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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Church Sex Abuse Report Blames ’60s Culture

The view from inside St. Peter's Basilica. (AP)

The view from inside St. Peter's Basilica. (AP)

Researchers commissioned by the nation’s Roman Catholic Bishops found widespread clergy sexual abuse was a result of poor training and insufficient support for priests facing the cultural and sexual upheavals of the 1960s.

Critics say it’s the same “blame Woodstock” argument the Church has been making for years, and point out that while this is the most comprehensive study to date, it’s partly funded by the Catholic Church.

David Gibson, reporter for the Religion News Service and author of, “The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World,” told WBUR’s Here & Now Wednesday that the sexual abuse cases did not stem from the church’s celibacy requirement.

“The reality of celibacy has been a norm in the Catholic church for almost 1,000 years and certainly over the last 50 years and yet you have these spikes and these dips [in the number of abuse cases] and this isn’t just about the urge to sleep with somebody… this is about immature men who are the same psychological age as the 14 year old they’re sleeping with.”

Critics of the study say it cites the same “blame Woodstock” argument the Church has been making for years and point out that while this is the most comprehensive study to date, it’s partly funded by the Catholic Church. But Gibson points out that the John Jay College, where the research was done, has a good reputation.

“They put this proposal out to various expert places and the John Jay College is, you know, the gold standard of criminology and it is really hard to believe that they would be bought and paid for by the bishops. I don’t think that’s really that credible,” Gibson said. “I think that the report will stand or fall on its own merits and we should look at that.”

The Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests responded by saying that the report focused too much on the priests and not enough on what they called “the callous Bishops.” Gibson said that the report took important steps to urge the Catholic Church to adopt “transparent, uniform policies” for dealing with sex abuse allegations.

“There are 285 bishops out there, Catholic bishops in the United States. 284 of them could be doing the right thing but if one of them is not that’s one too many,” Gibson said.


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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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