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Priest on sex abuse study: ‘We can never get to the truth’

May 20, 2011

The study on sexually abusive priests released this week by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice feels somehow …. off. Commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the report, which took five years to prepare, attempts to shed light on the sex abuse scandal that (fully) came to light in 2002. But there’s something unsatisfactory about it.

How were so many children and teens sexually abused over the last several decades? What caused priests to offend? The researchers could find no single factor that could have predicted or explained abuse (homosexuality and celibacy have been suggested in the past, but the study found neither to be the culprit). But one suggestion getting a lot of attention in the media is that the social and sexual upheaval of the 1960s may have influenced priests. Um ….

Need to read more of the study, reflect a bit more and write later. Fr. Tom Reese had some excellent questions and observations I would like to explore in another post.

But for now, I want to highlight this terrific interview with Father Bob Hoatson on NPR. Hoatson, a sex abuse victim himself is planning to leave the priesthood. He lamented that “we can’t seem to get to the truth” and said of the study: “This report does not get to the heart of the issue. And the heart of the issue is deceipt, coverup, silence, secrecy and an internal culture that doesn’t let anybody else in.” Wow.

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