Facts About Pedophile Priests

A reader asked for the sources for a couple of my statements in a post recently about celibacy and sex abuse. Namely the assertion that most abuse is perpetrated by married men not single men–therefore marriage for Catholic priests will not solve the sex abuse problem.

The reader also questioned my assertion that most of the cases of sex abuse by priests were carried out by homosexuals, and that marriage was unlikely to solve their problem also.

I should therefore point out that just because 80% of the priestly sex abuse cases were homosexual in nature does not imply that homosexuals are necessarily more likely to be child sex abusers than heterosexuals, or that homosexuality necessarily makes a man more likely to sexually abuse children. My point was simply that marriage would not be the answer for pedophiles who were also homosexuals.

Here is an interesting article from Psychology Today by Thomas Plante PhD which summarizes his findings about sexual abuse by Catholic priests, and which supports my statements. Plante is an academic, a professional psychologist, the author of umpteen books including several on the clergy sex abuse, and he also quotes the most extensive study on the subject, the Jay report. A reader also recommends Philip Jenkins’ books Pedophiles and Priests and Moral Panic as excellent studies for those who wish to learn more about the problem of priestly sex abuse. For more documentation and facts about the priest sex abuse scandal visit this site.

Cardinal Marx Holds Secret Vatican Conference to Sway Synod
If You Believe in Fairies...
How to Be a Creative Conservative
It's All or Nuthin'
  • Reverend Robbie

    “I should point out that just because 80% of the priestly sex abuse cases were by homosexuals does not imply that homosexuals are necessarily more likely to be child sex abusers than heterosexuals.”

    I think this is a loaded statement. When read, it sounds like 80% of priestly sex abusers are practicing adult homosexual relationships. It’s a weird sleight of hand in this statement that allows you to sound like you’re being generously open-minded by the second half of the sentence, but you shoe-horned in a statement that, to most readers, is misleading. That 80% figure comes from the fact that 80% of the sex abusers abused young boys. That defies the colloquial definition of homosexual, which connotes an adult same sex relationship. Such a usage begs for clarification when used.

  • Cara

    Thanks Father. The article you link to says, “and the Catholic Church has a large number of priests who are homosexual in orientation (22% to 45% according to a variety of studies and reports)”.

    That seems extraordinarily high. Do I read that correctly? That (“according to a variety of studies”) between 2-5 out of 10 priests are attracted to the same sex? How does this compare to the general male population? Are you aware of articles / resources that faithfully & thoughtfully deal with this topic (as opposed to those with some political / personal agenda)?

  • Reverend Robbie

    By the way, I agree that marriage would not necessarily solve the issue. I’m not a psychologist, but I understand that pedophilia is a condition that is not so easily, if at all, solved.

    On the other hand, over the long term, perhaps allowing marriage and sexual relationships would change the proportionate figure of people interested in the priesthood who are of such deviant (more importantly, harmful) sexual dispositions. In other words, as it currently stands, perhaps a large number of pedophiles apply for the priesthood because they don’t care to marry and have adult relationships anyway, so celibacy is less of a sacrifice for them. I’m not saying this is the case, as the research you link to suggests that there is no disproportionate number of pedophiles in the priesthood. I’m only saying that, were there a problem to solve, perhaps ending celibacy would resolve it. I’m really only of the opinion that the abnormal problem with the priesthood is the culture of secrecy that allowed it to continue.

  • midwestlady

    Almost none of the abusers were pedophiles. Pedophiles are adult sex criminals who abuse very, very young children of either sex. But that’s not what happened in almost every case. The Catholic Church’s abusers were almost always men. Their victims were 81% male, and most of them were pre-pubescent and adolescent. What happened were not acts of pedophilia, but rather acts of homosexual statutory sex abuse.

