There has been a lot of buzz about the report by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It contains the results of their five year study on the causes of the Roman Catholic clergy abuse scandal. The Jesuit magazine, “America,” has a report on the study as well as an analysis written by Kathleen McChesney. She was the first executive director of the Office of the Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The findings of the study are not going to go down well with either conservatives or liberals in the Church. Leaders of clergy abuse survivor’s support groups are already denouncing the report as a whitewash, covering for the bishops.
I am not going to go over all the points that the study has covered, I encourage any readers to click on the links provided above. What I want to share is some of my seminary experiences that provide at some anecdotal support for the conclusions in the study.
I entered the seminary as a college student during the early 70’s. The minor seminary, for high school students, had been closed a few years earlier. As I recall, the only psychological testing we received was a fill in the dot’s test. It was nothing compared to the intense psychological testing I had to take a few years later, when I was admitted into the Franciscan Friars formation program; or when I entered the Permanent Diaconate formation program. Had the testing been more rigorous back then, it might have shown how socially immature I was at the time, and I might have received better assistance dealing with it. By luck or by the guidance of the Spirit caused me to realize I needed to seek a different path. But how many men were allowed to go on through to ordination, who were not ready to deal with the stresses of clerical life.
The seminary tried to provide some formation help on understanding how to live as a celibate priest; but it was not sustained, and did not occur frequently enough. Again, how many young priests entered a world undergoing the “sexual revolution,” ill prepared to deal with it.
Despite these obstacles, the study estimates that 4 to 6 percent of the clergy during the period examined, would become sexual abusers. Unfortunately, because of the way the bishops mishandled these cases of abuse, these abusers were allowed the opportunity to offend again and again. The bishops have a long way to go before they can win back the full trust of the laity, if that is ever going to be possible.