Thursday, May 19, 2011

Critics say new study misses real reasons for priest abuse crisis

By Marianne Medlin A $2 million study commissioned by the U.S. bishops is not likely to put to rest questions about the causes of the sexual abuse crisis in the priesthood.

Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a top psychiatrist and authority on treating sexually abusive priests, told CNA that he is “very critical” of the findings because they avoid discussing important causal factors in clerical sex abuse cases, namely homosexuality...

Despite the report showing that nearly 80 percent of victims were post-pubescent and adolescent males, the study concludes that clinical data “do not support the hypothesis that priests with a homosexual identity ... are significantly more likely to sexually abuse.”

Fitzgibbons disputed that conclusion, saying that “analysis of the research demonstrates clearly that the major cause of the crisis was the homosexual abuse of males.”

This, he underscored in a May 18 phone interview, “was the heart of the crisis.”

Statistics from the recent John Jay report show that less than 5 percent of abuse took place with prepubescent children, making pedophilia a fraction of the core issue and sexual activity with adolescent males the primary occurrence.

“One can conclude that these priests have strong same-sex attraction,” he said. “When an adult is involved with homosexual behavior with an adolescent male, he clearly has a major problem in the area of homosexuality.”

“If the (U.S. bishops) conference wanted an analysis of the causes of complex sexual behavior with adolescents,” he said, “don't turn to criminologists.”

“They are not trained to understand those causes – that training is given to mental health professionals.”
“They can report on the statistical analysis of the behavior but in terms of causes, they've crossed a line, in my view.”

The John Jay researchers also clarified in their study that priestly celibacy was not a factor in clerical sex abuse and said that the offenders chose to victimize boys because clergy had greater access to them.

Bill Donohue, president of The Catholic League for Religious Liberty, reacted to the notion of accessibility to boys over girls, saying the “there are so few incidents of abuse these days – an average of 8.3 per year since 2005 – that it makes no sense to compare the percentage of male victims at the peak of the scandal to what has happened since altar girls were allowed.”

“The latest study on abuse notes that 83 percent of the allegations made in 2010 were by males, and the bulk of incidents took place in the early 1970s,” he said.

“Besides, priests had nothing but access to male altar servers before the 1960s, and the report notes that sexual abuse was not a problem then.”

“That’s because there were fewer gay priests then,” Donohue argued.

The report “says that 81 percent of the victims were male and 78 percent were post-pubescent,” he reiterated. “Since 100 percent of the abusers were male, that's called homosexuality, not pedophilia or heterosexuality...”

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