May 18, 2011

New John Jay Study debunks myth of link between gay priests and sex abuse. Sex abuse declines as number of gay priests increases.

Thanks to Religious News Service and Dating God for this near instant report on the long awaited and just released John Jay College of Criminal Justice report on the clergy sex abuse crisis.

(Update: here is a link to 3 SNAP victims' highly critical responses to the John Jay Report: Snap Network)

As if once wasn't enough, yet again this second John Jay report forcibly debunks the myth of a gay connection to the sexual abuse crisis - but it does so with a whammy of a final punch line.

the researchers found no statistical evidence that gay priests were more likely than straight priests to abuse minors—a finding that undermines a favorite talking point of many conservative Catholics. The disproportionate number of adolescent male victims was about opportunity, not preference or pathology, the report states.
What’s more, researchers note that the rise in the number of gay priests from the late 1970s onward actually corresponded with “a decreased incidence of abuse—not an increased incidence of abuse.”
 Read the full report at the above link for Religious News Service and for commentary at the link for Dating God and the New York Times.

From the NYT article: 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. 

Many more boys than girls were victimized, the report says, not because the perpetrators were gay, but simply because the priests had more access to boys than to girls, in parishes, schools and extracurricular activities. 

In one of the most counterintuitive findings, the report says 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.

(Snap member, David Clossey reponds:

-The crisis isn’t all that bad, the report suggests, because many of the kids who are or were violated had experienced puberty. Never mind the fact that child sex crimes, no matter at what age, are always illegal, immoral and hurtful. So the hair-splitting between pedophiles and ephebophiles (a distinction that seems to matter to few besides bishops) is, for the most part, at best irrelevant and at worst distracting.

“Thus, it is inaccurate to refer to abusers as ‘pedophile priests,’ ” the report says.

There are days when the light shines through the clouds, however briefly. This is one of those days (and it's gorgeous on the Vltava River here in Prague.) Perhaps I should have said, 'however dimly.' Whatever the flaws of the study, leaving Bishops free to conclude "we don't have to change a thing," it is the final nail in the coffin for the assertion that gay men are the locus of the problem.


TheraP said...

The conclusion that gays are not responsible for this crisis may be the only bright spot in a very flawed study. For example, they did not consider anywhere except the US or any time except since the 60's and where did they get their data? Why the bishops, of course! And how did they define pedophilia? According to the hierarchy's definition of it! (under 10 years of age ONLY) And who did they blame? My generation! More blame-shifting! More obfuscation. For example they claim only 5% of priests are therefore pedophiles... but how many crimes can one pedophile commit? And how many victims simply never come forward?

Here's an example of how Italy defines pedophilia and what they do about it:

GENOA - The latest sex abuse case to rock the Catholic Church is unfolding in the archdiocese of an influential Italian Cardinal, who has been working with Pope Benedict XVI on reforms to respond to prior scandals of pedophile priests.

Father Riccardo Seppia, a 51 year-old parish priest in the village of Sastri Ponente, near Genoa, was arrested last Friday on pedophilia and drugs charges. Investigators say that in tapped mobile phone conversations Seppia asked a Moroccan drug dealer to arrange sexual encounters with young and vulnerable boys. “I do not want 16-year-old boys, but younger. Fourteen-year-olds are OK. Look for needy boys, who have family issues,” he allegedly said.

I took that straight from the "abuse tracker" website. But you can google and get more info if you want it.

Now I know how you folks feel about being blamed for this. Yup... I was a young person in the 60's and it was Woodstock and Rock and Roll that made them do it! NOT!

Jayden Cameron said...

Thanks for the alert, Thera. Yes, the site Dating God does point out these questionable flaws in the study, in particular defining pedophilia as sexual attraction to under 10's. But I'm not sure this isn't a backhanded tactic. By removing the stigma associated with the term 'pedophilia' the Bishop's definition only demonstrates how systemic and more widespread the situation actually was. In other words, the abusers are not confined to a narrow, clinically defined group, but breach the boundaries of classically defined pedophilia. You can't blame it on a psychiatric disorder. I actually find that more chilling. 14 would not be considered pedophilia in psychiatric circles in any country, 12 maybe. The conclusions of the report are clear. Most of the abuse was due to sheer convenience, not sexual attraction or orientation or a psychiatric compulsion. A damning conclusion that only highlights the toxic nature of the closed clerical culture and the enabling structures of the church. This report is of major importance.

Jayden Cameron said...

p.s. here is a link to the most recent statements from SNAP regarding the report, including this critical comment which dovetails with your own:

-The crisis isn’t all that bad, the report suggests, because many of the kids who are or were violated had experienced puberty. Never mind the fact that child sex crimes, no matter at what age, are always illegal, immoral and hurtful. So the hair-splitting between pedophiles and ephebophiles (a distinction that seems to matter to few besides bishops) is, for the most part, at best irrelevant and at worst distracting.

TheraP said...

Good comments, Jayden!

