It has been some time since Pope Francis claimed that 2% of catholic priests are pedophiles, and despite the scandal the news inspire when it first came out, the true mystery lies in the source the Pope used to get to that number. What studies exist to back the claim up?
Based on how difficult pedophilia, as a pathology, is to identify on symptoms alone, we must ask how can anyone reach a number – be it close or just an approximation – of people who suffer from it?
Forensic psychologist Michael Seto, from the Royal Ottawa Healthcare, published a book in 2005 in which he claims that a total of 5% of the world population suffers from pedophilia. He bases the number on surveys taken in Germany, Norway and Finland, in which hundreds of men were asked if at any point in their lived they had any sexual thought that included a child, or if they had witnessed a sexual act that included a child.
Seto divides the pedophiles by age groups, arguing that many men feel attraction to 18-20 years old, which can be considered “normal”. The number of those attracted to people of 14 years old or less, however, are considerably lower – only 2%. Those attracted to even younger people, then, fall into the 1% of the entire world population.
In regards to the number offered by Pope Francis, if we assume it was based on Michael Seto’s investigation, the number must come from the age range that goes between 1 and 12 year olds.
Based on a study made by Philip Jenkins, from the Texas Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion, we can assume that the number of pedophiles worldwide does in fact fall between 1% and 2%, since the age ranges in his studies coincide with the ones in Michael Seta’s.