Why Ireland is abandoning the Church
What once was a Christian country is fast becoming a nation of 'nones'
There is probably no country in the Western world where the Catholic Church has come under more sustained attack than Ireland. The reason is perhaps that in no other Western country did the Catholic Church exercise such influence for so long in the 20th century.
A major new study going by the cumbersome title, ‘Historical Political Cleavages and Post-Crisis Transformations in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland, 1953-2020’, highlights how far things have fallen.
Like what you’re reading? Get the free UnHerd daily email
Already registered? Sign in
Over the period 2011 to 2016, 19% of Irish people said they never went to church, but by last year this had jumped to an incredible 50%. That’s higher than in Italy or Portugal (30% and 18% respectively), but lower than in Spain where the equivalent figure is 61%.
The report also states that there has been a much smaller drop in regular church attendance (monthly or more), which has fallen from 33% to 28%.
What seems to have happened in the meantime is that those who were only loosely connected to the Church have now become completely disconnected, except maybe for weddings, funerals and the like.
In other words, the big fall hasn’t been in regular church attendance, but in sporadic attendance. Just under half of Irish people were coming to church less than once a month four or five year ago and this is now just 22%. Many of those sporadic attenders have stopped coming altogether.
Consider the many scandals that have rocked the Church in recent decades, and it isn’t hard to work out why the Mass attendance rate in Ireland has plunged.
Only last month there was another outburst of anger against the Church following the publication of a major, 2,800-page official report into Ireland’s mother and baby homes. It examined how those homes for unmarried mothers and their children were run in the decades following Independence in 1922.
The report found that they had a much higher infant mortality rate than the wider population. About 15% of all infants born in the institutions died, almost all before the advent of modern medicine. The report adds that Ireland appears to have put more unmarried mothers in these homes than any other country.
The report also made clear that mother and baby homes were not unique to Ireland and were not a Catholic invention; unmarried mothers were stigmatised almost everywhere, and that the county homes (the successors to the workhouses), where many unmarried mothers also ended up, were usually far worse. These were run by local county councils.
But the fact is that that most of the mother and baby homes were run by female religious orders — that is, by nuns — and therefore in the Irish (and often international) imagination they are indelibly associated with the Catholic Church.
What is happening is a reaction to scandals such as this. But two other factors are also at work. Even without those scandals, we were always going to become more secular. The Protestant Churches have suffered even bigger declines in attendance because of this.
Secularisation has swept across the whole of the western world, and Ireland is part of the West. It was impossible for Ireland not to eventually be affected by social and intellectual trends elsewhere. What almost certainly delayed secularisation in Ireland is that, in the years after we gained independence, one way of showing we had shaken off British rule was by making Catholicism an integral part of our national identity. As we no longer believe it is necessary to do this, we are now shaking off the Church.
The third factor is that, as a small country it can be particularly hard to stand out from the crowd. Once, we all went to Mass. Now, below a certain age, almost no-one goes. We were a nation of nuns and priests. Now, we are becoming a people with no direct religious affiliation: a country of ‘nones’.
Good, religion is fine on a personal level but should never be allowed to grip a society. It’s all sweetness and humility until it gets power, then it’s fire and brimstone and smiting the unbelievers.
The catholic church in particular has come under fire for historic child abuse in many forms and in many places, and for the way it has sought to whitewash or hide these crimes. Again it’s not unique to Catholicism, but it is now a very tarnished organisation.
Fire and Brimstone is not frequently met these days. All you need to do is move to a more laid-back church – such as CofE instead of the morr fiery protestants …
Yeah, because the CofE is doing really well……..
There’s also another factor. Catholicism is not an easy religion to adhere to. It’s hard work for no temporal reward. Ideally, the life of the lay Catholic should mirror that of a monk or friar. In an age of easy comforts, that’s the hardest sell there is. I suspect the outrage against the Church, while not unjustified, is not entirely morally based.
