Is it really Woodstock's fault?
A new study undertaken by John Jay College of Criminal Justice claims that Catholic sex abuse cases can be partially explained by the cultural shifts that occurred during the 1960s. This much-anticipated report cost $2 million to complete and was partially-funded by the United States Conference of Bishops.
Among the study's findings, researchers concluded that the abuse of minors by priests had no single "cause." Perhaps the most controversial takeaway, though, is that the report claims that social changes in America influenced the rise in abuse cases that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. According to The Washington Post, the report concludes that:
This increase in abusive behavior is consistent with the rise in other types of ‘deviant’ behavior, such as drug use and crime, as well as changes in social behavior, such as an increase in premarital sexual behavior and divorce.
Clearly, there are many who will question these findings. It is particularly interesting that an organization associated with church funded parts of this study. Susan Jacoby, an atheist and blogger for the Post, isn't buying in to the findings. She takes particular issue with the study's claims that cultural shifts had an influence over the free will of individual priests. She also challenges the claim that there was, indeed, a surge of molestations in the 1960s and 1970s, she writes:
Karen Terry, the report’s principal investigator and dean of research and strategic partnerships at John Jay College, said in an interview that although the number of abuse cases rose in the Sixties, she could not say with any certainty whether many cases from the 1920s through the 1950s went unreported. “Was there more abuse in the 50s than we reported in our graph? She asked. “No doubt. However, there is still an increase in the 1960s. That’s been shown each year the data has come in.”
“No doubt” is the understatement of this century and the last. John Jay College also has something to answer for, because researchers gave their institution’s prestigious imprimatur to a report based on data supplied by the organization that did everything possible to protect the perpetrators. Anyone who went to parochial school in the 1950s knows that for a child to raise questions about the propriety of behavior by priests or nuns was almost unthinkable in the Catholic setting of that era.
Many people view the study's results as a cesspool of excuses, though it should be reiterated that the study didn't blame everything on the free-loving era.
What do you think? Is the Catholic church passing the buck if it accepts these charges? If you'd like to read the John Jay report for yourself, click here to download it.