When it comes to sexual abuse, criminal law treats children and adolescent victims differently than adults. Thus, the younger the age, the more heinous the crime an adult commits. Nevertheless, ALL underage persons are deemed to be vulnerable to adult pressure and authority (and the adult is likewise thereby deemed more culpable) in the case of sexual assault. Thus, for the report to simply screen out underage persons older than 10, assuming that somehow (this is my guess!) the "adolescent" is aroused and choosing the priest! (Puh-leez!)

What gets me is the fancy footwork the hierarchy makes use of to try and pin part of the blame on adolescents (and older children). This is completely wrong! It is the adult's responsibility to protect the young person - even from flirtatious behavior. It is never ok to have sex with an underage person.

What the criminal law does in addition is to consider the type of crime, not just the age and vulnerability of the victim. Thus rape is always wrong! Doesn't matter what the victim's sex is or the sexual preference might be; rape is a worse crime than, for example, simply touching (but more heinous for underage victims as already stated). Though touching alone (even through clothing) is also criminal. You can add further details, in which case the crime gets worse. Like, in effect, locking a door so that the victim cannot flee. Holding them down. Using another person to restrain them or tying them up, etc.

So there are gradations of criminal behavior. And yes, I agree that the report actually makes all of this appear even worse. For it seems to suggest that not only persons focused exclusively on sex with children, but priests who simply had access to them and made use of them as sex objects, for the sole purpose of satisfying their sexual urges, were also abusers of children.

No one who is molested or raped, at whatever age, escapes without harm. To minimize the damage - at any age - of whatever type - is to dehumanize God's children (whether adults or adolescents or actual children).

I simply can't get past the continued obfuscation, rationalization, projecting of blame, and outright unChristian behavior here, whether it's the actual sexual crimes or their cover-up. I realize I'm preaching to the choir. And I'm glad that a small bone, you could say, has been thrown to the gay community (by absolving them of the blame they never deserved). But honestly, this kept me awake for hours in the middle of last night. Hours! Of anger and anguish. And prayer!

Peace be with you, Jayden. And with all of us. It is so painful to go through life with eyes open to so many horrors. And there may be nothing worse than abuse and cover-ups perpetrated by persons who flaunt themselves as spiritual guides. OMG!!!

(Thanks for listening!)

FDeF said...

From what I've read, the study may debunk one myth but substitutes several others. Did the Age of Aquarius also make bishops transfer abusive priests from one place to another? Was it Woodstock that created a whole population of abusive clerics.

They need to go back and study the long-standing pre-seminary culture (prior to the 60's) and the appeal of the priesthood to boys who had not yet constructed an adult sexual identity. Recruiting is a word that comes to mind.

colkoch said...

I don't know how many time I've written this on how many blogs and articles. The age of consent in the Vatican City States is 12. You bet the idea of pedophelia as 10 or under is absolutely critical to Vatican culture. This is just utterly sick.

FDeF said...

I recant. I just read the report and it is not what the popular news media imply. If anything it is brutally honest, sad and disturbing. It pays to go to the source. I don't think the report will be a great public relations event for the church.

As for definitions, the report gave statistics for the various definitions, categories and nuances that are used in other research and the researchers were very transparent. Of course the details of the report will be spun in every possible direction, depending on one's agenda.

Jayden Cameron said...

Colleen, (if I'm not mistaken) the Vatican follows Italy's ago of consent, which was 12 in 1929, but has since been raised to 14, but rises to 16 if one of the partners has an influence over the other (teacher, parent, and of course priest).

Wikipedia says: The claim is sometimes made that "In the Vatican State, there is an equal age of consent set at 12 years of age", but this is incorrect. In 1929, when the Lateran Treaty was signed, the age of consent in Italy was 12, and this was indeed adopted by the Vatican. However, as stated above, the rise in the Italian age of consent applied automatically to the Vatican City.

However, this is splitting hairs. Attempting to lower the age range to 10 when defining pedophilia is one of many disturbing, evasive tactics of the report. One gets the creepy feeling that the virus infecting the church has insinuated itself into aspects of the report, and this is indeed one instance. But I would have to agree with FDeF that, even so, for all of its flaws and obfuscations, the report makes for very disturbing reading. And yes, for conservatives, particularly the likes of Bill Donahue and Pope BR himself, the report removes once and for all the primary scapegoat to date: gay priests in the ministry. Attempts at obfuscation from here on will have to be more subtle.

Anonymous said...

Just came across your blog here Jayden when searching something on Medjugorje.

Went there myself last year and quite the experience. May visit again this year.

I just read this on the John Jay Report and was very encouraged by it. I'd been reading some rather right wing conservative Catholic sites lately, and the endless looking to scapegoat - blaming the gays for everything. As someone who suffered this abuse and further trauma when trying to deal with that abuse, I was feeling very discouraged that the Church would continue to live in denial of the truth, reality.

I know a lot of people who have suffered abuses - children, young and vulnerable adults, and they certainly were not all gay males, nor abused by gay male priests or religious.

Glad to have come across this. I've had every reason to leave the R CC and then some, but hung in there. Lately though was beginning to wonder if staying were the right thing to do because of this latest denial, and for people like me, slap in the face, again.

A timely reading :-) Thanks for posting, links.

Must have a look around your place here. Looks very interesting :-)