When I hear revolution I’m reminded of songs from the Beatles or Tracy Chapman. I think of going against the establishment. There have been great revolutions in this country: the women’s movement, the civil right’s movement and even the Stonewall revolution, which marks the gay movement for equality.
That’s why it’s hard for me to digest the five-year study commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops, which concluded that the church’s sexual abuse crisis had nothing to do with either the all-male celibate priesthood or homosexuality.
Oh no, the reason why there was a surge in the number of sexual abuse cases by priests against minors was because “priests were poorly prepared and monitored amid the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s.”
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, which to me is as ridiculous and carries as much wieght as South Park’s hysterical, Blame Canada Theory, is likely to be regarded as the most authoritative analysis of the scandal in the Catholic Church in America. The study, initiated in 2006, was conducted by a team of researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City at a cost of $1.8 million. About half was provided by the bishops, with additional money contributed by Catholic organizations and foundations. The National Institute of Justice, the research agency of the United States Department of Justice, supplied about $280,000.
The researchers concluded that it was not possible for the church to identify abusive priests in advance. Priests who abused minors have no particular “psychological characteristics,” “developmental histories” or mood disorders that distinguished them from priests who had not abused, found researchers.
“Since the scandal broke, conservatives in the church have blamed gay priests for perpetrating the abuse, while liberals have argued that the all-male, celibate culture of the priesthood was the cause.” The report notes that homosexual men began entering the seminaries “in noticeable numbers” from the late 1970s through the 1980s. By the time this cohort entered the priesthood, in the mid-1980s, the reports of sexual abuse of minors by priests began to drop and then to level off. If anything, the report says, “the abuse decreased as more gay priests began serving the church. One of the more outrageous findings report that fewer than 5 percent of the abusive priests exhibited behavior consistent with pedophilia, which it defines as a “psychiatric disorder that is characterized by recurrent fantasies, urges and behaviors about prepubescent children.”
“Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as ‘pedophile priests,’ ” the report says.
That finding is likely to prove controversial because the report uses a definition of “prepubescent” children as those under the age of 10. Using this cutoff, the report found that only 22 percent of the priests’ victims were prepubescent. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies a prepubescent child as generally age 13 or younger. If the John Jay researchers had used that cutoff, the majority of the abusers’ victims would have been considered prepubescent. It angers me to think that the distinction between pre and post-pubescent is used to discount those victims who were still very much minors. So a 13-year-old is up for the taking. Another reason why this distinction is ridiculous is because children in Catholic school enter at about age 5 or 6 and graduate at age 13 before they enter high school Priests would have access to these children for many years. The process of grooming in order to develop trust could occur from age 11 until graduation. Excluding these children is yet another way of protecting the perpetrators.
The report, “The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2002,” is the second produced by researchers at John Jay College. The first, on the “nature and scope” of the problem, was released in 2004.