Yes and no. Remember monks are following the counsel of perfection; the laity follow the counsel of the law, which allows for property, choice, decisions and a bit of fun. Monastics embrace chastity, poverty and obedience – for ordinary folk it is a matter of fidelity within marriage, modesty with money and conformity to the ten commandments. Errors are rectified by confession and penance. Pope Benedict himself has described Christianity as a “light” yoke.
This. Christianity is a desert weed — it does not flourish in in lush environs.
I think if you look into it, you will find there is a very considerable difference between the life of Monk and the life of a Friar.
The clue is Mendicant.
As somebody who spent first 18 years in Ireland, then 45+ years in SE England and now 15 years in rural Ireland, I see things through very different prisms.
Contrasts England versus Ireland
– teaching church, non-teaching church
– enriching church, ritual church
– multi-cultural church, nationalist church
– welcomes strangers, wary of “blow-ins”
– welcome signs, no signs
– teaching RC schools, non-teaching schools
– adult faith encouraged, little teaching
– Evangelical, no faith outreach
– youngish church, oldish church
– bishops lead, bishops manage
– opt-in for sacraments, opt out after sacraments
For clarity, is the left side of the list England and the right Ireland?
Also, for England which church do you mean — Catholic, C of E, other/all?
I think he means evengelical or reformed protestant.
Stark difference between the Irish and English Catholic sense of religious community. I came to the UK in 2012 from Ireland and was taken aback by the overwhelming effort people made to be welcoming in the church setting in the UK. I now go to mass because I want to, rather than the sense of doctrinal obligation I felt in Ireland
very interesting comparison!
A curious little contrast I noticed in the past was that in RC churches the world over, women took their bags up to the altar with them, while Protestant women left them behind in the pews unattended. Since the Jihadi threat, Protestant women have been trained to take their bags up with them too, but it still jars.
A point that is worth mentioning, but not covered in the article, is the tremendous success of those churches in Ireland that offer the Latin Mass. The Institute of Christ the King are attracting huge congregations in both Limerick and Belfast. In Limerick, they purchased a beautiful church that had been abandoned by the Jesuits, and in Belfast, they purchased a church from the Presbyterian Church of Ireland.
Furthermore, the Order is attracting numerous vocations to the priesthood, and currently have several Irish seminarians.
In England, the Cathedrals do very well for much the same reason: beautiful choral music and the BCP at two services a day. Trendy Churches are not doing nearly so well.
I was away from the Church from 18 to my early 40’s. I reached a terribly dark side in my life and by Gods grace and Mercy, I went running back to God in his Church. What shocked me was how much I didn’t know about the Sacraments. I didn’t realise they are Jesus. I didn’t know how to love him. How could I possibly love someone I’d never seen? I was completely blind to Jesus but by his Amazing Grace he thought me to see and hear his word in my heart. When you understand the love of Jesus especially in his Church through the Sacraments, you only see and hear him and nothing human created. Like me not so long ago I only saw a human, a priest like a politician but now I only see Jesus and hus love and by his strength, never abandon my faith again.
Important to note that while the nuns ran the institutions, they were funded (badly )by couny councils who maintained control over the homes.
We must also remember that those with editorial control of the narrative, tell only that part of the story that suits their ideology and world view….they are gradually losing influence due to the increased lack of trust in MSM especially among the young
the money, the money, the money
I think it is important to follow the money, because that is where the power lies. It’s quite clear that there are massive secular and hostile anti Catholic forces at work, remember that Big Tech and Big Pharma are as much Chinese and Global as American now. Their values are as likely to be influenced by the CCP and harsh materialistic values. Their money and influence is pouring into our Universities and they are in turn churning out atheist ideas from Marx, Nietche, J.P. Sartre and Foucault into the society. It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that we in Ireland are their lab rats for testing to see if they can destroy the Christian faith here….I trust however that the younger and smarter people will rebel against this and make the Gospel “cool” again…
All you believers have been found out. Education and reason have reached a point where it is very difficult to con sensible people into believing any of the absurd dogma which theistic religions preach. Increasungly, religious belief, at least in the West, is doomed. Good riddance to it.
