Priests and Child Abuse — A Predictable Result
September 5, 2018 Blogs, Human Sexuality, Life's Tough Questions by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

Most of us read with great sadness the distressing headlines of the Pennsylvania grand jury findings that over 300 Roman Catholic priests had molested more than 1000 children over 70 years — followed by a massive coverup by the organized church authorities.

Many people ask, “How could this happen?”

But this is not a surprise for those who understand design law. When one understands design law, life becomes predictable. One can predict what will happen when a pen is dropped — it will fall. One can predict what will happen if a person smokes tobacco, or fails to exercise and eats unhealthy foods. Such outcomes are not surprising, because we understand the laws of physics and health.

God’s laws are design laws, the laws upon which life is constructed to operate. Whenever we replace God’s designs for made-up, human rules, we create problems.

We are built with sexual desires and God designed human beings to express and gratify those desires in other-centered, loving marriage relationships, with a member of the opposite sex.

When we replace God’s design with a rule that says, to be a priest, one must not marry and must be celibate — we create problems.

This rule creates what is known as a “selection bias.” What is a selection bias? It is a filter that reduces the pool of candidates from the total population to a smaller subset. An example would be a rule that says priests can only be male. This rule eliminates females from possible selection and the selection pool is reduced to only men.

Likewise, the man-made rule that priests must not marry and must be celibate causes a selection bias. When healthy, heterosexual men in their late adolescence (high-school and college) are deciding upon what career they would like to pursue, their God-given, healthy, and normal sexual desires would reduce the likelihood of choosing a path of perpetual celibacy.

However, individuals who are struggling with unhealthy (even perverse) sexual urges, and whom feel a conviction of wrong (and perhaps even pray not to have these urges), would more likely be attracted to a career in which gratifying such desires is forbidden. Furthermore, they might hope that if they dedicate their lives to God, He would deliver them from such unholy desires.

Thus, the man-made rule of a priestly celibacy, which goes against God’s design, creates a selection bias that increases the number of pedophiles entering the priesthood. And this doesn’t even consider predator pedophiles who enter the priesthood with full intention of preying on the innocent.

Now, this does not mean pedophiles are not found in other groups — they are. And it does not mean that all priests are pedophiles — they are not! But it does mean that this arbitrary, man-made rule, that violates God’s design, makes it a virtual certainty that there will be a higher concentration of pedophiles (and other sexual deviants) in the priesthood than in the general population.

If the Roman Church truly wants to take action to reduce future problems with their priests abusing children, then return to God’s design for human relationships, rescind the man-made rule of priestly celibacy, and allow priests and nuns to marry, if they so choose.

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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.