Saturday, May 21, 2011

John Jay Conclusions: Only In A World Of Their Own

I have been reading the John Jay report and various responses to it with a certain amount of fascination, and real anger.  It strikes me that this is a piece of paid for apologetics.  One 'slight' discrepancy which changes everything about what this report pretends to inform us about is arbitrarily reducing the age for defining acts of pedophilia to ten.  The following is the introduction to pedophilia in the current DSM IV.  The DSM is the bible of diagnostics used by all professionals working in the field of mental health.  We all use it so we are all on the same page and not In A World Of Our Own.

302.2 Pedophilia

Excerpt: "The paraphilic focus of Pedophilia involves sexual activity with a prepubescent child (generally age 13 years or younger). The individual with Pedophilia must be age 16 years or older and at least 5 years older than the child. For individuals in late adolescence with Pedophilia, no precise age difference is specified, and clinical judgment must be used; both the sexual maturity of the child and the age difference must be taken into account. Individuals with Pedophilia generally report an attraction to children of a particular age range. Some individuals prefer males, others females, and some are aroused by both males and females. Those attracted to females usually prefer 8- to 10-year-olds, whereas those attracted to males usually prefer slightly older children. Pedophilia involving female victims is reported more often than Pedophilia involving male victims. Some individuals with Pedophilia are sexually attracted only to children (Exclusive Type), whereas others are sometimes attracted to adults (Nonexclusive Type)........

I suppose when one Lives In A World Of Their Own, they can also determine the cut off age for acts of pedophilia.  In this particular clerical world, dropping the age to ten conveniently reduced the numbers of pedophile abusers to four percent of the total.  This in turn allows the John Jay researchers to definitively state:

“Priest-abusers were not `pedophile priests’,” the researchers state flatly.

Now that we have that down, we are also told, that because the vast majority of abusers self identify as straight, that clergy abuse is not a homosexual problem.  I couldn't find where they then stated all the abuse was a heterosexual problem. However they did state that clerical sexual abuse was exacerbated by the wild and whooly sexually permissive sixties and seventies.  Although I don't remember this, apparently there must have been a lot of sexually permissive drugged up naked kids running around during that period.  In any event, I'm still not quite sure how the John Jay researchers factually support this contention other than by the raw data.  Raw data can also be explained by other facts, such as the lag time between the abuse and a person getting strong enough mentally to actually report the abuse, or maybe just the fact the priesthood experienced a massive exodus during this period and that's why there are less abuse victims going forward.

The above is just my personal confusion about a few conclusions from this 1.8 million dollar study, but then perhaps it's me that lives in a World Of My Own.  In the meantime, I offer the words of Fr Tom Doyle, who is much more of an expert in this area of clerical abuse than I am.  He's interested in more than just the fuzzy self serving interpretation of the raw data.