Stick around Andrew. Christianity has been witj us for 2000 years. Anything that challenged it has disappeared without trace and will continue to do so. How do I know ? Simple. Jesus made us a promise and he keeps his word.
What is now promoted as “official” institutional Christian-ism has only been in existence for 1700 years – not 2000. Prior to that there were many different and competing versions of what “Jesus” taught and demonstrated while he was alive, including various varieties of the much derided Gnosticism.
And of course Jesus was never ever in any sense a Christian. He was a radical outsider who taught on the margins of the culture in which he appeared. He taught a radical, non-sectarian and universal Spiritual Way of Life – which the institutional church via its very worldly power rapidly shut down
Nor did “Jesus”found the religion ABOUT him, all of which was created by others, none of whom ever met “Jesus” up-close-and-personal in a living-breathing-feeling human form.
You dont really think that if “Jesus” happened to reappear that he would be welcome, or even recognized at Westminster Abbey, St Pauls Cathedral, or the Vatican.
You can’t objectively know a belief. Sit me in a room with 4 or 5 believers from different religions and tell I’m wrong. Either end up at each other’s throats or retreating into some hypocritical nonsense.
Jesus was a delusional loser who did much harm to human civilisation spouting his visions that would now be classed as mental illness and the Romans (who had a great and advanced civilisation) gave him exactly what he deserved.
And he beat them by rising from the dead
All religions have their day. You won’t find many worshippers of Ashur about these days, but his cult lasted for 700 years in Assyria. Roman paganism lasted for about 1250 years, and its origins were much older. Greek paganism likewise. They all thought they would last forever. These belief systems arise out of a particular set of circumstances, and tend to fade when circumstances change, and also in people who are educated, travel and meet people with differing beliefs. They thrive more when their adherents are in one geographical area, so that they all reinforce each other’s observance. Currently, the world’s oldest religion is probably animism – still practised in some rural African areas.
Judaeo-christian morality underpins our civilization. It is matriarchal and merciful. Unlike many another. Our law is founded on it, and our hospitals and schools. All our charity too. The secularists think they can abolish Christianity and Judaism and their morality will still remain. But if morality is to be optional, and individual, as it surely will become when religious codes are dead, then how strong and enduring will it be?
ah, another one who believes in a sky fairy.
if you have a strong network of support around you then yes, religion might seem unnecessary.
I’ve visited parts of the world where religion is all people had. Without it they would likely fall into drug abuse, crime and prostitution. As someone aptly mentioned above, religion is a ‘desert-weed that doesn’t thrive in lush environments’.
Bombast. Atheists excel at it.
And religious people don’t? LOL!
Andrew, it was ‘doomed’ about 60 years ago, just taking a long time to fizzle out. But with COVID 19 and recent scandals, sorry, more recent scandals, it has received a jump start to oblivion.
I quite agree. There has been an unending war against religion for well over one hundred years. It is worth listing what the churches provided: schools, hospitals, alms houses, music, farming, wines. In peasant societies, life was tough, and so were the churches. Their antagonists invoked “science”: what they meant was class war and racial doctrines. When these two deadly doctrines mixed, they produced brown shirts. Right now, these pseudo religions go by such names as BLM and Extinction Rebellion. Their heroes are people like Kamala harris-abortion at 9 months
I constantly hear the voice of Squealer in Orwell’s Animal Farm saying “Science tells us, comrades”. And coming from an agricultural background, I know well what a pig’s squeal and grunt sounds like.
Scientism is the new religion, the last year is Exhibit A
And yet, it still seems better than theology which has spent 2000 years pumping out nonsense about non-existent beings by people who desperately want rationalisations for the childish fantasies they cling to like idiots.
