Editor takes international media to task for skewing clergy sex abuse stats

British social commentator Brendan O'Neill wrote a recent piece calling out U.S. and U.K. media for skewing clergy sex abuse stats and wrongly portraying the Catholic Church as hosting “an army of pedophile priests.”

O'Neill serves as editor of the independent social commentary website Spiked, and is a feature writer for the BBC. O'Neill also makes journalistic contributions to U.K. and U.S. publications such as the Guardian, the Sunday Times, the Chicago Sun-Times and Christian Science Monitor.

“Apparently the British state is about to roll out the red carpet for a seriously evil rape facilitator,” O'Neil began his editorial on Sept. 13, referencing to the Holy Father's upcoming trip to the U.K. this week.

Quoting recent headlines, the commentator wrote that Pope Benedict XVI has been portrayed as “the boss of a church that acts as a 'patron, protector and financier of child rape'” and that allegedly “'over 10,000 people have come forward to say they were raped as part of this misery-go-round' overseen by His Holiness and His Lackeys.”

“But how true is this ugly truth? Were 10,000 children in America and thousands more in Ireland really raped by Catholic priests?” he asked. “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,” he noted, “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.”

O'Neill then cited the 2002 study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which was published in 2004 and titled, “The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States.”

“Of the 4,392 priests in America who were accused of sexual abuse in the period of 1950 to 2002, 1,021 were investigated by the police, and of these, 384 were charged, of whom 252 were convicted,” O'Neill clarified. “So around six per cent of all American priests who had allegations made against them were finally convicted.”

He continued, this is nothing like the “10,000 individuals in America” who claim “they were raped by Catholic priests.”

“In truth, 1,203 made this allegation.”

Similarly, when the report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was published in May 2009 which detailed abuse accusations by Irish reform school attendants, “the media reported it as if it had uncovered apocalyptic, Caligulan levels of sexual depravity.”

“‘Thousands were raped in Irish reform schools,' said the Independent. ‘Thousands raped in Ireland’s Christian Brothers schools,' said the Belfast Telegraph. ‘Thousands raped and abused in Catholic schools in Ireland,' said the Guardian,” recalled O'Neill. 

“So were thousands of children - in particular boys, the main focus of the media reports - raped in Irish reform schools?” he asked. “No - 68 were, allegedly.”

While O'Neill claimed he is not out to “defend the Catholic Church, which clearly has a sexual abuse problem,” it is nevertheless “worth pointing out the reality of the extent of allegations against the Catholic Church in order to expose the non-rationalist, anti-humanist underpinnings of the current fashion for Catholic-baiting amongst the liberal, opinion-forming classes in the US and the UK.”

“The wildly inaccurate claim about thousands of children being raped by the representatives of an institution which actively ‘protected and financed child rape’ suggests that modern-day atheism, this New Atheism, has zero interest in applying the tools of rational investigation and critical questioning to the problem of certain religions’ infrastructure, and instead is hell bent on using the politics of fear,” he noted, “in contrast to which it can pose as the pure defender of childlike innocence and societal integrity.”

Our mission is the truth. Join us!

Your monthly donation will help our team continue reporting the truth, with fairness, integrity, and fidelity to Jesus Christ and his Church.