  • http://www.parentsurvivors.com AM

    My parents were married a total of almost 56 years. My father died just short of their 56th wedding anniversary. They were very happily married, to my knowledge. They always portrayed that and I could see the love in their faces for each other.
    BUT, in 1994 my father sexually abused 3 of my daughters while they were in his and my mother’s care. He’d never done anything like that to my sisters or me as we were growing up but I do wonder now if he’d done anything to my school girlfriends as many referred to him as a ‘dirty old man’ and didn’t want to visit much. I had no idea what they were talking about or why they said that. I wish now I knew as I could have protected my own daughters, but I just didn’t know.
    Until his dying day dad always denied he’d done anything and the police were unable to charge him because one of our daughters had died (suicide because of what my father did to her as a child), another is mentally unstable and the third has blocked it from her memory. So none of them were able to tell the police what had taken place. We know that he touched all three of them and have a diary one of our girls wrote. Our other two daughters were untouched, presumably the elder was ‘too old’ at the time he did these things and the other ‘too young’.
    So dad was not a homosexual and he was married, with all signs showing happily. Why did he come a pedophile? Who knows? My brother, a computer tech, did find child porn on my dad’s computer many years ago (I found out about this after our daughter had died and we’d told my siblings what we’d found out) and they had a big argument about it. I never spoke to my dad for the last 10 years of his life and rarely speak to my mother.
    It is terrible our family have been ripped apart through this. Neither of my sisters believe what we tell them, one wants to sweep it under a rug, the other just doesn’t acknowledge us. My brother suffers from sexual problems as a result of dad leaving porn magazines out when he was just a kid. I look back now and wonder who I could have spoken to if I’d only just known that there was something wrong with my dad. I wonder how many other families are affected like this, thinking they’ve grown up in a normal family, only to find much later that there’s this terrible dark secret in the family. How I wish I could change things but I can’t. I have to live with this awful truth and hope that one day I might be able to help others through it.
    As a parent of a sexual abuse victim (3 actually) my husband and I have become victims too and society doesn’t know how to help us, let alone our children.

  • Paul Rodden

    May I add Philip Jenkins’ Pedophiles and Priests (OUP), an important book on the subject, as well as his book called Moral Panic?

    I think if many posters in religious forums read academic works on Moral Panics and Urban Legends (like Folk Devils and Moral Panics), and books on bad Science, they’d enter the fray far humbler, in my reckoning, rather than being the atheist/secular equivalent of a credulous Christian Fundamentalist.

    The trouble is, they love the gossip and scandal too much to read something that spoils their fun by showing it for what it is. :)

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I was using “homosexual” to mean a person who is sexually attracted to a member of the same sex.

    The 80% of priest sex abuse cases we’re talking about are men who molested young males. It seems safe to categorize them as “homosexual”. My second statement was to ensure that readers did not think I was therefore saying, “All homosexuals are child molesters” or “Homosexuals are more likely to molest children.”

  • chris awo

    Dear AM,
    what an experience.
    what can one say?
    The biggest trick ever pulled by satan is to convince people he does not exist. what happened with your dad is the work of satan. his aim is to destroyed your entire family. pray to the Lord Jesus to heal your hurt and trauma and that of your husband and your children. pray the Lord Jesus to send his holy angels to defend you against entities whose words are smooth but who have hatred in their hearts. pray the prayer to St Michael the Archangel.

  • Arnold

    As I understand it, 81% were post pubescent adolescent males and 10% post pubescent females. The remaining were the true pedophile victims.

  • FW Ken


    Some interesting facts on the matter. They are wrong about the rate at which priests offend, however. Its much less than men in general.


    Finally, to speak of “pedophiles” and “young boys” is wrong. The vast majority were pubescent and adolescent young men.

  • Aline

    I am a female survivor of abuse by priests. The church dismisses reports by females. Half of the victims by priests are females. Forced oral sex can happen to boys and girls by priests.

  • http://www.themediareport.com DPierre

    Father – I operated a web site that addresses the media’s treatment of the Catholic Church abuse scandals.