“Their heroes are people like Kamala Harris-abortion at 9months”. What a bloody lie, all of you so called ‘pro-lifers’ stoop to the lowest of the low. Schools are rapidly falling back into the hands of the taxpayer where they should have been in the first place. Educate Together now a very successful Patronage Body. I went to Castleknock College in the 70’s, run by The Vincentian Order, great men, but now NO Vincentians left, only 1 man entered the order in the past 30 years. So these schools are now all Secular. Non-Religious people and Atheists even, also give alms, music, farms, wines. Re, ‘Extinction Rebellion’, are you actually saying that young people should not rise up against the total and utter destruction of their environment by our generations, that includes you and me for short term gain. What ignorant and uninformed comments that you made, but if that keeps you happy, so be it.
That is the most idiotic conspiracy theory I have read in a long time, ‘Big Tech’, ‘Big Pharma’, ‘Chinese Communist Party, ie CCP’, ‘Marx’, ‘Nietche’ etc. Can you not accept the fact that the last 2 or 3 generations of Irish people since, say the 60’s don’t do bullshit and certainly the RCC’s official objection to ‘Birth Control’, ‘Contraception’ is just incredibly stupid and contemptuous of any thinking persons intelligence.
‘The Protestant Churches have suffered even bigger declines in attendance because of this.” Well the real story is that from 1920 Irish Protestants found themselves pushed to the margins, in the context of the rapid and dramatic depletion of their numbers. The Roman Catholic church taught its flock that it was the ‘one true church’ and all other religions were heretical. The native Protestant population was around 300,000 in 1911 and fell by 49% up to 2011. All in my book Buried Lives:The Protestants of Southern Ireland. Many left 1920-26 due to violence and intimidation, later Catholicism and nationalsim defined being Irish as being Roman Catholic which led to more emigration.
Same story in the border lands of Northern Ireland. Ethnic cleansing you might call it.
Hi Robbo. Thank you for this. I read the review in the Irish Times (https://www.irishtimes.com/… – and yes, I take the reviewer’s points, and also the weaknesses of the review. I hope this leads to an enlightening exchange of scholarly views.
The development (rise or fall?) of Western civilisation marches on. Secularism may well turn out to be a period of transition during which one religion goes into decline and another rises to takes its place.
Well said. But which dispensation will take over? It might, heaven help us, be some version of “woke” – but I doubt it. All “woke” represents is the mindless self-hatred of people without confidence – confidence that even a residual religious allegiance confers. It is just an escape of self-punitive instinct from the restraint of positive religious guidance. No, I daresay the religion which is poised to take over is all too well known to European history – and its shackles are the heaviest mankind has ever had to bear.
“Woke” is an aspect of Cultural Marxism which seeks to identify disenchanted sub groups in the society and magnify their anger…so that the cohesive forces are ruptured making way in time for the secularist revolutionary left wing ….America is a classic case with Kamala Harris making it to VP, a heartbeat from President….and with the help of a stolen election….watch the space because the fat lady has yet to sing the Stars and Stripes in earnest ðŸ˜‚
This is exactly what I am afraid of and why I hope European Christianity, regardless of whether it is Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, is more resilient than it seems at present.
Surely it was government who sent unmarried mothers to these homes ? If so did they fund them or were the nuns expected to cope at their own expense anf, if so, hiw ?
It was their families that sent them – secretly – from shame.
I ‘ve known some mothers tell me the Nuns were so hard, that they hated the Nuns at the time, but were grateful afterwards because it had taught them how to cope when everyone turns their back as you walk by!
The case in point is Tuam, Co Galway, which was one of the most notorious of the home and the one which triggered the report. Galway County Council brought in the Bon Secours Sisters to deal with the problem and then did not give the adequate funding and basically washed their hands of it.
