Thursday April 1, 2010

Clergy Sexual Abuse Study: It’s Time for Common Sense

John-Jay Report dismissal of role of homosexuality in abuse cases disputed

By: Louie Verrecchio

April 1, 2010 ( – Here we go again. The skeletons of clergy sexual abuse are once again being resuscitated by ambitious lawyers and finding sensational new life in a secular media that is increasingly uninterested in reporting the facts.

Now don’t get me wrong; the instances of abuse themselves are absolutely reprehensible; that much is indisputable. As Cardinal Ratzinger said of these terrible transgressions shortly before becoming pope, “How much filth there is in the church, even among those who, in the priesthood, should belong entirely to God.”

Whenever the root cause of this “filth” is discussed, faithful Catholics need to pay close attention as those who are less interested in cleansing the Church than attacking her moral foundation make themselves known through their actions.

Sometimes it’s entirely predictable, as when increasingly irrelevant liberal dissenters like Richard McBrien and Hans Kung perform logical gymnastics in to avoid the 300 pound homosexual elephant in the room, but when we see indications that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops might be inclined to join them on the balance beam of political correctness, that’s another story.

At the USCCB Fall General Assembly in Baltimore in November of 2009, the bishops received a preliminary briefing from researchers of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on a report they commissioned in 2006 for insight into the clergy sex abuse scandal.

According to the original research proposal, one of the study’s stated objectives is to “understand, on an individual level, how priests with allegations of sexual abuse differ from other priests.”

According to Catholic News Service, Margaret Smith, one of two John Jay researchers to address the Fall Assembly, gave the bishops a sense for where the study is heading, saying, “At this point, we do not find a correlation between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse,” she said.

This raises some obvious questions, but before we examine the implications of Ms. Smith’s statement, let’s considers what we know about the victims of the clergy sex abuse as reported by third party sources.

In a 2002 study conducted by USA Today, it was determined that of the 234 priests that have been accused of sexual abuse of a minor while serving in the nation’s ten largest dioceses, 91 percent of the allegations involved male victims. [1]

The Boston Globe reported similar findings in 2003 saying, “Of the clergy sex abuse cases referred to prosecutors in Eastern Massachusetts, more than 90 percent involve male victims, and the most prominent Boston lawyers for alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse have said that about 95 percent of their clients are male.” [2]

Also noteworthy is research conducted by Dr. Thomas Plante of the Department of Psychology at Santa Clara University who found that 80 – 90 percent of the alleged victims of abuse were post-pubescent adolescent boys – not prepubescent children – meaning that the abusers in these cases “are not pedophiles at all but are ephebophiles” (i.e. they demonstrate a sexual attraction to mid-to-late adolescents). [3]

Now let’s consider Ms. Smith’s assertion that heterosexual priests are just as likely to commit abuse as homosexual priests. If she is correct, we should expect the ratio of priests accused of abusing post-pubescent females to those accused of abusing post-pubescent males to mirror the demographics of the priesthood as a ratio of heterosexuals to homosexuals.

So, do the researchers at John Jay College really mean to imply that some 90% of the priesthood in the U.S. is homosexual?

The question alone is so preposterous as to border on the offensive, but 9:1 is the ratio of priests accused of abusing adolescent males to those accused of abusing adolescent females. Applying this same ratio to the sexual orientation of the priest population as a whole is simply the logical extension of Ms. Smith’s assertion that both groups present an equal risk of abuse.

If, as I assume, Ms. Smith and her colleagues do not mean to imply that homosexual priests outnumber their heterosexual counterparts 9 to 1, it’s only common sense to expect the USCCB to demand a plausible explanation for the overwhelming preponderance of male victims.

Karen Terry, a colleague of Ms. Smith who also addressed the USCCB assembly, may have preempted questions concerning the small percentage of female victims when she cautioned the bishops, “Even though there was sexual abuse of many boys, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the person had a homosexual identity.”

“It’s important to separate the sexual identity and the behavior,” she continued. “Someone can commit sexual acts that might be of a homosexual nature but not have a homosexual identity.”

Excuse me? If researchers don’t consider an adult male’s sexual attraction to a teenaged boy a flashing neon sign for homosexuality, then I’m not entirely sure I want to know what they do consider proof.

