On page 34 of their 2008 report Licensed to Hug: How Child Protection Policies Are Poisoning the Relationship Between the Generations and Damaging the Voluntary Sector, authors Frank Furedi & Jennie Bristow make the following bold claim (emphasis mine, quotes-within-the-quote from David Pearson of the Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS), now known as Thirtyone:eight):

While most organisations working with children are able to vet each adult who will come into contact with children, the church, by its very nature, 'holds its doors open to anyone'. It is known that church congregations do attract sex offenders, 'so inevitably people are coming in all the time who are in contact with children'.

However, the claim is as bold as the supporting evidence is un-cited.

Scandals involving sex offenders within church hierarchies are well-known, but I've never heard of the claim that they are prevelant within congregations too. I'm not even sure how you would determine this, as most churchgoers probably wouldn't be open about their sex offending (unless, I suppose, they were required to be by law).

The only relevant article I could find is this one which discusses the prevelance of sex offenders within various institutions, including churches, and includes the following quote from 'University of South Australia emeritus professor Freda Briggs':

Paedophiles are attracted to positions where there are children, and celibacy is no impediment to them because they're not likely to fall in love with women and get married. And, of course, also, paedophiles like to be in a position where they have power and authority, and being a priest enables you to do that...The Church is, psychologically, a good place for paedophiles because church congregations tend to think the best of people, are not suspicious, and even convicted child-sex offenders have been allowed back into the Church and even allowed back into where they are in programs for children and in choirs.

However this again seems to be talking about those in positions of power rather than lay congregants. Also, the article is from 2013.

  • I would not be surprised if there is also an aspect of secrets and practices not yet understood. If you're already being told that you need to do certain rituals that you don't understand, but which you're assured you'll understand when you're older, it might be easier for a predator to get you to do other things that you don't quite understand, and to be told to keep that secret between you, them, and God. Jun 12, 2020 at 19:53
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    Any organization that involves contact between adults and children has to be very wary of the existence of some very bad actors who have deviant ulterior motives toward the children that that organization is trying to help. With youth sports and education, the adults have to have exhibit qualifications and expertise. Even with those restrictions, bad actors can slip and have slipped through the cracks. With religious organizations, the bad actor only has to exhibit faith. They are actors, and they've proven to be very good actors when it comes to attaining to their deviant sexual goals. Jun 13, 2020 at 3:43
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    What do you mean by "positions of power" in your last paragraph? In my experience, lay congregants are widely involved in youth programs, church education, and choir. Priests are mentioned in the first two sentences of the quote, but the quote is not entirely or exclusively about clergy. Jun 13, 2020 at 13:58
  • I'm not sure that the highlighted claim is worded in a way to actually be "bold". As I read it, that sentence's wording, at least, could be supported by a few anecdotes. It does make one think that the author might think a stronger, non-anecdotal claim would be warranted, otherwise why mention the problem. But some people feel legitimately concerned about anecdotal issues, so I'm not sure if we should read too far into it.
    – Dan Getz
    Jun 13, 2020 at 14:56
  • You ask if sexual offense is "prevalent" within congregations; that sounds more numerical to me...could you clarify what you mean to compare to as a baseline, and if you've found it clarified in a claim somewhere?
    – Dan Getz
    Jun 13, 2020 at 14:58


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