The truth about priests

It is hard to believe, but not every Catholic priest is a pedophile


Even to the eyes of a seasoned child pornography investigator, the photographs are horrific. One image depicts a young boy, no older than 12, standing on a wooden deck, a pair of white underwear pulled down around his knees. In the next shot, a different naked boy is sitting in an office chair, with two holy rosaries—one white, one black—dangling from his skinny neck. It’s impossible to know for sure, but detectives believe the anonymous boy could be as young as nine years old.

In yet another photo—one of 964 discovered on Bishop Raymond Lahey’s laptop—a male teenager is posing in front of a bookcase. “He is blond and looks hurt as there are red welts and marks on his stomach and chest area,” according to a police statement filed in court. “He looks sad in this image.”

Sadness does not even begin to describe such a betrayal. In August, the same Bishop Lahey proudly announced a historic, out-of-court settlement worth millions of dollars for victims who were sexually assaulted by Catholic priests in his diocese of Antigonish, N.S. Then, just weeks after the press release, he was flagged by border guards following a flight from England to Ottawa, and—after a peak inside his Toshiba—charged with possessing and importing child pornography.

Like everyone, Lahey is entitled to his day in court (his next appearance is Dec. 16). As he told police during his first interrogation, he has “never done anything that would be abusive with a child” and has “no time for child exploitation.” His downloads, however, tell a much more sinister story: when the good bishop wasn’t negotiating with victims of sexual abuse, he was in his rectory, staring at graphic images of the very same crime.

Though shocking, Lahey’s arrest was not exactly surprising. Sadly, he is just the latest in a long, infamous line of Catholic clergymen accused of preying on innocent children (or in his case, watching from afar as others prey on innocent children). The headlines have been repeated so many times over so many years that it’s difficult to look at any man in a Roman collar and not assume the worst. Of course Bishop Lahey had kiddie porn on his computer. All priests are pedophiles.

In pop culture, at least, that presumption is now gospel truth. Doubt, last year’s Oscar-winning movie, centres on a priest suspected of sexually abusing a student. The latest Scotia­bank Giller Prize was awarded to Linden MacIntyre’s The Bishop’s Man, a novel that tells the story of a guilt-ridden East Coast cleric whose job is to clean up—and cover up—any whiff of scandal in the diocese. And if a priest shows up in an episode of Law & Order, odds are he is attracted to nine-year-old boys. “I’ve seen TV shows where the surprise ending is that the priest is not the pedophile,” says Philip Jenkins, a professor at Penn State University and author of Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis.

The media is not to blame for the allegations against Bishop Lahey—or the sins of any other priest who uses his spiritual authority to violate a child. If parishioners assume the man saying mass is a molester, it’s because thousands of priests actually were molesters. Law & Order did not invent the stereotype, and neither did newspapers. Priests did.
But at the risk of downplaying decades of unspeakable abuse—or forgiving a Church hierarchy that moved heaven and earth to suppress scandal and protect criminal clergy—an obvious point is often ignored: the vast, vast majority of Catholic priests are not sexual predators. In fact, the scientific research suggests that men who target children are no more pervasive in the priesthood (and perhaps less pervasive) than in any other segment of society. Depending on the study, somewhere between two and four per cent of priests have had sexual contact with a minor. Or, to put it another way, between 96 and 98 per cent have not.

“It’s part of that myth—the myth of the pedophile priest who can’t help himself,” says Thomas Plante, a psychology professor at Santa Clara University who has published dozens of studies about sexually abusive priests. “It’s really an issue of perception rather than reality. Believe it or not, probably the safest place for a kid to be is in a Catholic church environment.”

That certainly wasn’t the case for John Swales and his two younger brothers, Guy and Ed. Back in the summer of 1969, the boys attended a summer camp for low-income kids where they met a charming, larger-than-life volunteer named Father Barry Glendinning. An instructor at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont., the priest soon became a surrogate big brother. He gained the trust of the boys’ parents, showered them with pizzas, movies and booze, and, when opportunity knocked, introduced them to sex. John was 10 years old when the first assault took place. “You name it, he did it,” Swales says.

Glendinning was later convicted of six counts of gross indecency, but for Swales, the damage was already done. His life spiralled into a hell of drug addiction and male prostitution. “I’m coming out on the other end, but there is no healing,” he says now, 40 years later. “The impact is so intense and so deep-rooted it is beyond comprehension and beyond my ability to express it. That sounds melodramatic, but when you have sex at the age of 10 with your priest, it’s pretty weird.”

In 2004, the Swales family won a landmark $1.3-million judgment against Glendinning and the London diocese, but not before a bitter court battle that dragged on for years. The diocese went so far as to file a countersuit against John, claiming he was to blame for some of his brothers’ pain because he also molested them—albeit after Glendinning molested all three of them. The judge was not convinced: “Blaming John for his assaults on his siblings would be similar to blaming Frankenstein’s monster for his actions, rather than attributing its behaviour to the scientist who created it.”

Tragically, the Swales saga is not an isolated one. The Catholic Church, both in Canada and abroad, is rife with stories of priests who took advantage of vulnerable kids—and bishops who, at the first sign of trouble, simply shuffled them off to a different parish. Kevin Bennett. Charles Sylvestre. Thomas O’Dell. Bernard Prince. John Geoghan. Mount Cashel Orphanage. The list goes on and on.

But as implausible as it may sound—especially so soon after Bishop Lahey’s arrest—the Catholic priesthood is not overflowing with serial sex offenders. For all the pain he inflicted, Barry Glendinning is an exception, not the rule. “What has happened with some priests is obviously extremely distressing, but it is important to remember that this is still a very tiny percentage of priests that we’re talking about,” says Frederick Berlin, founder of the sexual disorders clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. “It’s important to put this into the proper context.”

