The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has welcomed an opinion poll showing that the number of younger Canadians who “personally knew someone who had been abused by a Catholic priest” has fallen to 4 per cent”

The Bishops Converence said it was “very encouraged” by the downward trend shown in the Ipsos Reid opinion poll survey. The youngest age group surveyed — those aged 18 to 34 — was “significantly less likely” to say they they knew of a case of sexual abuse by a priest.

“This indicates that the efforts by the Bishops of Canada have been largely successful,” the bishops said in a press release.

The  bishops said they were also encouraged by the fact that 80 per cent of all Catholics understand that only a minor percentage of the clergy are pedophiles.  
“It is comforting to see that almost half of all Catholics indicate ‘their satisfaction with the Catholic Church in  routing out pedophiles’,” the bishops said.

“The Bishops of Canada are firmly resolved, with the help of experts from many fields, to continue to improve their preventive protocols, as they have since 1989 when committee work began on the recommendations later published in 1992 as part of From Pain to Hope.”

The survey found however that there was still serious concern on the part of Canadians and Catholics about the sexual abuse by members of the clergy and the Canadian bishops said they shared that concern. 

“This is precisely why for many years Canadian Bishops have been working to implement and update diocesan protocols across Canada to prevent further cases of sexual abuse,” their statement said. 
“As in society in general, the Bishops too continue to grow in their understanding of this terrible problem. Canadian Bishops remain totally committed to a zero-tolerance policy and continue to improve their practices and protocols.”

The bishops said that they regretted that the Ipsos-Reid survey did not question Catholics on their knowledge of what the Catholic Bishops of Canada have done to prevent cases of sexual abuse and to respond to concerns of sexual abuse.

“A cursory reading of the results could lead one to conclude that the Catholic Church has a bigger problem with the issue of sexual abuse than any other segment of society,” they said. “This is incorrect. Experts say that there is no data to support such a claim at all.”

To help ordinary people to understand the nature of the sexual abuse problem, the bishops quoted from an article written by Pat Wingert and published in Newsweek (April 8, 2010): “Most child abusers have one thing in common, and it’s not piety — it’s preexisting relationships with their victims. That includes priests and ministers and rabbis, of course, but also family members, friends, neighbors, teachers, coaches, scout leaders, youth-group volunteers, and doctors. According to federal studies, three quarters of abuse occurs at the hands of family members or others in the victim’s ‘circle of trust.’” 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet