BALTIMORE (November 13, 2006)—The U.S. bishops voted unanimously November 13 to release $335,000 of the one million dollars they earmarked last year for research on the causes and context of sexual abuse by clergy.
The money will underwrite the first three segments of the research, which is being undertaken by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.
Last November the bishops accepted a proposal from John Jay for the study of the Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Children and Young People by Catholic Clergy in the United States, as called for by the bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
As part of the proposal, John Jay is to raise funds for the study which is estimated to cost $2-3 million. The entire study is slated for completion in 2009.
The first component of the study will look at the historical context and influences on the problem. According to Karen A. Terry, Ph.D., principal investigator on the study, "this component involves collection and analysis of archival, longitudinal data related to the demographic and normative changes in society and its institutions, including the Catholic Church in the United States, to frame our analysis of sexual abuse by priests."
Hypotheses to be explored include "whether the incidence of abuse of children by priests is or is not consistent with overall social patterns of deviant behavior during the last half century," the proposal notes. If these patterns are observed to be distinctly different "then the hypotheses to be explored would inquire about ministry-specific factors."
The second component, Institutional Response by Church Leadership, will focus on "gaining understanding of the temporal, structural, and leadership factors within the Catholic Church that framed the response of individual dioceses to the crisis." It will focus on diocesan responses after 1985, when many people became aware of the problem because of the notorious case of Louisiana priest Father Gilbert Gauthe.
"The actions of three dioceses with optimal response to reports of sexual abuse made after 1985 and three dioceses with notably (via public record) unsuccessful response will be studied," according to the proposal.
The third segment, the Clinical/Psychological Component, aims "to understand on an individual level, how priests with allegations of sexual abuse differ from other priests (those with and without other problems) as well as sex offenders who are not priests."
The vote came the fist day of the annual Fall meeting, slated for Nov. 13-16, in Baltimore.