What we learned from the John Jay study Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

For those concerned about recent news about sexual abuse by members of the clergy and hierarchy, this report is worth reading. It can be found on the web at http://www.usccb. org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/upload/The-Nature-and-Scope-of-Sexual-Abuse-of-Minors-by-Catholic-Priests-and-Deacons-in-the-United-States-1950-2002.pdf

Took responsibility seriously

John Jay College took this assignment very seriously. In the preface of the report, the college’s president, Gerald W. Lynch, said that it “well understood its profound responsibility: to describe the dimensions of the abuse problem as accurately and completely as possible, to be scrupulously objective in carrying out the study, and to report the facts in an honest, forthright manner. The gravity of the assignment entrusted to the college cannot be overestimated.”

Lynch said, “The findings presented in this report are very disturbing. As we at John Jay College pored over the data, we were deeply moved by the recitation of the large numbers of offenses committed against children and the seriousness of their nature.”

But, Lynch added, “we are genuinely hopeful that out of this excruciating inquiry will emerge not only a better understanding of the abuse problem but a series of sensible, effective measures to reduce the possibility that other children will suffer the kinds of abuses which we have uncovered.”

Findings of abuse

The John Jay study revealed that between 1950 and 2002, there were 4,392 priests who had allegations of abuse in the college’s survey. That meant that four percent of all priests active during that time had allegations against them.

The college’s analysis showed a variability in the rates of alleged abuse from three to six percent of all priests.

When discussing the kind of abuse which occurred, the John Jay study says that the “majority of the alleged victims were post-pubescent, with only a small percentage of priests receiving allegations of abusing young children.”

It must be noted that pedophilia is defined as a psychiatric disorder in which an adult or older adolescent experiences a primary or exclusive sexual attraction to prepubescent children, that is, children who have not reached puberty. It is said that girls typically begin the process of puberty at age 10 or 11, and boys at age 11 or 12.

The John Jay study showed that 80 percent of the victims of sexual abuse by priests were older than age 11. That is why Bishop Robert C. Morlino, in his “Letter to the Faithful Regarding the Ongoing Sexual Abuse Crisis in the Church,” says that the scandal of sexual abuse has more to do with homosexuality than pedophilia.

The bishop was not equating pedophilia and homosexuality, as some accused him of doing, but rather pointing out, as the Diocese of Madison’s Director of Communications Brent King said, “We’re talking about pedophilia, but we’re (also) talking more about homosexual sins on the part of priests and on being a predator and abusing their power.”

I think it’s important for us to learn about what the John Jay study said and how it applies to clergy sexual abuse. We should understand the distinctions between pedophilia and homosexuality and what they mean in dealing with abuse of children.

Be vigilant, pray

The numbers of clergy who have abused children is alarming, but we must remember that they are only a small percent of those who are abusing children. For example, an Australian Government report says that child sexual abuse is perpetrated by parents, other relatives, siblings, friends, or others known to the child (e.g., sports coach, teacher).

We must all be vigilant when it comes to abuse of children. And we must continue to pray and fast, as Bishop Morlino has suggested. “We must all work daily on our own personal holiness and hold ourselves accountable first and, in turn, hold our brothers and sisters accountable as well.”