    I have a ‘Fast Facts’ page which addresses the very issues you bring up. I invite you and your readers to check it out:



  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Anything that makes homosexuality look bad is going to be ignored or lied about in the mainstream media. They are on a crusade to “normalize” homosexual behaviour. The effect of their propaganda can be seen in the polls shifting on gay “marriage.” First the media drowns people in their immoral ideologies–then does polls to pseudo-ratify their stands— then uses the polls to further promote their stands. It is all a very smart shell game that, sadly, so many Americans fall victim to.

  • Survivor

    As an adult clergy abuse survivor, I can affirm that the abuse numbers are understated, because they fail to include the abuse of seminarians and even young priests. Throughout my years in religious life (most of the 90s), there was a great deal of sexual abuse, harassment and misconducted perpetrated by gay priests on younger men. Nearly all of this abuse goes unreported, and barely anything was done about it until a perpetrator was caught with someone under age 16.
    This willful oversight continues even in the clergy abuse survivor community. Bishopaccountatiblity.com won’t publish the names of priest abusers if the victim was 17 or older.

  • mm

    Some facts should be faced-most should be characterized as pederasts not pedophiles. I am surprised by the quoted percentage of priests with homosexual orientation- it is about 10 times the rate in the general population. As far as the abuse problem, it is nonsense to say it isn’t the action of homosexuals. There is clearly a homosexual angle in the abuse of MALE adolescents (this is what we are talking about)- BUT that doesn’t prove that homosexually oriented priests have a higher rate of sexual misconduct. Heterosexual priests may have the same rate of problems but since consensual sex with adult females isn’t a crime it isn’t as newsworthy. It would seem that homosexual priests do have a higher rate of sex with those below the age of adulthood for whatever reason. The fact that most of the cases are from long ago hopefully points to better screening(or whatever) at the seminaries, on can only pray that such events are far less frequent today & pray for the victims.

  • anonymous

    Dear AM,
    My heart breaks for you and your family. There are two wondeful books I can recommend. “Set Free”…the Catholic woman’s guide to forgiveness by Genevieve Kineke. It walks you through the nuts and bolts of how to forgive. The other is “My Peace I Give You” by Dawn Eden…Healing sexual wounds with the help of the saints. These books will help set you free and then you can bring that freedom to others. May God bless you.

  • midwestlady

    Yah, that would really help things. Give a man who wants to have sex with a child to a woman he doesn’t know what to do with. What if no woman in her right mind wants the sniveling little child rapist? What then?

  • midwestlady

    What makes you think any woman would want a child rapist for a partner? We are not manikins that you can assign to these guys, you know. I mean if the guy wants a kid, what’s he going to do with a real live woman?

  • Michael

    “The vast majority were pubescent and adolescent young men.” but that in no way changes the situation. They were minors and it was both illegal and immoral.

  • Michael

    Here in Canada a site in maintained that tracks the ongoing scandal – http://www.theinquiry.ca/wordpress/

  • http://www.ephesians4-15.blogspot.ca Randy

    But would not the “Homosexuals are more likely to molest children” conclusion be at least somewhat supported by that data? Are you just backing away from it based on political correctness?

  • midwestlady

    If it’s true that homosexual priests are no more likely to abuse than heterosexual priests, given the statistics of actual abuse from the John Jay report (81% male-on-male), then the only logical conclusion is that: Wow, we have a lot of homosexual priests!

  • midwestlady

    Logically speaking, if you don’t like that syllogism, and think the conclusion can’t possibly be true, then you have to refute one of the premises because the construction is valid. The statistics about abuse are very well documented. That only leaves you one option, the other premise. Either way, we still have a huge problem.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    No. Here’s why: a particular set of child abuse cases had among them a high number that were of a homosexual nature. However, this does not mean that homosexuals in general are more likely to abuse children. There are too many other variables. You would have to conduct a wider study of child abuse among the general population. Such studies have been done and the debate is live, but this particular piece of information doesn’t demand that conclusion.

