By Peter J. Smith

BALTIMORE, Maryland, November 20, 2009 ( – Authors of an interim report delivered to the US Catholic bishops on Tuesday told the bishops that their findings did not establish a causal connection between homosexual identity and the sexual abuse of minors.

Margaret Smith, one of the leading researchers of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at their general assembly in Baltimore that their data so far does not prove homosexuality is a predictor of sexual abuse.

The USCCB commissioned the John Jay researchers in 2002 to report on the “Causes and Context” of the clerical sexual abuse that has rocked the Catholic Church over the past decade.

Instead Smith suggested that the sexual victims of priests and male religious – eighty-percent of victims were young men and boys – were selected by their abusers, because they were the most accessible.

Smith said researchers had not found “a connection between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse from the data that we have right now.”
“What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse,” continued Smith, emphasizing that the research time wanted to differentiate between sexual identity and behavior.

However, the way researchers defined “homosexual identity” indicated they did not define “homosexual” as an individual who engages in homosexual acts with a member of the same-sex, but primarily as someone who views himself as homosexual and engages in that behavior.

“Even though there was sexual abuse of many boys, that doesn't necessarily mean that the person had a homosexual identity,” said Dr. Karen Terry.

An earlier John Jay survey requested by the USCCB showed 80-90 percent of abusive priests had sexual relations with adolescent boys (ephebophilia), not prepubescent boys (pedophilia).

Terry told the bishops that their data so far showed that sexual molesters, in general, were individuals suffering from sexual confusion and poor social abilities, but lacked an established pattern of homosexual behavior that would indicate a homosexual identity.

The John Jay researchers said that their findings did not indicate that homosexuals should be excluded as candidates to the priesthood.

Nevertheless, the Vatican has made clear that individuals with homosexual tendencies, confusion over their sexual identity, or other forms of social and psychological immaturity are unfit candidates for priesthood and religious life. A 2005 directive explicitly bars homosexuals or those with unresolved homosexual tendencies from admission to the priesthood, and the Vatican's seriousness to eliminating sexual abuse was further highlighted in 2008 when it released guidelines for seminaries on how to do psychological testing to screen candidates with homosexual tendencies, confused sexual identities, and other psychological disorders from the priesthood.

The John Jay researchers said that the data showed that seminarians who received “explicit human formation preparation” were less likely to abuse than those without such preparation.

Cases of sexual abuse peaked in the height of the sexual and cultural revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, but then began a slow and steady decline starting in 1985, during the pontificate of John Paul II, when this explicit human formation preparation was beginning to be implemented.

The majority of allegations of sexual abuse occur in those decades.

New reported incidents of first sexual abuse in the United States are at their lowest level since 1951, and lower than the number of incidences reported in 1950.

The completed Causes and Context Study is expected in December of 2010.


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