Context, of course, is often mistaken for a cop-out. But after so much scandal, knowing the stats is arguably just as important as knowing what Lahey was hiding on his laptop.

In 1993, experts analyzed the files of 1,322 priests who were hospitalized over a 25-year period at Southdown Institute, an Ontario facility that treats clergy suffering from a wide range of psychological disorders. Fewer than three per cent were pedophiles. Around the same time, the archdiocese of Chicago examined its own records over the previous 40 years—spanning more than 2,200 priests—and reopened every internal complaint. The result: fewer than two per cent sexually abused a child. A New York Times analysis conducted a decade later found the same rate across the United States: 1.8 per cent.

The bible of all such studies was released in 2004. Commissioned by American bishops and conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the analysis was both startling and sobering: between 1950 and 2002, exactly 4,392 priests and deacons in the U.S.—four per cent—were accused of child sexual abuse. There were a total of 10,667 victims, and the allegations ranged from touching over clothing (52.6 per cent) to penile penetration (22.4 per cent).

The revelation that four out of every 100 priests were leading double lives is hardly reassuring. And one victim—let alone 10,667—is one victim too many. But if nothing else, the John Jay study does offer compelling proof that priests, on average, don’t seem to be any more dangerous than the people sitting in their pews.

Nobody knows for sure how often Boy Scout leaders or hockey coaches or daycare workers abuse the children under their watch. Headlines are the only indication. But consider this stat: according to the most reliable figures, 13 per cent of men and up to 40 per cent of women say they were sexually abused as children. The huge majority of those crimes occur inside the home—and the culprit is usually a relative, not the local priest. “We don’t know what the prevalence rate is for the general population, but it has to be at least double what it is for priests,” Plante says. “We can estimate it backwards through the lens of the victim.”

We also don’t know the prevalence among other religious leaders. So while four per cent may seem high (or low), it’s impossible to say whether rabbis or imams or pastors are violating children at the same pace as their Catholic counterparts. “It’s clear that the Catholic Church has a bull’s eye on it,” says Leslie Lothstein, a Connecticut-based psychologist who has counselled hundreds of wayward clergy. “No one is really collecting that data systematically for all Protestant sects. The same is true for the Jewish clergy, and while little is known about the Muslim clergy, it’s clear that when you actually work with people who are sexually abused, everyone seems to be part of the act.”

Even John Swales, a man who has suffered so much at the hands of the Church, chooses his words carefully. Despite a lifetime of agony, he also knows that every priest is not Father Glendinning. “We focus way too much on the act and the individual,” he says. “The real problem here is the response to the issue. We keep saying Lahey, Glendinning, and we throw these names out, but the real failing is the institutional response to these deviants. Every culture, every occupation has these issues of sexual abuse. Few have the ability to conceal it like the Church does.”

Indeed, nobody at the Vatican should be celebrating the fact that Catholic priests don’t have a monopoly on child molestation. The gravity of a sin is not measured by how many people commit it. Priests, after all, are supposed to be God’s earthly representatives, and when they rape a child, the sense of betrayal is that much more grievous. “Soul murder,” as Lothstein describes it.

Which is why the numbers, though enlightening, don’t speak for themselves. It’s one thing to know that four per cent of priests assault kids; it’s quite another to know why.

The answer, unfortunately, is anything but simple. Even the term “pedophile priest” is largely misleading.

Some clergy offenders do meet the clinical diagnosis for pedophilia, a disorder defined as a “sustained interest in prepubescent children.” But not all pedophiles act on their fantasies—and not all child molesters are pedophiles. Some abusers have no attraction whatsoever to prepubescent children, but, in a drunken haze, choose their young victim because nobody else is around.

The research shows that most guilty priests are actually ephebophiles: people attracted to post-pubescent boys, typically between 13 and 17. For a victim, though, such a distinction is completely irrelevant. Whether seven or 14, an altar boy is still a minor and the perpetrator priest is still a criminal.

So why do four per cent of priests abuse children? “It would be like asking me: ‘why does anyone sexually abuse minors?’ ” Berlin says. “What they’ve shared in common is that they’ve acted in an improper way sexually. But what they’re like in terms of character, personality, temperament, the degree of remorse they may or may not be showing, you really have to assess that on a case-by-case basis.” In other words, what motivates one priest to steal a child’s innocence is not always the same thing that triggers another.

One theory does stand out: the vow of celibacy. Some researchers believe that because aspiring priests are forced to ignore any and all carnal urges, those urges later manifest themselves as obsessions. In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, when many would-be abusers were studying to be ordained, some entered the seminary as young as 13. Simply put, their lives become a constant, adolescent struggle against masturbation. “They were taught that any sexual thought, impulse or feeling was a mortal sin, so they repressed the whole area,” says Donald Hands, a Wisconsin psychologist who ran a treatment centre for clergy. “This paralyzed them at an adolescent level of psychosexual development. When they entered midlife, they began to act out delayed sexual urges. Unfortunately, they acted out by assaulting boys of the same age that they had been when they surrendered their sexuality at the seminary gates.”

Richard Sipe, a former priest who has written three books about the dark side of chastity, is much more blunt. “The system breeds abusers. I don’t know any other way to put it. The Catholic Church, in its management of sexuality, is corrupt. It insists on sexual deprivation without education.”

Deprivation is certainly a dominant theme in the life of a priest, pedophile or not. Most live alone, oversee numerous parishes, and secretly long to be known beyond their Roman collar. One landmark study, conducted by Loyola University in Chicago, found that the majority of American priests (57 per cent) are psychologically underdeveloped—“emotionally immature,” “unfulfilled as persons” and “shaped by the expectations of others rather than a discovery of themselves.” Eight per cent were diagnosed as mal-developed, with “serious psychological problems” and “disruptive sexual conflicts.”

