I am talking with a man about being on his podcast later this year. The focus of his podcast is the sexual abuse of boys. As we were talking, it dawned on me that the overwhelming majority of predatory Evangelical preachers prey on girls, teen girls, and older females. In the Catholic church, pedophile priests tend to go after boys, but in the Evangelical and IFB churches, the focus is on females. Why is that?
In Evangelical churches, homosexuality is considered perversion, the sin above all sins. Further, many Evangelicals believe that most child molesters are homosexuals. Does this aversion toward homosexuality ward preachers off from molesting boys? Or is it, as my counselor suggested today, that boys are less likely to talk about being molested due to their church’s hatred of all things LGBTQ? Or is it a combination of things?
What are your thoughts on this subject? I do want to hear from you. I am also looking to talk to Evangelical men who were molested by preachers and other church leaders as children or teenagers. If you know someone who would be willing to talk with me or share their story, please contact me via email.
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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Maggie Ross (pen name for Martha Reeves) is a professed Anglican Solitary of 30+ years under the direction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the first Solitary is several hundred years. (As I understand it, a Solitary is like a nun, except doesn’t have any support of a convent and has to go-it-alone.) She’s written a number of books about theology, and also has a blog. For many years she would spend summers in Alaska, and winters teaching Theology at Cambridge. She’s now in her seventies or eighties, and doesn’t blog much over the last several years. She’s one of the few religious people I can stomach reading. (Her blog only; I’ve read excerpts from some of her books that are available online for free, but haven’t read any of her books.)
From her blog, on series of posts about why religious life has died since Vatican II, she’s got a wee tidbit that might shed some light on why Catholic priests prey on boys rather than girls. (I believe when she says “all denominations” that she’s referring to Trappists, Cistercians, etc, in Anglican and Catholic monasteries and convents, not outside those denominations, but I’m not positive.) Here’s a fuller context, and the two “smoking gun” quotes will be excerpted afterwards:
“Why Religious Life Died”
In this series of posts I want to explore what has happened to religious life, why it declined abruptly after Vatican II, and why the few women and men who want to explore religious life today have no place to go; why the relict communities that want to attract these women are doomed to failure. I am a member of the last generation to have lived the religious life both before and after Vatican II, and it seems a useful exercise to write down my impressions, which are not necessarily those of others.
Religious life—both Roman Catholic and Anglican—as it was constituted before Vatican II, was both inhuman and unsustainable. It was anti-incarnational, turning people into robots through a complete misunderstanding—some of it deliberate—of the notion of what constituted ‘loss of self’. Sadistic and frightened male superiors and bishops, many of them misogynistic and struggling with the immaturity and sexual confusion that seminary education engendered, didn’t want any problems from the women; they had enough of their own. A survey taken in New York City in the late sixties suggested that 72% of the clergy of all denominations were gay—and firmly in the closet. Women were barely tolerated; for a woman or a community to have a problem meant a black mark and censure, perhaps even persecution.
There were equally misogynistic and sadistic women superiors, who, in addition to enforcing the male ecclesial attitudes, confused emotional dependence with obedience. Of course this renders obedience illicit, for licit obedience must be freely given and without constraint or coercion. Enclosure had become a prison: it violated all common sense. It was used to keep nuns in rather than keep the world out.
There was little screening at the time, and when, for example, the absolute silence of the Trappists was lifted, it was found that many monks had been crushed, mentally and physically damaged, some of them to the point of psychosis. What was discovered about the women was even worse: in addition to their suffering similar problems to the monks, a survey carried out in the 1970s suggested that perhaps three-quarters of the women in enclosed religious life had been molested or raped by their fathers. The dreadful theology of the day dictated that women were the cause of sin. These women had entered the monastery in order to make life-long reparation for having led their fathers into sin, and in spite of this perpetual immolation, still felt that even so they would go to hell—but perhaps their fathers would be spared for Purgatory.