  • SteveD

    Globally the statistics are that approx 20% of females and approx 8% of males allege that they were sexually abused when below the age of consent in their own communities. As homosexuals make up a max of 3% of the population, then they must, on average, be responsible for many more offences than heterosexual males according to these statistics. The ‘gay’ lobby claims that offenders against males may not be homosexuals but may offend against both sexes which must be true in some cases but does not explain the massive proportionate difference in the two statistics. The fact is that male homosexuals are, on average, MUCH more promiscuous and sexually active than heterosexuals and this would also presumably be reflected in the amount of illegal sexual activity. Statisticians are presumably aware that they have to tread very carefully or incite the wrath of the ‘gay lobby’.

  • Michael

    It’s less “normalizing” homosexual behaviour but accepting it as a choice between two consenting adults. Here in Canada we’ve had gay marriage and while many Canadians disapprove of that choice almost everyone recognizes the right of people to make that choice.

    It’s not a “sad shell game”, it’s the public’s attitude because they are starting to know gay couples and realize that although they wouldn’t choose that themselves, they do not want to stop their friends from having that choice. The churches that oppose homosexuals certainly have that right as do the churches that support homosexuals. In twenty years which one will be on the losing side of public opinion. In Canada it’s clear.

  • mm

    Did not say abuse-sexual misconduct.. Because of the sensationalism of sexual abuse of adolescents the press probably concentrates on that – rather than the more mundane transgression of consensual heterosexual misconduct. Both are problems, but one is obviously more serious than the other. The 81% rate of homosexual abuse doesn’t tell you anything about the incidence rate-not to mention that 81% refers to “abuse” cases-ie by definition underage. It is almost certain that “homosexual” priests have a higher rate of sexual misconduct with minors, the data doesn’t say anything about the overall rate of misconduct ( including adults).

  • FW Ken


    The point is clinical, not legal or moral. People who prey on sexually nature minors present a different clinical picture than pedophiles. The latter are virtually untreatable. About the best you can hope for is that they learn their triggers and develop strategies to maintain abstinence.

    Of course, a rational discussion presents more concern for child welfare than for scapegoating the Church.

  • http://www.parentsurvivors.com AM

    Thank you for the mention of the books and I will check them out. One thing that has helped me is to journal what we’ve been through. I’ve done this through a site called Parent Survivors at http://www.parentsurvivors.com. It is my hope that in sharing what we’ve been through, it may help others who are seeking answers and who are trying to find others who have been through what they’re going through. I recognise that unity helps. We do know and love our Lord and Saviour Jesus, we just don’t understand why we had to go through this awful experience.

  • Lynda

    Canada is an oppressive anti-Christian, anti-marriage, anti-family, anti-objective moral truth, anti-nature, anti-free speech regime. It is a sorry example of the true tyranny of relativism in the hands of those with power.

  • Theodore Seeber

    It isn’t high when you consider how the sexual revolution infected Church teaching in America and Europe. It isn’t hard at all to imagine faithful, but same sex attracted, men, growing up to believe one had to choose either marriage or the Holy Orders, choosing not to be with women.

  • Theodore Seeber

    Except, if celibacy is rightly understood, it’s just as “hard” for the pedophile as it is for the mature homosexual or heterosexual.

  • http://www.thecatholicbeat.com Gail Finke

    Child abusers are not “homosexual” or “heterosexual” when it comes to children. It is childhood that attracts them sexually. Some child abusers are indiscriminate about the sex of their victims, whom they usually think they love, or at least have great affection for, and usually think enjoy (or, before the act) will enjoy the sexual acts. Pedophilia is a strange and twisted disorder, and a lot of people don’t know much about it and so presume it is similar to sexual attraction in adults.

    You are correct that most child abusers are married men. Some men marry in order to conceive children they can abuse, believe it or not. Others don’t actually marry, but live with a woman who has children that they can abuse. They are generally heterosexual when it comes to adult sexual relations, if they have any. The sources you quoted are very good ones.

