Abuse of minors by Roman Catholic clergy has risen while the proportion of male victims has plummeted, as fewer homosexual priests are being ordained, according to a study set for release by an ordained Catholic scholar.
The report, “Receding Waves: Child Sex Abuse and Homosexual Priests since 2000,” by Fr. Paul Sullins, Ph.D., finds that while male victimization and homosexual priests rose together through the 1980s, they have also fallen together more recently.
Sullins is a retired professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America, who is currently a senior research associate at the Ruth Institute, a non-profit think tank that aims to equip Christians to defend the family in the public arena.
The report also shows that the proportion of female victims has risen. But Ruth Institute President Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., warns that, overall, there has been “a disturbing rise of the sexual abuse of children by priests, after reaching an all-time low just after 2002.”
She said the good news is that since 2000, only 11 percent of abuse cases have been perpetrated by newly ordained priests, who have served less than 10 years.
The study found 52 percent have been perpetrated by priests ordained 30 years ago or longer.
Catholics must remain vigilant in protecting all minors against clerical sexual abuse,” the report says.
It urges the Roman Catholic Church or interested lay organizations “to increase educational programs on authentic Church teachings on human sexuality.”
Such educational efforts, it says, should include all levels of education such as seminaries, universities, high schools, elementary schools and parish catechism classes. The topics covered “should include Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and how traditional Christian sexual ethics promotes and promotes the interests of children, women, men, and society.”
The Ruth Institute insists on “justice regarding clergy sex abuse,” including “punishment for the guilty, protection for the innocent, and restoration for the victims, as far as humanly possible.”
“Proclaim the full truth of the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, and human sexuality,” the group urges. “Only by doing these can we put an end to the scourge of clergy sexual abuse.”
Rise of ‘young, orthodox” priests
The report finds priest sexual abuse of children dropped to an all-time low just after 2002 but has since risen, while remaining well below its peak in the 1980s.
Reports of current abuse averaged seven per year from 2005-09, rising to 8.2 per year from 2010-14, a 17 percent increase.
In the 1980s, there were an average 26.2 reports of current abuse per year.
The percent of abuse victims who were male plummeted from 74 percent in 2000 to only 34 percent by 2016.
Recent abuse has involved more older victims past puberty. Since 2000, 50 percent of abuse victims were aged 14-17. Before 2000, only 33 percent were this old.
The report says there is no available data on ordination of homosexuals after 2000, but statistical projections estimate that recent ordination classes have contained very few homosexual men.
That’s a sharp decline from the 1980s, when as many as half of new ordinations were of homosexual men.
The report’s executive summary notes the “rise of a newer generation of young, orthodox candidates for the priesthood.”
“In addition, the current generation of seminary directors seems more likely to exclude men with deeply rooted homosexual tendencies from the path to priesthood. This policy conforms to longstanding papal instruction as well as a theology of priestly celibacy as a calling reserved for heterosexual men, capable of marriage and fatherhood.”
The report notes that since the 1960s, priests engaged in child sex abuse have been relatively concentrated in two age groups: one ordained in the late 1960s and the other ordained in the early 1980s.
In April, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI issued an extraordinary letter contradicting his successor on the clerical sex-abuse crisis. While Francis has blamed the abuse largely on corrupted power of clergy, Benedict emphasized theological and societal problems, pointing to the secularization of the West, the 1960s sexual revolution and Catholic seminaries filled with “homosexual cliques.”
“Why did pedophilia reach such proportions?” Benedict writes, according to the Catholic News Agency. “Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.”
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