Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Reader Julia sends along this cartoon:

..and deliver us from evil...amen.

from today's St. Louis Post Dispatch, along with a link to an editorial with interesting jumps in logic.

And here's a letter to the editor critiquing the reporting of this story:

The data from which Smith draws his conclusions are based on a select group. Less than one-quarter of the orders (123 out of 538) agreed to participate in the survey, and of those that did agree, less than half of their members (1,164 out of 2,500) responded to the survey. Without additional information about those who refused to participate in the study, it is simply impossible to estimate the level of victimization.

This leads one to wonder why the Post-Dispatch reported the results of a non-representative survey on the front-page of the Sunday paper. A look at some of the sub-headings of the story is revealing.

The front page subheading states "An estimated 40 pct. were victimized, some by priests, other nuns, survey found." However, nowhere in the article is there evidence for this 40 percent estimate. According to the tables in the article, 18.6 percent of the nuns who responded to the survey reported that they were sexually abused as children, and the majority of these incidents were at the hands of family members. The percentage reporting any instances of sexual exploitation or harassment during their religious life is lower (12.5 percent and 9.3 percent). Thus, the 40 percent claim and its association with "priests and other nuns" appears to be deliberately misleading.

Another subheading alleges that the study has been "kept quiet," when in fact, the results had been previously reported in two religious research journals. To attribute one's own lack of awareness to an alleged conspiracy when the research has appeared in print twice is both bizarre and suggestive of serious bias.

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