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Religion & Public Life With Mark Silk

That’s the big news out of the John Jay College Final Report on the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, due out at 2 p.m. today, according to David Gibson’s scoop for RNS last night (followed swiftly by NYT’s Laurie Goodstein, who also scored a copy). To wit:

[T]he researchers found no statistical evidence that gay priests were more likely than straight priests to abuse minors—a finding that undermines a favorite talking point of many conservative Catholics. The disproportionate number of adolescent male victims was about opportunity, not preference or pathology, the report states.

What’s more, researchers note that the rise in the number of gay priests from the late 1970s onward actually corresponded with “a decreased incidence of abuse—not an increased incidence of abuse.”

Over at In All Things, Jim Martin rings the changes on why this will come as a surprise to many, pointing specifically to the shortage of “‘public’ models of healthy, mature, loving celibate homosexual priests.” (Mychal Judge, the Franciscan father who died at Ground Zero on 9/11 while serving as chaplain to the FDNY, is a rare exception.) Martin declines, however, to point to the role of those conservative Catholic talkers in fingering gay priests as the problem–above all the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue.

Here, for example, is Donohue back in 2006, arguing on behalf of the Vatican’s decision to keep men with “deeply rooted homosexual tendencies” (whatever that means) out of seminaries:

As I have said many times before, most homosexual priests are not molesters, but most of the molesters are gay. The John Jay [interim] Report made this clear: 81 percent of the victims are male and almost as many are postpubescent. This is not called pedophilia—it is called homosexuality.

But the final report demonstrates (through reliance on diocesan records and live interviews) that just because the victims were boys doesn’t mean that the molesters were gay–any more than the fact that most prison rapes involve male victims doesn’t mean that most prison rapists are gay. For priests, boys were the most readily available targets of sexual opportunity.

Donohue will no doubt embrace the final report’s finding that most offenders were not pedophiles in the strict sense (one of his favorite talking points); the large majority of cases involve boys over the age of 10. But the punchline to the point is that the way to prevent child abuse by priests is to keep gays out of the priesthood. And that, the final report makes clear, is just not true.

Update: Donohue sticks to his guns: “A homosexual is defined by his actions, not his identity.”

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