U.S. Bishops to vote on funding for sex abuse study

.- Bishops in the United States will discuss funding for a study to understand the underlying causes of the problem of sexual abuse of minors.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), who will meet November 13-16 in Baltimore, will vote to release an initial sum of money for proposed study into “the Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Children and Young People by Catholic Clergy in the United States.”

With their vote the bishops hope to approve the release of a third of the one million dollars earmarked last year to get to the root of sexual abuse.  The money, if released, will be used to underwrite initial research in a project which is being undertaken by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, a release from the USCCB says.

Last November the bishops accepted a proposal from John Jay for the study of the Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Children and Young People by Catholic Clergy in the United States, as called for by the bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The entire study, which is to be completed by 2009, will have three components.  The first will look at, “the historical context and influences on the problem.”  The second component will focus on "gaining understanding of the temporal, structural, and leadership factors within the Catholic Church that framed the response of individual dioceses to the crisis.” And a third component will aim to "understand, on an individual level, how priests with allegations of sexual abuse differ from other priests (those with and without other problems) as well as sex offenders who are not priests."

The proposal from the John Jay researchers says the study will offer tremendous insight into the problem of sexual abuse, both within the Church and without.  

"It is important to recognize that the Church is funding a study of ground-breaking significance in the field of research into sexual abuse of children," the proposal notes. "Additionally, however, the study will have historical significance for the Church itself. It is important, in many years from now, to understand as much as possible about the individual priests who committed acts of child sexual abuse, to share this understanding with bishops, priests and their diocesan associates, so as to prevent future crises."

The proposal also notes that John Jay researchers, who will raise an additional 2-3 million for their research, are preparing to begin a study of sexual abuse within other religious institutions. Dr. Karen A. Terry will also be the principle investigator for that study, according to the proposal.

Patricia Ewers, Ph.D., chair of the National Review Board, which advises the bishops on addressing the sexual abuse crisis, emphasized the significance of this study.

"The National Review Board is committed to working with the bishops and John Jay on this study that will benefit not only the church but also our entire society," Dr. Ewers said. "We need to know what led to this violation of a sacred trust in order to take the steps needed to prevent future offenses. All relationships are based on trust and some relationships are sacred. This study will provide vital information to benefit not just the church, but also families, schools, sports programs and other situations in which young people are placed in the care of adults."

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