Data Infers Suicide Rates Among Victims of Clergy Sex Abuse Exceed 50 Times the General Population

Sinner Seeking Absolution from Clergy Sex Offender

Clergy Confessing His Sins in Vatican

Confession at the Vatican

Out of a possible 100,000 victims of Catholic clergy sex abuse in U.S., more than 725 will never be heard from again. These are suicides, not drug overdoses.

Victims of Catholic clergy sex abuse have a 50 times higher incidence of suicide than the general population. The bishops who covered up for clergy sex offenders seemed oblivious or indifferent.”
— G.R. Pafumi
SPRING VALLEY, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES, November 13, 2018 / -- Since 1950, the number of victims of Catholic clergy sex abuse in the United States is estimated to be approximately 100,000. has identified over 6,600 of those victims. These victims have provided sufficient detail to be included in the SACADDAS (Survivor Accounts of Catholic Clergy Abuse, Denial, Accountability and Silence) database. Of those 6,600 victims, 48 have successfully committed suicide, most likely because of their abuse. Compared to the general population, the rate of suicide among Catholic clergy abuse victims is 50 times higher. Here is the data.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), 21 males and 6 females successfully commit suicide per 100,000 of population. Collectively, 13 people kill themselves per 100,000 of U.S. population. The CDC data is for the year 2016 and is age-adjusted to account for changes in the distribution of the population by age. This adjustment makes the data compatible with prior years when the age of the population was distributed differently. The CDC also identified victims who committed suicide at the age of 10 or older between 2014 and 2016. According to the CDC in this survey, 25 males and 7 females successfully commit suicide per 100,000 of population. Collectively, 15 people kill themselves per 100,000 of U.S. population.

Out of 6,600 victims included in the SACCADAS database, 44 male and 4 females purposely ended their lives. Extrapolating to 100,000 possible abuse victims in the United States suggests that more than 830 males and 300 females have already committed suicide or will commit suicide at some point in the future. Together this works out to 725 victims per 100,000 of population. Compared to CDC age-adjusted data for 2016, male clergy abuse victims are 39 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, female clergy abuse victims 51 times more likely. Overall, all clergy victims are 54 times more likely. Compared to CDC data for 2014-2016 (of victims 10 years old or older), male clergy abuse victims are 34 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population, female clergy abuse victims 44 times more likely. Overall, all clergy abuse victims are 47 times more likely.

The comparison made by should be considered a rough estimate. It may be comparing apples and oranges. Recognize that most individuals in the United States are not victims of abuse or depression. It is to be expected that suicide rates would be low. Victims of Catholic clergy abuse, or abuse of any kind for that matter, would likely be more prone to use suicide as a way to escape their pain. In any event, the data strongly suggests that priests and other clergy who abuse victims, usually kids, place the victims at a substantially higher risk of suicide at some point. The period when suicides take place is widely distributed by year and age.

The 48 victims of suicide included in the SCCCADAS database resided in four countries. As previously noted, there were 44 male and 4 female suicides. The youngest suicides were 12 years old; three suicides. There was one suicide each for the ages 13, 14 and 15 years old. The oldest suicide was 63 years old. There was also one suicide for the age 56 and two for age 50. The earliest known suicide among victims included in the SACCADAS database occurred in 1971. The last suicide occurred in 2017. There were two suicides in 2017, one in 2016, and one in 2015. With all of the resources available to victims today to get them into therapy, it is most disconcerting that some victims still view suicide as the only option to end their pain.

The bishops who covered up for clergy sex offenders seemed oblivious or indifferent to the pain. Victims need therapy, not legal fights. The Church needs to stop fighting the victims and take ownership of the problems it created not only by the abuse, but also by the cover-up of that abuse. Denying victims therapy and/or restitution may lead to an early death, i.e. suicide. With an age range when victims committed suicide from as low as 12 to as old as 63, it is never too early or too late to get victims into therapy.

Most recently, the Archdiocese of Agana (Guam) announced it was filing for bankruptcy. It said it would not follow the Milwaukee approach. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee challenged the validity of each of the more than 570 claims on legal grounds. The Milwaukee bankruptcy took four years to complete. The victims got $15 million, their lawyers, $7 million. The Church spent $23 million on the litigation. That $15 million works out to about $26,000 per victim. A victim can’t buy a whole lot of therapy for $26,000. The Church in Milwaukee was dealing in bad faith with the victims. The $23 million it spent on litigation to defend itself makes my point. Had it just settled the matter, the victims could have gotten twice as much cash.

The Roman Catholic Church can no longer assert its moral authority. It has become an institution controlled by men who are intrinsically immoral. What happened in Milwaukee was immoral. The Church in Guam is using the bankruptcy process to circumvent a recent Guam law which eliminated the statute of limitations in civil cases. This is immoral, although perfectly legal. This is a Church acting in bad faith with victims. Perhaps it ought to consider the victims who killed themselves. How many more need to die before the Church acts responsibly? Cardinal Timothy Dolan spent $177 million on a facelift for St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. He spent less than $60 million on his archdiocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. The 278 victims got a mere $215,000 each (before legal fees). This is a paltry sum for a lifetime of pain and certainly insufficient to a grieving parent who has had to bury a child after a suicide. Is the Church about monuments or people? Its historic record is not encouraging.

G.R. Pafumi
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