Ask the average Catholic, and they know the solution: let priests get married. But that assumption, Plante says, is as much of a myth as the pedophile priest. “People will say: ‘Oh, if they weren’t celibate, the problem goes away.’ We know that’s not true. Sexual abuse is not an uncommon thing out there, whether you’re married or not, whether you’re a priest or not. It’s common.”

Same goes for child pornography. The RCMP recently estimated that 65,000 Canadians are viewing kiddie porn online. Lahey may have been one of them, but even if all 9,000 other priests in the country were doing the same thing, that leaves 56,000 others—including, no doubt, a large chunk of men wearing wedding rings. “It is simply unjustified to say that the commitment to celibacy is somehow a major factor in the abuse issue,” says John A. Loftus, a psychologist and Jesuit priest. “There are so many people who live terribly productive lives as celibates, so there is nothing about the commitment to celibacy that, in and of itself, creates pathology.”

Loftus also debunks another widely accepted theory: so many priests abuse young boys because so many priests are gay.

It is certainly true that the priesthood includes a large proportion of homosexuals—between 30 and 50 per cent, depending on the study. But there is no evidence that being gay makes a man more likely to molest a boy. Sex offenders choose their victims for a myriad of reasons, including convenience, and countless men who consider themselves heterosexual have preyed on teenage boys. “That sounds weird, but it’s true,” Plante says. “I’ve treated a lot of these guys, and a lot of them will say that when they’re walking down the street, what attracts them is a female. But who they end up violating is a boy.”

He continues: “If it were flipped around—if 80 per cent of the victims were girls—we would never say: ‘Get rid of all the heterosexual priests, and the problem goes away.’ In the end, there is just no evidence that being a priest [gay or straight] puts you at risk of being a sex offender. It just doesn’t exist. Sadly, one could argue that not being a priest is a risk of being a sex offender, because the percentages have to be higher in the general population of men.”

Percentages won’t exonerate Raymond Lahey, or a Catholic Church reeling from yet another bout of sexual misconduct. The faithful are staring at the altar with renewed suspicion, stats be damned. “A lot of priests feel as though they are walking under a shadow,” says Monsignor Dennis Murphy, a North Bay, Ont., priest and author of A View from the Trenches: Ups and Downs of Today’s Parish Priests. “People wonder about us. It’s not surprising, but it’s not easy to live with.”

Such mistrust was supposed to be a thing of the past. In the early 1990s, after two separate inquires revealed widespread clerical abuse in Atlantic Canada, the country’s bishops promised reform. The result, a detailed handbook entitled “From Pain to Hope,” encouraged dioceses to respond “fairly and openly” to allegations, provide counselling to victims, and “respect” the jurisdiction of civil authorities. “We weren’t as alert to some Gospel values in the past as we should have been,” says Everett MacNeil, an Ottawa priest who sat on the Winter commission of 1990, which uncovered systemic sexual abuse in the archdiocese of St. John’s. “We were so afraid of scandal. The motivation might have been good—‘Oh, we can’t let the people know this’—but it was a false, false approach.”

Today, priests undergo safe-environment training, and are taught never to be alone with a child. Every diocese has a lay committee that examines new allegations of sexual abuse. If a victim comes forward, he is immediately offered counselling and support. And if the complainant is under 18, police are automatically called (adults reporting historic abuse are given the option to alert authorities; some victims prefer not to). “There used to be a lack of understanding about sexual abuse,” says Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisberger, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. “We tended to see it like alcoholism, that it was a moral problem and completely within the power of the individual to change. So normally, when people were discovered doing things like this, they were called in and given a royal dressing-down, hoping that they would be scared out of that kind of behaviour.”

And if that didn’t work, they would be transferred to a new community, free to exploit another batch of unsuspecting children. “That is not the way we deal with things today,” Weisberger says.

For many victims, the Church’s epiphany smacks of damage control, not genuine change. While bishops talk about care and compassion, their attorneys are busy fighting lawsuits at every turn. And unlike their American counterparts, Canada’s bishops still have no idea how far-reaching the problem is on this side of the border. Is the prevalence rate lower than four per cent? Or higher? In the U.S., each diocese is also subject to an annual public audit, detailing exactly how many new allegations are levelled in a given year. In Canada, we only hear about a case if it lands in court. The public has no idea how many accusations have been covered up with hush money, or how many victims have been scared into silence.

When asked about specific Canadian statistics, Weisberger says such a study would be expensive (the John Jay analysis cost US$4 million) and that kind of money would be better spent on safe-environment training and counselling. “I can see why people could be concerned about this,” he says. “But the bishops have decided in Canada that they don’t want to approach it that way.”

But why, after so much sin and deceit, should people now trust the Church to do the right thing? “Simply by the way we are dealing with things,” Weisberger answers. “I don’t know how else you can prove it.”

Philip Latimer has a different strategy. Now 47, he was an altar boy at St. Paul’s Church in Havre Boucher, N.S., when he was raped for the first time by Father Allan A. MacDonald. “My life was forever changed,” Latimer says, holding back tears. “I can only describe it to you this way: he reached into my soul, tore out everything in me that was good—mentally, physically and emotionally—and ran me through a blender.”

Latimer would have qualified for financial damages under the settlement signed by Lahey, but when he heard about the announcement he decided not to bother with the paperwork. Latimer had spent his life trying to forget Father MacDonald, and he wanted to keep it that way. But in late September, when word spread that Lahey was caught with child pornography, something snapped. “I couldn’t help but focus on this fact,” he says. “I kept thinking: ‘what am I going to do? What can I do? What should I do?’ ”

What he did was opt out of the class-action settlement and file a lawsuit of his own. If Lahey—the man supposedly looking out for victims—was victimizing others, what else is going on behind rectory doors? “The more and more people who commit this crime, the better and better they are at trying to hide this crime,” Latimer says. “Their plan is never to admit anything that they knew, and so my plan is to reveal everything that they knew.” Beyond the statistics.


