March 2010

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In the wake of reports on child abuse by Catholic priests spanning continents, and of course the insitutionalised cover-ups perpetrated by the Church hierarchy, Andrew Brown has published an astonishingly naive and ill-considered apologia on their behalf.  The general argument Brown makes just takes my breath away.  I will leave it to commenters there to demolish his argument.

Update.  However, the following excerpt really astonishes me in what it reveals in Brown’s inability to think through data (emphasis is mine).

These questions lead into a thicket of horror. The most detailed statistics on child abuse for the Catholic clergy that I can find come from the John Jay Institute’s report drawn up for the American Catholic bishops’ conference. From this it emerges that the frequency of child abuse among Catholic priests is not remarkable but its pattern is. Although there are no figures for the number of abusers in the wider population, there are figure for the number of victims. These vary wildly: the most pessimistic survey finds that 27% of American women and 16% of men had “a history of childhood sexual abuse”; while the the most optimistic had 12.8% of women and 4.3% of men. Obviously a great deal depends here on the definition of abuse; also on the definition of “childhood”. In some of these surveys it runs up to 18, which is a couple of years above the age of consent in Britain.

The Catholic figures show that between about 4% of priests and deacons serving in the US between 1950 and 2002 had been accused of sexual abuse of someone under 18. In this country, the figure was a 10th of that: 0.4% But whereas the victims in the general population are overwhelmingly female, the pattern among American Catholic priests was quite different. Four out of five of their victims were male. Most were adolescents: two out of five were 14 or over; 15% were under 10.

This is vile, but whether it is more vile than the record of any other profession is not obvious.

On what conceivable basis can Brown conclude that Catholic priests are any less vile than any other profession?  Where are the data for teachers, road sweepers, university lecturers?  Brown admits there is vagueness related to victim gae and the definition of sexual abuse.  And much abuse is by family members.

And Brown says a rate of 4% accused abuser rate is no worse than that of other sectors of the populations.  Where is his evidence?

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The Reverend Dr Peter Hearty (of Platitude of the Day fame) has announced that signed copies of five books by Richard Dawkins have been put up for auction on eBay.  From the Platitude of the Day web page:

Five Richard Dawkins books, signed by the author and dedicated to the “Platitude of the Year 2009 winner” are now being auctioned on eBay. Proceeds of the auction will go to the National Secular Society.

The books were the prize offered for the most platitudinous Thought For The Day on Radio 4 during 2009. This was won by the Rt Rev James Jones, Lord Bishop of Liverpool and Bishop of Prisons, for reminding us of the contribution that Christianity played in solving the problems of Northern Ireland. The prize was forfeit as the bishop failed to attend the award ceremony during the Secularist of the Year.

These books therefore form a unique and highly collectable set. They were purchased by Roger Scotford and are being auctioned by Peter Hearty. The five books are:

The Greatest Show on Earth (hardback)
Climbing Mount Improbable (paperback)
Unweaving the Rainbow (paperback)
The God Delusion (paperback)
The Ancestor’s Tale (paperback)

More details on eBay.