“Causes and Contexts” in Context.
A clear, balanced and thoughtful assessment of the new John Jay report from NCR.
Mary Gail Frawley O’Dea, an expert on sexual abuse, cuts to the chase:
1. It is not credible to link sexual abuse by priests to homosexual identity. It is a crime of opportunity.
2. Celibacy alone is not responsible either, though the indirect connection of celibacy to feelings of loneliness and isolation may play a role in abuse. (I would add the pressure on seminaries to pass along for ordination as many candidates as possible also contributes indirectly to abuse.) This in a priestly culture in which “celibacy is observed as much in the breach as in the practice.”
3. Since there are no tests that reliably identify abusers before they abuse, seminary and on-going formation and structures of accountability are crucial.
4. She tags the report on several shortcomings as well: its failure to be clear about the self-reported data they relied upon, the incredible assertion that bishops didn’t understand the scope or damage done by the crisis, blaming the media who reported the crisis rather than the leaders who tolerated and covered up for abusive priests, and the surprising lack of bibliography which would have helped readers educate themselves further.
In sum–she regards this report as one contribution–a valuable contribution–to an ongoing evaluation of sexual abuse by priests in the Church.