What Ann Ceely says below is correct, that the women’s families sent them to these homes. I have seen elsewhere, it was principally a middle/professional/big farming class habit; poorer families dealt with the problem by other devices. The unexpected grandchild was passed of as a late child of the girl’s parents.
It was society that forced unmarried mothers and their children into homes out of shame and that shame originated in the Catholic Church. In the homes they were abused by nuns as punishment for their ‘sins’. The mortality rates in these homes were horrific,-back to the era of 1850, when medical knowledge was very limited, for mortality rates to be at this level in the late C.20 it amounts to infanticide. And they were just put into mass graves which confirms how little humanity was involved. Add this to the sexual abuse by priests and it is quite understandable that the population abandoned religion.
. . . abandoned The Catholic Church. I have seen no evidence they have abandoned religion
It was a cruel system to uphold the family. Now the family has fallen, things for the victims of that fall are just as bad but in different ways.
The Irish Free State/Eire/Republic of Ireland was a de facto Catholic theocracy for about the first 60-70 years of its existence, One of the main reasons Ulster Protestants wanted nothing to do with it
Interestingly the Anglican Church ( Church of Ireland ) has apologised in both the Republic and Northern Ireland, so where are the investigations in Britain?
Christianity would have been easier in the ‘olden days’ when the local community would meet on Sundays after church for a good old gossip. Basically, all it asks for is praying to God regularily.
These days it can be hard to find companionship in the local community because folk are all so busy and work hard away from home.
Von Balthasar points to the
EgoDrama versus the TheoDrama.
Ego Drama:We get to write the script,to direct the play and to play the starring role.It’s all about me.
TheoDrama:God writes the play and invites us to be the actors.To collaborate with Him in perfecting an imperfect world.
Which drama is more exciting?
Surely this is no different to what’s happening to all Christian denominations, in all western countries? It’s more pronounced in the Republic of Ireland because religiosity there has historically been more entrenched.
For all those pesky surveys I wish that instead of the box asking to know which religion you are, including one saying “none”, that there was a box for “post-“. I am not devoid of religious influence, I am simply post-religious, in the same way as you might say ‘post-industrial’.
I have thought for quite some time that the problem with the Catholic Church is the failure of the clergy to cope with the changes in its congregation. I was brought up in West coast Scotland, in a Catholic family, and the reverence my family held for the local clergy was frankly nauseating. As I got older, and better educated, I began to wonder just why this small group of odd men (the priests) were so highly regarded by everyone else as well as by themselves. Just before I went off to university, I talked to the local parish priest (a little tin god in his own fiefdom) and his hostility to someone outside the clique going off to a good university was palpable.
Fast forward quite a few years, and I was over in rural Ireland, and visiting some Catholic friends – it was like returning to my adolescence. Even though these were quite well-educated people, their grovelling and fawning to the local priest was shocking. The priest himself was a nice enough guy, but not by any stretch the sharpest knife in the block, and certainly lacking in what I would have expected in terms of classical education. He did, however, bask luxuriantly in the glow of the admiring crowd, and clearly believed that he fully deserved this admiration and merited total respect (there was one uncomfortable exchange – “Hello Fred” – “What should I call you?” – “Call me Father.” – “OK, call me Mr Atkinstalk”.)
Over the years I have had quite a lot of contact with C of E clergy, and I find them to be much easier to get on with (many are quite down to earth, bright, well educated and pleasant.) Of course there are quite a few who are not like this (I have found it to be an invariable rule that any Anglican clergyman who wants to be called ‘Father’ is either terminally deluded or gay – often both) but on the whole they seem to be less tainted with the scourge of “I am one of God’s anointed and therfore much more special than you.”
In my own view, the Catholic Church needs to learn to treat its lay members with more respect, and its clergy needs to learn some humility, if it is to survive in the modern world.
There is such a thing as reverence for the office, not the man.
You make an excellent point. It does, however, presuppose that the office is worthy of reverence. Having given it careful thought, I am not sure that it does. What would be the basis for that reverence? That he has a hot line to God?
