A study commissioned by the US Catholic Church confirms that child abuse by priests was not caused by homosexuality or celibacy.
The $2 million report, by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, instead says that the sexual revolution post-1960 was to blame, along with poor training and a lack of emotional support.
Study authors wrote: “The rise in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s was influenced by social factors in society generally. 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.”
The suggestion that only gay priests abuse boys within the church is often repeated. However, the study found no evidence for this and authors wrote that clinical data “[does] not support the hypothesis that priests with a homosexual identity … are significantly more likely to sexually abuse”.
Conversely, the study claimed that rates of child abuse began to drop after a significant rise in young gay men entering the priesthood in the 1970s.
Responses to the report were mixed. Some child abuse survivors accused the church of trying to shrug off blame, while one conservative church figure claimed gay priests were the perpetrators.
Bill Donohue of the Catholic League said: “The report says that 81 per cent of the victims were male and 78 per cent were post-pubescent. Since 100 per cent of the abusers were male, that’s called homosexuality, not pedophilia or heterosexuality.”
Abuse victims’ groups also reacted angrily to the report and accused the church of trying to shift the blame on to societal factors, rather than taking responsibility for allowing paedophile priests to continue working.
Joelle Casteix of The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said: “They want us to fixate on abusive priests, not callous bishops.”
She added: “The report claims abuse ‘peaked in the 1970s’, then began declining. This is perhaps the most absurd and damaging assumption. All but a few victims are only able to report child sex crimes decades later.
“Because of this inevitable lag time, it’s irresponsible to pretend anyone has any real sense of how many clergy sex crimes happened in recent years or are happening now.”