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"It Ain't Just Catholic Priests": Resources on Shocking Statistics of Clergy Sexual Abuse

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Dave Armstrong:

See my previous related paper (it provides access to 838 detailed Protestant clergy abuse reports: see the primary source).

Clergy Sexual Abuse (Frances Park)It is commonly believed that clergy sexual abuse is an exclusively Catholic problem that does not happen in other churches. In a 1983 doctoral thesis by Richard Blackmon, 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner and 38% admitted to other sexualized contact with a parishioner.When Mentor Becomes Molester (Alexa Smith)
Reprinted with permission from Presbyterians Today, magazine of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).The Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) estimates that there are about 50 clergy sexual misconduct cases every year. Although cases in the PCUSA tend to involve adult women and male pastors, there are sometimes cases reported that involve children and other men.When Trust Is Betrayed: Understanding Sexual Abuse by Clergy (James Poling)

This article has been reproduced from Interpreter Online, the electronic companion to The United Methodist Interpreter magazine.   Reprinted with permission from Interpreter Copyright © January 1997.   All rights reserved.How widespread is it?

Some studies indicate that 10 to 20 percent of all clergy have had sexual involvements with parishioners. Still more admit engaging in inappropriate sexualized emotional relationships that stopped short of physical expression. There are some indications that sexual abuse by clergy is increasing, perhaps because of sexual freedom gained from recent societal changes.Large collection of articles (Advocate Web)

Sexual Abuse: How Congregations Find Healing (Jody Veenker), Christianity Today, August 9, 1999

Article detailing cases of sexual abuse in Orthodox Churches

Episcopalians: Penthouse Expose Could Spark Church Teaching (Ted Olsen), Christianity Today, December 9, 1996

Data Shed Light on Child Sexual Abuse by Protestant Clergy (Associated Press, June 16, 2007, New York Times) [see also a related URL]The three companies that insure a majority of Protestant churches say they typically receive upward of 260 reports a year of children younger than 18 being sexually abused by members of the clergy, church staff members, volunteers or congregants.
Preachers Accused of Sins, and Crimes: ABC News Investigation Uncovers Predators in Protestant Churches,  Jim Avila, Bonnie Van Gilder, and Matt Lopez, April 13, 2007 (ABC News / 20/20) [see also a related URL]  [concentrates on Southern Baptists][A] six-month investigation by "20/20" found Protestant ministers, supposed men of God from every denomination, sexually abusing the children who trusted them. The investigation uncovered "preacher predators" in every corner of the country.
Sexual Abuse by Catholic Clergy: A Moral Panic (Religious Tolerance.Org / Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance)Abuse Rate: Few people seem to be asking whether sexual abuse of children is more common in the Roman Catholic church than in Protestant churches or other faith groups. Philip Jenkins, author of "Pedophiles and Priests" found no evidence that the incidence of child molestation among Roman Catholic priests was any greater than within other Christian denominations.

Magnitude: Using terms like "The Sins of the Fathers," some in the media are implying that child sexual abuse by priests is extremely common throughout the U.S. church. The best estimates that we have seen indicate that only a few percent of priests abuse children. As Pope John Paul II stated, the panic casts a "dark shadow of suspicion over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty.''

. . .  Hebephilia: Little attention is being given to the exact nature of clergy abuse. The panic seems to be focusing on abusive pedophilia -- the sexual molestation of pre-pubertal children by priests. Yet most of the abuse appears to be by abusive hebephiles -- adults attracted to post-pubertal adolescents. "[In] other than isolated cases like the Boston one, the overwhelming majority of cases involve gay priests who have been sexually active with young seminarians or 16- or 17-year-old boys. While such homosexual activities with minors are criminal offenses -- and immoral -- they are certainly not examples of pedophilia or child molestation."

. . . Public bias: The public may view sexual abuse by priests very differently from similar crimes by Protestant clergy. The Roman Catholic Church is generally seen as a monolithic organization with a clearly defined rigid hierarchy. Thus a case of abuse becomes a "Roman Catholic scandal" rather than a local parish problem. A similar molestation in a Protestant church would probably be viewed as a local problem isolated to a single congregation, because of the decentralized nature of most Protestant churches.Sex scandals also affect Protestant clergy [scroll down a little]
By Richard N. Ostling, AP Religion Writer - April 4, 2002Penn State historian Philip Jenkins argued in his 1996 book, Pedophiles and Priests, that both secular and Catholic media exaggerate the extent of Catholic cases involving minors, while downplaying Protestant abuse.
. . . Jenkins, an Episcopalian, thinks a 1992 survey from the Chicago Archdiocese is more representative of the true picture in Catholicism.
Among 2,252 priests serving over four decades, 39 priests (1.7 percent) apparently abused minors. Only one abuser could be termed a pedophile under the strict, clinical definition of the word — meaning the victim was prepubescent.
"I am prepared to be convinced the Catholics have a bigger problem" than Protestants, Jenkins said, but nobody has good data, partly because Protestant groups are too numerous. "I certainly haven't seen anything, and I'm looking hard."
. . . The conservative World magazine says Protestantism faces a "severe problem" of clergy involvement with people the ministers are counseling, calling this "an egregious abuse of power."Breaking Faith [scroll down about a third of the way]
By Lynn Vincent  - Cover Story - World Magazine  March 30, 2002 As sexual scandal rocks the Roman Catholic church, Protestants face a lurking sex scandal as well. Will churches and national organizations take biblical steps to prevent further shame?

