behind the curve. Pedo/ephebophiles still don’t have socially acceptable options and are still steered towards religious vocations by clueless parents and parishes.

I take some comfort in Captain Amazing’s facts, I guess, but most Protestant denominations don’t have the huge, intransigent bureaucracy that shuffles deviant clergy out of one diocese and into another.

If a pedophile priest tells the church about himself, it’s generally under the cover of the confessional, where it’s considered a sin that can be forgiven or an illness that can be treated, not a crime that must be prosecuted with full and open cooperation with police authorities. The alternative is to admit that Mother Church has been complicit in enabling this behavior for centuries, and the kind of personalities that can grasp this don’t tend to become Bishops or Cardinals.

If the Church wants to survive, it needs to drop the celibacy requirement fast. That topic and this one are very much related. An institution with no context of healthy sexuality can’t be expected to cope with the unhealthy kind.

The difference is, the molesting Baptist or Episcopalian minister is gonna get tossed out on his ear if his abuses come to light. The molesting Catholic priests were given a great deal of aid and support in their activities by a sympathetic Church hierarchy that would hush up the allegations against such a priest, and move him on to greener pastures.

The RCC is seemingly the only church with an *institutional *problem here, which it resolutely fails to acknowledge. Has there been a single statement by the RCC PTB that apologizes not just for the presence of pedophile priests in its ranks, but for the role of Church higher-ups in protecting them and finding them new parishes to prey on? I sure haven’t heard of one.

I doubt that pedophiles go into priesting, teaching, or whatever. It’s more likely that plenty of people will take advantage of anyone they could naturally take advantage of, so long as they were physically attracted to them. But, in most professions, you aren’t often around people you can reasonably take advantage of.

Nearly all of us are reasonably attracted to “children” of ages 14-17. Most of us don’t have access to people of these ages. People of those professions will naturally have a higher incidence of misbehavior without having to have specifically sought the profession for sexual reasons.

There’s also the matter of the extreme devotion and trust by the Catholic laypeople toward priests. Back when I was growing up, before this issue became generally known, most Catholics considered priests to be practically infallible and not too far below the Pope himself. So if any kid told people what the priest was doing, nobody would have believed him. The poor kid might even have been punished for spreading malicious lies about the priest.

It is not clear that the theory put forth in the OP is correct. How many policemen, soldiers, nurses or basket-weavers abuse kids? Then we would have to consider the possibility that more priests are denounced than basket-weavers, although the level of abuse may be equal.

And another thing, from this week’s Economist, no studies have yet show a correspondence between the oath of chastity and sexual abuse of minors. I think there may be one, but there as of yet no proof.

Further, while i am on my soapbox, how do we know that school boards, the boy scouts, synagogs or other organizations did better in (say) 1970 handling these cases than the Catholic Church? I suspect that there is a lot of guilt going around. A group holding itself out as the universal church is justly held to a higher standard, but I wonder what the Kansas City School Board knew and when they knew it.

You would be wrong.

I had to write a research paper on a controversial topic several years back. I chose child molestation (I had just seen Capturing the Friedmans.) ALL the research said that these people very deliberately choose their careers to maximize their predatory opportunities. IIRC at the top of the pile were coach and scout leader (high in trust and high in alone time with the kids), but teacher and priest were certainly on the list. I can’t give you a cite because I did all my research in a subscription-based scholarly database, but if you care that much, go to a library and do real research, and you’ll see that I’m right.

I believe you that there are such people and if you’re studying predatory pedophiles then well, yeah, they’ll act like predators and go where the prey is. I just doubt that most sex-with-children is taken place by predators. What, specifically, were you studying?

Now just what in the fuck is that supposed to mean? Are you suggesting that most children are somehow consenting?