Catholic League president Bill Donohue said that a recent study on sex abuse within the U.S. Catholic Church defies its own research in concluding that homosexuality was not a significant factor in the crisis.
“While there are many exemplary aspects to the study, the clear failure on the part of the researchers to pinpoint the role that homosexuality played in accounting for the abuse crisis is unacceptable,” Donohue told CNA on May 24.
“Indeed, their own data belie their conclusion that this had nothing to do with homosexuality,” he said.
The sex abuse report began to receive criticism on May 17, the day before it was released, in both the secular press and from Catholic experts who have studied the issues involved closely.
The study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York cites the sexual permissiveness of the 1960s and poor seminary training as the root causes of the crisis. The report is the third commissioned by the U.S. bishops since the break of the scandal in 2002 and was intended to address the patterns and pathologies behind the abuse.
Despite the report showing that nearly 80 percent of victims were post-pubescent and adolescent males, the study concludes that clinical data “do not support the hypothesis that priests with a homosexual identity ... are significantly more likely to sexually abuse.”
However, statistics from the recent John Jay report show that less than 5 percent of abuse took place with prepubescent children, making pedophilia a fraction of the core issue and sexual activity with adolescent males the primary occurrence.
Donohue issued his own 25-page critical analysis of the report this week, saying that although there are praiseworthy aspects of the study, it fails to sufficiently address the unavoidable factor of homosexuality in the findings.
“I spent a lot of time reading and writing my response to the John Jay study because the public, especially Catholics, deserves to read a rejoinder,” said Donohue, who holds a doctorate in Sociology from New York University and has developed and taught courses on victims of abuse.
In his analysis, Donohue clarified that “it is not my position that homosexuality causes predatory behavior,” adding that “this argument is absurd.”
However, it “is the job of the social scientist to follow the evidence, and not be driven by ideological concerns.”
Donohue noted that a main problem in the study was that it focused on self-described sexual identity of the abusing priests as opposed to their actual behavior.
The John Jay report states that priests “who identified themselves as bisexual or confused were significantly more likely to have minor victims than priests who identified as either homosexual or heterosexual.”
“But if these 'bisexual and confused' priests chose to abuse mostly males – and they must have since 81 percent of the victims were male and nearly 80 percent were postpubescent – wouldn't that mean that these abusive priests were practicing homosexuality?” Donohue countered.
“Again, the emphasis on self-identity gets in the way of reality,” he said. “Indeed, the attempt to skirt the obvious is not only disingenuous, it is bad social science.”
“My main point is that social science research should be driven by the data, not ideology,” Donohue said in comments to CNA. “Moreover, there can never be progress if we make the wrong diagnosis.”
Despite the disagreement incited over the particulars of the report in recent days, the numbers ultimately show a drastic decline in sex abuse occurrences within the Church over time.
The “peak of the crisis has passed,” the John Jay report noted. Because the Church “responded,” abuse cases decreased and sexual abuse of minors “continues to remain low.”