19 October 2011

The Catholic-Priest Argument against Catholicism

Stephen Kershnar
The Catholic Sex Abuse Cases Cut Deeper
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
October 16, 2011

The Catholic sex abuse cases are well known. Less well known is the degree to which these cases suggest that Catholicism is false.

The extent of Catholic sex abuse cases in the U.S. was set out in the 2004 John Jay Report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It found widespread abuse. Consider the victims. In the U.S. from 1950 to 2002, the investigators found that 10,667 persons younger than 18 made allegations of sexual abuse. In cases that were investigated, 80% of the allegations were substantiated. Most victims (roughly 61%) were abused for two years or more. The victims were mostly male (81%) and roughly split between pre- and post-pubescent individuals (roughly 53% were 13 years-old or older). Most of the abusers engaged in multiple types of abuse. More than 27% of the allegations involved a priest performing oral sex and 25% involved penile penetration or an attempt to do so.

In response, the Catholic Church paid through the nose. Worldwide, it paid out $1.5 billion to victims as of 2006. $1 billion of this was paid out to U.S. victims (2002 figure). 80% of the reported cases occurred in the U.S. and it is unclear if U.S. priests were more likely to be abusers than priests elsewhere or if victims here were more likely to come forward.

Consider the priests. During 1950-2002, allegations were made against 1 out of every 25 U.S. priests (4%). Because the majority of reported cases occurred in the U.S., in 2008 the Catholic Church asserted that the scandal was the result of 1% of Roman Catholic Priests (roughly 5,000 out of 410,000). Most of the accused priests in the U.S. were not victims of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and did not have alcohol or substance abuse problems (9% self-reported the former and the latter is estimated at 19%). George Weigel of the Ethics and Public Policy Center found 2% of sex abuse offenders were Catholic Priests. This number is very high given the small percentage of the adult male population that are priests. Another study found that that most priests were not pedophiles (preferring pre-pubescent children), but ephebophiles (preferring early teens) or indiscriminate sex offenders.

The Catholic leadership’s response to these scandals was yet another scandal. Various leaders shuffled priest-abusers from one parish to another, paid compensation in return for silence, hid the review process in secrecy, and used bankruptcy laws to shield the church from having to pay victims. For example, dioceses in Tucson, San Diego, Milwaukee, and Wilmington used the bankruptcy shield.

The widespread sexual abuse is evidence that Catholicism and the Catholic moral positions are false. If a group claims that its doctrines regarding God and morality are true and a significant number of the group’s vanguard acts in a way that is both wrong and inconsistent with its doctrines, there is reason to doubt the doctrines. In the case of Catholicism, a significant number of the vanguard acted in ways that is wrong and inconsistent with its doctrines. 1 out of 25 U.S. priests were alleged to have sexually abused children and the Catholic leadership’s response was at best shaky.

One objection Catholics and others (for example, The Teapot Atheist website) make is that it is a fallacy to conclude that Catholicism is false because many of its messengers showed a sociopathic disregard for the well-being of children. This is a mistake. In the absence of strong independent evidence for a position, if the messengers do not believe in the message enough to follow its dictates, there is little reason to see why others should do so.

By analogy, consider a business that sells a diet plan. Later, it is discovered that a bunch of fat slobs own and run the business. Worse, they have no scientific evidence for their plan. Not only would the diet plan be a laughing stock, it should be. After all, if the people who know the plan best can’t make it work, there is little reason to believe it will work for others. It is uncontroversial that there is no scientific or philosophical evidence for the Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus, the trinity, and transubstantiation. This is in part because the latter two doctrines are incoherent.

A second objection Catholic defenders might make is that the cause of the child abuse is a general problem that is independent of Catholicism. For example, on one interpretation of a statement by Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi, the problem is one concentrated in homosexuals. Remember that 81% of the victims were male and over half were post-pubescent. Alternatively, Philip Jenkins of the Pennsylvania State University argues that the problem is not distinctive to Catholic clergy. He argues that child-oriented sexual activity is just as frequent in married clergy of other denominations and schoolteachers.

The first empirical claim is likely false as specialists in sexual abuse, such as Gregory Herek (psychology professor at University of California at Davis) and James Cantor (editor-in-chief of Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment), deny that the scientific literature shows there to be an association between homosexuality and either child molestation or pedophilia. It is also implausible that 4% of schoolteachers have had allegations of child sexual abuse made against them. Even if one of these they-all-do-it defenses work, this at most shows that Catholicism’s elite are at no better than the rest of the population. This is hardly what one would predict a group that has a uniquely correct relation to God.

A third objection is that this only shows that certain parts of the Catholicism are false and need to be revamped. The parts might involve the dismantling the Catholic hierarchy, ending the celibacy requirement for priests, or preventing men with “deep-seated homosexual tendencies” to be ordained. As of 2005, the church no longer does the last. This sort of ad hoc objection would be convincing were the Catholic religion consistent with buffet-style religion, whereby one picks and chooses which rules and conventions are a true part of Catholicism. However, neither its doctrines nor the way it is practiced allows for such a buffet.

