Mass Rape by Paedophile Catholic Priests Is a Myth, Says Secular Humanist Magazine

By Damian Thompson
The Telegraph
September 16, 2010

How The Independent reported the rape claims

A fascinating article today by the atheist Left-wing columnist Brendan O'Neill, editor of spiked, rubbishing claims that thousands of children were "raped by the Catholic Church's army of paedophile priests". Here's an extract:

Were 10,000 children in America and thousands more in Ireland really raped by Catholic priests? In a word, no. Instead, what has happened is that in the increasingly caliginous, almost Inquisitorial mindset of sections of the New Atheist anti-pope lobby, every allegation of abuse against a Catholic priest has been lumped together under the heading of 'rape', and every allegation has been described as an actual proven 'rape' regardless of whether it resulted in a legal trial, never mind a conviction.

The term 'paedophile priest' has become such a part of everyday cultural lingo that most people, when they read in last week's relatively respectable UK Independent that 'over 10,000 children have come forward to say they were raped [by Catholic priests]', would probably think, 'Yeah, that's possible'. But it isn't true.

You'll need to read O'Neill's piece to grasp the full details, but in essence he makes two points:

1. In America, between 1950 and 2002, a total of 10,667 people made allegations against 4,392 priests (ie, four per cent of priests in ministry during that period). Of these accusers, 1,203 made allegations of what we would consider rape. O'Neill asks:

How did a complex US report about all manner of allegations against priests come to be translated in the words of the Independent into the idea that 'over 10,000 people have come forward to say they were raped [by priests]'? Because in the outlook of certain sections of the intolerant New Atheist lobby, everything from sex talk to fondling to being shown a porn flick is 'rape' if it's done by a priest, that is and every priest is guilty of what he is accused of despite the question of whether or not he was convicted in a court of law.

In other words, the Catholic-baiting Independent seriously misled its readers.

2. In 2009, the Irish and British press reported that "thousands of children were raped" by Catholic priests and religious in Irish reform schools. The reality is that 242 male witnesses made 253 reports of sexual abuse against the staff of Irish reform schools at the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse and of these, 68 claimed to have been raped. O'Neill adds:

Once again, not all of the allegations resulted in convictions. Some witness reports involved priests who had died, and out of the 253 male reports of sexual abuse, 207 related to the period of 1969 or earlier; 46 related to the 1970s and 1980s. How did 68 claims of anal rape made against the staff of Irish reform schools over a 59-year period translate into headlines about thousands being raped? Because once again, everything from being neglected to being smacked to being emotionally abused which thousands of Irish reform-school kids were subjected to was lumped together with being raped, creating a warped image of a religious institution that rapes children on an almost daily basis.

O'Neill has done us a service by writing this article on the eve of the Pope's visit. And, please, there's no need to remind me that vile acts were committed against children by Catholic clergy. I know. I was writing articles about the scandal of paedophile priests in the early 1990s, at a time when neither the Church nor public opinion seemed very interested.

But, at around the same time, I was also writing sceptically about the "Satanic Ritual Abuse" scare. Remember that? To put it mildly, many allegations of ritual abuse turned out to be unfounded. Yet anyone who refused to "believe the children" was denounced as an apologist for paedophilia.

I'm not claiming that the analogy is an exact one: clearly a small minority of priests were abusers, whereas the evidence for devil-worshipping paedophiles was virtually non-existent. But what I do remember from the early 1990s is that academics or journalists who asked awkward questions about the empirical basis of the Satanic claims were shouted down by a mob whose members consisted of religion-hating secularists and extreme Protestants. Call me paranoid, but I reckon the old alliance is back in business.

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