A Crime Trip Around the World

The picture of crime in our modern world is very difficult to present.  Some countries seem so ashamed of their abundance of crime that they report it not at all or most inaccurately to a central crime statistical agency, like Interpol in Paris or the United Nations in New York .  This seems particularly true of Belgium, Spain, Portugal and most Latin American nations-all, coincidentally, Roman Catholic countries.

There is also the difficulty of making comparisons because of the difference in the acts which are considered crimes in various nations.  Countries also vary in the intensity of enforcement of their laws and methods of compiling statistics.

However, there are common denominators that make possible significant comparisons.  Murder or homicide is a crime in all nations, as are theft and violent forms of sexual assault.

A writer who spent many years gathering facts about the Roman Catholic Church was my brother ex-Franciscan, Joseph McCabe.  He left the priesthood about 1900 and for over half a century poured out a prodigious quantity of material, mostly for the Little Blue Books of E. Haldeman-juhus.  His own story is narrated in the intensely interesting book, Twelve Years in a Monastery.' McCabe picked up the Catholic story of crime where Henry Charles Lea dropped it.  He lived in London and drew constantly on the vast source material of the library of the British Museum , with its 6,000,000 volumes.  In his Crime and Religion, he gives comparative figures for 1880, a year that he studied in detail.  These figures are shown in Table 111.

 Table 111.  Homicides in Seven European Countries. 1880.2  


TOTAL           OF

MURDERS        Population        Catholic

              Italy                   2,720     27,000,000      90

             Spain                1,265     17,000,000      90

             Austro-Hungary 1,180     16,000,000      60

             France                  582     37,000,000      80

             Ireland                   96     5,ooo,ooo      95

             England and Wales 148   25,000,000        3

             Germany               602     45,000,000      33

             Using the rate per 100,000,      which is the modern inter-

        national method of comparing     nations, the 1880 scale of

        murders shapes up as follows:

              England and Wales                   1.20 per  100,000

             Germany                                  1.30 per  100,000

             France                                     2.30 per  100,000

             Ireland                                     2.40 per  100,000

             Austro-Hungary                      3.00 per  100,000

             Spain                                       7.20 per  100,000

             Italy                                       10.10 per   100,000

 McCabe studied the religious aspects of crime in every country in which he lectured, and found it just as difficult to learn the religious affiliations of criminals in his day as I have found it in recent years.  However, he uncovered some information which is strikingly similar to the data I obtained in canvassing American penitentiaries.  This is from the Chief justice of New Zealand for 1910, and is shown in Table IV.  

Table IV.  Religious Affiliation and Criminal Population

in Netv Zealand. 1910.3  


                    Church of England              40.27%        41.47%

                   Catholics                            14.07           32.95

                   Presbyterians                      22.78           17.15

                   Wesleyans                          10.44             3.00

                   Others                                12.44             5.43

 Like me or any other Irish ex-priest, McCabe was particularly interested in crime among the Irish.  Roman Catholic writers have made much of the extremely low crime rate in Ireland and have attributed it to the high moral standards of the Church.  McCabe observed, however, that the Catholic overemphasis on the sinfulness of sex produces reactions of more and greater sex offenses.  I shall return to this in a later chapter.

McCabe quotes an abundance of Irish Catholic priests, papers and organizations which prove that Irish girls "in trouble" were sent to Liverpool , London , Glasgow and other cities with large Irish settlements.  Toward the end of the last century an official of the Church, Monsignor Nugent, stated that Irish girls in trouble constituted "nine out of ten" of Liverpool 's prostitutes .4 In March, 1895, the Dublin Catholic said of Liverpool :

 Of the three great divisions in that gloomy host-thieving, harlotry and intemperance-the majority are members of our (Catholic) community ... and the heavy proportion of this wickedness is assignable to our own countrymen, the Irish Catholics.

 The Catholic social workers of England , Scotland and New York complained for years (until 1935) of this exportation of Irish problem girls.  In the History of Prostitution, Dr. Sanger interviewed 2,000 New York prostitutes; 977 were Catholics and of these 706 had been born in Ireland .'

This method of preserving the semblance of pious statistics is still carried out in the Catholic school system of America .  The problem children are "dumped" on the public schools.  Hundreds of school teachers have told me this, and my own questionnaire brought out that ninety-one per cent of the problems of sexual offenses in the public schools occur among former students of Catholic parochial schools.

The vast resources of the British Museum library were used by McCabe to show that in France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Italy, as the Church gained in power and prestige after World War 1, and priests and nuns took over more classrooms of those nations, the percentages of crime increased tremendously-far more rapidly than the increase in the Protestant countries.  This is true of murders, criminal assaults, sexual offenses and the overall number of crimes and of convicted criminals.  

Unfortunately, comprehensive current information on comparative crime among the nations is difficult to obtain.  The United Nations publishes a criminal code concordance but not the statistics of crime of the nations.  A criminologist of some forty years' experience, M. W. Duncan, of Phoenix , suggested Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization in Paris , but their latest study, International Crime Statistics for 1958, contained no data from such overwhelmingly Catholic countries as Spain , Belgium , Portugal , Mexico and most of South America .

The only recourse was to do as I had successfully done in studying insane asylums and penitentiaries-conduct my own survey.  I wrote to eighty-two countries.  Although the results are not entirely satisfactory, I did a little better than Interpol.

The figures I shall use in the following paragraphs are from official government reports of those countries which responded.

Let's take Canada .  Its Statistics of Criminal and Other Offenses is one of the most complete documents I have received from any country in the world, and it includes the religion of its criminals.' In 1958, 34,546 indictable crimes were committed.  Half of these, or 17,008, were by Roman Catholics, although the total Catholic population of the country is only forty-four per cent.

