Karen Terry of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice releases their report
on the causes of clerical abuse of children
A major study into the causes of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church has just been released. Entitled The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States and commissioned by the US Bishops, an objective party, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice conducted the research. The report is to the Bishops to inform them and so is not a release from the Bishops.
The study, which took five years to complete at the cost of $1.8 million, has yielded some very interesting conclusions, one of which is that neither celibacy nor homosexuality were the cause of the abuse committed by some priests. This will confound the arguments of those who want to get rid of celibacy and have been using the scandals as their trump card, and it will also confound the argument of those who maintain that homosexuality was the cause - this was too simplistic.
There are a number of causes, the report says, among them various vulnerabilities in individual priests, poor monitoring and stress. The report also points out that to refer to abusing priests as "paedophile priests" is inaccurate since less than 5% of abusers exhibited behaviour consistent with paedophila.
Interestingly the report finds that the majority of abuse cases occurred in the period from the 1960's to the 1980's - a era when there was a loosening of sexuality morality and efforts to undermine the Church's traditional teachings on sexuality and sin. It also corresponds with a certain generation of priests, religious and laity who have had numerous difficulties with regard to many areas of the Church's moral and doctrinal teachings. I am not saying the crisis was caused by this generation - sexual abuse has always been with us and will always be with us - it is an evil which burrows itself into the fallen nature of man and woman. But it is interesting to note that the worst period of the crisis was in the years a certain approach to faith and morals was in the ascendent. The report suggests that perhaps some priests were caught up in the forces of the sexual revolution and that may have contributed to the crisis.
The report is a major contribution to our understanding of what has happened in the Church over the past twenty years or so. Because it has been conducted by an objected party using up to date critical research methods, it carries weight. Of course the usual suspects will regard it as a cover-up sponsored by the Church - such a position undermines the integrity of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, so we'll see how far those allegations will go (Lesson 1: don't mess with lawyers!). I say the proponents of the sexual revolution won't be happy either, those that are still alive that is.
Here is the text of the Report.
Some reactions. Archbishop Dolan of New York, always a sane voice, has issued an official statement. The New York Times is frantic and trying to undermine the report. The ever "reliable" Guardian is on the warpath, the sting is hurting it seems. The Irish Times is struggling to be objective. And as one would expect, the National Catholic Reporter is trying to distort the findings to blame an "autocratic papacy". And the Boston Globe is delirious. As you can see, most of the secular press are not happy - the conclusions were not what they wanted.
The US Bishops have the done the Church a service in commissioning this report, we can all learn from it. I hope our Bishops will sit down and read it and digest its contents - with everything else, it will also prove a valuable document in the reform of our seminaries.