Surprised? no, of course not – but this report is still welcome news, because it was commissioned by the US bishops, to whom an interim report has just been delivered.
Some recent history is in order here. In late September, I carried a report that “Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the UN, defended its record by claiming that “available research” showed that only 1.5%-5% of Catholic clergy were involved in child sex abuse.” When I investigated this claim for m(Vatican Blame Game, updated) , it turned out that this claim of Tomasi’s was based on earlier research evidence by the same John Jay research institution. But when I read the report itself, I found nothing in it to confirm Archbishop’s conclusions. The fact that this report confirms what the rest of the world knows, is welcome, but not earthshattering. Don’t hold your breath for the bishops to announce that they accept the report, or will act on this finding, or even for them to release the full report when it has been concluded.
The real causes of the problem lie within the church ‘s own structures, as numerous observers have noted: the appalling monopoly and abuse of power, compulsory clerical celibacy, and a deeply flawed, seminary based training system that is a hangover from the middle ages, leaving priests with minimal understanding of human sexuality, their own or anyone else’s. (Reports elsewhere state that this same interim John Jay report concludes that priests with the better training in human sexuality were the least likely to offend).
HOMOSEXUALITY NO FACTOR IN ABUSIVE PRIESTS
A preliminary report commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to investigate the clergy sex abuse scandal has found no evidence that gay priests are more likely than heterosexual clergy to molest children, the lead authors of the study said Tuesday.
The full report by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice won’t be completed until the end of next year. But the authors said their evidence to date found no data indicating that homosexuality was a predictor of abuse.
“What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse,” said Margaret Smith of John Jay College, in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse from the data that we have right now.”
The question has been raised repeatedly within and outside the church because the overwhelming majority of known victims were boys. As part of the church’s response to the crisis, the Vatican ordered a review of all U.S. seminaries that, among other issues, looked for any “evidence of homosexuality” in the schools.
Yet, many experts on sex offenders reject any link between sexual orientation and committing abuse. Karen Terry, a John Jay researcher, said it was important to distinguish between sexual identity and behavior, and to look at who the offender had access to when seeking victims.
The bishops commissioned the $2 million study as part of widespread reforms they enacted at the height of the abuse crisis. The scandal erupted in 2002 with the case of one predator priest in the Archdiocese of Boston, then spread to every U.S. diocese and beyond.
Almost 14,000 molestation claims have been filed against Catholic clergy since 1950, according to tallies the bishops have released in recent years. Abuse-related costs have reached at least $2.3 billion in the same period.
At the meeting Tuesday, Bishop Edward Braxton of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill., asked the researchers whether their study indicated that homosexuality should be considered when evaluating a candidate for the priesthood. In 2005, the Vatican issued a policy statement that men with “deep-seated” attraction to other men should be barred from the priesthood.
Smith said: “If that exclusion were based on the fact that that person would be more probable than any other candidate to abuse, we do not find that at this time.”
The latest findings affirmed previous reports that the rate of clergy abuse has declined steeply since the mid 1980s. Most of the claims being made now involve allegations of abuse from decades ago.
(Associated Press, reported at azstarnet.com)
This is extraordinary. It was supposedly on the basis of research by the same John Jay College that a certain bishop recently claimed that the problem in the Catholic church was no worse than in other churches, that the issue affected “only “ about 5% of clergy, and that the problem had been resolved by eliminating gay men from the seminaries.
I wrote at the time that even a superficial reading of the actual report showed that the bishop’s claims were not substantiated by the research findings.. I look forward to reading more on the current interim report, and even more, to the final report on its publication “late next year”.
Meanwhile, the CNA presents another side to the story: they report the finding that “the pattern of abuse has not changed.”
Researchers investigating the sexual abuse of minors by clergy presented their interim report at the November assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday. They said new reports of sexual abuse do not alter the pattern of clerical sexual abuse, which peaked in the late 1960s and 1970s before declining in the 1980s.
The CNA make no mention at all of the question of homosexuality as a factor. If homosexual clergy are not now, as a group, to blame, and nothing has changed since the first report, then presumably they were also not to blame the first time around. Of course, independent and professional observers knew that all along – so why did the bishops insist on scapegoating their gay clergy, and pretending they were after all the culprits?
Their fig leaf of a cover has been removed, and they stand exposed.