The truth about priests

  1. Well, it's here. More balanced than I expected, (discounting the myth that celibacy makes one more likely to abuse for example) and I think one thing in this article rings very true. Clergy do have an isolated society that encourages a tendency to protect their own. Crimes are more easily forgiven and unnacceptably if you have a long history with the offender (for example is a friend and family member). This isolated society is thus in a position to frustrate investigations into its inner workings. If you add in the possibility that someone who approves or unduly tolerates this sort of behavior is in a position of power then you have the recipe for a conspiracy.

    I think that this article breaks down in a couple ways. There is no examination of what other factors could be at play besides celibacy. The Irish Catholic Church has been hit hardest by this scandal, and the outbreak of high rates of abuse correlates to the Australia, the American Northeast, Atlantic Canada, Ireland and Britain. These areas share not only a Jansenist culture of puritanism that may have contributed to sexual repression but also certain religious orders (such as the Christian Brothers) , seminaries and a general academic culture.

    • Just like the fact that not all reporters are smart

  2. As well, and I imagine this is going to provoke the most uproar, but I don't think the subculture of homosexuality had absolutely nothing to do with the abuse. That 80% of abuse victims being male, and the majority of that 80% being post-pubescent minors is not nothing. I'm not going to say that men with homosexual inclinations can't live as a celibate. I am also fully in agreement that a lot of the abuse might have been because of greater opportunities to sexually exploit boys rather than girls. I'm just saying that we shouldn't rule out the idea that if your sexuality is a key component of your identity (whether hetero or homo) you probably shouldn't pursue a celibate life. I think that it is true that a lot of homosexual men have tried to hide from their sexual urges by pursuing life in the priesthood and that they unleashed their urges on young boys because they could control the situation and then ignore the fact that it happened.

  3. The truth about priests is that they seek the refuge of the clergy as a means to purge their pedophile thoughts.

    The fact that we find so many priests being pedophile is not a fault of the clergy but rather a fault of how society treats pedophiles, discouraging them to admit their problem and seek professional treatment.

  4. I think that's true to some extent (as I opined in my own post) but I think there is also more to it than that.

    If you truly wanted to be alone to purge your pedophile thoughts, it is much easier to do in monastery than in the secular priesthood or a religious order dealing with the formation of youth (such as the Christian Brothers). Largely then, you needed to seek out positions to put you in a position of trust, power, and opportunity. Though most of the priests charged were charged for only a single offense, you also had repeat offenders who were caught, squirmed and begged forgiveness, sent to pseudo-scientists known as psychoanalysts, and then cynically abused again.

  5. I knew you and I would agree on something eventually, Andre. This is exactly right.

  6. An examination of the surnames of abusive priests mentioned in this article, which probably deserves more examination.

    Lahey (Irish)
    Glendinning (Irish)
    O'Dell (Irish)
    Geoghan (Irish)
    Sylvestre (Scottish)
    Bennet (English)
    Prince (English)
    MacDonald (Irish)

    • I'm pretty sure O'Dell is Yemeni.

  7. I'm having trouble putting my point into words. I think the source of the problem is how modern society demonises pedophiles. However they can't be committed to professional care until they commit an act of pedophilia, but then the backlash of being caught is so enormous that they wouldn't dare to go public.

    It's true that the results are horrid, and if my children to be the victims of pedophilia I would probably feel defile. If pedophiles become priests to overcome their urges, it shows that they are aware of their problem and seek a solution. If we'd be more tolerant and patient, pedophiles might be less tempted to hide in the clergy.

    • what a rediculous thing to say. do you really think if someone walked into a psychiatrist's office and said they were sexually attracted to young boys the doc would just be like, "ok have a nice day, see you after you rape a child?" anybody can voluntarily commit themselve for psychiatric help. pedophiles don't because they would rather victimize kids. society is damn right to demonize them. defending them is seriously not ok.

  8. I have long considered that the celibacy of Catholic priests – and nuns – was the Church's historical way of dealing with people who are born with a preference for their own sex. Gay people of both sexes are rife in my largely Catholic family so they are as 'God made them' (three out of five siblings in one family) – and are accepted as 'perfect', something the church has not been able to do for hundreds of years so far!

    As for pedophilia, I do not know if this is inborn or not – just that it never should be acted upon! Sadly it is rife along with sexual abuse of women and often couched in religious contexts not limited to Christians.

    • I don't think I've ever heard of a church – and certainly not a Catholic one – who accepts anyone as "perfect". The whole body of Christian though is all about how we are imperfect. In fact, Christianity seems to be all about redeeming our very imperfect souls.

      I'm not really religious (though not atheist either) but I've always admired that aspect of Christianity, in particular it's emphasis on humility. In the age of self-esteem and "I feel so good about myself today", it's almost refreshing to here some of that old scripture about humility before God.

    • So are you one of the perfect people too? In other words are you a faggot?

  9. There may be fewer priests engaging in abuse compared to the general population, but the fact remains that it is ten times worse when a priest is the perpetrator – both for his victims and for himself.

  10. "…and are accepted as 'perfect', something the church has not been able to do for hundreds of years…"

    My understanding is that the Church considers everyone on earth to be imperfect, gay or straight. Regardless of what the Church teaches, isn't it obvious that no one is perfect?

  11. Yep, human nature means that you cannot help but sin.

    There is of course original virtue as well, but the corruption of original virtue by original sin is pretty much why we need a redeemer.

    So essentially, the Church has not been able to say that we are perfect for thousands of years. ;)

  12. It is not hard to believe, not every sports coach is a pedophile But I have seen a few of them on trial, not to mention boy scout leaders.

  13. I accept all the stats. But really abusive priests have been with us for 2000 years. The problem is and was, the secrecy.

