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Clergy Sexual Abuse Final Report due out today

Clergy Sexual Abuse Final Report due out today

The John Jay College Final Report, “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010,” a five-year study commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops is due out today. Its purpose was to provide a definitive answer to what caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis has concluded that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were to blame.


Many articles have been posted today on this report, with many voices offering comment. We have some of them here, as well as some interesting points of criticism of the report for not going far enough in examining the organizational system of the Roman Catholic Church that also contributed to (or was the main cause of) the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

Gay priests the solution, not the problem

By Mark Silk at “Spiritual Politics” blog

That’s the big news out of the John Jay College Final Report on the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, due out at 2 p.m. today, according to David Gibson’s scoop for RNS last night (followed swiftly by NYT’s Laurie Goodstein, who also scored a copy).

. . .

But the final report demonstrates (through reliance on diocesan records and live interviews) that just because the victims were boys doesn’t mean that the molesters were gay–any more than the fact that most prison rapes involve male victims doesn’t mean that most prison rapists are gay. For priests, boys were the most readily available targets of sexual opportunity.

Donohue will no doubt embrace the final report’s finding that most offenders were not pedophiles in the strict sense (one of his favorite talking points); the large majority of cases involve boys over the age of 10. But the punchline to the point is that the way to prevent child abuse by priests is to keep gays out of the priesthood. And that, the final report makes clear, is just not true.

Church Report Cites Social Tumult in Priest Scandals

By Laurie Goodstein in The New York Times

A five-year study commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to provide a definitive answer to what caused the church’s sexual abuse crisis has concluded that neither the all-male celibate priesthood nor homosexuality were to blame.

Instead, the report says, the abuse occurred because priests who were poorly prepared and monitored, and were under stress, landed amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s.

Known occurrences of sexual abuse of minors by priests rose sharply during those decades, the report found, and the problem grew worse when the church’s hierarchy responded by showing more care for the perpetrators than the victims.

The “blame Woodstock” explanation has been floated by bishops since the church was engulfed by scandal in the United States in 2002 and by Pope Benedict XVI after it erupted in Europe in 2010.

But this study is likely to be regarded as the most authoritative analysis of the scandal in the Catholic Church in America.

John Jay Report: On Not Blaming Homosexual Priests

In America Magazine

. . . The researchers found no statistical evidence that gay priests were more likely than straight priests to abuse minors—a finding that undermines a favorite talking point of many conservative Catholics.

. . .

How is this possible, particularly given the widespread stereotype of the abusive or predatory homosexual priest? How else to explain so many male victims of abuse?

First of all, nearly every reputable psychologist and psychiatrist, not to mention almost every scholarly study, decisively rejects the conflation of homosexuality with pedophilia, as well as any cause-and-effect relationship. The studies are almost too numerous to mention. Pedophilia, say experts, is often more a question of a stunted (or arrested) sexuality, more a question of power, and more a question of proximity (among other complicated psychological and social factors). The new John Jay College of Criminal Justice study, called “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010,” points to, among other reasons: emotionally immature and psychologically maladjusted men entering seminaries; the difficulty of dealing with cultural upheaval in which priests found themselves in the 1960s and 1970s; as well as, again, the issue of proximity–young men and boys were abused because priests were more likely to be working with them, rather than with young women and girls. But simply put, being a homosexual priest does not make one an abusive priest.

RNS Exclusive: Report spreads blame for Catholic sex abuse

By David Gibson in Religion News Service

NEW YORK (RNS) Nearly a decade after revelations of widespread sexual abuse of minors rocked the Catholic Church in the U.S., a comprehensive report on the scandal is set for release on Wednesday (May 18), hoping to provide answers about a crisis that has raised myriad questions despite years of attention.

Was celibacy to blame for the abuse? Gays in the priesthood? The social revolution of the ‘60s, or the benighted seminary education of the repressive 1950s?

The truth turns out to be far more complex, according to a copy of the report by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice that was provided by a church leader who believes the findings accurately reflect the causes of the church’s sexual abuse crisis, for good and for ill.

The findings will likely unsettle both liberal and conservative critics, as well as victims’ advocates.

– – – – – –

As important as this report seems to be, more work and investigation is needed. In the Washington Post, the point is made that the organization is claiming it has done one of the most thorough studies any organization has done of itself. But it has not studied the organization failures.

Priest sex abuse scandal was temporary problem, study finds

In The Washington Post

“This report misses the boat. What deserves the most scrutiny are not child sex crimes but continued clergy coverups of child sex crimes,” the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said Tuesday in a statement.

Study blames culture of era for church’s abuse crisis

Priests poorly trained, report to bishops says

In Boston.com online

“The study seems to focus on the offending priests in a way that minimizes the gravity of their crimes, and gives short shrift to the ‘other crime’ — the enabling, concealing, and fostering of abuse by the US bishops and the Vatican bureaucracy,’’ said Terence McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org, in a statement on news reports concerning the leaked study last night.

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John B. Chilton

Ann, OCIBW said one of the things I’ve been thinking all day. If that observation isn’t in the John Jay report, that would be damning.

Some other thoughts.

First, I’m grateful the report took on the myth that gays in the clergy had anything to do with the rise in reported sexual abuse.

Second, the report seems to focus on the sex abusers (what society supposedly did to them, how the church let them down in training or in putting them in stressful situations), but – correct me if I’m wrong – doesn’t say that bishops were at fault for passing off known predators to unwitting parishes where they continued the same behavior. The bishops are off the hook, again. I’m reminded of what Gomer Pyle said: surprise, surprise.

Third, while I believe that training in seminary can make a difference, my gut tells me that screening in seminaries would be more effective. Which raises the question, since the Catholic church already has a priest shortage isn’t it lowering standards when it should be doing exactly the opposite? (Likewise on another point in the report — that Catholic priests have huge workloads and they can crackup under that stress.)

Ann Fontaine

From OCICBW

“The only effect the changes in society since the 1960s have had on the obscenity that is child sexual abuse by the clergy is that more cases are now reported. The hippie / free love movement went hand in hand with calls for equality for previously oppressed groups such as women and children. This led to more openness in society and people who would have previously been too downtrodden and uninformed to complain about assaults finding that they could now complain and be taken seriously.”

Paul Woodrum

So John Jay was to examine the reasons for the crisis, not the abuse itself. Changing sexual mores, especially in respect to children, declining respect for the church and the church’s own circle-the-wagons attitude created the perfect storm.

While touched, now an outside examination of what caused the abuse itself is needed. I’m not holding my breath.

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