Number Crunching: Church Abuse Reports

According to the Associated Press, here are some church abuse statistics that should frighten everyone:

Three companies that insure the majority of Protestant churches in America say they typically receive upward of 260 reports each year of people under 18 being sexually abused by clergy, church staff, volunteers or congregation members.

That’s an underestimate, since the denominations aren’t centralized and not every instance is reported.

How does the Catholic Church do in comparison?

The Roman Catholic Church has said there have been 13,000 credible accusations against Catholic clerics since 1950.

If my math is correct (and for the sake of my teaching career, I hope it is), that gives the Catholic Church an average of just over 228 reports of abuse per year. However, we don’t know how many of those accusations are made by minors.

Are the Protestant churches worse than the Catholic Church when it comes to abuse?

I’m curious what the year by year breakdown would be, if the churches are getting better or worse at fixing the abuse problems over time.

These numbers come from the three companies that insure the majority of Protestant churches in America (165,495 of them, to be exact).

Church Mutual Insurance Co. (Merrill, WI) had an average of “100 sex abuse cases a year involving minors over the past decade.”

GuideOne Insurance Co. (West Des Moines, IA) reported around “160 reports of sex abuse against minors every year for two decades.”

Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co. (Ft. Wayne, IN) said it has received approximately “73 reports of child sex abuse and other sexual misconduct every year for 15 years.” Though this company didn’t specify ages, so we don’t know how many of those abuse scandals involved minors specifically.

It’s tragic any way you put it.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Associated Press, Protestant, Christian, Catholic Church, abuse, scandal, sex, Church Mutual Insurance Co., GuideOne Insurance Co., Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Co.[/tags]

  • Mriana

    I’ve never been sexually abused by clergy, but this makes me wonder why they don’t look into other forms of abuse with churches. We know other forms exist. Just look at the Jesus Camp. I have a feeling if they looked into emotional/mental abuse that rate would go up even higher. And even then there maybe some questions about physical abuse too, but I have yet to hear about that one. It’s mostly sexual and emotional/mental abuse we hear about. HOWEVER, there is a branch that believes if a young child gets noisy in a service, they have the right to physically punish the child. Due to complaints of abuse they decided to take the child out of the service to do the physical discipline, but they still do it. I can’t remember which branch that is, so I won’t say which one I think it was.

    So IF we know sexual abuse is happening, why aren’t we investigating other forms? Why are we allowing Catholic church to sequester priest who have committed acts of sexual abuse? Isn’t this a form of Bedlam? They aren’t getting any psychological help, but rather being hidden from society. Then again, Acharya S makes the accusation in her book “The Christ Conspiracy” that the Church was founded by the mentally ill too, thus why the use of extreme violence and delusional ideology to force conversion. I’m not saying that is true, but it is something to ponder given that there seems to be a lot of priest who are mentally ill. Yes, I am equating sexual abuse with mental illness. The offender, not the victim, is mentally ill, but this does not mean the victim can’t become mentally ill and commit the same act later in life because they were once a victim. Again, we are talking psychological make-up and whether or not the victim receives counselling.

  • http://www.floatingaxhead.com michael

    I am both a Christ-follower and have spent my career in the insurance industry, so I am bothered by the stats, and know they are higher than reported.

    I am also having difficulty believing they were released by claim-type but I am glad they were.

    The bigger issue for me, is how indicative is this of our culture? How large is this problem? How much is unknown and why?

    The actions of mankind has not changed over time, left to its own individualism, it is overwhelmingly selfish. I would call this sin, others can label it whatever helps them digest it.

    I think the Catholic church has real issues with its priesthood and the men they recruited to serve knowing many of their habits and preferences. But churches in general have allowed a lack of accountability and protocol to damage many people.

    As for [name deleted -- HM], my heart goes out to you. Only you know what is the best course of action for you, so may you have the courage to stay the course you choose.

  • Karen

    [name deleted -- HM], only you can make the decision of course, but I strongly encourage you to think about taking some action. You don’t have to press criminal charges, but you could let someone else in a position of responsibility over this individual know about what happened and how it harmed you.

    My concern is that if he’s still working in a position where he has unsupervised access to young people, he may very well repeat the crime. That seems to be the pattern: Less isolated incidents and more a pattern of sexual abuse. If you have a chance to break that pattern – and spare another young person the trauma you no doubt went through – that would be something to seriously think about.

    The numbers the insurance industry cited really don’t surprise me. I’ve known both men and women who admitted to me they were sexually involved with youth pastors and other male church leaders when they were kids. One of my best friends married the youth pastor – a guy about 12 years older than she – as soon as she turned 18. They’d been in a sexual relationship for several years prior.

    The Catholic church sex scandals have gotten all the publicity, but I think the Protestant counterparts have just not been “outed” yet.

  • Hugh

    Did you even think of normalizing the statistic to the population ratios(and maybe for church attendance rates) for protestants and catholics? Your statement “Are the Protestant churches worse than the Catholic Church when it comes to abuse?” is ridiculous when you are dealing with net numbers.

    Regardless of that though, I agree with [name deleted -- HM] that those statistics are low, but I doubt the estimate is no worse off than any other report of sexual abuse to a minor(say from a parent, uncle, grandparent, etc). 90% of the 100,000 or so substantiated sexual abuse claims are perpetrated by a parent or other relative. I’m in a hurry so I’m not going to crunch any numbers, but using the information in your post and here I would guess that the total instances of child sex abuse that occurs in churches would be between the cases perpetrated by foster parents(.4%) and cases perpetrated by day care workers(.7%).

    I would like to know the statistics for who is doing the abuse and what position they hold in the church. I’ve read many stories about sex offenders who come to a church, tell the head of the church about their past, the head of the church keeps it a secret, the sex offender molests someone, and then the church gets sued. I also remember reading on a recent news report about some pedophile advocate in Oregon who listed churches among many other places as a good place to get close to children.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    Did you even think of normalizing the statistic to the population ratios(and maybe for church attendance rates) for protestants and catholics? Your statement “Are the Protestant churches worse than the Catholic Church when it comes to abuse?” is ridiculous when you are dealing with net numbers.

    Good point. I was just thinking of numbers, not percentages. Though I was still surprised at how high the Protestant church numbers were. I didn’t think abuse like that happened in those churches (with the exception of possibly a few awful people)

  • Liberal Christian Person

    reading stuff like this makes me sick. People who think they can get away with this stuff because they’re “men of God.” Not just sexual predator clergy, but emotionally and verbally abusive clergy, as well as the controlling, manipulating ones.

    The mormon polygamy guy (forgot his name) is also worth mentioning as a sicko that makes my blood boil. >:(

  • Karen

    I also remember reading on a recent news report about some pedophile advocate in Oregon who listed churches among many other places as a good place to get close to children.

    The problem is that people are predisposed to trust those of their own religious faith, so someone with an ulterior motive who “talks the right talk” and is very personable and seems sincere can get all kinds of access to kids in churches that organizational rules and laws would not allow him in other settings.

    Thankfully, more churches are becoming aware of the problem and starting to institute rules about background checks and not leaving one individual unsupervised with children. But it’s been slow progress.

    Back when I was going to church camps and sleepovers and spending a lot of time with youth leaders there were all kinds of opportunities and very little oversight on who these adults were. If they were born again, and willing to volunteer – they got the job! Thankfully nothing untoward happened to me, but as I said I knew others who weren’t so fortunate.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X