Wednesday, November 18, 2009

New Report Shows That Gay Priests Not More Likely to Molest Than Straight Counterparts

In September the Vatican tried to shift the blame of the pedophilia problem plaguing its priests on gays. The Guardian reported, "In a defiant and provocative statement, issued following a meeting of the UN human rights council in Geneva, the Holy See said the majority of Catholic clergy who committed such acts were not paedophiles but homosexuals attracted to sex with adolescent males."

However, the AP reports that a preliminary study commissioned by the the U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops has found this statement to be false and that gay priests are no more likely to molest children than their straight counterparts.
"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. "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."


At the meeting Tuesday, Bishop Edward Braxton, of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill., 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."
The AP also reports that experts on sex offenders reject any link between sexual orientation and committing abuse and that one should approached incidents by examining the offender and the victims they had available to them.

The final report won't be finished until the end of next year. But so far, it does indicate that the rate of abuse has declined steadily since the 1980s and that the peak was in the 1960s and 1970s. Cases arising today usually deal with incidents that occurred decades ago. Nearly 14,000 molestation claims have been filed against Catholic clergy since 1950 and abuse-related costs paid out by the church have reached a minimum $2.3 billion in the same period.

Though I do have a lot of issues with the Catholic leadership, it is a positive sign that they're looking into this problem within their ranks. However, the study is obviously not giving them the results they were hoping for. The true test comes after the report is finished and how the Vatican reacts to continue to address this serious problem. Maybe now they can stop trying to shift the blame and address the issue.

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