    And the spokesman for the church may reassure us that it will not happen again, but the fact is that it is still happening. The striking facts to prove that, are the situation in Hartford Connecticut today, and the fact that the Papal Nuncio would not even acknowledge receiving a letter seeking information from the Irish Judicial inquiry. The current pope, whilst still a Cardinal enforced "Crimen Sollicitationis" which forbade the bishops from going public, and that rule would still seem to be in effect.

  14. "The Diocese of Bridgeport spent 8 years fighting to prevent the release of records involving sex-abuse cases. Dozens of pleas and motions in state courts. Two trips to the Connecticut Supreme Court. Three efforts at the US Supreme Court. All to no avail. Today, in compliance with a court-ordered deadline, diocesan spokesman Joseph McAleer says that the documents will be released.

    But McAleer warned that the documents may not contain much new information.

    Right. There's nothing significant in the files. The diocese only fought against disclosure because of the principle of the thing. Got it."

  15. This is interesting, suggesting the issue may be a crisis of maladjusted sexuality in a particular ethnic group — or the poor quality of seminary training and preparation in the structures in Irish and Celtic settings.

  16. I think this study would be instructive to those interested in the issue.

    Full disclosure: It was comissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic bishops, but conducted by a neutral third party, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

    I found section 5.3, "Response of child sex abuse allegations by dioceses and religious communities" to be particularly interesting, though I would prefer data broken down by a particular diocese or religious order, rather than treating it like there was a monolithic national response.

    The national response didn't come until 2002.

  17. That is what the evidence seems to suggest. If I was to go with my gut, I would say that it is more the fault of the latter (improper selection of recruits and corruption in Irish seminary formation) instead of the former (sexual crisis in Irish society as a whole).

    • Very limited numbers on which to base a general conclusion TedTylerEzro . Do some proper research instead of speculating.

      • Oh, I agree, there needs to be proper research.

  18. I grew up in Quebec in the early 50's as an 'Anglican' and found that both the followers of the Anglican and Catholic religions were hypocrits. I'm an agnostic – not yet an atheist. One of my brothers was abused by his Boy Scout leader. BTW, is Scout Leader had a wife (one of our teachers) and 2 girls who were older and no longer living at home. They were like 'grandparents' to us. I recall well my brother and I one evening staying with this older couple where I slept with the wife and my brother slept with her husband. I was too young at the time to question this. When we moved to the Laurentians this man would suddenly pop in to see us. My Mother found a note from him in my brother's jacket. It was a damning note for lack of the proper word. My parents took him to court, but unfortunately, at that time in Quebec, all the court did was kick him out of the province. So they moved to Ontario. To this day my brother has never totally recovered from the abuse.

  19. Funny you did not mention the latest John Jay report at

    And in their summary, the Bishops did not mention "A preliminary report commissioned by the nation's Roman Catholic bishops on the roots of the clergy sex abuse scandal found no evidence that gay priests are more likely than heterosexual clergy to molest children, the lead authors of the study said Tuesday."

  20. As I recall, one of the studies found that most abusing priests had been in seminary prior to Vatican 2

  21. I'd be interested in seeing that study if you can provide it. I hadn't heard any such confirmation of what role Vatican 2 played or didn't play. I do know that there are abusers from both sides of the council, but that isn't particularly surprising given that the same people were church officials both before and after Vatican II, so any blame can be freely shared between the two.

    After all, there are some common roots with ideology of residential schools and the idea of "modernizing" the church that came with Vatican II. There are also many progressive ideas that have come about from those who wish to "reform the reform" that wouldn't have occurred to anybody in the 60's. It isn't merely a us vs. them scenerio as some would make it.

    Plus, I would imagine that child predators would have found more tempting places to strike from than the priesthood given the fact that this scandal has been with us since the 80's.

  22. Centralization has its advantages as well. For example, you can put procedures in place to recognize and red flag abusive clergy.

    There are plenty of non-denominational churches that have sexual predators, and while this means that they have nobody to help them cover up their crimes, it also means that they have no supervision as well.

  23. Centralization has its advantages?! Oh, yes. That's what Constantine said to the forcibly assembled bishops around 300AD or so. Then they did some wonderful things like declaring Jesus to be God, for God's sake, just to name one, forgetting about the rash of murders of all and sundry that were deemed 'heretics' … We have a measly part of their gospels that survived the burnings. Then, of course the next big, was The Crusades otherwise known as the great land grab and last but not least, the Inquisition, another fun thing organized by Centralized H.O…..And, God forgive us, it's never gotten any better…Just ask what Pius Xll was doing during WWll for more revelations, that is if you can get an answer, let alone a straight one.

    No, centralization is the biggest blanket, tailor made for cover ups and you can take a stab at some sort of justification, but it simply doesn't wash … this has been proven time and time and time again.

    The future of communal spirituality, if believers want one, lies in the loose gathering of like minded people with a minister chosen or elected, either from outside or inside the congregation. And, left to its own devices, local administration is a whole lot more subject to tighter overview than otherwise is the case in Rome, or Canterberry or wherever. Closely knit congregation is a whole lot more alert and vigilant than say a Monsignor/Bishop/Cardinal in his removed abode.

    At any rate, centralization has been found out and found out wanting for something more human…

  24. The Catholic tradition of child sexual abuse is one thing. But the sin that rots the very soul of the church is the code of silence. There's plenty of evidence to suggest other church officials – the higher ups, if you will – knew of Bishop Lahey's proclivities. Initial reports mentioned the red flag that drew the attention of the border services agent: Lahey's passport was repeatedly stamped with destinations such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand – “source” countries for child pornography.
    Did he tell his bosses he was heading there to run charity bingos? Somebody had to know a) his destinations and b) their reputations. Off he went, laptop at the ready, the bishop doing pastoral outreach – in bawdy Singapore.

