Saturday, May 5, 2012

Celibacy and the Pastoral Abuse of Minors

Readers of the San Jose Mercury News probably saw the story about the Assistant Principal at Leland High School who was arrested unlawful sexual conduct with a minor ("Leland High Assistant Principal Arrested for Alleged Unlawful Sexual Contact with Minor"). In fact, every few months, there seems to be a story about a principal, doctor, athletic coach, teacher who had inappropriate sexual conduct with a minor. And each time I read one, I am reminded how often it is NOT a Catholic priest who is the abuser.

In fact, contrary to popular perception Catholic priests do not sexually abuse minors at a greater rate than do males in the larger population. According to the best available research, the percentage of male protestant pastors, teachers, coaches, doctors, and (yes) school principals who sexually abuse minors is about the same as it is for Catholic priests (approximately 4%). An obvious implication of this is that priestly celibacy is not a cause of the pastoral abuse of minors. If it was, the rate among Catholic priests would be higher than the rate for the male population, but it isn't. So that's why although I (a married Protestant pastor) think there are a lot of good reasons (including theological reasons) why diocesan Catholic priests should be allowed to marry, the prevention of the pastoral abuse of minors is not one of them.


  1. Interesting Sean. As a Congregationalist Catholic High teacher one might think I know this but I did notm Thanks

  2. Well, you're not alone. I only learned about it in the last 6-7 years or so.