Following up their earlier study, John Jay College has produced an analysis of the sex abuse scandal in the US. I think it is mostly quite a good analysis, though there are a few weakness and one or two unnecessarily controversial claims tied to those weaknesses.
- To my mind, the most crucial section is this passage, which rejects the equation of abuse with homosexuality:
There has been widespread speculation that homosexual identity is linked to the sexual abuse of minors by priests, largely because of the high number of male victims identified in the Nature and Scope study. However, the clinical data do not support this finding. Treatment data show that priests who identified as homosexual, as well as those who participated in same-sex sexual behavior prior to ordination (regardless of sexual identity), were not significantly more likely to abuse minors than priests who identified as heterosexual.
This is an important recognition, since some representatives of the Church have tried to tie the abuse to homosexuality.
- This NPR story discusses controversy surrounding the way that the “pedophilia” and “ephebophilia” are used, another problem with earlier attempts to articulate the causes of the abuse:
The researchers define pedophilia as abuse of anyone 10 or under, and by that definition, only 22 percent of the cases fall in that category. But McKiernan notes that the American Psychiatric Association puts the line at anyone under 14. “And in fact,” McKiernan says, “when you draw the line in the correct place, it turns out that 60 percent of the victims were aged 13 or younger. In other words, 60 percent of the victims were victims of pedophile abuse.”
However, I think this is a misreading: the study’s authors only take up the question of the victims’ ages in the portion of the study devoted to “psychological analysis,” where they consider diagnostic criteria alongside other possible causes like offenders’ own histories of physical and sexual abuse. There, they are very careful to distinguish various “specialist” offenders from “generalists” who abused victims of various ages. They don’t do this to mitigate the harm experienced by older victims, but in an attempt to understand the etiology of the abusers’ desires. This is why they adopt the traditional “pre-pubescent” standard over the more inclusive definition that uses the age of 14, which is primarily of use in criminal prosecution. The work the study’s authors do here is careful and the analysis appears to be data-driven and data-responsive: they use it to reject a DSM-style “paraphilia” analysis for many of the same reasons they reject the equation of abuse with “homosexuality”: the data just does not justify the conclusion. Continue reading John Jay College Report on Catholic Sex Abuse