The Catholic Almanac stresses that the Church has been in Canada since 1615." Its "moral" influence has been particularly strong over the French Canadians for almost 350 years.  Yet in 1958, in the Province of Quebec , 7,127 criminals were convicted-6,302 of them or eighty-nine per cent were Catholics.

  Colombia is the country that is so staunchly and self complacently Roman Catholic that for years its priests and people have been openly persecuting Protestants, burning their churches and schools and killing their missionaries.  Its population is 13,824,000.  According to official statistics,' in 1958 it had 11,058 murders and assassinations (3,000 more than the United States which has thirteen times the population, whereas wicked England , including Scotland , had 423 murders with three times the population).

Catholic apologists are always quick to blame the crime in Latin American countries on the large illiterate, lawless Indian population.  The natural question arises as to why the Indians are illiterate and lawless.  The National Catholic Almanac boasts that Catholicism was introduced in 1538 and that ninety-seven per cent of the nation is now Roman Catholic.  The Church has certainly had ample time to teach morality and literacy."

The Philippine Islands constitute another example of the results of Catholic training.  The missionaries brought the faith there in 1565, and now 80.8 per cent of the people are Catholic.  In 1959, the murders numbered 6,173." The combined populations of the Protestant countries of Sweden , Norway , Switzerland and Denmark is 20,000,000-or equal to the population of the Philippines .  Their combined total number of murders was 283.

Peru is boasted of in the National Catholic Almanac as having received the Church in 1531-430 years ago-and of now being 95.4 per cent Catholic.  I received no reply to my request for statistics, and apparently Interpol fared no better.

Not to be discouraged, I wrote to an acquaintance in Lima .  I mentioned in passing that a Phoenix friend, Ken Knauer of the Southern Arizona Bank & Trust Co., who spent many years in Lima , could remember only that there were more illegitimate than legitimate births in Peru .  My friend in Peru was successful in getting official figures, which are certainly indicative of the frequent disregard among Roman Catholics of their own sexual code:  

Table V. Birth Statistics, Lima and Balnearios  




                           Legitimate births            22,630            52.1

                           Illegitimate births           20,842            47.9  


                           Legitimate births            24,026            52.9

                           Illegitimate births           21,384            47.1                              


                           Legitimate births            26,931            54.8

                           Illegitimate births           22,205            45.2


                           Legitimate births            28,326            56.6

                           Illegitimate births           21,741            43.4

 These figures, my informant points out, are from the Office of the Municipality of Lima and Balnearios, the most law-abiding part of the country.  "In the rest of the Republic," he writes, "the percentage of illegitimate births is much greater, normally up to seventy or eighty per cent, according to the zones." These statistics are based on

civil marriage, - not Church marriage.  In recent years, legitimacy has increased slightly because of the social benefits promised by the state for married people.  From the Church's viewpoint, recognizing only the children of those married by priests, the percentage of illegitimacy is much higher than the figures quoted.

My friend was unable to secure statistics on murder and other crimes.  "He (another friend) notified me that he also requested the criminal rates here.  That is going to be most difficult to obtain, as they don't want to give any such information.  We bad to go to the 'jefe del Gobermiento' (chief of the Government) who promised to see to it that be gets the information." However, the information has not yet been divulged.

Is it any wonder that Catholic nations are reluctant to publish their crime statistics?  Belgium , Portugal and the bulk of the Latin American countries will not give their statistics to Interpol or the United Nations.  It was only by chance that I was able to get some of them.

Murder is the most common denominator of all crime everywhere.  The information in Table VI shows the standing of the Christian nations on the number of murders per 100,000 population in the combined years,

1957, 1958 and 1959.

Of these countries, West Germany , Canada and the United States can be described as Protestant and Catholic, or mixed; the other countries are dominantly Protestant or dominantly Catholic, as indicated in the table by the initial, P or C. The information from each country comes from an official source, as indicated by the reference number in the last column.

 Table VI.  Murders per 100,000 Population, for the

Combined Years 1957, 1958 and 1959

                      Scotland                          0.54         P Ref. 12

                     Switzerland                      0.67         P    13

                     Norway                            0.68         P    14

                     New Zealand                    0.68         P    15

                     Ireland                             0.88         C   16

                     Luxembourg                    1.00         C   17

                     England and Wales           1.01         P    17

                     Denmark                          1.27         p    17

                     Spain                               1.50         C   18

                     Sweden                            1.92         p    19

                     West Germany                 1.93         P and C   20

                     Austria                             2.11         C   21

                     Netherlands                      2.22         p    17

                     Australia                          2.30         P    17

                     Canada                            2.77         PandC     22

                     Italy                                 3.31         C   17

                        Finland                      3.68          P        17

                       United States             4.72          PandC 23

                       Yugoslavia                 6.69          C       17

                       France                       8.69          C       24

                       Philippines               30.20          C       25

                       Colombia                 56.50          C         9

 Although the Roman Catholic Church has gained in political prestige in many countries during the last seventy years, and is now enjoying such privileges as state support of its schools in France , and the teaching of its doctrines and morals in state schools in Italy , the relatively inferior moral position of Catholic countries has hardly changed.

The comparative rating of the countries listed seventy five years ago by Lea, for murders per 100,000 population in the years 1885, 1886 and 1887, are shown in Table


J.Edgar Hoover is constantly bemoaning the increase of crime in the United States .  He is right.  We do not compare well with the Protestant countries of Europe .  But these international statistics will indicate that all the blame cannot be placed on movies, magazines and television.

 Table VII.  Murders per 100,000 Population, for the

                   Combined Years 1885,1886 and 1887

                    Scotland                                 0.94    France   2.13

                   England                                  1.08    Belgium 2.52

                   Germany                                 1.14    Austria 3.11

                   Ireland                                    1.93    Spain    8.59

                   Italy                                      12.67