  25. Those same old botbellied guys who stand up there and preach at us about good and evil? They want us to believe in the loaves and the fishes. Okay, fine. The water into wine? Sure. The body and blood of Christ? Why not? But do they really expect up to believe the “shepherd of the Diocese of Antigonish” was a rogue sheep herder, his actions unknown to his colleagues and superiors? They knew. They did nothing. That's why the pews are empty, the flock has scattered and the one they told us about the Pharisees is making a whole lot of sense.

    • Well Pamn, which of the apostles knew about Judas then? And while we are at it, how is Lahey any different than Judas? Seems to me he is a traitor, to the victim, to the victim's family, to the parish/diocesan council that manages the $$ that paid for his trips, to his brother priests, religious, and higher-ups he worked with, to Catholics world-wide. It is quite possible he acted alone, lied to everyone, probably knew about computers better than anyone else and evaded the usual audit of the books. But then, given historical precedent, why are we all shocked at the possibility he acted alone?

  26. Ah, but the article focuses on Atlantic Canada. If you were to focus on this issue and it's implications in the Phillipines, Brazil, Korea, Angola etc etc then the last names would be different. And I wonder what the last names are for the majority thousands of other abusers out there in Canada who aren't Catholic? I'm not Catholic, but just pointing out flawed logic.

    • I agree , the ones who commit the sins are the guilty ones, This applies to ANY countless sins commited by individuals, NOT the Catholic CHURCH or all priests.

  27. Ah, I see you now.

  28. Yeah, I like Diogenes too.

  29. I'm not sure if there was someone "higher up" that knew (he was a bishop after all) but certainly someone lower down the chain must have known. Which is a worrying problem in and of itself.

    Of course, since Bishop Lahey is also linked to Mount Cashel, we should probably expect that someone higher up knew about him when he wasn't so high up, which is also a huge worry.

  30. Actually, I think the churches are largely empty for another reason that is also Bishop Lahey's fault. Bishop Lahey oversaw the creation of the Catholic Book of Worship III hymnal book that tortures us every Sunday!

    Pedophiles really do ruin everything.

    • We have to remember that no one individual comprises the Catholic Church. The church is the people. We go to church on our own accord. We go to worship the Lord and nobody else !! We have to remember that our parents generation placed priests and clergy ona pedestal almost as if they were superhuman.. I don"t !! Again at the end of the day it is not between me and a priest opr a bishop .. it is between me and God!! owever, the sick people(priests and bishops) have to be rooted out!! and given help!!

  31. When over half of priests are found to have psycho-sexual problems (as in the US study), the source of the problem could well be found in seminaries. These are supposed to be training colleges for priests but fell into a terrible state sometime in the 1950s-1980s, essentially turning their back on traditional priestly formation and going with the times. Small wonder that in the midst of the Sexual Revolution, these men were untrained in the discipline, life of prayer, and piety that formed their predecessors into heroes and saints for centuries. Instead the seminaries began to reflect the world, pop psychology, social justice, peace and love — all the misbegotten ideas of the times. Some priests ceased to be men of discipline and faith; they even stopped praying. In other words there may be a connection in which a priest who stops praying and fasting, and begins falling into sexual depravity.

    • Much as I'd love to blame the 60s, the hippies, and modern pop psychology, I really don't know how much of this problem we can attribute to those things. I do suspect that modern pop psychology, with it's emphasis on the pursuit of "self-esteem" above all else, is a societal cancer that creates more problems than anyone is aware of. What was once called narcissism is now called "high self-esteem".

  32. They abuse girls too……but I guess that's alright…at least it's not "same-psex"…..I worked in the Arctic with them…..most of them are alcoholics up there…I guess they must get banished…"out of sight out of mind" sort of thing….they played "havoc" with nuns and native girls…I didn't see or hear of the boys. I was only 17 when Ifirst went there with HBC…they never bothered with me.

  33. The native communities of the North and the residential schools definitely took the brunt of clerical abuse. Priests that were problematic were dumped in the places where no one else wanted to work. Not only sexual abusers, but drunks and the mentally ill as well.

  34. This is a story that simply will not go away. Why? It isn't about the perverted priest. It's about the continuing cover up by the hierarchy from the lower levels to the highest. It's still raging in Ireland at the moment and doesn't bode well for the Roman Catholic church. We could go on and on as to why there's a need to cover up and most reasons would ring true. But at the core it's the same problem, ie the extremely centralized bureaucracy and the law of inertia. For my part, there is no solution to this quagmire… eventually, the Church will have influence only in those under/undeveloped countries and ultimately will loose any influence anywhere. And by the way, the same applies to other churches that are heavily centralized…Those left, will serve the spiritual needs of those believers that are left.

  35. exactly… perhaps the greater evidence surfaced in those countries. Also, the issue of pedophilia is well recognized in the orthodox church. They actually prohibit children around residences of solitary monks. And this is the only reason – to prevent pedophilia.

  36. Actually, Geoghan is from Boston, and Prince is from Ontario etc. But I get your point.

    However, it is simply a fact that while there have been other child sex abuse cases worldwide in the Catholic Church, the problem has not been as endemic and widespread as it has been in dioceses that are dominated by the Irish. Is this just because the Irish are the only ones speaking out? Perhaps, but it is instructive I think that this has not nearly been as much of a problem in places like Quebec (which also had undue deference and then widespread apostasy) and northeast United States where Italians have large ethnic enclaves in the same cities as the Irish you'd be hard pressed to find abusers with a vowel at the end of their name in the numbers you find those with Irish surnames.

    It is definitely something worth looking into.

  37. “If it were flipped around—if 80 per cent of the victims were girls—we would never say: ‘Get rid of all the heterosexual priests, and the problem goes away.'

    No, we would outlaw the Catholic Church.

    Seriously, it would be considered a variation of NAMBLA and would be not be allowed to operate with a charitable status, receive public funding or be accepted as a revered organization by the public or by government! As they well should.

