National Catholic Register
Oct. 27, 2019
By Jennifer Roback Morse
A recent study reported, “only 6% of seminarians report sexual harassment.” The McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame produced this path-breaking survey. One optimistic conclusion people might draw from this report is “Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is no worse than in any other institution of society. People who keep talking about sexual abuse are just bashing the Church.” In my opinion, comparing sex abuse in the Catholic Church with that in other institutions can serve a valid purpose. But I think we need to be careful. Some such comparisons can be actively harmful.
Let me take as an example, The Catholic League’s response to the Notre Dame survey. I choose them because they make a fair statement of a sentiment many people share:
In 2013, Hollaback! commissioned a College Harassment Survey and found that 67 percent of students experienced harassment on campus. In 2006, the American Association of University Women reported that nearly two-thirds of college students experienced sexual harassment at some point during college. In 2018, an online survey by Stop Street Harassment found that 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men said they experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime.
Definitions of sexual harassment vary widely, and incidents range from a sexual joke to rape, thus making comparisons difficult. No matter, compared to life outside the seminaries, the condition in most seminaries today is far better than on college campuses or in the workplace. And they are a vast improvement over what existed in many seminaries not long ago.
The Catholic League’s mission is to defend the Church from slander. Our highly secularized world is filled with people who hate the Catholic Church and miss no opportunity to criticize her. The truly committed sexual revolutionaries honestly believe the Catholic Church is not only bad, but the worst institution ever. I don’t think we should even dignify that statement with a response, should anyone be blunt enough to just blurt it out. The Catholic League, and anyone who loves the Church, is not wrong to defend the Church against scurrilous attacks.
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