Rorate Caeli

Who is giving the numbers to the Pope?

Marco Tosatti 
senior religious correspondent for La Stampa

It is difficult to write about something that is vague and has indistinct contours as in an interview with seeming contradictions, but not contradictory in a general sense, such as the latest interview between Eugenio Scalfari and the Pope.  But there is an aspect of the conversation that merits attention, because it poses questions of great weight.   One of these questions concerns sexual abuse by clerics.  At a certain point, in his reconstruction of the conversation, Scalfari writes that he asked how widespread this phenomenon is. The Pope responded, according to Scalfari, in this way:

“Many of my consultants who are in this struggle with me assure me on the basis of reliable data that they estimate that pedophilia in the Church is at the level of two percent.  This should have reassured me, but I must say to you that it did not reassure me at all.  I consider it on the contrary a most grave matter.  The two percent of pedophiles are priests and even bishops and cardinals.  And others, even more numerous, know but are silent, they punish but say nothing about the reason for the punishment.  I find this state of things unsustainable, and it is my intention to confront it with the severity that it demands.

The sentence ends this way, without the closing quotations marks.

But it is the figure of two percent reported by Scalfari that creates a great deal of perplexity.  And one must ask: a) if the Pope really said that; b) who gave him these figures? c) did Scalfari report this correctly? There are 410,000 priests in the world.  Two percent of these comes to eight thousand.  This is data that contrasts with that which has been accepted heretofore.

The UCCR (a Catholic organization dedicated to the positive relation between faith and reason) in a recent article writes: 

But how many priests are there stained with pedophilia?  The Vatican has given a number before the fifty second Comitato Uno (a pro-life group) against torture: between 2004 and 2013 a total of 884 members of the clergy were reduced to the lay state because of the scandal of pedophilia.  Other disciplinary measures were taken against 2,572 priests (often because they were in advanced age or ill).  These are the figures that are the basis for speaking about this problem.  If we add 884 to 2,572 we have in total 3,456 Catholic priests involved in pedophilia in ten years.  The number of Catholic priests in the world according to the official Vatican statistics are about 410,000, an approximate average between the 405,000 in 2000 and the 413,000 in 2010, numbers similar to the number of priests in the ‘60s an ‘70s.  The calculation is easy to do: the 4000 pedophile priests correspond to 0.8% of Catholic priests active in the past ten years. Even if it is true that only one case of abuse is too much, we can point out that we are not talking about a high percentage. On the contrary this is decidedly modest with respect to the percentages relating to parents, friends, teachers, coaches, and relatives in general (the greater part who are married, therefore not celibate). 

Professor David Cito, of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, who works in this field with the institutes of the Holy See speaks of 400 cases per year that are sent to Rome to be evaluated.  And he emphasizes that in 90 per cent of the cases the victims are adolescent males, from 16 to 18 years old.  Therefore these do not concern pedophilia but rather ebophilia, linked to the phenomenon of homosexuality.

It has to be asked why the Pope does not bring to light this difference that is so important.  But not only this.  In 2010 the “grand inquisitor” of the Vatican, now the bishop of Malta, Charles J. Scicluna, a cohort of Benedict XVI in the great battle against the phenomenon of abuse of every type, said:

In these last ten years (2001-2010) we have evaluated accusations regarding about 3000 cases of diocesan and religious priests that dealt with  crimes committed in the past 50 years.  We are able to say that roughly 60 percent of these cases dealt with ebophilia, that is, due to sexual attraction to adolescents of the same sex, another 30 percent to heterosexual relations, and 10 percent that related to true pedophilia, that is, determined by a sexual attraction for pre-pubescent children. The cases of the priests accused of true pedophilia are therefore about 300 in nine years.  This number is too high—for the love of God !—but it is necessary to recognize that the phenomenon is not as extensive as many would like us to believe.

Given these facts:  if Scalfari—and this has to be shown—recorded the Pope’s words accurately, who is giving these numbers to the Pope?

[Source, in Italian. Translated by Fr. Richard G. Cipolla. / Illustration source.]