Thomas Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C.
May 20, 2011
I spent all of yesterday well into the evening reading the entire 143 pages of the report.  Today I reviewed the executive summaries and conclusions of 17 of the 27 reports on clergy sexual abuse that have been published between 1989 and 2011.  Most of these are from official sources such as the U.S. grand juries, the three Irish reports (Ferns, Ryan, Murphy) or the two Canadian reports that resulted from the Mt. Cashel debacle of the eighties.  Others are from Church sources such as the National Review Board Report of 2004,  The Bernardin Report of 1992 or Church sponsored reports such as the Defenbaugh Report (Chicago, 2006) or the first John Jay Report from 2004.  Most of the reports contained a section on causality.  None of the reports said anything about the effect of the culture of the sixties or seventies as a factor of causality but every one of them pointed to the various kinds and levels of failure by the bishops as the essential cause of the phenomenon of sexual abuse of children and minors by clerics.
            Some of the reports went into more detail about socio-cultural factors that had a causal effect but none of these factors included somehow shifting the blame to the "increased deviance of society during that time" as Karen Terry said in her statement released with the report.  There was unanimity about the effect of culture, but it was not the culture outside the church but the culture within.  Arthur Jones hit the nail squarely on the head in his NCR column on May 18 when he named arrogant clericalism as the culture that in many ways created the offending clerics and allowed the abuse to flourish.
            There is a third source of information that perhaps provides the most accurate data on clergy sexual abuse in our era and that is the data obtained by victims' attorneys in the six thousand plus civil and criminal cases from the U.S. alone.  Add to this the information from similar cases in Canada, Ireland, Australia, the U.K. and several other European countries and you have a picture that is much different than that proposed in this latest John Jay report.  The report refers to the sixties and seventies as the peak period with cases dwindling off after that period.  This apparently fits in with what some of the cynics have called the "Woodstock Defense"  The time lag in reporting is not to be explained by sociological data and its interpretation but by the emotional and psychological impact of sexual violation on a young victim.  Most take a decade or more to find the security and courage to come forward.  The victim support groups and plaintiffs' attorneys here and abroad are seeing a significant increase in victims who were violated in the fifties and even the forties.  As one of my astute friends remarked, these are the victims from the Big Band era so what does that constitute, the "Benny Goodman" defense?
            Those who see the main conclusions from the Executive Summary as support for the bishops' blame-shifting tactics are probably right.   Yet these conclusions are only a part of the whole story and in some ways they are of minor relevance.  The finding that the majority of cases occurred in the 1960s and 1970s can be quickly challenged.  It is more accurate to say that the majority of cases reported in the post 2002 period involved abuse that took place in the period from the sixties to the eighties.  Its way off base to assume that the majority of incidents of abuse happened during this period.  Fr. Gerald Fitzgerald founded the Paraclete community in 1947 to provide help to priests with problems.  From the beginning he was treating priests with psycho-sexual issues and in a letter to a bishop he said that 3 out of every 10 priests admitted were there because they had sexually molested minors.   Fr. Gerald wrote that letter in 1964.  Unfortunately it is difficult if not impossible to do a study of abuse victims between the 30's and the 50's but Fr. Gerald's information leaves no doubt that sexual abuse by priests was a significant phenomenon long before the free-wheeling 60's and 70's.  The one constant that was present throughout the entire period from before the 60's to the turn of the millennium has been the cover-up by the bishops and the disgraceful treatment of victims.  The John Jay researchers were commissioned by the bishops to look into the reasons why priests molested and violated minors.  They were not asked to figure out why this molestation and violation was allowed to happen.  That would have been deadly for the bishops and they knew it.
Nevertheless the researchers could not avoid the blatant role played by the hierarchy.  In this regard the report should not be written off as largely either irrelevant or enabling of the bishops' never-ending campaign to avoid facing their responsibility square on.  That's why it's important to read the whole report and not depend on the Executive Summary or Karen Terry's statement or the statements of any of the bishops or church sponsored media outlets.  Well into the body there is recognition of the real issues that have caused the anger and are the basis for the thousands of lawsuits and official reports.  The section entitled "Mid-1990's Diocesan Response" on pages 86-91contains a sobering antidote to the soft-peddling about priests who lost their way in the Woodstock Era.  To their credit the research team included information critical of the bishops' responses on several levels.  A few quotes:
The failure of some diocesan leaders to take responsibility for the harms of the abuse by priests was egregious in some cases. (p. 89)
Parishioners were not told, or were misled about the reason for the abuser's transfer (p. 89)
Diocesan leaders rarely provided information to local civil authorities and sometimes made concerted efforts to prevent reports of sexual abuse by priests from reaching law enforcement even before the statute of limitations expired. (p. 89)
Diocesan officials tried to keep their files devoid of incriminating evidence. (p. 89)
Diocesan leaders attempted to deflect personal liability for retaining abusers by relying on therapists' recommendations or employing legalistic arguments about the status of priests. (p. 89)
Dioceses, the interviewee reported, would intimidate priests who brought charges against other priests; he reported that the law firm hired by the diocese wiretapped his phone and went through his trash. (p. 90).  The interviewee was a priest-victim who had come forward in 1991.
            These citations do not represent exceptions. This was the operating procedure that was standard throughout the institutional Church until the public revelations that began in 1984 and reached a boiling point in 2002 caused widespread media attention, legal scrutiny and public outrage which in turn forced the bishops to change their tactics.  The John Jay report refers to the organizational steps taken by the bishops in response to the "crisis" and points out that no other institution has undertaken a public study of sexual abuse and as a result there are no comparable data from other institutions (Executive Summary, p. 5).  A similar study of the institutional response itself would show that the organizational steps including the John Jay and other reports were the result of the intense pressure on the bishops from outside the clerical enclave to face the reality of the nightmare they had caused.  It is true that some of these policies and procedures are very positive steps in the right direction.  What cannot be ignored however is the harsh reality that the Catholic hierarchy from the top down will remain defensive, in futile search for the trust, respect and deference they once enjoyed but which now is a memory.
            The report gave short shrift to mandatory celibacy and the all-male environment of the clerical world.  This will feed right into the defenses of those who try to claim that the problems are all from outside influences.  Yet the influence of mandatory celibacy and the sub-culture of which it is an integral part play a major role in the socialization and maturation processes of the men who will eventually violate minors.  The clerical culture should have been the subject of the 1.8 million dollar venture because if looked at closely and honestly it would have yielded information that not only provided believable reasons for the abuse nightmare but valuable though radical steps to take to avoid similar travesties in the future.  That would have been much too dangerous for the hierarchical establishment though, because without doubt, it would point to needed fundamental changes.
            There will be a variety of levels of both praise and criticism of this document.  Among the more valuable will be the critical responses of other academic professionals, especially sociologists, which will help place the document in a more realistic and relevant light.
            The report was released along with statements by Karen Terry, the lead investigator, Diane Knight, chair of the National Review Board and Blase Cupich, chair of the Bishop's Committee for the Protection of Children.  The most disturbing sentence of all of the documents presented with the report is from Karen Terry's statement: "The problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the United States is largely historical, and the bulk of cases occurred decades ago."  I am quite certain that Dr. Terry had no idea of how offensive this statement is to the thousands of victims who were abused decades ago and who still live with the intense pain that never goes away.  These people aren't "historical" they are now.   What happened to them years or decades ago is still real and still destructive in their lives. 
            While the bishops and their defenders bask in the illusion that this report validates their standard defenses and their self-affirmation for the procedures and policies they have created to try to heal the wound, the reality of the "phenomenon of sexual abuse" is something this report will not be able to answer.  What is important is not why the thousands of clerics went off the tracks and raped and violated tens of thousands of innocent children.  What is important is what the institutional Church has done, or to be more precise, not done, to help heal the thousands of victims who still live in isolation and pain.  More than anything else these men and women have had their very souls violated and in the words of some, murdered.  Rather than go to such great lengths to try to exonerate themselves the bishops could have done what they should have done...  Try, at least, to begin to understand the profound depth of the spiritual wounds inflicted on these many men and women, once innocent and trusting boys and girls.  Abandon the insincere promises, the endless efforts to hide the secrets and the debasing legal strategies to pound the victims into submission.  Once the official Church figures out how to authentically respond to its victims, and actually does it, then and only then will this abominable disgrace start to slowly move towards being historical.

