A new study by the U.S. Conference of Bishops argues that neither celibacy nor homosexuality can be blamed for the clerical abuse scandal within the U.S. Catholic Church.

The report, which was published on Wednesday argues that clerical abuse is a result of ill-prepared, inadequately monitored and overworked priests performing their duties during the social and sexual turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s.

The 300-page report was conducted by researchers at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City over the course of five years with a cost of $1.8 million.

The funding for the report was provided by the U.S. Catholic Church, with additional financial support coming from other Catholic groups as well as from the Department of Justice.

As the revelations of clerical abuse continue to emerge worldwide, many critics argue that all-male celibate priesthood as well as a high number of gay priests was the main cause of the abuse crisis.

The report, entitled 'The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950- 2010' argues otherwise.

It states that of the nearly 6,000 U.S. priests accused of sexual abuse in the last six decades only four percent demonstrated behavior consistent with paedophilia, which it defines as ““psychiatric disorder that is characterised by recurrent fantasies, urges and behaviours about pre-pubescent children”.

The study acknowledges that gay men began entering the priesthood “in noticeable numbers” during the 1970s and 1980s. However it argues that abuse decreased rather than increased when more gay priests entered the church.

Improved seminary training and education and an overall better preparation for a life of celibacy are important precautions against clerical abuse, the report concludes.

Commenting on the report senior Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said: “We’ve always said that the celibate priesthood has nothing to do with it [clerical sex abuse], so this is no surprise to us . . . The non-connection with priestly celibacy and with homosexuality are two very relevant points . . . as is the dateline.”
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