  38. there seems to be something that people are overlooking here. the reason it seems that there are so many child abusers in the church, is that it makes sense that they would be attracted to a place where they can be in close contact with young children whose parents think they can let their guard down. you always find pedophiles where children gather. schools, team sports, community centers, scouts, and churches. all churches, not just catholic ones. i went to a baptist christian school, and one of my teachers was discovered to have been having an affair with a student at the school he was employed at before my school, which was another christian institution.

  39. this kind of thing will always be a problem in any place where there are kids, cuz that's where pedophiles want to be. unfortunately for church congregations, church leaders, to a point, have to trust that the people they're accepting into positions of power in their ranks are good people. if you don't have a record, then it's just your word they have to go on. no one is going to come right out and say they like to have sex with children. the problem with the catholic church, more than any other organization that deals with kids, is the extent they went to to ignore, hide, and lie about this problem. along with the actual offenders, the people who covered for them and shuffled them around should be punished just as harshly, if not more so.

  40. I have to agree with many of you, that the root of the problem with pedophilia in the priesthood lies in the Bishops' suppression of the scandals when they occurred, and the fact that the priesthood is an opportune place to come into contact with many young people.
    I am surprised, however, that no one has really commented on the issue of priestly celibacy. While allowing a married clergy would definitely not stop pedophiles from becoming priests (or from acting on their sexual urges, for that matter), it would definitely draw many more stable and 'normal' men into the vocation of the priesthood. In a time when Europe and North America are experiencing a major shortage of priests, I can't help but question if one of the current reasons that the Bishops are ignoring scandals and shipping guilty priests to other areas, is to try and preserve the small number of clergy who are left, so that they can keep parishes 'staffed'. Although a married, and thus more populated, clergy would not assist the scandalous atrocities that have occurred in the past, it might motivate the present Bishops to act on disciplining those priests found guilty of child abuse or other scandals. Not only should the guilty clergy be held legally accountable, but they should be defrocked and removed from the privilege of being able to celebrate Mass on the altar.
    The mandatory celibacy rule for Roman Catholic priests was only introduced and mandated 800 years ago, as a result of scandals that were occurring over a misuse of authority, finances and inheritance of Church property. This may have served its purpose for that time period, but it seems high time that the RC hierarchy reinvestigate that decision!

  41. heard somewhere priests are men who have undergone a training sorta like brain washing with a bent twist of reality and are intertwined with white magic and control over the fearful, the guilt ridden, those of hell bent convictions, etc. and headed by all male staff hierarchy….figure that out! in feudal times and days of yore, religion was established to undertake philanthropic ideals to feed the poor help the needy sick and old,etc. and everyone and their cat wanted supreme power over lost souls…gone a bit overboard and awry in the last thousand years or so wouldn't you say? maybe society should rethink these tax free orgys (short for organizations)

    • Aww… was reading the article itself and commenting on it too difficult for you?

  42. For starters how is this possible that it's hard to believe that not every catholic priest is a pedophile… is this a common feeling nowadays. Does Lahey make every bishop in Canada a homosexual child pornographer? Hello?

    I am out of touch with this whole thing, and the article doesn't differ at all from the rest that slams the truth and is just another socio far cry from it.

    • I have read your posting several times and I am trying to figure out what you are saying. How about giving it another try. Are you saying that all Catholic clergy are pedophiles? Or that the article paints them that way?


  43. Many years ago Bishop Julton J Sheen (1895-1919 ) in one of his TV programs told of a convert who had been a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. Her job had been to recruit men who were willing to become priests and religious in order to subvert the church from within, as it was considered impossible to destroy it from without. She alone recruited 1200 men ,up to that time .How many others were recruited ? Are we now reaping the results of this plan?

    • "Are we now reaping the results of this plan?"
      What "plan"? What does that mean?

    • And his name was Fulton, not Julton.

    • "Many years ago Bishop Julton J Sheen (1895-1919 ) in one of his TV programs"
      Well, TV didn't exist at the turn of the century, so I am thinking you either mistyped, are misinformed, or intentionally are misleading. In any case your post is useless.

    • Funny, I always thought Sheen was gay for sure. But he sure did have a hate on for Communists – I remember that.

  44. Julton J. Sheen lived from 1895 to 1979. Sorry !

  45. It is becoming apparent, that homos have worn out their welcome and attempt at accepyance, all over the World. An old Country, Uganda is setting the course of whats is to come.

  46. "(1 Timothy 4:1-3)  ….. some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, 2 by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, marked in their conscience as with a branding iron; 3 forbidding to marry…."

    The bible doesn't forbit anyone to marry…rather it is something made up by the Church and is not a scriptural teaching. …but then again, we're not suppose to call anyone on earth our "father" (spirtually speaking), but they ignore that command as well and set themselves up over their parishiners. Something else not scriptually based.

  47. please add the Reverend Harold T. Forster who abused 48 boys at an Anglican private school between 1953-62.

  48. I am an ordained deacon in the Catholic Church. Having been involved in the Church for 58 years as a server, as a seminarian during high school, as a liturgical musician, and as a deacon, I personally did not see evidence or witness any proclivity. Still, as a parent, I made it my point to be involved in my own kids' activities (Church work, scouts, athletic teams, etc). To me being a vigilant and involved parent was part of my responsibilities and not to be panned off on others.

    • What is the difference between a deacon and a priest? As far as appling for jobs, is a deacon one who holds a job outside the Church? Furthermore, the nature of abuse is secrecy; if there was abuse going on, while I imagine you might have become aware before the congregation would, it is possible the abuse passed you by. Of course the Church has been put in an impossible situation and wrong has been done; but the purpose of this article is that we should move forward. This inculdes not only aiding the victims and fixing the abuse problems but also healing relationships with the Church and clergy. Maybe not right away, these things are damaging, but at least taking preliminary steps towards recovery.

