mercoledì 6 ottobre 2021

French report -- average Church abuser abused over 100 children?

(Peter Anderson) The report of the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church, commissioned by the Catholic Church in France, was presented on October 5.  It was another shocking development in the Church’s sexual abuse crisis and has received great media coverage.  According to the report, there were between 2,900 and 3,200 Church abusers (priests, religious, and lay workers) during the period of 1950 to 2020.  With respect to priest and religious abusers, their numbers constituted between 2.5 to 2.8 percent of the total number of priests and religious in France during this time period.  See (official summary of the report)  However, the most shocking number produced by the Commission was that such Church abusers abused an estimated 330,000 children.  This is the figure that has attracted the greatest attention from the media.

When one does a simple division, one see that this means that the average Church abuser abused more than 100 children.  This is difficult to believe.  One of the worst Church abusers in the world was probably John Geoghan in the Boston Archdiocese who was claimed to have abused over 130 boys. (link)  The report would place the average Church abuser in France in almost in the same category as Geoghan.   The 2018 report commissioned by the Church in Germany found that approximately 1,670 clerics were involved in the abuse of 3,677 children.  The detailed report from the grand jury in the State of Pennsylvania (USA) found over 300 predator priests and over 1,000 known victim children, but states the belief that the actual number of victims was “in the thousands.”  (link)  Both of these reports would put the average number of known victims per known abuser between 2 and 4.  Admittedly, the actual number of victims and the total number of abusers are greater than the known abusers and victims.  The German and Pennsylvania reports state this.  Still to jump from an average of 2-4 to over 100 victims per abuser does not seem reasonable or justified.  Even if one assumed that the actual number of Church abusers in France was twice as high as stated in the report, that would still mean that the average number of children abused per abuser was over 50 – again a very high figure that is difficult to believe.

It appears that the figure on numbers of victims in the French report was determined by a survey in which questionnaires were sent to 243,601 individuals, and 28,010 usable questionnaires were returned. The percentage result of the usable questionnaires with respect to Church abuse was then applied to the general population in France.  
Unfortunately, the media does not address issues such as reconciling the number of claimed Church abusers and the number of claimed victims.  Because the report was commissioned by the Church itself and because the report is very length (2,500 pages), one is likely to assume that the estimate of 330,000 children must be factually correct.  I have seen no articles in the media questioning that figure.  In my opinion, there seems to be a reluctance by the Church to question in any way reports such as this one.  Perhaps, there is a fear that questioning an aspect of the report would give the impression that the Church is still in a state of denial with respect to the sexual abuse crisis.  Instead, there is usually only a “mea culpa” from the Church.  Still the truth is important, and questionable assertions against the Church should be examined carefully.
Peter Anderson, Seatle