WASHINGTON (November 16, 2005)—The U.S. Bishops' National Review Board, which advises the church on the handling of clergy sexual abuse of minors, has selected the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York to conduct a major study of the causes and context of the problem. John Jay College will work with Fordham University and other experts across the United States to carry out the research.
The decision was announced November 16 by Patricia Ewers, PhD, chair of the board, during a meeting with the U.S. bishops in Washington.
Jeremy Travis, the President of John Jay College, when informed of the decision said: "John Jay College is honored to have been selected to carry out this enormously important research project. We commit ourselves to conducting the research with scrupulous objectivity and scientific rigor to advance society's understanding of the causes and context of the problem within the Church."
The study, Causes and Context of the Sexual Abuse of Children and Youth by Catholic Clergy in the United States, was called for by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which was passed by the U.S. bishops in Dallas in 2002. According to the Charter, "To understand the problem more fully and to enhance the effectiveness of our future response, the National Review Board will commission a comprehensive study of the causes and context of the current crisis."
The request for proposals for the study that was sent to research organizations noted that the Review Board seeks "to more fully understand the problem of abuse and to enhance the effectiveness of the church's response to these acts."
Issues to be explored include
* Epidemic aspects of the sexual abuse incidents shown in the surge of incidents in the 1970s and the subsequent decline of sexual abuse in the 1980s;
* Prominence of young adolescent males among the victims;
* Content and influence of seminary admission policies and priest formation programs before and after the 1980s;
* Differences between lifestyle and formation of diocesan and religious order clergy that might explain the differences in reported cases of abuse;
* Ecclesiastical environment and the ways in which the church responded to reports of sexual abuse;
* Behavioral and psychological problems of abusers;
* Circumstances which enhanced the vulnerability of the victims;
* Cultural, social and psychological factors in American society and the Catholic Church which contributed to sexual abuse of children, particularly during the surge of incidents in the 1970s;
* Response of law enforcement to reports of sexual abuse committed by clergy in the 1970s as compared with current response protocols;
* Common psychiatric treatment models of the 1970s as compared with current treatment models.
The study also is to examine those aspects of the environment that interact with the characteristics of the victims and the predators so as to be able to identify the significance of the power of the risk factors that have been identified.
The National Review Board previously commissioned a descriptive study giving such data as statistics on perpetrators and victims over the previous 50 years. That study, On the Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons, 1950-2002, was conducted by John Jay College and published in 2004.
The new study is expected to cost $3 million. The U.S. bishops have committed $1 million towards it. Further funding is being sought from Catholic and other philanthropic groups.