NOTE TO MY READERS: A lot of ink will be spilt on the May 18, 2011 John Jay report on the clergy sex abuse crisis: some of it in the blood sweat and tears of the victims of abuse and their advocates. The invisible ink of the American hierarchy defensiveness hangs heavy between the lines of the report — to be deciphered later. People of good will can use this as an opportunity to reevaluate the sex crisis on deeper and more systemic  levels of clerical culture than five years and 1.8 million could buy. Its conclusions are not conclusive, but provocative.

This is an important study because it outlines the geography of the Catholic Church’s problems with human sexuality as they impact its clergy. It shows how the church wants to be perceived:

  • A preponderance of the data comes from church records.

  • It points to the areas about the priesthood that still need exploration.

  • It acknowledges that some Priests do have sexual experiences before, during and after their seminary training with varying consequences. Further denting the myth that priests practice celibacy.

  • It recognizes that there are deficiencies in seminary formation regarding human sexuality.

  • System support for priests after ordination is lacking.

Aspects of the report are incomplete or deficient:

  • Not one of the research team has any experience within the system as a seminarian or priest.

  • Important lay voices who have intimate knowledge of the dynamics of the hierarchy regarding the crisis are not part of the research team (i.e. Anne Burke, Frank Keating, Dr. Fred Berlin)

  • The substance and conclusions of Grand Jury reports that investigated the crisis are not in evidence. They constitute the most objective assessment of the crisis that we have.

  • The structure, pattern, and practice of Church response revealed in civil and criminal cases and trials are not taken into account. (i.e. legacy of Marci Hamilton, Jeff Anderson)

  • Clinical observation and data is absent.

  • It lacks an understanding of celibate development and practice.

Some of the information is inaccurate:

  • Pedophilia is a psychiatrically defined syndrome, but the report does not accept the official definition (i.e. 13 years as the age of puberty not 10)

  • The conclusion that the crisis is “historically” limited is simply false. The excuse that the study was limited to 1950 does not absolve the researchers from clear historical evidence of the problem of clergy abuse within the system prior to that date. It distorts the systemic nature of the problem.

  • The essential homosocial structure of Catholic clergy is absent from examination as if it did not factor into any causation of sexual activity.

  • The sexual behaviors of authority figures as a cultural influence on the clerical system are unexamined and not acknowledged as a vital element in the operation of clerical culture. (the system of sexual blackmail)

  • The influence of homosexuality within clerical culture is distorted by dismissing it as a causative factor of abuse. Similarly, the demand for perfect and perpetual chastity that includes celibacy or non-marriage cannot be dismissed as a context for abuse.