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‘Myth of the pedophile priest’

11 Mar, 2002

Penn State University professor of history and religious studies Philip Jenkins writes in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that the concept of the ‘pedophile priest’ is a ‘myth’:

As a description of a social problem, the term is wildly misleading. Crucially, Catholic priests and other clergy have nothing like a monopoly on sexual misconduct with minors.

He says that while news media have portrayed child abuse cases within the Catholic church as a crisis of celibacy, in research conducted over 20 years, he has found no evidence that Catholic clergy or other celibate denominations are more likely to be involved in child abuse:

Literally every denomination and faith tradition has its share of abuse cases, and some of the worst involve non-Catholics. Every mainline Protestant denomination has had scandals aplenty, as have Pentecostals, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Buddhists, Hare Krishnas – and the list goes on. One Canadian Anglican (Episcopal) diocese is currently on the verge of bankruptcy as a result of massive lawsuits caused by decades of systematic abuse, yet the Anglican church does not demand celibacy of its clergy.


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