  49. My apologies for the duplication of some of my recent comments. My connection kept fluctuating.

    Deacon Bill Gallerizzo

  50. Of course not every Catholic priest is a pedophile.

    The problem is the Church covering up the actions of those who are. If I were to aid and abet a law breaker, I am quite sure my sorry a$$ who be hauled to jail. Priests get rotated to new parishes, everything is hush hush. The abuse continues.

    Charges should be laid at the highest levels, be they bishops, popes, it doesn't matter. Whoever knows. There is no impunity or infallibility for humans.

    • Well, you can't lay charges against the Pope, since he is a sovereign of a foreign state, without declaring war.

      I agree that where links can be made for culpability, arrests should be made. However, a lot of this mess predates ideas that employers have responsiblities towards their employees that committed a crime that they don't condone in the course of their work. As well, a lot of the abuse continued to occur because charges weren't laid, but instead were handed back by the police to the church to discipline internally, or there were no charges laid either because the victims never stepped forward, the police never followed up, or because it was handled privately.

      This has been a problem in many organizations outside the church, such as in school districts, charities, hospitals, prisons, and other bureaucracies. What responsibilities do peers and authorities have? Is prison always the response that should be used in cases of sexual or physical abuse? Should people be returned to their duties after they have completed psychiatric rehabilitation? There is a lot of banal evil that can occur in answering those three questions wrongly, but very not evil I would characterize as malicious.

  51. I don't think there is one answer to the why or what of the abuse situation. I think that alot of factors – homosexuality, celibacy, poor seminary training, sexual revolution, latchkey syndrome – came to collision simultaneously, not the least of which was the sense of sin and forgivenss in the Church versus a failure to recognize that regardless of the sense of forgiveness, criminal activity and psychopathic behavior warrant special attention. Even in the case of the anonimity of confession, if a priest becomes privy to such activity, he is morally bound to find a way to address the justice issue while maintaining confessional silence, which incidentally does not mean turning a blind eye. It means trying to find a creative way that maintains a sense of justice for both perpetrator and victim. If he cannot, then he is supposed to seek assistance in how to do that constructively. How might a priest respond to someone confessing to a murder? The same holds true here.

  52. As clergy, all of us, priests and deacons are coming under scutiny on many planes for this. In my own case, my wife and I moved to our present residence to be close to our grandchildren from another diocese 500 miles away. Since arriving here 3 years ago with highly professional credentials, 60-some job applications later I have only been able to secure two interviews. In fact, for one of the interviews, I was the top candidate. When they found out that I am a deacon, the job suddenly disappeared from the radar. The worst thing we as clergy can do is to keep silent on the abuse matter. We have to address it and condemn the actions of it from the pulpit with certain levels of sensitivity to the victims and their pain, if we are to restore our credibility. Yes it may be painful for many folks and for us, but we have to say it and openly talk about it if it is to ever cease. God works through all of us here on Earth and we have to be the vehicles through which He can bring justice to those who feel betrayed

  53. One problem with the older crimes is that back in a 50's and 60's, pedophilia and sexual abuse were hidden crimes regardless of who committed them. You simply didn't talk about them. Thousands of victims went unaided because people couldn't believe someone–a scout leader, a religious leader, a family member–especially a parent–could do a thing like that. If it was spoken of, it was never spoken of directly. Cover-ups and secrecy back then wasn't just a Catholic thing. (Of course, now they have no reason…we are much more free, it should be addressed openly and the book should be thrown!)

  54. First of all, this article utterly disgusted me. It makes one wonder what is truly safe in this world when the priest of your own holy church commits such felonies as molesting young innocent kids. Especially since being in a church or under a priest's wing is supposedly the safest spot a child could be, it really makes no sense as to why these holy figures would commit these sins toward familes and people who have trusted in the organization and have been loyal to for many years. What would happen if the parents were to find out? Would they be accepting to take action against their own priest? Would the option of moving to a new priest even enter their minds? This is a great wound that will not easily heal to all catholics, priests, and holy churches around the world.

    -Evan, 17

  55. Most of the church goers I talk/argue about this subject seem to brush it off, saying there was a few bad people. Their mighty leaders keep brain washing them and they continue to go every Sunday if not more often to give money to pay for over TWO BILLION dollars of pedophile lawsuits. That money could have helped a lot of people. The surface is just scratched, think of the people that have past on who can't tell their story, who don't get no closure etc etc etc. How can anyone with all the information at hand still be sucked in to attending church(Catholic anyways) when the leaders of the whole organization knew about the worlds most EVIL coverup. I get very frustrated talking to religious people who hide all the facts and try to quote excerpts from the bible as fact. you have no facts, your so called book has been re-written thousands of times and many different languages. Contrary to what the religious people I have run across, you can still be a good person and not attend church. Some of you may not like my view, sorry, but too many people sugar coat this stuff. I could sit here for hours, must go one of my little ones is up. Go Bill Maher Go!!

  56. I have not read all the comments and I probably will not read them. All I want to say is that I am now 76 years of age, born in Ottawa , On, was educated mostly in Ottawa and Toronto. I have recently retired from the practice of Law. In regard to priests I can only speak for the Priests that were mostly in Ottawa. They were all wonderful, contributed to my education in a masterful way and I am grateful for their assistance and care over my life. Life would have been immeasurably much more difficult without their wise assistance. Thank you, both the Priests and the Nuns for devoting your life to out well being.. John Quinn

  57. Arguing that the percentage of priests that abuse is not higher than the general population misses the point. They are in a position of trust and invariably do more serious damage. One abusing priest is too much. However of the thousands caught how many more go unreported because of fear and cover ups. The abuse is systemic and wide spread. All of our children need to live in a safe environment, free of the threat of molestation. If the R C church cannot clean up their act shut them down.