Researchers investigating the sexual abuse of minors by clergy presented their interim report at the November assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Tuesday. They said new reports of sexual abuse do not alter the pattern of clerical sexual abuse, which peaked in the late 1960s and 1970s before declining in the 1980s.
The Interim Report on the Cases and Context Study, written by researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, aims to explain the increase of sexual abuse by priests in the late 1960s and 1970s and its decline after 1985. Researchers gathered and analyzed archives and also collected data from priest, psychologists, sociologists and the U.S. bishops.
According to a USCCB press release, the Interim Report found that cases of abuse reported after 2002 showed the same pattern of a rise of sexual abuse in the 1960s and decline in the 1980s. The researchers do not believe that unreported cases will be brought forward that change the time frame of the abuse.
The researchers found that the pattern of deviant sexual behavior by clerics is consistent with several other changes in society between 1960 and 1990, including the increased use of drugs and an increase in divorce and criminal behavior.
Clergy who as seminarians had “explicit human formation preparation” seem to have been less likely to abuse than those without such preparation. Such formation is described in a 2008 USCCB document, The Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests, as the cultivation of priests so that their humanity is “instrumental in communicating Jesus Christ.”
“While a celibate commitment is not expressed in genital sexual activity or in an exclusive intimate relationship, the priest remains a sexual person who is expected to develop mature expressions of chaste love and caring,” the document reads.
The Interim Report also found that dioceses’ responses to charges of clerical sexual abuse changed substantially over a 50-year period, with decreased reinstatements and more administrative leave being given to abusers in recent years.
The Causes and Context Study was funded by the USCCB, the National Institute of Justice and several foundations. A complete version of the study is expected in December of 2010.