The average size of Catholic families in the West may be a key overlooked factor in the "Catholic Child Abuse" scandal.

Consider the following parable.

Circa 1880 in the old country - With 10 children, and another on the way, Ma and Pa Kennedy might have not have thought too much of Father O'Brien's keen interest in their Pádraig.

A vocation for the priesthood seemed "right enough" for their effete, quiet boy.

Fast forward 100 years to 1980 and a new generation of Kennedy's living in the new world. Young Patrick has just been picked up by Dr Mary Kennedy from server practice at Church. They are driving to piano lessons when Patrick bursts into tears. He informs his Mother that the priest...

"...messed with my weener"...

... Mum, and later Dad, the other Dr Kennedy, react with volcanic rage at the news from their only child.

Twee - but you get the point.

The church has likely attracted a significant (if not relatively constant) fraction of child rapists to its seminaries over the last millenia or so.

The change the church may not have foreseen was how declining birth rates in developed countries (e.g the US and more lately Ireland), and the complementary rise in parental input per child within families, would have impacted the tolerance of parents for priestly shenanigians.

It sounds callous to suggest that poor parents with large families value individual children less over more wealthy parents with smaller numbers of children. However, this is basic population ecology as observed in natural sytems. A shift in breeding strategy to increased parental investment vs fecundity is rewarded typically in more stable environments.

Moreover, the distress a parent registers in response to a threat to its youngster will vary in proportion to the amount of energy it has expended in rearing that individual. So, a large amount of input energy from a parent will invoke a more intense and determined effort to defend their offspring.

The church is big - but she may be no match for the drive for Mother Nature to protect her (genetic) investment in the future.

The manner in which the Catholic Heirarchy has been blindsided is an interesting reminder of a longstanding vulnerability. The refractoriness of the institution to the mills of God - to the grinding pace of change over time. A past example is the the overturning of a philosophical worldview from the Middle ages rooted in Plato, Augustine amd Aquinas by emergence of modern science from the rennaissance onwards.

The church almost takes pride in its unwillingness to adapt to such processes. Now they have been caught in the confluence of the sexual revolution and overweening parents. The response of the leadership has been inept so far. Judging from the tenor of their utterances, they appear neither to have grasped the depth of the forces at work here or how just deadly serious this problem could be for them. Whether they realise it or not yet this crisis will change them.

The Solutions?

The church appears to recognize the problem. At one very fundamental level it is a numbers game. The church may not be able to completely exclude potential child rapists from its recruitment pool, but it might reduce their frequency to levels comparable to other organizations that work with children in developed countries.

The most discussed approach has been the decision of the Catholic heirachy to "exclude homosexuals" from entering seminaries. Their logic appears to based on the data indicating that an overweight number of the victims are boys. But is it reasonable to assume that because a given candidate is sexually attracted to adult males that they will be attracted to male juveniles ? Probably not.

At the very least, this approach is likely to be inefficient. Worst of all, there is a chance that it may increase the frequency of potential child abusers recruited - by benefiting psychopathic liers over gay men of good conscience and character.

In the US, another tack has been to increase the frequency of priests from the third world (e.g., from Africa or South America) from more traditional cultures. This seems an approach that may work to some degree for a variety of reasons.

On the other hand, the church appears to be determined to cut itself off from the most straightforward and humane answer to the problem. This would be to increase the frequency of married priests of either gender in its ranks.

If these married heterosexual priests have children themselves all the better. Indeed, one foresees that having such priests will not only reduce the frequency of pederasts, but the introduction of a heterosexual constituency experienced in child-rearing will also increase the effectiveness of policing unacceptable behavior in the ranks.

Alternately, the church could do what it has frequently done when faced to serious challenges to its authority and modus operandi. Wait it out for a few centuries (e.g. see case of Galileo). With the "fossil fuel bubble" drawing to an end (e.g., see essays below), chances are that living standards for most of us will be dropping shortly for a considerable period of time.

Other Essays and Articles by Tom Therramus

1. Volatility in the Price of Oil since Hubbert's Peak and Investment Risk

2. Was Volatility in the Price of Oil a Cause of the 2008 Financial Crisis?


3. Oil Caused Recession, Not Wall Street

Oil-price net logog

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