Bishops report finds abuse is 'largely historical'

The sweeping new report on the clergy sex abuse scandal compares the Roman Catholic Church to police departments, with similar hierarchies, oral authority and isolated working environments, reports NCR.

And because the church, like the police, has "historically 'policed itself,"' as the report says, some lay Catholics and victims' advocates say even a stack of damning reports will not change a church that has been historically resistant to reform.

A recent grand jury report that found dozens of accused priests still in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, critics say, gives them little evidence for hope.

The study by New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, released Wednesday, portrays the abuse scandal as largely confined to the past. More than 90 percent of nearly 10,700 allegations against Catholic priests occurred before 1990, according to the report.

Researchers said the abuse of minors correlated to a jump in deviant behavior in society at large, such as premarital sex, experimental drug use and crime.

"The problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the United States is largely historical," said Karen Terry, the principal investigator for the study, "and the bulk of the cases occurred decades ago."

The ongoing crisis in Philadelphia -- which even church bishops were at a loss to explain -- shows the scandal will continue unless bishops are held accountable for their actions, according to victims' advocates.

New, non-mandatory guidelines issued by the Vatican on Monday also give little indication such oversight is forthcoming. Only one US bishop, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston, has been forced to resign for failing to prevent the sexual abuse of children.

Over the 60 years covered by the study, bishops’ response to abusive priests "changed substantively," according to the John Jay report. "For example, abusive priests were less likely to be returned to active ministry and/or more likely to be placed on administrative leave during the later years," the report states.

FULL STORY Bishops at centre of abuse scandal, and potential reform (NCR)


Report spreads blame for Catholic sex abuse (Religion News Service)

Full text of John Jay report

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