Michael Moloney

Public Forum – Lead us not…


Awaiting publication:

St Augustine’s Sin:

Why child abuse bedevils Christianity

St Augustine reframed baptism, he saw “filth” and “the itch of lust” in infants
Pupils once marked ‘dunce’ are ‘Guilty’ today

Genre: Non-fiction; Category: Sociology of Religion; Subject: Religious abuse

Priests are taught that children are stained by St Augustine’s original sin of concupiscence (sexual lust), while children learn priests are Godly. Could Augustinian theology be a factor in some cases of clerical child sexual abuse (cCSA)? St Augustine’s Sin attempts to answer this question with novel insights and scholarly brilliance.

Drawing on the author’s personal experience in the Roman Catholic community, the narrative is supported with extracts from scripture and religious texts underpinning Western Christianity’s dogmas. Recently published books discuss clerical celibacy or criticise the sacraments of Penance and secret absolution, but St Augustine’s Sin reaches beyond these. Might children, inculcated with guilt and deference to clergy, be more vulnerable to ecclesiastics who believe all children to be soiled by original sin, labelled by St Augustine ‘the carnal sin of concupiscence’ (sexual lust)? The author sketches the subtle pressures that shape attitudes and behaviours to show how Christian rites and rituals might influence cCSA.

St Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354 – 430), who laid down Western Christianity’s doctrine on Original sin, wrote in his Confessions of seeing ‘filth’ and ‘lust’ in infants. A clinical comparison with recorded dialogues of convicted paedophiles, reveals striking parallels. The author presents evidence that wayward clerics who take scripture literally might be tempted, wilfully or unconsciously, to see children as legitimate prey. Scrupulously probing the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Orders, the author argues that Church drill and doctrine have a more influential role in cCSA than has generally been recognised in mainstream social science.

Two million UK schoolchildren recite the Penitential prayers, admitting trumped-up guilt
Christian worship is mandatory in UK schools.
Two million UK infants are told to admit guilt

While interrogating Christian rites and rituals, the author draws attention to the current Education Acts, which compel all schoolchildren to undergo daily acts of worship. Further, the law demands that Acts of Worship should be ‘mainly Christian in character.’ A majority of these children will renounce religion later in life, often handicapped by their brush with Christian theology, as St Augustine’s Sin evidences.

infants are born stained with unseen carnal guilt
Infants are stained with unseen carnal guilt

The author lances Vatican sanctimony to ‘pop’ the rights and rituals underpinning Christian Faith, and afford new insights into cCSA.  Writing graphically, with the conviction gained from a Roman Catholic upbringing, the author claims that fondling and groping caused him less lasting harm than the doctrines that shape both abusers and their victims. Numerous documents are cited and referenced in the manuscript, and quotes from relevant sources are all properly attributed. For readers who suppose Christianity is a benign influence, this well-researched book might cause them to reflect on their own gain from indoctrination.

Data sourced from Commission reports and criminal records, and communications including Dark Net Internet traffic, are drawn together in support of a possible relationship between Christian belief and cCSA world-wide, in the opposite direction one would expect.  Here’s what happens to children inculcated with Augustinian guilt and shame, when clerics are taught that infants remain stained with carnal sin and abusers have a canonical right to God’s secretive forgiveness.

With vignettes from the author’s extraordinary upbringing and indoctrination giving key insights into the cloistered workings of the Catholic Church, this book will be instructive to anyone struggling to understand why Christianity is bedeviled with child abuse. It will be indispensable to those concerned with child protection.

Extract from St Augustine’s Sin

There are no statistics for the scale of cCSA in the UK.  Prevalence has been assessed at 4% in the USA and 7% in Australia, based on data provided by the Catholic Church, and the UK is probably similar.[1]  However, victims are renowned for their reluctance to come forward and many cases of abuse remain undeclared, hidden in Vatican archives.[2]

Apologists are prone to quote the former statistic and compare it with cCSA in the population at large, which is roughly similar.  This is a misleading comparison in my view, since clerics are in a special position of trust and authority demanding high standards of decency and rectitude.  ‘Position of trust’ is a legal term that refers to certain roles and settings where an adult has regular and direct contact with children, for example teachers, youth workers, doctors, etc. 2019 data available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) analyse cases of child sexual abuse in England and Wales. Given their proportion within the population at large, males in positions of trust and authority perpetrate fewer cases of cCSE compared with other groups.[3] 

One would expect cases of child sexual abuse by clerics to be zero, and not more than by other members of society
The IICSA records more than 100 cases of cCSA every year

Although there is “no robust study” for prevalence, we can make a rough assessment based on available figures.[1]  The population of England and Wales in 2018 was estimated by the ONS to be 60 million.  Turning to clergy, the latest available figures claim 5,250 Catholic and 19,560 C of E men and women are engaged in ministry roles.4] Together these numbers of clergy constitute 0.0413% of the UK population.  In England and Wales in 2019, the ONS recorded 73,260 cases of sexual abuse before the age of 16 years.  If clerics were no more likely than other individuals to sexually abuse children, they should account for less than 30 of these cases in a year, proportionate to their numbers in the population.  Yet the IICSA has recorded more than 100 allegations of child sexual abuse by clerics every year from 2016 to 2020.[1]

One would expect cases of child sexual abuse by clerics to be zero, and certainly not significantly more than child sexual abuse by other members of society. In chapter eight, we learn from a former FBI investigator why child sexual abuse is more likely to be perpetrated by Christian clerics.  Although child sexual abuse is more commonly associated with Catholic clergy, recent figures show that in 2016 the C of E was dealing with 3,300 complaints of cCSA.[5]  In light of these statistics, the title In Persona Christi seems blasphemously impudent – either Christ is a child abuser or priests do not stand in place of Christ. 


[1] IICSA Research Team. Child sexual abuse within the Catholic and Anglican Churches. Nov 2017.

[2] Concordat Watch Secret archives at the Vatican and in each diocese worldwide. Retrieved on Oct 1, 2020 from http://www.concordatwatch.eu/topic-50010.834

[3] Office for National Statistics, Child sexual abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2019, Fig. 6

[4] Christian clergy in ministry:
Anglican clergy: 19,560: https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2017/29-september/news/uk/more-women-than-men-enter-clergy-training
Catholic clergy: 5,250: https://faithsurvey.co.uk/catholics-england-and-wales.html

[5] The Washington Post. Scandals, compensation programs lead Catholic clergy sex abuse complaints to quadruple in 2019 Retrieved Sept 30, 2020 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2020/06/26/scandals-compensation-programs-lead-catholic-clergy-sex-abuse-complaints-quadruple-2019/