Undaunted in their effort to explain the homosexual connection away, however, Ms. Terry said that greater access to boys is one of the reasons for the skewed ratio of male victims, and Ms. Smith even went so far as to raise the analogy of homosexual activity among prison populations as supporting evidence.

One cannot help but be outraged by this transparent attempt to gloss over the obvious link between homosexuality and the incidence of clergy sexual abuse, but far more troubling than this is the fact that the USCCB should have known that this is exactly what it was going to get even before it earmarked $1 Million for the John Jay back study in 2005.

Writing in First Things Magazine in 2004, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus made the following observation:

“In its report and its February 27 presentation, the John Jay team was manifestly nervous about the homosexuality factor. The woman making the slide presentation at the National Press Club skipped over the data on adolescent males in a nanosecond. A perhaps jaundiced network reporter remarked afterwards about the downplaying of the homosexuality factor, ‘Remember that the John Jay people have to go back and get along in New York City.'” [4]

In that same article, Fr. Neuhaus said that the USCCB’s very own Nation Review Board had also made note of the problem:

“The John Jay report notes that the proportion of victims who were male increased in the 1960s and reached 86 percent in the ’70s, remaining there through the 1980s. In a footnote, the NRB report responds to the frequent obscuring of the homosexual factor by reference to ‘ephebophilia.’ The authors write, ‘The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (IV) does not recognize ephebophilia as a distinct disorder. Ephebophilia is thus not a disorder in the technical sense, but rather a newly coined descriptive term for homosexual attraction to adolescent males.'” [ibid]

While it is prudent to withhold ultimate judgment on the value of the John Jay study until the final report is published in December 2010, it’s not too soon for the faithful Catholics who are footing the bill for that $1 Million research grant to let their bishops know that we will not accept unsubstantiated claims in return for our hard earned money.

It’s time to let our bishops know that we expect well-documented correct information, not political correctness. We want the “filth” cleaned out of the Church; and we will not tolerate any attempt to sweep it under the carpet.

Let me be clear – I am utterly convinced that the overwhelming majority of our bishops, just like us, are determined to identify the true underlying cause of clergy sexual abuse no matter how politically incorrect that discovery may be. But I am equally as convinced that only the naïve simply assume that the same can necessarily be said of the bureaucratic entity known as the USCCB.

Time and again the USCCB has demonstrated that it has a personality all its own; a group-think tendency toward political correctness and watered down rhetoric that is all-too-often at odds with the bishops individually. The remedy is for us to encourage our faithful shepherds to wrest control of the bureaucracy and to demand, along with us, that the light of truth be shined on this problem – political correctness be damned.

For instance, we need our bishops to demand that the John Jay researchers substantiate their claims by providing convincing evidence – not just rhetoric – which unequivocally demonstrates that a very large percentage of the abuse cases actually involved instances of heterosexual priests molesting adolescent boys.

This means that the bishops must insist that the final report provide rock solid demographic data concerning “sexual identity” in the priesthood; since anything less means that claims of “no correlation existing between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse” are built on mere assumption and are therefore utterly worthless. Think about it; if the John Jay researchers don’t know with a high degree of certainty how many priests are actually homosexual, there is absolutely no way they can speak with any authority whatsoever about the relationship between homosexual identity and the incidence of clergy sex abuse.

The simple truth is this; the information offered thus far by Ms. Smith and Ms. Terry is so entirely inconsistent with the cases of reported abuse as we know them on the one hand, and common sense on the other, that it can’t help but raise substantial red flags. The time to insist on real answers is now, not after the John Jay report is delivered and endlessly spun to the advantage of homosexual activists and ecclesial dissidents the world over.

You may make your concerns known by contacting your local bishop, or you may write to Cardinal Francis George – President of the USCCB at 3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington DC 20017-1194.

Above all, we must pray for our shepherds, that that they will be unimpeded in their desire to seek the truth and intrepid in making it known for the good of the Church.

1. “The Accusers and the Accused,” USA Today, November 11, 2002, p. 7D.

2. Thomas Farragher and Matt Carroll, “Church Board Dismissed Accusations by Females,”, February 2, 2003.



Louie Verrecchio is a Catholic speaker and the author of Harvesting the Fruit of Vatican II; an internationally acclaimed faith formation tool endorsed by George Cardinal Pell that explores the documents of the Second Vatican Council.