    I am not as familiar with studies about men who are sexually attracted to pubescent boys, but I do know that it has nothing to do with pedophilia (which is, again, sexual attraction to very young children — not girls or boys who are approaching or have hit puberty). There is a subculture among gay men that is very attracted to pubescent boys and very young teens, but I don’t know what percentage of gay men (who are themselves a very small percentage of all men) that is, or how often it is acted on vs. being an erotic idea. These are all real, studied conditions and predilections, no one has to assume or make things up.

  • midwestlady

    There is not only a clinical difference but an actual difference. This has been portrayed as a pedophilia problem in attempts to manipulate perceptions of what happened. However, the great majority of it had nothing to do with pedophilia whatsoever. It was a homosexual acting-out problem among those men involved. Moreover, even one incident is inexcusable. And it’s almost impossible to “cure” once it occurs.

  • Lynda

    The desire to sin by sexually molesting children is something which must have been learned, developed. This is an evil desire and needs to be proactively fought/overcome. It is of the Devil, as is all desire to sin. To entertain thoughts of such sinful acts is to sin, and must be confessed, atoned for, etc.

  • Cara

    Thanks Theodore. But is there data to back this up?

    I’ve understood the Sacrament of Holy Orders to be for those who foresake marriage for the Kingdom. I think it places a different sense, for me, in what priests are giving up if they weren’t actually giving up marriage in the first place. Further, this would sort of scare me for seminarians. If I were a homosexual man striving to live a chaste life and all of the sudden I found myself in a place (likely for the first time ever) with an extremely high percentage of people who share my SSA, this would be extremely tempting for sin. Should we be praying that our seminarians not give into the lust of their hearts and further scandalize the Church through their sin with each other? And what about the heterosexual young men discerning their vocation. I can imagine this could make my discernment even more difficult.

    Anyway, I’m just trying to think this through. And of appreciate data to help me work through this new revelation. Fr. Longenecker, do these stats you linked to correspond to your experience? Do you believe them to be accurate, or have any data to support them? Either way I have new prayers for our seminarians.

    I just had no idea.

  • Dixibehr

    “It seems safe to categorize them as “homosexual”.’

    WRONG! One of my on-line correspondents is a Christian therapist whose practice is devoted to treating pedophiles, their victims, and the families of both.

    She and her colleagues do NOT speak of “homosexual pedophilia” or “homosexual pedophiles,” because the principal attractor to a pedophile is not the sex of the victim, but the age. Professionals rather speak of “fixated pedophiles” (those who never grew up psychosexually) or “regressed pedophiles.”

    If you don’t find the idea of “homosexual pedophilia” nonsense, consider this. In my city, Phoenix, there was a scandal involving a respected pediatrician who had molested over 100 of his female patients. Would anyone be so foolish as to call this “heterosexuality”?

  • Dixibehr

    \\I’ve understood the Sacrament of Holy Orders to be for those who foresake marriage for the Kingdom. I think it places a different sense, for me, in what priests are giving up if they weren’t actually giving up marriage in the first place. \\

    Wrong again. In the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches, married men may become priests. There are several married Eastern Catholic–and at least one married Latin priest–in my city.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I understand the distinction which people are trying to make, and while the main attraction for pedophiles does seem to be children it is also true that they are drawn to either male or female children. Therefore it seems like common sense to conclude that some pedophiles also have a heterosexual preference and some a homosexual preference.

    However, in the case of the majority of priestly sex abuse incidents the problem was not actually pedophilia as such. The victims were post pubescent males. This condition is called euphebophilia, and this does indicate that homosexuality was a determining factor in the assault.

    I am not suggesting, however, that the homosexual condition necessarily makes one more inclined to molest under age people. This is a matter of simple logic: To say “This set of molestations were all homosexual” does not mean “all homosexuals are molesters.” An analogous statement is “All Cadillacs are cars, but not all cars are Cadillacs.”

