A $2 million dollar study commissioned by Roman Catholic Bishops at the height of the Church’s sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. has found no connection between sexual orientation and abuse of children by clergy.
The full report by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan won’t be completed until the end of next year. But the authors said their evidence to date found no data indicating that homosexuality was a predictor of abuse.
“What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse,” said Margaret Smith of John Jay College, in a speech to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week. “At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and the increased likelihood of subsequent abuse from the data that we have right now.”
The question has been raised repeatedly within the church because the overwhelming majority of known victims were boys. As part of the church's response to the crisis, the Vatican ordered a review of all U.S. seminaries that, among other issues, looked for any “evidence of homosexuality” in the schools.
According to a report in the Associated Press, almost 14,000 sexual molestation claims have been filed in the past 60 years against Catholic clergy in the U.S. The question about sexual orientation has been raised repeatedly within and outside the church because the overwhelming majority of known victims were boys.
As part of the church’s response to the crisis, the Vatican ordered a review of all U.S. seminaries that, among other issues, looked for any “evidence of homosexuality” in the schools.
Yet many experts on sex offenders reject any link between sexual orientation and committing abuse. Karen Terry, a John Jay researcher, said it was important to distinguish between sexual identity and behavior, and to look at who the offender had access to when seeking victims.
At the meeting on Tuesday Bishop Edward Braxton of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois asked the researchers whether their study indicated that homosexuality should be considered when evaluating a candidate for the priesthood. In 2005, the Vatican issued a policy statement that men with “deep-seated” attraction to other men should be barred from the priesthood.
Smith said: “If that exclusion were based on the fact that that person would be more probable than any other candidate to abuse, we do not find that at this time.”