Understanding and Preventing Clergy Misconduct

A friend of mine, a retired federal investigator, forwarded me a link to Pope Benedict XVI‘s recent comments clergy sexual misconduct.  You can read what the Pope had to say here.

Reading Pope Benedict, I began to realize that for many people the problem of clergy misconduct is limited almost exclusively to the sexual exploitation of children by priests.  In every instance this is a great sin and a horror for all involved.  Statistically however this form of abuse significantly less common that other forms of clergy misconduct.

For example, what studies there are suggest that married male Protestant clergy are significantly more a threat to women in their congregations than Catholic priest are to children or teenagers.  While I’m not aware of any studies that look at the instances of heterosexual adultery by Orthodox clergy, I would imagine that it is significantly higher (both in actual instances and per capita) than the instances of pedophilia among Catholic clergy.  Again, I have no research to basis this one but at least in America I suspect that adultery among Orthodox married clergy is likely higher per capita than rates of fornication, adultery or sodomy among monastics.

Because we focus on sexual misconduct (and at that only one modality, pedophilia) we overlook financial misconduct and other forms of pastoral misconduct (e.g., bullying).    So if our concern is broadened beyond sexual misconduct to included other forms of misconduct what then?

First we need to have psychological test requirements for all the serving clergy.  This will be expensive and I wonder how many people who are (rightly) critical of misconduct would be wiling to support financial such a project?  As for the clergy who are critical that the Church hasn’t done enough or moved fast enough, I wonder how many of them would be willing to submit to these tests themselves especially if a negative result meant suspension or at least removal as rector and so loss of income?

Some of the research I’ve read, low credit scores and so (relatively) high levels of consumer debt and/or a poor bill paying history are correlated with poor job performance as well as financial improprieties.  And again, how many serving clergy would be willing to submit an annual credit report to their bishop and/or chancellor?

I agree with His Holiness when he says that in response to clergy misconduct we need “a new resoluteness in faith and doing good,”that includes not only the negative response of penance but also a willingness to do what is necessary in our homes, parishes, dioceses and seminaries  “to prevent anything of the kind from happening again.”

Anyway, I welcome your thoughts on the matter.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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