'Be Proud You Are Catholic' Speech Contains Error

A Correction and an Apology

Back when I posted a link to the “Be Proud to Be Catholic” speech by Jewish businessman Sam Miller, I was impressed with the positive examples it cited of the good things the Catholic Church does every day. But I should have dug a little deeper and looked more closely at some of the other parts of the speech.

The rest of the speech, in which Mr. Miller relies heavily upon statistics found in an article from Sojourners magazine, cites an erroneous statistic of “10 percent of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia.” This statistic was later corrected by Sojourners, but it had already been picked up by Miller and others.

The facts are clarified in an email I received from Rev. Rob Pollock of Vancouver, BC:

“The article you reference in your recent post “Jewish Advice…” contains false and defamatory information about Protestant ministers.

In the original speech Mr. Miller cites, and reads extensively from, a July/August 2002 Sojourners article by Rose Marie Berger in which she misinterprets statements from Penn. State Prof. Philip Jenkins regarding sexual abuse by Protestant ministers.

In the original article Berger writes ...

‘Philip Jenkins concludes in his book “Pedophiles and Priests” that while 1.7 percent of Catholic clergy have been found guilty of pedophilia (specifically of boys), 10 percent of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia.’ (This quote is used in Miller’s speech)

To which Philip Jenkins responds (Sept/Oct 2002) ...

‘I regret to say that the statement is baloney. I never said it, and it’s not true!... Every time this ten percent statement appears attributed to me, I try to debunk it, but these things have a life of their own. I have no idea what the actual proportion of pedophile protestant clergy is, but I would be amazed if it was more than a fraction of one percent.’

Berger’s revised article and Jenkins’s letter can be found here ... Berger Article

Sojourners apologized to its readers for passing on erroneous information and revised the article, removing the incorrect and defamatory information.  But not before Sam Miller got a hold of it!

Regrettably, a much condensed version of Miller’s speech, as referenced on your blog, has recently gone viral within the Catholic community by way of the internet and e-mail.  There are hundreds, if not thousands, of blogs, forums, facebook pages, and news services that have posted this condensed version of Mr. Miller’s speech.

It truly saddens me that such ‘false witness’ can be so uncritically accepted and further disseminated by so many within the Catholic community.  it seems that we still find it easier to believe the worst about our neighbour rather than dig a little deeper for the truth.

If there is any Catholic pride to be found in the belief that ‘Protestants are far worse than us’, it is ultimately a false pride. With respect to clergy sexual abuse, the harder work of repentance, reconciliation, and reform remains, for all of us.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Rob Pollock
Vancouver, BC

You have to create a free account to read access the Sojourners article referenced above, but it’s worth doing to read the whole thing, along with the original author’s correction.

I do want to say that I don’t think many Catholics who appreciated the original speech were motivated to boost their self esteem with a “Protestants are far worse than us” mentality. They responded enthusiastically to the idea that pedophilia is not a “Catholic problem” but something more universal than that, and that press coverage of the Catholic abuse cases is motivated by prejudice against the Church.

I am sorry, though, for linking to an article containing an erroneous statistic that unfairly defamed Protestant ministers. I don’t believe Sam Miller intended to spread misinformation with his pro-Catholic speech, but I do want to set the record straight.

Mr. Miller’s speech, along with the incorrect 10% statistic, was largely spread through Catholic circles—on blogs, facebook, in homilies, and even in parish bulletins. Catholics loved it because it said something we had been starving to hear—that Catholics do good things and that the Church benefits society in many ways that are too often ignored and taken for granted.

We need to be sure, though, that in our earnest to promote the good things about Catholicism, we don’t trample the rights and reputations of our brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, isn’t that exactly the kind of unfair press and discrimination that so many Catholics are suffering from these days?

I am sorry for my part in passing on misinformation and I hope this clarification helps to make things right.