Mythical 81%

On November 23, the Catholic League released the following to the press.

"According to news reports, the Vatican document says that while homosexuals must be respected, the Catholic Church 'cannot admit to seminaries and to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, who present deeply rooted homosexual tendencies or who support the so-called gay culture.'"

"There is little doubt that most practicing Catholics will welcome this decision. The Vatican is prudent not to have an absolute ban on admission of homosexuals to the priesthood: there are too many good men with homosexual tendencies who have served the Church with distinction. But there is a monumental difference between someone who is incidentally homosexual and someone for whom the gay subculture is central to his identity. Only those blinded by sexual politics will fail to make this distinction."

With this much I am in agreement.

"As I have said many times before, most homosexual priests are not molesters, but most of the molesters are gay. The John Jay Report made this clear: 81 percent of the victims are male and almost as many are postpubescent. This is not called pedophilia – it is called homosexuality."

OK, I've seen this mythical 81% floating around the net for quite some time now and it's been bugging me. If I understand correctly – please inform me if I'm wrong – most of the victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests were altar servers. If that's the case, then it only makes sense that most of the victims were male. Though female altar servers have been permitted for a few decades, there are still far fewer of them than male servers. The fact that most of the victims were post-pubescent might be more indicative of a demographic shift in altar servers rather than a preference among perverts.

If I am right about most of the victims being altar servers, then this is clearly a probaballistic fallacy. The probability of a server being male is very high. The probability of a victim being a server is very high. Therefore, the probability that the victim is male is also very high.

I am less sure that most servers these days are post-pubescent, but let's assume they are. By the same logic, the probability that a random victim would be a post-pubescent male would be quite high.

Throwing around this 81% figure is misleading. Remember, "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics".

"The Catholic laity are justifiably angry with molesting priests and their enabling bishops, few in number though they have been. What this document does is to send a signal – those who cannot seriously commit to a celibate lifestyle have no legitimate role to play in the priesthood. This stricture should apply equally to heterosexuals."

If Mr. Donahue is right about what the document says, I totally agree with him. Some folks don't agree with his reading, though.

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

13 thoughts on “Mythical 81%

  1. Sean

    The probabilistic fallacy you suggest is interesting.

    I see things a little differently. It starts with arrested development. Young gay men suppress their sexual / emotional desires, and see the priesthood as a lifeline to avoid marrying a women or possibly being outed as a homosexual. In short, many priests in the past joined for the wrong reason. Because they tried to shut off their emotions at a young age, they still are attracted to teenage boys, and when an opportunity comes up to act on their desires they cannot resist. They probably do not see the damage they are doing because when they were the age of their victims, they had homosexual desires and are projecting that on to their victims.

    I think the Vatican response fails to understand this, and therefore goes overboard. I think you could have someone with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” who still would like to become a priest for the right reasons. The important thing is screening for the right reasons.

  2. Jeff Miller

    Actually by the statistics even after the introduction of female altar servers that boys were still abused at a higher rate than girls. The majority of diocese probably have more altar girls than altar boys. It is much more then just access.

  3. Funky Dung

    If the probability of being victimized given that one is male is greater than the probability of being victimized given one is female, then you’re right. I’d be very interested to see the statistical breakdown.

  4. Tom Smith

    Two things:

    – I think the discussion’s being framed incorrectly — I don’t think the prohibition of homosexuals in the seminary is a result of the abuse scandal (although the breaking of the scandal may have been, perhaps, the straw that broke the camel’s back, as it were). To think that is to overestimate the importance of the United States in the Catholic Church. The abuse scandals were largely involving American clergy and reported in US media. I tend to believe that the scandalous presence of the “lavender mafia” in seminaries has much more to do with the recent document.

    – I don’t think that the majority of abuse victims were altar boys. The media definitely played up the cases in which the victims were altar boys; “Priest Accused of Molesting Altar Boy” is a better headline than “Priest Accused of Molesting Man.” Also, I contest your supposition that most altar boys are, indeed, boys. Most parishes I’ve ever been to seem to have exclusively girls serving, though that is just anecdotal evidence. So I deny that there’s a fallacy in the 81% statistic.

  5. edey

    i’m with tom on the bit about most servers being girls these days. it’s the circles you run in that make you think that most servers are guys. at least 90% of your Masses attended are at the Oratory, a *conservative* Novus Ordo place. plus, look at the servers you know…not your “average Catholic” servers. as someone who has attended Mass in 20 some odd states (in parishes ranging from Latin Mass to WAY OUT THERE) in the past year, i’d say i have strong anecdotal evidence. the VAST majority (i’d guess around 85-90%) of parishes where i attended Mass had either mostly – if not exclusively – female altar boys.

  6. Funky Dung

    “The abuse scandals were largely involving American clergy and reported in US media.”

    It’s a problem in Australia, too.

    “i’m with tom on the bit about most servers being girls these days.”

    The masses I’ve attended in Levittown and North East, neither known for good liturgical practice, were all majority male.

  7. edey

    there are good parishes in bad places just like bad parishes (where i was supposed to attend when i was in school in colorado) in GREAT dioceses. the point is your Catholic experience has been far from universal. you have attended a parish or two in north east and levittown. the places with all male servers were very much the EXCEPTION in the 20 some odd states where i attended Mass over the past year. part of why is once girls were introduced, boys-by and large-didn’t want to do it anymore.

  8. Jerry Nora

    We should not extrapolate from our experiences that altar girls are in the majority. Remember that most of these abuse cases occurred a few decades ago.

  9. edey

    my point was that girl altar boys are the majority now, but you do have a good point that the cases were several years ago. i concede that it is anecdotal evidence, but i am pretty confident in my experience being representative of the us. i wonder, though, if there are statistics somewhere on that.

  10. Tom Smith

    Since we don’t have any stats, there’s no way anyone can win the argument regarding altar boys. But the point still stands, because I am fairly sure that most of the abuse victims weren’t actually altar boys.

    Anyway, my main point was that it’s incorrect to look at the recent document barring practicing homosexuals from seminary education as a response to the abuse scandals, for a few reasons. First, the lavender mafia issue has been a bigger problem for considerably longer, and it is obvious that the document will have a greater effect on that problem than that of abuse; second, the abuse scandals were primarily not taking place in either the historical center of the Church (Europe) or the current centers of the Church (Africa, Latin America), and to think that it was caused by the media hoopla over the scandals here, Australian cases notwithstanding because the primary coverage of the non-American cases was still here in the US, is simply American egoism; and third, the scandals are only five years old. It took twenty-eight years for the Eternal City to get its rear in gear at the Reformation; why would it be any quicker now, with a far smaller problem?

  11. Funky Dung

    Communication and travel across large distances took a heck of a lot longer in the 16th century. Granted, 28 years is still slow, but I think speedier transmission of information would have shortened that time a bit.

  12. Tom Smith

    I dunno. I tend to disagree that it would’ve been that much different. I think it has more to do with the fact that the Church thinks in centuries and moves at Italian speed than anything else.

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