Report Says 1960s, Not Celibacy, Made Priests Abuse Kids

A new report claims that "social factors" — not forced celibacy — caused the upswing in abuse by Catholic priests in the sixties and seventies. But not everyone is convinced.

The AP reports on a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which concluded that since celibacy had always been a requirement of the priesthood, it didn't cause the rise in abuse. The study also refutes the claim that accepting gay men into the priesthood caused increased molestation — the authors note that as the number of gay priests went up, the number of assault cases was going down. They also say priests who committed abuse showed no common "psychological characteristics" or "developmental histories" — not even pedophilia. According to the study, only 5% of priests who abuse minors were technically pedophiles.

What did cause the uptick in abuse, the authors say, was poor training in the forties and fifties coupled with "social upheaval" in the sixties. They note that all crime was on the rise during the time when abuse was increasing. While it may be true that proper training could have encouraged priests to seek help if they began to feel a compulsion to molest kids, "it was the sixties" isn't a terribly satisfying explanation. Are we supposed to believe that rampant social change just stressed the priests out so much that they started abusing children? That an increase in general crime made them think it was okay to rape?

Critics say that the report focuses too much on priests and ignores the systemic problems within the Church, like bishops who allowed priests to abuse with impunity. And it's true that the motivations of individual abusers are only part of the story — the epidemic of abuse couldn't have continued without those at the top who let it happen. The report is a worthwhile reminder that being gay doesn't make men into child molesters, but it's likely a far cry from the full investigation victims want.

Study: Homosexuality, Celibacy Didn't Cause Abuse [AP, via Yahoo News]

Image via Jiri Hera/Shutterstock.com