The problem of Catholic sex abuse cases has been well explored in the popular press and investigated in academia. The scandal cuts deeper. It is evidence that Catholicism is false. In so far as it exposes this falsity, some good might come out of the abuse.

05 October 2011

A President Abandons Blacks

Stephen Kershnar
Blacks Support for Obama: Cheering on a Savage Beating
Dunkirk-Fredonia Observer
October 2, 2011

Recently, black leaders such as Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and few others have begun to criticize President Obama. She was promptly smacked down by demagogue-in-chief Al Sharpton. While black criticism of Obama is beginning to percolate, it is still rare and muted. This makes no sense given that the Obama Administration sat by and watched as the economy, prisons, and public schools gave blacks a savage beating.

Blacks were one of the biggest forces behind Obama’s victory. In 2008 according to the Washington Post, roughly 96% of blacks voted for Obama. Blogger Ruy Teixera points out that blacks were 13% of the national voters. A 12-13% head start in an election is huge. Blacks were also 25% of Democratic voters. Thus, blacks gave Obama the Democratic nomination and then propelled him into office.

The recent economic recession has been an economic steamroller, flattening many blacks. Writing in The Washington Times, James Bacon gives the snapshot of the steamroller’s destruction. In 2009, 26% of blacks lived in poverty, compared to 10% of whites. The unemployment rate for blacks is roughly 17%, more than twice that of whites. A study by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that black men in the middle class are 37% more likely to fall from middle class to the bottom 30% of income earners than white men.

Even worse, Bacon points out, in the larger picture, blacks are bleeding out wealth. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the median net worth of black households dropped to $2,200. This is much less than the $97,900 median figure for white households. 40% of black households had a net worth of $0 or less. A 2010 Study by the Center for Responsible Lending found that 8% of blacks lost their homes to foreclosure. A 2009 study by the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank of foreclosures in California showed blacks were more than 3 times more likely to be in foreclosure compared to whites, even after controlling for income and credit score.

The federal government significantly overemploys blacks, but this has done little to prevent the Obama steamroller. Columnist Pat Buchanan points out that although blacks are roughly 13% of the population, they constitute 25% of the employees at Treasury and Veterans Affairs, 37% at the Department of Education, 38% at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and 42% at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Quasi-government agencies are worse. Buchanan notes that blacks are 44% of the employees at Fannie Mae and 50% at Freddie Mac. These are the private corporations that the government in effect insures (it’s given them more than $140 billion). Were whites so overrepresented, preferences and covert quotas would have been rammed down these departments’ and agencies’ throats.

Fans of big government might claim that blacks would be even worse off had the Obama Administration not massively expanded government spending, ratcheted up regulations, fought to keep taxes high, continued the two wars, and so on. I find this implausible, but let us grant it for the sake of argument. A bigger failure is that the Obama Administration has done nothing on the two largest issues African-Americans face: imprisonment and education.

The federal and state governments lock up black men as if they were a congenitally criminal population. Writing in the Boston Globe, Louise Palmer noted back in 1999 that there will likely be 1 million African-American adults behind bars. It should be noted that others have lower estimates (800,000 on one study). This is a 500% increase over the last two decades. Data from a 2003 Justice Department report shows that 10.4% of African-American males population aged 25-29 were incarcerated. Note that the 10.4% is for one year, which means that a still higher percentage was imprisoned at one time or another. In 2000, there were more black men in prison than in college. Many of these men are in prison for non-violent drug offenses. When locked up, these men don’t care for their children, have jobs, or form friendships and loving relationships in their communities. When they get out they are damaged goods and less attractive to black women and employers.

The public education system is another disgrace. A 2010 study by the Schott Foundation finds that less than half (47%) of black males graduate from high school, compared to 78% of whites. When they do graduate, far too many black diplomas are fraudulent. Using National Assessment of Educational Progress Data, a study by the Education Trust found that by the time black students reach their senior year, they are four years behind their peers. On average, a 17-year-old African-American has skills in English, mathematics, and science similar to those of a 13-year-old white student. And remember, the performance of white students is nothing to be proud of. Economist Walter Williams has long pointed out that were the Klu Klux Klan to design a system to crush black progress, they could not have done better than America’s public schools.

The Obama is in the midst of excusing states whose schools continue to fall below the standards set forth in the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind law. Given that the teachers’ unions are one of the most powerful forces in the Democratic Party, Obama knows who brought him to the dance.

What has the Obama administration done to reverse these trends in imprisonment and education? The Obama Administration had a Democratic controlled Congress for two years. Did the administration not know that hundreds of thousands of black males were locked up and that black children learned very little in government schools or did it just not care? Note that these failures do not depend on whether you’re a fan or big government or liberty. Locking up hundreds of thousands of young black men for selling recreational drugs is loathsome on either theory. Similarly, no one who looks seriously at why public schools fail blacks thinks that the main problem is underfunding. Also, note that even those who think that black-white differences are explained in part by genetic differences in intelligence would have to admit that federal and state governments are making things far worse.

Black silence occurs because in part because of mistaken ideology and in part because black leaders are beholden to the Democratic Party and its 800 lb. guerillas, the unions, and both are inextricably tied to Obama.