Suffer the Teenage Children: Child Sexual Abuse in Church Communities
Paper for the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, Emory University, January 2013
33 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 12, 2013
In recent years, an increasing amount of attention has been given to the problem of child sexual abuse in church communities. While all churches, and indeed all communities which care for children, have had experience of this problem, most attention has been paid to the problem of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. This paper, given at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion in January 2013, examines the issue of child sexual abuse in church communities, drawing particularly on Australian data. Most victims of child sexual abuse both in the Catholic and Anglican churches in Australia, are adolescent boys. This points to the importance of opportunity for abuse to occur, since priests and other ministers are more likely to have opportunities to be alone with teenage boys than with girls.
While there are some similar patterns in terms of victims’ age and gender, the incidence of abuse by Catholic clergy and religious appears to be many times that of ministers and pastoral staff in other Christian churches, and it may well be significantly higher than in the general population. The paper explores the reasons why this may be so. It also examines how churches in Australia have responded to the problem of child sexual abuse. Concerns about systemic failures in the response of the Catholic Church in particular have led to the establishment of a Royal Commission in 2013 which will examine child abuse in institutional settings across the country.
Keywords: Children, Adolescents, Child Sexual Abuse, Churches, Catholic Church, celibacy, law and religion, Child protection
JEL Classification: K10, K30
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation