Media called to report true scale of child abuse


THE MEDIA had been called on to make it clear “each and every time” it reports on clerical child sex abuse that “only a very small minority of Catholic priests are guilty of child abuse”.

Prof Patricia Casey, a patron of conservative think-tank the Iona Institute, noted that “when terrorist atrocities are committed in the name of Islam, responsible media point out that only a tiny minority of Muslims are guilty of these atrocities, and that such terrorist attacks are an aberration in Muslim terms, rather than a true expression of Islam”.

This was not so where Catholic clergy and child abuse was concerned, she indicated, leading to the public believing the number of abuser priests was far greater than the reality.

She was commenting in the context of new research published this morning which found as many as 42 per cent of Irish people put the number of priests guilty of child abuse at over 20 per cent. Of this group, 27 per cent believed the number exceeded 40 per cent, while 17 per cent put it at above 50 per cent.

The survey also found that 31 per cent of respondents believed the number of abuser priests was under 5 per cent, while 45 per cent put the figure at under 10 per cent. The survey, conducted among 1,000 Irish adults last September, was undertaken by Amárach research and commissioned by the Iona Institute.

In an accompanying statement, the institute pointed out that another survey, conducted (on behalf of the US Catholic bishops) by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, found that 4 per cent of Catholic priests there had been accused of child abuse between 1950 and 2002.

According to the Cloyne report, published last July, 7.6 per cent of priests in that diocese since 1996 faced allegations of child sex abuse. The Iona Institute/ Amárach research survey, however, dealt with the issue of priests who were believed to be guilty of child abuse.