Excerpts from the “causes and context” report on the clerical sex abuse crisis in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church. The report was issued Friday by the National Review Board, a panel of prominent lay Catholics:
THE KEY ISSUES:
“First, why did individuals with a disposition to prey sexually upon minors gain admission to the priesthood? Second, how did they manage to remain in the priesthood even after allegations and evidence of such abuse became known?”
THE BISHOPS’ SHORTCOMINGS:
“1) A failure to grasp the gravity of the problem … 2) deficiencies in the response to victims; 3) unwarranted presumptions in favor of accused priests; 4) reliance on secrecy and an undue emphasis on the avoidance of scandal; 5) excessive reliance on the therapeutic model in dealing with priest offenders; 6) undue reliance upon legal advice … 7) a failure to hold themselves and other bishops accountable.”
Prior to April 2002 “the Vatican did not recognize the scope or gravity of the problem facing the church in the United States despite numerous warning signs; and it rebuffed earlier attempts to reform procedures for removing predator priests … largely out of concern that such a process would prejudice the rights of the accused priests”.
“In the 1970s and 1980s, some seminaries yielded to a culture of sexual permissiveness and moral relativism. Although there have been improvements in seminary conduct over the last 10 years, forming priests who are fully prepared to meet the demands of the priesthood … must remain a high priority.”
“The overwhelming majority of reported acts of sexual abuse of minors by members of the clergy victimized boys. … We do not place the blame for the sexual abuse crisis on the presence of homosexual individuals in the priesthood as there are many chaste and holy homosexual priests.”
However, in some places “the large number of homosexual priests or candidates had the effect of discouraging heterosexual men from seeking to enter the priesthood. In the 1970s and 1980s, in particular, there developed at certain seminaries a ‘gay subculture’ … Failure to take disciplinary action against such conduct contributed to an atmosphere in which sexual abuse of adolescent boys by priests was more likely.”
“Although the discipline of celibacy is not in itself a cause of the current crisis, a failure properly to explain celibacy and prepare seminarians for a celibate life has contributed to it.”
BISHOPS AND VICTIMS:
“Failure to meet with victims and their families prevented bishops from comprehending the nature and the scope of the problem. More importantly, those church leaders who did not meet with victims and their families, and did not endeavor to bring healing to them, failed in their pastoral duties.”
“The bishops and other church leaders must listen to and be responsive to the concerns of the laity. To accomplish this, the hierarchy must act with less secrecy, more transparency and a greater openness to the gifts that all members of the church bring to her.”
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