Imagine if the amount of money spent on this study had been spent on trying to understand how to meaningfully treat the soul murder of clerical sexual abuse.  Oh, but that would mean bishops leaving the confines of the their own little world and entering ours.  Silly me.


  1. Excellent. I'm only sorry, Colleen, that you didn't post this on Open Tabernacle's center column. It is a very important response to the dreadful statements of Dr. Terry.

  2. My husband was abused in the 30's-and the priest involved was later sent to Arizona for his "health", indicating there were other victims. His abuser is long dead but the event is hardly "historical".

  3. coolmom, I wrote a while ago in a comment, that for those who have suffered abuse, especially sexual abuse in childhood, time in these cases in not linear. Some events are always present, I mean really present, and capable of triggering the exact same emotional flood. PTSD seems to be the same.

    Fr. Doyle has called this 'soul murder'. I think though it's more akin to putting one's sense of time in a easily triggered loop. It doesn't matter how old you are at all. Closure in this sense is everything. I really wish the Chuch had sunk 1.8 million into finding out how we can bring closure to victims, rather than covering the asses of Bishops.

  4. One thing has remained a constant, and that is the bishops continue to blame everyone and everything else except themselves. I suppose we will see Bill Donohue falling all over himself to trumpet this inaccurate and self-exonerating report.

  5. I don't about that Kathy. Wild Bill has been all over the gay priest meme and this study doesn't support that particular meme. I'm actually kind of curious to see if Wild Bill actually addresses this report.

  6. Thanks to Fr. Thomas Doyle and other like him.

    The key quote in your post for me is this one.

    “The clerical culture should have been the subject of the 1.8 million dollar venture because if looked at closely and honestly it would have yielded information that not only provided believable reasons for the abuse nightmare but valuable though radical steps to take to avoid similar travesties in the future. That would have been much too dangerous for the hierarchical establishment though, because without doubt, it would point to needed fundamental changes.”

    This is discouraging. The John Jay report is whitewash. It appears that nothing will change in the selection and training of men for the priesthood. In a cyclical world the realities that caused the abuse in the past will in a few years be the cause of a new nightmare for the bishops and the church. Even now bishops and others cannot explain the situation in Philadelphia which is post 2002.

    The American bishops are full speed ahead. This problems is solved. What a waste of 1.8 million dollars. This report needs to be severely critiqued by real scholars.

  7. wild hair, that has been the one single consistent aspect of this whole debacle. The hierarchy and clerical culture is never ever looked at. Benny just spent an entire year extolling the virtues of the Trentan priesthood.

    You are absolutely right that we will endure this fiasco all over again. The core all encompassing issue is not sex, it's power. period.