  • Cara

    Fair enough. That makes sense.

    But I’m still trying to wrap my head around priestly vocations understood as a career path for those attracted to the same sex. A later comment shared that the general population of homosexuals was 3%. This would mean that our seminaries are 8-15x more homosexual than the general population.

    My question remains: does this correspond to reality? What data supports this? Is this healthy for the Church?

    I’m concerned. Imagine if seminaries were mixed in with the young women also discerning religious life. Wouldn’t you expect more people to 1) discern that they shouldn’t be there in the first place and marry one of the others (this isn’t necessarily bad, it just resembles any coed Catholic college), or 2) men and women engage in more illicit behavior. (This is bad). If so, how much more does this happen at predominately homosexual seminaries – where leaving to get married isn’t a licit option.

    And if the average seminary is 22-45% homosexual, does that mean that there are seminaries known for far higher numbers? This would lead me to believe they were somehow recruited or taught differently.

    Sorry, still thinking out loud here. Looking for facts to reel me in and others to help guide how I should think about this new information (to me).

  • Cara

    Okay, I’ve been digging a bit. I still don’t have stats on SSA among priests, but I have uncovered a deeper picture into this struggle in the Church.

    The Gay Priest Problem

    I haven’t found the author yet, but it was written over 10 years ago and highlights the problem of AIDS among clergy and the surrounding challenges. Fr. Longenecker, I’m starting to see why this issue isn’t spoken about. The faithful want to pray and not bring further scandal. And the struggling or unfaithful aren’t necessarily looking to make headlines either. But my heart is troubled in learning about this. We all need to pray more for our priests. We think we’re praying enough for vocations, but some of these young men of God are ending up at predominately gay seminaries with a subculture that looks to rival secular universities. If this article is even remotely accurate, there’s a lot of scary stuff going on. In the meantime I hope that this article is inaccurate and I can put my head back firmly in the sand. I really had no idea about any of this. Is this such common knowledge that people don’t even bother speaking about? Ugh. Pray pray pray.

  • Andy

    What is interesting in the above is the desire to blame the crisis on homosexual tendencies. Most abuse is not about sex it is about power. The ability to use power for one’s own gratification – whether it is a seen in controlling the abused, or in sexually assaulting the abused, physically assaulting the abused. To ascribe the desire to use power to one group of people or another flies in the face of what most people see in their lives.
    We see the abuse syndrome all facets of our lives – even in the com-boxes where individuals make the most outrageous comments about others in an effort to “shut them down”. In the zeal to find a scapegoat we need to look in our hearts and see where we have abused our power.
    A quick note – the John Jay report used the age of 12/13 as the cut-off age for pedophilia – for this report any child over that age was a victim of ebophillia – an attraction to pubescents, usually starting after the age of 16 . The majority of the children abused were not 16 and over and were by definition children and were subjected to the attacks of a pedophile. Since we know who paid for teh study, why did the John Jay group use a different definition for ebophillia?
    The fact that many of the abused were boys is most likely a sign of availability – altar servers spring to mind. And most altar servers have not reached the age of 16.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    I think you are over complicating the issue. It’s really quite simple: over 80% of the cases of abuse were by men who were sexually attracted to teenaged boys. I think this is best understood as a sub set of homosexuality since different homosexuals are attracted to different types of men. Perhaps it would be better to call it by its more specific name: pederasty.

  • Gilbert

    Father, I have for some time defended the Church against those who malign it. But the charges of pedophilia perpetuated by priests make things very difficult. Pedophiles shouldn’t bring the Church down if the Church can show its strong resolve to rid its ranks of the few who stain the Church’s image. I think that with a new Pope, the Church can PURGE itself of those that pollute the Church so they can no longer do harm to it. For Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” Not only must they be removed from the priesthood, but sent to face criminal cases. Then, the people will begin to see that the Church really does not condone these acts – and trust the Church again.