Are Catholic Clergy more Likely to Be Paedophiles than the General Public?

The Tippling Philosopher

June 30, 2017 by Jonathan MS Pearce

This is a question that has been kicking around ever since the child sex abuse scandal involving the Catholic church came to the fore. In around 2010, loads of articles came out, citing some data, that the priesthood was broadly in line with national averages, some people claimed it was actually worse in Protestant churches/organisations, and many claiming (as a result) that this was not a Catholic problem per se, and that other denominations rate the same.

The reality could be, as Andrew Brown surmised, that the notoriety of the scandal and public perception might be skewed because of the institutional cover-up of the Catholic church. Let’s have a brief look.


The Royal Commission, an investigation started by the then Australian PM Julia Gillard into historic sex abuse, has thrown this data wide open.

The research has shown that, in Australia, 7% of priests nationally have been accused of sex abuse. In the Diocese of Sale, it is twice as many, with 15.1%, and a whopping 40% of the St John of God order being accused. Here are some interesting Australian stats:

Catholic Data Project Results:

4,444 — number of people who alleged incidents of child sexual abuse,
1,000 — The number of separate institutions the claims related to,
78 percent male, 22 percent female — gender of the person making the claim,
97 percent male — people who made claims of child sexual abuse received by religious orders, with only religious brother members,
11.5 for boys, 10.5 for girls — the average age of people who made claims of child sexual abuse at the time of the alleged abuse,
33 years —the average time between the alleged abuse and the date the claim was made,
1880 — number alleged perpetrators were identified in claims,
597 or 32 percent were religious brothers,
572 or 30 percent were priests,
543 or 29 percent were lay people,
96 or 5 percent were religious sisters,
90 percent male, 10 percent female — age [??] of the allege perpetrators,
500+ — number of unknown people were identified as alleged perpetrators.#

The relevance of this is that this is now perhaps the biggest and most comprehensive review of Catholic sex abuse.

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