I couldn’t bold or underline the “smoking gun” quotes, so I’ll except them here
## A survey taken in New York City in the late sixties suggested that 72% of the clergy of all denominations were gay—and firmly in the closet.
## What was discovered about the women was even worse: in addition to their suffering similar problems to the monks, a survey carried out in the 1970s suggested that perhaps three-quarters of the women in enclosed religious life had been molested or raped by their fathers.
There’s no further info on exactly who did those surveys, or how to find them, and I’ve been curious for quite some time (which is why I remembered this blurb and could find it again.) If you or anyone else discovers additional info or sources, I’d be curious to hear about it.
It would appear from the statistic about priests, that celibacy is a feature, not a bug, in that it’s a “safe” way to avoid marrying a woman if you’re gay. Whereas Protestant ministers are still allowed to marry, and hence becoming a minister is not a place to “hide” if you’re gay. However, when the “fall into sin”, it would certainly go a long way to explaining why Catholics so often prey on young boys rather than young girls.
Why Do Evangelical Preachers Tend to Sexually Assault Girls Instead of Boys? I know the answer to that question. The answer is: “Girls make their dicks long and hard, and there are a lot more hetero preachers than gay, bisexual, or pedophile preachers.”
Do I get a prize for answering that question correctly—-like maybe an all-expenses-paid vacation to a beach in Surinam?
It’s more complicated than that. Gay men, some transgender people don’t have hard dicks? The question is why do Catholic priests typically molest boys and Evangelical preachers don’t?
And we must account for the fact that some molestation is not about sex, it’s about power, control, and domination.
As a long-ago altar boy who was sexually abused by a Catholic priest, I can offer this perspective: RC priests have much more access to boys than to girls. At least, that’s how it was when I was growing up in the church. Back then, a girl or woman never stood on the altar, unless she was getting married. And she didn’t enter the sacristy. Also, if priests led youth or children’s activities, they led the ones for boys.
It may well be a chicken-and-egg situation: Priests abuse boys because they’re available; that availability, of course, might be the reason why some of them became priests in the first place.
What I am about to say might seem counterintuitive. The Evangelical church of which I was later a part was, in some ways, more “co-ed,” if you will. When I was growing up, there seemed to be no interaction between priests and nuns, and very little with lay women. On the other hand,’in my Evangelical church, while women had subservient roles, they seemed to have more interaction with both the pastor and lay male officials. For one thing, pastor was married and therefore not bound by celibacy rules. And while some women had fairly prominent roles and a few were seen as having “gifts,” (forr example, it was usually the women who could “speak in tongues”), they were still seen as subjects—as the boys were to priests like the one who abused me.
As a trans woman, I sometimes think about what my life would have been, or would be, like if I’d grown up as a girl in the Catholic Church or experienced the Evangelical church as a young woman. As a Catholic, I couldn’t have served on the altar as, I understand , girls are now allowed to do. Would that have spared me from abuse by a priest? Would I have experienced sexual harassment or assault from the pastor or deacon?
christianity, especially the evangelical version, teaches women are property. this is all that is needed to explain the actions of the leaders.
I wonder if it’s related to vow of celibacy vs expectations of marriage.
Priests aren’t allowed to get married, therefore the profession attracts men who would never get married anyway, such as gay men. And some percentage of those gay men will unfortunately be pedophiles.
Not familiar with the lifestyles of evangelical preachers, but I get the impression that there’s an expectation that they will get or already be married. So the profession attracts men who are more likely to get married, i.e. hetero men.
I wonder if this dichotomy will fade if fundamentalist Christianity ever gets around to accepting LGBTQ+?
I think that’s basically it. Two or three generations ago, when homosexuality was criminalized, it was somewhat common for gay men to go into the Catholic priesthood because it was one of the very few life courses in which a man could show no interest in women and yet not arouse suspicion that he might be homosexual. Over time the number of gay priests grew, which made the Catholic priesthood even more attractive to other gay men. There’s abundant anecdotal evidence today that a very high fraction of Catholic priests are homosexual. And some percentage of gay men are attracted to minors, just as some percentage of straight men are.
