Catholic Bishops Comforted by Sexual Abuse Report

US Catholic Bishops heard a preliminary report from John Jay College of Criminal Justice about the “causes and contexts” of the sexual abuse crisis yesterday.

Research falls into six categories, Terry explained: a historical overview of social and political events since 1950; recruitment and seminary training; leadership; victimization; a clinical analysis using data from three treatment centers; and a discussion of prevention and education tactics.

Terry said early research seems to indicate that the patterns of sexual abuse within the church are consistent with the experience of society as a whole. …

Data so far from John Jay confirms the findings of social scientists “that general social changes have had significant impact on the lives of those who are part of or closely associated with religious organizations,” she said. …

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., said if the research bears out that the Catholic Church differed little from other organizations in the incidence of abuse he recommended offering the John Jay material to others to see if it benefits them.

He also noted that because of the broad acceptance of the notion that sexual abuse is a problem particularly tied to the Catholic Church it “will take some time to overcome the myth that has developed about the church.”

Sounds like the bishops are getting their money’s worth.

Baltimore Sun summarizes:

Terry told the gathering of church leaders that her research showed that despite popular opinion, there was “not something distinct about the church that led to the abuse.”

And gives some reaction:

The findings, released yesterday at the Fall Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Baltimore, worried advocates for abuse victims, who said they hoped that sexual abuse by priests would not be played down just because other members of society did the same.

“We believe that bishops and priests should be above reproach,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, a Chicago-based organization that is in Baltimore for the assembly. …

Blaine said she and other advocates are doubtful that the final report will give an accurate account of abuse by priests because the church is paying for it. “Anytime an organization is evaluating itself, it begs the question of whether it is truly objective,” she said.

John Allen also reports.