Sunday, April 28, 2002

Less Than One Half Of A Percent

A number of bloggers have linked to a report from the AP stating that 176 priests have resigned or been placed on administrative leave since January because of allegations of sexual abuse. None have quoted an equally important statistic cited in the article:

"Even if the figure were higher [than 176], it would still likely represent less than half of 1 percent of the 46,075 priests in the United States. And many of the complaints come from decades ago. The allegations that prompted Bishop Anthony O'Connell of Palm Beach, Fla., to resign dated from the 1970s, for example."
I know it isn't P.C., but someone has to point out that this is a small number. Yes, it is too many. Yes, it doesn't justify or minimize the suffering of the victims or the probable negligence of some bishops who didn't take proper action. But let's keep this figure in mind, people. Just as it would be unfair to dismiss the claims of the victims on the basis of how small the number is, it is equally unfair to ignore it and level charges of some massive conspiracy and cover-up against all of the bishops of this country. We can both recognize the seriousness of the situation and the need for reforms along with the fact that the problem isn't as pervasive as some would suggest.

(Oh and save me the "that's-only-the-cases-we-know-about" emails. If you insist on assuming the worst in the absence of evidence, fine. I don't wish to hear it unless you have something substantive to contradict the validity of the numbers.)

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