. . . No current theological breakdown of offending pastors exists, but a 1984 Fuller Seminary survey of 1,200 ministers showed one in five theologically conservative pastors admitting to some sexual contact outside of marriage with a church member, while over two-fifths of "moderate" and half of "liberal" pastors owned up to the same. A Journal of Pastoral Care article summarizing a 1993 survey of Southern Baptist pastors showed 6 percent acknowledging sexual contact outside of marriage with someone in the congregation. Roy Woodruff, executive director of the 3,000-member Association of Pastoral Counselors, estimates that about 15 percent of pastors "either have [violated] or are violating sexual ethical boundaries."
Collection of articles on clergy sexual abusers: "Protestants Face Sexual Abuse Failures Too" (PeaceMakers.Net)

Sex Abuse Spans Spectrum of Churches,  Mark Clayton, The Christian Science Monitor,  April 5, 2002The surveys suggest that over the past decade, the pace of child-abuse allegations against American churches has averaged 70 a week. The surveys registered a slight downward trend in reported abuse starting in 1997, possibly a result of the introduction of preventive measures by churches.

. . . James Cobble, executive director of CMR, who oversees the survey, says the data show that child sex-abuse happens broadly across all denominations– and that clergy aren't the major offenders.

"The Catholics have gotten all the attention from the media, but this problem is even greater with the Protestant churches simply because of their far larger numbers," he says.
Where does the Baptist buck stop?: Southern Baptists acknowledge abuse among churches
(Terry Mattingly: Leadership U., June 19, 2002)The clergy sexual abuse statistics were staggering.

Local reports from angry, hurt and humiliated laypeople were too horrifying to ignore.

. . . "The incidence of sexual abuse by clergy has reached 'horrific proportions,' " according to a 2000 report to the Baptist General Convention of Texas. It noted that studies conducted in the 1980s found that about 12 percent of ministers had "engaged in sexual intercourse with members" and nearly 40 percent had "acknowledged sexually inappropriate behavior."
Rabbi's Odyssey Reflects Struggle on Sexual Abuse: Jews Begin to Confront Silence That Hid Clergy's Misdeeds (Alan Cooperman), Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 2, 2003; Page A17

Rabbi Sidney Goldenberg appears in court in December 1996, accused of abusing a 12-year-old girl. He later pleaded no contest to one count.  (File Photo/ Mark Aronoff -- Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
Black churches protect predators while neglecting victims (Marian Hubbard Jefferson), Louisiana Weekly, August 6, 2007

Risk Management: Protestants Confront Sexual Abuse (John Dart), The Christian Century, © 2002 Christian Century Foundation.Another reason non-Catholic churches have for the most part slipped under the national media radar, experts suggest, is that the removal of a Protestant pastor for sexual scandal is often only a local story. A more significant difference in the attention to Protestant and Catholic cases, according to James F. Cobble Jr., executive director of Christian Ministry Resources, is that Catholic dioceses usually have large insurance coverage for their parishes. That increases the likelihood of litigation, and a bigger spotlight on the offenses and the church's responses.
Baptist pastors speak out on clergy sex abuse, DallasNews Religion, April 12, 2007. . . In recent weeks, Southern Baptists have scrambled to respond to a rising number of its ministers who have been arrested for abusing children. The president of the national convention, Frank Page of Taylors, SC, issued a statement this month calling on "every local church to develop written policy guidelines for the care of children and youth . . . [and] to have a system or policy in place to deal with any accusations made."
Clergy Who Molest: Unique Study Reveals Epidemic, Freethought Today, May 1990.. . . a first-of-its-kind study of recent cases of molesting clergy and church staff conducted by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

. . . Of the accused clergy, 75 were Catholic priests (39.5%) and 111 were Protestant ministers (58%).
Clergy Sexual Abuse (Fish Eaters)

Clergy Abuse: Rabbis, Cantors & Other Trusted Officials (Jewish Coalition Against Sexual Abuse / Assault) [446 specific cases documented]

The First Baptist Church of Romeoville canceled Sunday services in the wake of the resignations including that of convicted sex offender Jeff Hannah (inset). (Brian Jackson/Sun-Times)
[see story]

Stop BaptistPredators.Org: Shining Light on Baptist Clergy Sex Abuse [lots of documentation]

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests:

SNAP Press Statement: Statement Regarding Clergy Sexual Abuse in Southern Baptist Convention, June 14, 2006

Child sex abuse by Protestant clergy difficult to document: Large number of denominations, nature of hierarchy make task elusive, William Moyer, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, August 27, 2007But tracking allegations and confirmed cases of misconduct by Protestant clergy is an elusive task because Christianity's other ecclesiastical division is wildly diverse, congregational and sometimes staunchly independent compared to Catholicism's centralized hierarchy.

