Blockbuster Report on Child Abuse and the Catholic Church

On Saturday, September 23, NCR (National Catholic Reporter) ran a lead article on a report from Australia’s RMIT University: “Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: An Interpretive Review of the Literature and Public Inquiry Reports.” This report was released ten days earlier, September 13, and was not covered by either the religious press or the mainstream media in the USA. This failure is astounding, given that this blockbuster report was widely publicized in Australia, and was five years in the making.

On September 13, RMIT University put out an announcement about the report, including the following highlights:

 

  • While not the direct cause, mandatory celibacy has been and remains the major precipitating risk factor for child sexual abuse. The best studies across the world show that about one in 15 priests offended, though rates differed across dioceses and among religious congregations.
  • Young and vulnerable Catholic children, especially boys, were and remain at risk from psychosexually immature, sexually deprived and deeply frustrated priests and religious brothers lacking intimacy, particularly those who have not resolved their own sexual identity and whose thinking is deeply distorted and mutated towards children.
  • Though homosexuality is not a direct cause of abuse, the deeply homophobic environment within the Church and its seminaries, based on the teaching that homosexuality is an intrinsically disordered state and that all gays must lead a celibate life, contributes to psychosexual immaturity.
  • While there are other factors, the risk of offending has been much higher among religious brothers with little contact with women – educated at male-only schools and trained for religious life in male-only institutions before being appointed to male-only schools and living in all-male communities. The lack of the feminine and the denigration of women within Church structures is one key, underlying risk factor in the abuse.
  • Priest and religious predators have benefited from easy access to children in parishes and schools, particularly those living in one-priest presbyteries and with access to a car. The risk was especially high in countries like Australia and Ireland which historically had a large number of orphanages and residential schools.
  • The risk of predation is highest in residential settings. That risk continues today, particularly in India and Italy, which have a significant proportion of the Church’s remaining 9,500 orphanages.
  • Pope Pius X’s 1910 decision to lower the age at which children make their first confession to seven years indirectly contributed to putting more children at risk.
  • Popes and bishops created a culture of secrecy, leading to a series of gross failures in transparency, accountability, openness and trust as they endeavoured to protect the Church’s reputation as an all-holy institution above all else, even at the expense of children’s safety.”

These conclusions contradict almost everything the Catholic Church has been claiming for decades, generally with the tacit if not explicit support of the press. The fact that there has been virtually no coverage of the report is a damning indication of the influence of the Catholic Church and Christian lobbyists in general.

I’ll have more to say after I’ve had a chance to go through the 348 page report.