As to the Protestant clergy molesting girls, Protestant clergy have never been required to be celibate, so it did not appeal to closeted gays in the same way, so they are more representative of the general population (sexual-orientation-wise) than Catholic priests are — and most of the general population is heterosexual.
By the way. the pattern of Catholic priests molesting boys seems to be distinctive to Europe and the Americas. In India and black Africa, the common pattern is Catholic priests sexually abusing adult women.
I don’t have the answer to this question. A lot of people have mentioned ideas that make sense.
In my limited experience, gay folks tend to leave evangelicalism as soon as they can. They’re not likely to become clergy AND stay in a non-affirming church.
My father-in-law started seminary in 1965 to become a Catholic priest. His parents were devout 1st generation Irish-Americans, and he was their oldest son (of 11 children). He was expected to be the standard-bearer of the family, and Catholic-school educated, he thought becoming a priest would bring honor to the family. Out of his class of 60 men, only 5 were ordained as priests, and only 1 remained in the priesthood for a lifetime. My FIL got his girlfriend pregnant so obviously did not get ordained. He spoke of the rampant hypocrisy of the priests, their abuse of alcohol and tobacco, their demand for expensive food and alcohol, the physical abuse they perpetrated on students…. Yet he is a devout conservative Christian nationalist today. Go figure.
It is well known that a large percentage of Catholic priests are gay, searching google I’m getting anywhere between 30% to 60%, and I’m guessing the higher figure is probably closer to the actual figure (and it might be even higher yet). While homosexual acts are considered immoral in the RCC, simply being gay is not. So, the priesthood with its celibacy mandate might appeal to a lot of gay Catholic young men. There are also will be no questions about why a Catholic man doesn’t have a girlfriend or wife. So this might explain why a lot of priests are gay, but being gay doesn’t mean they are pedophiles, but that is where there is opportunity and a power disparity.
Troy—Whatever the percentage of gay men in the RC priesthood, I don’t doubt that it’s significantly higher than in the general population. And I’m sure many gay men have become priests for the reasons you mention, though I suspect fewer do so today, at least in the US and most Western European countries.
I hope that no one infers, from my previous comment, that homosexuality (in men) and paedophilia are the same. Most men who sexually abuse young boys are straight—including, I believe, the priest who abused me. So, I suspect that even today, some paedophiles choose the priesthood because there is (and, I hope, will never be) a socially acceptable way to be a paedophile.
MJ, that’s a great point, that straight men could also be same sex abusers as well. It hadn’t occurred to me, but of course sexuality is a continuum and abusers can vary.
https://julieroys.com/former-ifb-pastor-schaap-convicted-sexually-abusing-teen-released-prison/ It seems that Jack Schaap was recently released from prison. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison but he did not serve his full sentence. My guess is that due to his age(Mid-60’s) he was given early release. Also, the federal prison system has to let the older inmates out to make room for the bumper crop of younger inmates entering the federal prison system. When it comes to why Catholic priests tend to sexually assault boys and evangelical preachers tend to sexually assault girls, it is expected that evangelical preachers are supposed to be married to people of the opposite gender and produce children while the Catholic clergy are required to be celibate and not engaged in sexual activity. However just because the the Catholic clergy are supposed to be celibate does not mean that most of them do not engage in sexual activity. I believe that the priesthood of the Roman Catholic church tends to attract men who are sexually attracted to young males. Some priests are not subtle in this one Catholic priest who was a chaplain at one Catholic high school was also assigned to a rural parish twenty some miles away. He would often invite the boys of the high school to visit him at the rural parish but never the girls of the high school, much to the dismay of some of the girls of the high school. This priest was later defrocked due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Also, a few years after he was defrocked, the man was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge for exposing himself to an 18 year male fellow employee at a department store. He was convicted of the disorderly conduct charge and he had to seek treatment for mental issues, drug addiction and alcoholism. Basically the Catholic priesthood tends to attract people who even more mentally unstable than the general population.