Posted by: L. E. Barnes | May 18, 2011

Neither Homosexuality nor Celibacy to Blame

A recent article by the Associated Press discusses the results of a study on the clergy sex abuse scandal:

Researchers commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops to analyze the pattern of clergy sex abuse have concluded that homosexuality, celibacy and an all-male priesthood did not cause the scandal.

The study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York instead said that the problem was largely the result of poor seminary training and insufficient emotional support for men ordained in the 1940s and 1950s, who were not able to withstand the social upheaval they confronted as pastors in the 1960s. Crime and other deviant behavior increased overall in the United States during this period, when the rate of abuse by priests was climbing.

“The rise in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in society generally,” the report’s authors said. “Factors that were invariant during the time period addressed, such as celibacy, were not responsible for the increase or decline in abuse cases over this time.”

Victims’ groups dismissed the report as an attempt to focus blame for the scandal on priests, instead of on bishops who allowed offenders to stay in ministry without warning parents or police. “They want us to fixate on abusive priests, not callous bishops,” the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said in a statement.

The report, set to be released Wednesday, is the third study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002, when the abuse crisis erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston and caused what church leaders have called the deepest crisis in American Catholicism. A person close to the bishops provided an early copy to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity since the person was not authorized to release the information.

The scandal has cost U.S. dioceses nearly $3 billion and has spread to Europe and beyond. Just this week, Vatican officials instructed bishops worldwide to develop discipline policies for abusive priests within a year.

The debate over why priest-abusers were kept in ministry in the U.S. often fell along ideological lines. Liberals blamed mandatory celibacy or the lack of women in the church hierarchy, while conservatives blamed gay priests, since the overwhelming majority of known victims were boys.

The John Jay researchers, however, said that the offenders chose to victimize boys mainly because clergy had greater access to them. The study notes that gay men began enrolling in seminaries in larger numbers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, at a time when the rate of abuse was declining.

The authors, in findings first reported by Religion News Service, said they found “no single cause” of child sex abuse by priests and no “psychological characteristics” or “developmental histories” that distinguished guilty priests from clergy who did not molest children.

You can read the full article here.

Hopefully, this will help lay to rest the assertions that doing away with clergy celibacy and allowing women into the priesthood are the answers to this problem.


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