I suggest that in the modern age (quite possibly any time after the seventeenth century) the man could earn the reverence that the office had lost.
Fred. Have you read Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory? There’s a lot of focus in it on the priest’s sacramental role and a worldly assesment of the worthiness of Priest. An alcholic. As the novel inimates It is not really a question of how cool or smart the priest is. What counts is that as the priest he celebrates mass, adminsters the eucharist, and hears confessions, etc. He has real power vested in him by God. He’s not just a glorified social worker. The rerence is because he saves souls. But you if you don’t believe in the HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH and its teaching of the last four things: death, judgement, Heaven, and Hell. then i gues he’s just a cipher in a dog-collar for you.
Yet in 2019 in Ireland 505,223 or 90% of children were educated in Catholic schools, multi demoninational schools accounted for only 6.8%. So the Catholic Church in Ireland has certainly not lost control of the education of the children.
Ref government.ie figures.
Very little discussion of the difference between Irish Catholicism and the southern European version (Italian, Spanish, French, …). In the south, the church was always more flexible. Italian communists often had church funerals. The Irish church held the fort on divorce and abortion for much longer.
Yet the number of pupils attending Catholic schools in Ireland in 2019 was 505,223 or 90% of children, with only 38,082 or 6.8% of children attending multi denominational schools.
So the Catholic church in Ireland still very much has control over the education of children. Is this suitable or appropriate in a secular country ?
The teachers in our Catholic schools need to be re evangelised with sound teaching. This will take time. It’s far too soon to relinquish control in what is a temporary set back…those who follow Jesus and his teaching take a much much longer view , 2020 years in mere mortal terms and infinity in matters metaphysical…ðŸ™ðŸ˜‚
Why ignore Secondary schools where 50% are RC, 33% ETB, 12% community, 2% CoI? When given the choice parents largely vote for RC schools. Yes, there needs to be greater plurality so that RC schools can start teaching any living the Christian faith.
I like the references and speculation going on in the background of these comments about historical and future shifts of religious belief and action. I have been concerned and interested for quite some time about our work with nuclear energy. My experience from working at Dounreay, (the nuclear reactor here in Scotland) is that the Atomic World is more social and sentient than we have so far cared or dared to consider. It looks to me like another dimension of life in this shared universal system. A religion that can see this and respond with compassion would get my vote. If you are interested, I’ve parked my thoughts on this matter, on the energy in matter, in this site <holynuclear.uk>
Ireland might look to the Quebec experience, whose “Quiet Revolution” predates the decline of Irish church attendance by at least 50 years.
Correct, but Flanders gives another possible model. Flanders has gone very quickly from being an agrarian Catholic society (more so than industrialised Wallonia) to being a post-industrial, affluent and highly secularised society (even more so than their French-speaking compatriots). The other aspect is that from the mid 19th century to the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, Catholic Belgium was the model constantly presented to Irish Catholics by bishops, clergy and religious. Now Belgium is among Europe’s most secular societies. Flanders has been very much Quebec’s Quiet Revolution in slow motion.
Anthropology and archaeology tells us that organised religion arose with agricultural city states- toiling slavishly in the field and defending the city takes subjugation. Best done through a priest caste who keep their secrets from the population together with human sacrifice to cow people along with a warrior semi god King. And he’s going to need a huge ziggurat too. Control and subjugation. Don’t forget when it goes wrong, it’s the Gods who are angry, not the rulers. How convenient.
It looks like the youth have converted to wokeism. See Nagle’s article in Unherd, ‘Will Ireland survive the woke wave?’
It looks like the youth have converted to wokeism. See Nagle’s article in Unherd, ‘Will Ireland survive the woke wave?’
I am 81 now and for many years have waited to see the end of the Labour Party, the house of Windsor and, most of all, the Catholic church. First one down and the next two well on the way; just hope the vaccine lets me watch the end throes….