John and Monica Iliff

Family struggles with clergy sex abuse, October 17, 2007 (WJBC radio station) [includes audio files]
When you think of clergy sexual abuse, people often think of older adults and young children. However, a couple from Bloomington says their son would have been 26 last week, but Eric Iliff never made it because he said he as abused at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. They say the scars he suffered never healed.

Eric took his own life at a Normal hotel last March, surrounded by family photos and a Bible. His parents consider that a sign that he never lost faith.

Administrators removed Father Timothy Blumentritt from his position once Eric told them he was abused. He was later defrocked by the Church.

Sex Abuse by Clerics - A Crisis of Many Faiths: While sexual misconduct has rocked many religions, leaders of some have acted far more quickly than others
LA Times/March 25, 2003 (Teresa Watanabe)

The wave of clergy sex scandals now engulfing the Roman Catholic Church has battered other denominations as well, . . .

In the last decade, clergy sexual misconduct has been exposed in virtually every faith tradition. National studies have shown no differences in its frequency by denomination, region, theology or institutional structure.

. . . In faith after faith, the problem of clergy misconduct was exposed during the past 10 to 15 years because victims began stepping forward, plaintiffs began winning large awards and insurers began demanding policies to prevent abuse.

A Call for a Reporting Policy on Sexual Abuse in the Orthodox Church (Christos and Mary Papoutsy), Hellenic Communication ServiceThe Greek Orthodox Church has certainly been affected by such scandals, as the headlines of national newspapers and Internet websites will attest. The National Herald reported recently that that "the Holy Synod [of the Orthodox Church] is preparing to discuss old sexual scandals that have reemerged, according to high-ranking ecclesiastical officials at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Individuals have already contacted the archdiocese asking for monetary compensation in [the] millions of dollars."

. . . The Orthodox Church of America (OCA), a separate entity from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, has had its share of scandalous abuses. Greta Larson of California, whose own children were molested by a monk of the OCA in California, created a website, "Protection of the Theotokos: A Site for Victims of Abuse in the Orthodox Church," several years ago to publicize abuses by Orthodox priests and clergy ( Larson gathers and posts all instances of Orthodox abuse worldwide, citing a need to monitor fringe Orthodox groups that are uncanonical and to develop a clearinghouse for information about abusers who frequently cross ecclesiastical jurisdictional lines to avoid detection and punishment.Collection of scores of articles about sexual abuse in the Orthodox Churches (

Broken links, but articles in magazines:

"Why do we cover this?", Marvin Olasky   - Cover Story - World Magazine,   March 30,  2002

"N.C. Bishop Resigns, Admits Misconduct", The Lutheran, monthly publication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, July 1996

"Theme: Clergy Sexual Abuse", The Lutheran - June 2002

For more excerpts from the above data, see my lengthier blog paper:

While poking around the Internet a few months ago, I came across the web sites of the two insurance companies whose major business is to insure churches. I found that according to THEIR figures, non-Catholic claims about sexual abuse were running 13% higher than Catholic claims. That does NOT excuse the behavior of our priests nor does it make the activity less criminal or less of a sin. However, it does present a different view of the problem than that which is generally perceived by the public!


Let's face it … the Catholic Church is a big target with big pockets.  Most Protestant churches are individual corporations.  In the Catholic Church, the diocese is the corporation, so it has a big bank account.  When legal action is involved, the media focus on dollar amounts, and the Catholic Church has deep pockets because of its financial structure.

Statistically, schools and scout troops and youth sports programs have a much greater incidence of abuse than any church, and Protestant churches have a greater incidence of abuse than Catholic churches.  But the Catholic lawsuits are bigger.  And that draws media attention.

The Catholic pastor of a congregation of 3500 is likely to draw more attention than a Protestant pastor of 150, or a Boy Scout troop leader of 25, or a teacher of 20.  It's the nature of the media.

So, why doesn't some smart lawyer figure out some way to make those deep pockets inaccessible; some sort of restructuring??


Ken Follis:
Didn't the John Jay Institute do a study that showed that from 1950 to 2006 there were approximately 4500 US pedophile priest cases reported? If all these cases were proven to be legitimate how does it correlate with the fact that there have been approximately 100,000 US priests during that time? 4500:100000 (c. 4.5%)  If accurate, we've had a great many holy men of God.;)


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