The RC Church has indeed been targeted, in a way in which the Moslem establishment has not. On the contrary, the latter has been actively protected for overseeing much worse. That is not to excuse the rough cruelty of the uneducated RCs who manned the various establishments.
Choosing which is the most evil of these pernicious systems is a pointless exercise; better to use your voice to help stamp all of them out.
Just 18% for Portugal? I’m skeptical of that number. It’s closer to 80, probably. The Irish Church behaved badly after the independence. Some of practices look odd comparing to the Southern European catholicism. Cemeteries for suicide victims, the lack of charity regarding single mothers, etc. But maybe the main reason is that it’s hard to be a good catholic. Catholicism isn’t a spineless sect like the church of England ( not in Africa) .
Mr. Quinn’s excellent piece does not go into the background of the scandals that had such a traumatic impact on how Irish society perceived the Catholic Church. Maybe I can fill in the gap here?
During the Ulster Crisis (1912-14), Redmond was very reluctant to let Ulster go its own way. Partly, that is explained by the way he painted himself into a corner by promising his supporters that the whole island would get Home Rule, and partly because of taxation. This latter point needs explaining.
Belfast was easily the most dynamic part of the Irish economy before the First World War. For politicians, economic dynamism = lots of lovely tax revenue. If Home Rule Ireland was to have any hope of matching the welfare provisions of the British state, it needed all that tax revenue from Belfast. Of course, that never happened. So the Irish Government had little choice but to outsource welfare provision to the only organisation which was capable of bearing the load, and that was the Catholic Church.
The Church’s privileged position in Irish society made it politically impossible for Irish governments to hold the Church accountable, hence the unchecked abuse of children and vulnerable adults. Lack of money produced a morbid obsession to do everything as cheaply as possible, which accounts for the Dickensian penny-pinching and, to all intents and purposes, slave labour.
Sooner or later, these accumulated scandals were going to burst out into the open, as Mr. Quinn relates.
With luck, the incidence of “child rape” will follow an equally speedy downward path.
The clerical sexual abuse problem had less to do with paedophilia and more to do with homosexuality. The vast majority of cases involved homosexual priests abusing adolescent boys and young men.
I won’t contradict the other commentator on the nature of the abuse in the Catholic Church: the greater proportion of victims are teenage boys. But the what’s missed is that paedophiles, unfortunately, are drawn into professions which give them access to children and up until recently this was true of clergy and their functional equivalents through all denominations. Especially Catholic clergy. But if there is a welcome decline in paedophile among, let us say personnel in religious organisations, it won’t because they have gone away. They will just have gone somewhere else.
More than 90% of sex crimes against boys in the Catholic church were committed by homosexuals according to a study by the church itself.
The word “paedophile” has a very elastic meaning. It seems that if a man sexually abuses a boy of 12 or 13 he’s not a paedophile but a homosexual, whereas if he sexually abuses a girl of 15 he’s not a heterosexual but a paedophile.
“Paedophile” actually has a very precise meaning. It refers to people who are sexually attracted to PRE-PUBERTAL children. Many of those vilified in the press are not paedophiles at all. There is some dispute about whether there should be a separate classification of “ephebephile” for those who are attracted specifically to young, post-pubertal children who may or may not be sexually mature.
The term “paedophile” is often used popularly for someone who has had a sexual relationship with someone who is under age (but who may in fact be post-pubertal). But the age of consent varies – in different countries it may be 16, 15, 13, or whatever. Nature doesn’t care about that: the line between paedophiles and others is not a numerical age, but a stage of physical maturity. There is no gene or other biological factor for being attracted to people who are under (or over) 16.
And there is the precise word “paederast”.
You are absolutely right of course. Unfortunately, many of those who throw around the word “paedophile” either are unaware of, or ignore, its correct usage.
Join the discussion
To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.
Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.Subscribe